How To Lose A Sale In One Easy Step

1. Do not return calls or answer email requests for more information.

Done.

I have clients who need help. I’m here to do just that. They call me, I find out what they need and make it happen.

Despite the fact that the tools – the tools I recommend to manage their agency, like software solutions – aren’t readily available for my Q & A I push forward.

I always vet the potential solutions candidates via their websites first – which are usually vague sales pitches. I always need more, and that means a live demo where I can ask questions. So I call or send an email via their site, "Yes! I'd like to learn more!"

Then I get an immediate email response that usually says, “Thank you for your interest in our product! You will be contacted by our staff shortly”.

But no call. No followup email. 

Crickets.

The most important question I have for you: will your solution solve my client’s problem?

If you don’t call me back that means one of two things:

  1. You have so much business you can’t possibly take on another client
  2. You don’t care

Therefore, your product is non-existent. There is no “solution” if you don’t call me back. Your product won't work for my client.

However, because I’m far more diligent than you, if I think your solution has a sliver of potential, I will make an additional call or send an additional email.

I’m working for my client. And you should be too.

Break Your Projects Into Smaller Steps

I break my projects into steps – such as comp, layout, layout revision, and final. And those steps include client approvals in between. I never just count on overall project hours to carry me through the life of a project. Why? Well, you can burn through too many hours at the beginning of a project (been there) and you’re left with either asking for more money (been there too), making cuts to the project or taking a hit on the profit (ugh! been there too!). 

Profit is good. We stay in business when we make more than we spend. A good project manager is aware of everything going on and how it affects the bottom line. They don’t get a lot of love, but they always have an eye on the trifecta of projects: scope, schedule, budget.

We all love going back to the client to tell them it’s going to be late; that they’re asking for more than we agreed to (you did provide a brief didn’t you?); or we need more money to make awesome happen – right?

Therefore, red flags arise quickly when tracking projects broken down incrementally. Any slippage is easy to see, and moreover, you know what caused it. That allows you to learn. Wow.

Getting a handle on how much time (therefore how many dollars) each step in a project should take gives a project manager a better handle on burn rate and provides each employee with expectations.

Oh yes, we set expectations with clients too.

By the way, say thank you to your project manager. They have your back.

One Word - Gamification

I’m so behind the times. I was reading Laurie Ruettimann’s blog Cynical Girl the other day and one of the commenters stated that her company was implementing gamification to induce employees to work better.

“My companies marketing department has now decided to embrace something called "gamification". It seems to have something to do with awarding employees "points" for desirable behavior or something equally as banal and mind numbingly infantile. Shoot me now.”

Really?

Because I too thought it was a totally stupid idea, I did some reading.

It seems that gamification is a way to engage Millennials in the workplace. Since they grew up using computers – and computer games – they are wired to look for the wins, badges, levels, recognition, so they will do their work.

And I say, B.S. And why are Millennials inducing companies into certain workplace methodologies so that we keep them engaged? Weren’t they hired to do a job?

As I am a regular reader of Cynical Girl, I found this post – that says it all...in the way only Laurie can.

But, I’ve been reading further. And since I’m in the business of helping agencies and marketing departments implement software – to manage the day-to-day work – I’m wondering how much gamification will engage staff and actually get them to pay attention to what they have to do; how well they do it; and get them to pay attention to the work itself.

I don’t know much about gamification.

So, I’ve been wondering how adding this extra layer of mayo to the work-day sammich will truly ‘engage’ the Millennials, and why / if it ‘turns-off’ the rest of us.

I come from the generation of expectations and meeting them. Not earning badges because I did what I was supposed to do.

But…in light of something I have read about gamification, I’m doing further ‘research’.

Why would I ever research something I think is stupid? Well, it is hard enough to get everyone in an agency to use the tools we need to use every day in order to manage work efficiently. I wonder how well gamification apps engage, keep engaged, and truly provide relevant data to determine what’s gettin’ done.

What do you think? Is your agency, marketing department, company implementing gamification? If so, what flavor are you using? How is it going? What does your staff think?

I’m going to give the guys at Bunchball a call.

Gun Control

Why would I ever write anything about gun control? Because this is about not understanding your customer or listening to them.

                          Oh shoot!

                          Oh shoot!

