New Year Resolution: Make Your Agency Better

6.5 Percent Unemployment, Surge In The Housing Market, Affordable Healthcare, Unicorns & Glitter

Unicorns & Glitter to the rescue!

Unicorns & Glitter to the rescue!

Read on, trust me, I will get to what this means to your agency. . .

I’ve been traveling a lot lately and therefore watching a whole bunch of cable news. I go everywhere from Lean Forward to Fair and Balanced, with PBS sprinkled in.

I know first-hand that the sub-head I wrote is a whole ton of crap. Yes, even the part about Unicorns & Glitter, sadly. And the stark reality wasn't mentioned on cable news.

I live in Las Vegas, Nevada. The giant sinkhole of the Last Great Boom.

The reality is that the U-6 rate (actual unemployment including those who have quit looking) is 21.4 percent.

The reality is that the surge in the housing market is driven by, once again, speculators. That $600,000 home next door to me, that has foreclosed at least three times in five years, sold for less than $200,000 to a company that has a goal of 5,000 rental units.

The reality is . . . Affordable healthcare – the single greatest oxymoron ever. The bills get paid somehow, and whether it’s on the backs of the 20-somethings, or through higher average premiums (or taxes) for all, none of it really makes sense. Who does it make sense to? Perhaps the 12,745 individuals out of the 118,000 anticipated, who have signed up in Nevada as of the December 30 deadline.

The purpose isn’t to leave 2013 on a bad note. It is to enter 2014 on better note.

All of this ‘news’ points to one thing: get your act together.

Your agency. Your marketing department.

Stop all the waste that makes (or should make) you crazy.

  • Eliminate the extraordinary overages in client hours (that you can’t bill)
  • Communicate within – effectively and efficiently (get the documentation process out of email!)
  • Know where every project is at any moment (and who’s working on it)

When your house is in order, you will have time to do stunning creative, attract more clients and hire amazing talent.

Be brutally honest with yourself about your agency or department, because those bullet points are the distractions that will keep you mired in 2013. 

It's such mundane stuff I'm amazed I have to point it out. But then again, you're probably so used to it, you just assume it's part of being in advertising. 

I’m not here to tell you how to do great creative. I’m here to tell you how to organize so you can.

So, by getting organized, you can affect change: reduce the U-6 rate: hire people so they can buy a house; and when you're more profitable, you can offer better healthcare than what's offered on the public exchange - another great way to attract top talent.

As for Nevada? A prosperous 2014. We get drones!

Define Process Before Deploying Agency Management Tools

I re-read this position paper on process by David Baker the other day and have to share it with you.

If you are considering (and you should) implementing agency management software/tools/technology to better manage your workflow, read David Baker’s paper. I haven’t met Mr. Baker, but truly admire his work – and he shares a lot of it on his website.

Any system, from a simple internal form and email to an integrated solution can be a time consuming waste without a process. Basic rules that everyone follows.

Process defines what tools you will use, who will use them, how they are used, the handoff and follow-up.

And compliance. From the top – down.

An investment in agency management technology can be expensive. Developing a solid process is insurance for your investment.

And if you’d like some help (re)defining your process, assistance on selecting the right technology fit, or just want to chat about how things are going in your agency or marketing department, contact me.

First call is free.

Do You Use Advantage Software?

Don't throw out the baby with the bathwater.

Don't throw out the baby with the bathwater.

I’d like to know how it’s going. If it’s been great, please, share your experience.

Is it making you crazy? Well, any technology can do that to you - but this is about Advantage / Webvantage.

If your experience with Advantage been less than stellar, I’d like to hear from you as well. Because an investment – not only in hard-dollars, but also in the time it took to implement it, is worth fixing.

Or at the very least, review it before you make a big change. Change is tough - remember?

Your colleagues will love you for making their lives…easier.

We are happy.
So on to the questions…Did you implement it agency-wide? How did that go / how long did it take? Is everyone using it? Is it performing as you expected? Are you using Webvantage as well?

Yes to all of those? Awesome – tell us about your experience.

We are unhappy.
Okay, I’ve worked with hundreds of individuals, some of whom have had a not-so-great experience with Advantage / Webvantage. I’d like to hear from you. It will be therapeutic. At the very least, you can vent.

Questions for you…How long have you had Advantage / Webvantage? Did you have assistance during the implementation process? Were you prepared for the setup, testing, training, and roll-out? How has the follow-up been? Have you made adjustments along the way?

Is it just a raging headache and you’re looking to another solution?

I really want to hear from you. This post is a forum for you to air and share. Bring. It. On.

And by the way, I can help you.

Sometimes you don’t have to throw out the baby with the bathwater. There I said it.

Let’s fix your issues so you can get to work!

Implementation Fail

I have worked with many agencies that have implemented agency management software and found that it doesn't work…for them. Often, rather than an issue with the software, they experienced implementation fail.