I read a tweet by Laurie Ruettimann that made me laugh so hard I almost fell off my chair.  She was in Target and overheard someone asking a question. Here’s the tweet:

OH at Target: "Do you sell staple guns?" "No, we don't sell guns."

Now, I know for a fact that Target does have staple guns. At least they sell them on their website. So I imagine they carry them in their stores as well. And probably the ammo for them. Like staples.

This is a case of someone not listening – only hearing the word gun, and giving an immediate answer to their perception of what was said.

Target just lost out on a sale. Because their staff is either uninformed of what a staple gun is, or they listen to every fifth word.

How many other sales do they lose because their staff Does Not Listen? They’ll never know. Because as my father-in-law used to say, “Profits hide a multitude of sins.” As long as they're making bank, they don't have to worry about a lost sale here or there.

So, how many times have you come up with the wrong answer because you weren’t listening? Failure to pay attention can kill a sale, an agreement, a smooth project or just a pleasant conversation quicker than you can say Stanley Sharp Shooter.

And you thought this post was about the Second Amendment and things that go bang.

Rob Strasser Update – The Legend Unfolds

The past couple days I wrote about Rob Strasser and his legendary list. I sent an email off to adidas America corporate office to get some facts to back up the legend, thinking it would be a few days – or maybe never – that I heard anything.

Not so. A few hours later I received an email from Ina who provided more background and a photo she took of the list – which was on the wall at Rogue Pub.

Image provided by Ina, adidas America. Thank you Ina!

Image provided by Ina, adidas America. Thank you Ina!

Ina also put me in touch with Peter Moore who wrote back:

“Interesting this comes up every few years.

First the list is correct.

It was not written on a napkin, but it was written on a paper place mat, food stains and all, it hangs in my studio.

The list was not about adidas America's mission but more about the kind of company and the characteristics we wanted adidas America to have.

The idea was to be different, not to be so influenced by numbers and financials but to create something people would want to embrace and work for.......we asked them to work way harder for far less than they were used to, at least in the beginning.”

What I find so telling here is that the list: Unique, Simple, Interesting, Unexpected, Understandable, Meaningful is relevant and practiced.

In a time where we get bombarded with requests – daily / hourly – I found it to be a pleasant surprise that a couple people took the time out of their day to not only answer my question, but provide more background.

It's important to keep this kind of vision alive in how we work – every day – and not just one of legend.

Collaboration the Old Fashioned Way

This post started out as a primer on collaboration – the old fashioned way. In analog.

Just like all that stuff you do on a computer – that used to be done with pencil and paper on a drawing board – planning and collaboration was done in analog. Index cards on a corkboard / comps taped up, and then the evolution to Post-its® on a wall.

I believe that’s the way it should be done – now. Any big project (read: expensive/time consuming/massive possibilities to final product) needs everyone working together – collaboratively.

As I am a HUGE proponent of getting a handle on the costs and time associated with a project – up front, and getting a client to sign-off prior to start-work, I’m also a huge proponent of awe-inspiring creative.

The other day I wrote (which is probably a Duh! moment for many) about gathering everyone together and fleshing out ideas. As well as taking into consideration – cost, talent, availability, technology – before presenting to the client. But the article I referred to in my post made me realize that perhaps only the creative is being fleshed-out, but not the mechanics of production.

Call me crazy, but as a project manager (or producer) I see my role as one who not only ensures your fabulous ideas get done (along with everything else in the agency), but that we make money.

That’s how we stay in business.

I love great creative and never want to compromise it because someone didn’t do their homework. Or worse, says yes to the client, and tries to figure out execution later.

Sometimes clients – even though the ideas are innovative, original, and truly awesome – don’t have the money to do what you designed.

You spent the time, figured out how to execute, gathered the best minds/talent/tools, and everyone loves it. But it costs too much. Finding out monetary limitations after-the-fact is no way to do business.

Therein lies the problem. You both want it so much. No money. How do you cut a little out here and there and still retain everything you both want?

Who takes the hit? Great ideas need to be funded. You either cut, or you (and your vendors) and your client each take a share of the hit.

Not to mention, as an agency, you have bills to pay and other clients to tend to. And that *other* work may not be as exciting or innovative – but it does pay the bills. And you do like all of your clients.

This is the reality of true collaboration – everyone needs to be in the room. Including me.

Check out this video of a Google Hangout on Agile Creativity. And also check out the Google page on Creativity Insights.

In the video, John Boiler of 72andSunny talks about their workwall, which is exactly what it says. They pin-up their ideas, everyone discusses, then leave/comeback and do it again. (He’s working on a digital form of the workwall.)

The Google page has a simple list of tips on agile creativity. There’s also a downloadable version. I especially like what Rei Inamoto of AKQA has to say about a fast (four hour) cycle of briefing/concepting/presenting. More time doesn’t mean better creative.

John Boiler states that he wants to take their workwall to a 2.0-version - make it digital. I'll have to contact him to see if they are there yet, because I still like the idea of literally being in one room. The interaction is immediate and everyone is hearing what's being said at the same time. How do you get that with an online environment. Is everyone truly engaged in the moment?

The bottom line: we do need to ensure whatever we create can be done, and the client can pay for it, and that there are actually enough hours in the day. And we know that throwing more bodies at a project doesn’t mean it gets done faster – so don’t even go there.

What do you think? How does your agency handle innovative solutions AND ensure they can be done – on time, in budget, and super awesomely without compromise?

So the Client Didn’t Fire You. Start Planning Better.

Yesterday I wrote about an agency that showed a client awesome, and gave them an estimate with a caveat of ‘budget uncertainties’. What’s disturbing to me is that the author of the article works for a major digital firm that shouldn’t make this kind of mistake.

I'll say this nicely – if your budget uncertainties are enough to derail the project significantly, should they turn into realities – where a plus or minus (aka contingency) is not factored in and agreed to by both parties – then you should not proceed on the project.

You don’t have enough information to move forward. You have a fabulous idea with wonderful creative and some numbers. That’s it.

Budget uncertainties will kill your project in one way or another. It can also kill your agency if this is generally accepted practice.

So, do your discovery and research for creative and execution.

Now I’ll piss some people off…I see this more in the digital / mobile area than any other area of advertising. I have reasons to believe this. Inexperience. Fear of clients, colleagues or vendors. Lack of knowledge.

Inexperience
I have witnessed it first-hand. Digital is in huge demand. Therefore, the bar can be set pretty low. Lots of inexperience. So, a person can work in a digital agency, gain some experience, and move their way up the food chain where the demands, budgets and risks are much higher. Someone who knows the lingo may be clueless to risk as it applies to scope, budgets and timelines.

Fear
Those who are client-facing, usually Account or Producers / Project Managers, may not have the depth of experience in scoping, estimating, project management, sourcing, negotiating, arguing, writing a purchase order with restrictions, managing internal deliverables, risk and mitigation planning, and managing client expectations (as well as those of your colleagues). But saying yes is so...easy.

Knowledge
What I am witnessing in the digital and mobile areas is that the demand is high, the staff is young and inexperienced, and everyone is highly driven. I’m not saying you are stupid. You are just making rookie mistakes. Everyone must understand that they are part of running a business - first. 

And by the way rookies, I have also personally witnessed veterans who give it away every day because they think they can circumvent the potholes that will kill their project.

Then there's the ever-changing landscape of apps, platforms and whatever else anyone can dream up – that you have to keep on top of – all the time.

Give everyone an education. Pull everyone into a room to flesh-out the scope, budget and timeline. And make that a mandatory meeting. I guarantee that an hour (or two), in that one meeting, will save hundreds of hours (and dollars) down the line.

What happens in that meeting? Talk about possibilities; flesh out the good ones (that are achievable); everyone must poke holes in the scenarios and execution – and explain why (that is the education part); shout out every issue that can and will affect cost/timeline, and be realistic. Take into consideration what everyone has on their plate during the life of the project – you should be able to see everyone’s schedule (just sayin’).  

Speak up! Here’s your chance to clue everyone in on the pain you endure every day to fix the things they committed you to…without asking first.

And before you fall in love with something, find out if it can be doneCost, schedule, requirements. Bring that back to the group and make sure it fits – before presenting to the client.

I absolutely love great creative and an awesome experience. I hate parsing out the good stuff because someone didn’t do their homework.

Tomorrow, collaboration. The old-fashioned way.