You invested time and money into fantastic technology. But it can be really expensive if you don’t do your homework beforehand, and don’t implement properly. So read on – there may be some familiar sounding reasons things didn't work out like you planned…

Now I’m all about an integrated solution because – get this – everyone collaborates on the input, and it is compiled in one place. Then everyone has access to the same information. And if you enforce just a little compliance – like requiring that they use the system, information will be real-time. Return on investment.

Imagine that.

Failed implementations usually come down to these often-overlooked issues:

Didn't really define what problem you were trying to solve. Usually agencies look to software because there’s something wrong. I know what it is but I can’t define it. Well you need to do this first step and it takes asking a lot of questions.

There is a lot of single-purpose software, to do schedules, or estimates or manage assets. Give it plenty of thought, and pull colleagues into the evaluation - before you make your investment. Because going back and undoing something creates a lot of unhappy employees. And a lot of extra work. And skepticism for any ‘new’ solution you bring to the table later on.

Management didn’t support the software – and the change that goes along with it – 100%. Staff will complain because routines are different and they may be asked to do something – like timesheets – every day. They will go to the big bosses who must push-back and re-direct issues to The Implementation Team. Without management’s full support change will not stick.

Thinking that software will fix everything. Nope, it takes process and people too - who actively use the software. That means a big slice of change management pie. Be prepared.

Everyone else in the agency is unaware that change is coming. If ever there is a way to completely alienate your staff, it is blind-siding them with the introduction of a New System – which usually includes software.

 The entire agency uses software every day to create Cannes Winners. But put in agency management software and all of a sudden they hate you. And the software too. “It’s too hard and doesn't make sense.”

So to get buy-in and include at least one individual from each department to take part in evaluation, customization and implementation. And then they will take their insight to their colleagues, and spread the good word. While you’re at it, give them some sort of perk for managing these duties – it’s out of their creative sphere.

You didn’t plan who would manage, or how you would implement the software. You need someone to drive the bus of change management. It isn’t automatic and it takes time away from other duties. Someone in your agency who really knows the ins-and-outs of the program will be able to close the communication gap and make it more relevant. As for timing for a comprehensive system, expect three months minimum. Really.

You thought you were buying a ‘plug ‘n play’ system. Pay attention here: Nothing is out-of-the-box and ready to use. You will have some set up to do prior to roll-out so that it operates – the way you want it to. Shame on your sales person if that is what they told you.

There’s a second part to that as well – decide which features you really need to get started, then test out and add new features as staff gets comfortable. Trust me on this – your lovely colleagues will cease to be kind and gentle if you throw too much at them at once.

You didn’t train – or which is usually the case – you didn’t require staff to attend training, and pay attention (e.g. turn off your iPhone). Further, you didn’t supply documentation, like at least a cheat-sheet on how to get from point A to point B. Uh, where do I click? Something as simple as this will keep people on task.

There was no follow-up. A new system needs follow-up. Because there is a lot of change that goes along with a new system, how people end up using the software can surprise you. I have witnessed work-arounds I didn’t know could be done. Remarkable.

People are resourceful if they don’t like change, or if they don’t understand something. So follow-up is essential to ensure the technology is used – as you meant it to be used. Your data is more useful if entered properly. Additionally, your staff MUST let go of old systems. They do not need to waste valuable time doing everything twice. If you can remove / block / turn-off old systems - do it. Or they may be prone to just keep doing things the old way. 

Keep your implementation team together for a few months after going live to check on their respective departments and then report back. Adjustments can be made anywhere along the way if there is something that simply doesn’t work – or if there had been an issue that wasn’t considered. 

There are a lot of little things that will surface when you put new systems in place.

A time of change is when you get to see your colleagues in their best temperament. So plan ahead, get buy-in and learn to take (just a little) flak.

And if you need any help, or just someone to talk to, I'm here for you. I've been there.

LinkedIn Profile Buzzwords

The 10 Most Overused Words in LinkedIn Profiles was published recently.

When I saw the list, I thought I had used them all. But alas, I only used one out of ten. So I re-read my profile and it seemed…I don’t know, stuffy, corporate. Maybe I need to re-write it.

The problem here is that we have a generally accepted lexicon that explains what we do, to others who are in our line of business. So what do we do to differentiate ourselves? Well the author tells us we should list our accomplishments.  However that can bloat a profile from buzzwords into a full-blown resume – long version. No one wants to (or will) pore over my accomplishments…whatever. So we use those handy words that everyone uses and we all sound the same – sort of.

So in an effort to remove buzzwords/jargon/corporate-speak – and not fire-up the thesaurus – I decided to rewrite my bio in the most basic un-buzzed-worded-way I could. And without writing the story of my life.

Here goes:

I have been in advertising and marketing for 35 years
I know how to spot things that are going wrong and tell people how to fix them
I know how to keep people from killing each other at work
I know how to budget, schedule, defend quality, and make people do their jobs
I also know how to draw and design
I know how to use software
I have worked for large and small companies
I am worth the money you will pay me

Now tell me, would a client, human resources professional, or hiring manager even consider hiring me? I think we're stuck with buzzwords.