How To Lose A Sale In One Easy Step

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


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. 


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.

Confusing Technology and Behavior

Once again Adcontrarian hit the nail on the head.

Confusing Gadgetry With Behavior.

It rings true to just about anything that is technology-related. I’m watching TV. I’m on the phone. Doesn’t matter the method, the action is the same.

On my side of the ad agency fence – squarely in the middle of the making sure things get done department – technology is frequently confused with behavior.

When things go wrong in an agency, as they all too often do, the first inclination is to turn to technology. We need a[nother] new software program. What we have doesn’t work, is too hard to use, the UX looks funky, blah, blah, blah.

New software will Fix Everything.

I have seen agencies and in-house marketing departments spend tons of money – the cash kind and hours (that could be billable) kind – in project management and workflow solutions hoping to achieve workflow nirvana.

Sometimes the tools (not the people – the technology) that are in place were selected by accounting, IT, or God forbid, a committee comprised of management who know nothing about what it takes to juggle a boatload of work, and resources that are hiding at Starbucks.

Often, the tools were not setup or implemented properly, training was done as more of a features overview, or worse, via five- or ten-minute videos on YouTube.


I don’t care if you’re using the biggest, baddest enterprise solution, or an easy-entry freeware, cloud-based app. You have to set parameters for use, or else everyone will do whatever they want, however they want.

Technology does not change behavior.

If you’re not getting much in the way of consistency or compliance in what you’re using now, it won’t happen with something shiny and new.

That’s why I have a job. (I can help you)

There’s more to keeping your agency humming along, and preventing people from hatin’-on one another. Tools (technology) are one thing. Process is another (I can hear The Adcontrarian now), but yes, you need a process – just basic, clearly defined steps to get things done works fine.

Then there are people.

People. They’re the ones using the tools. They often don’t know why they’re required to use them. They’re getting their work done. Thank-you-very-much. So back off. And please don’t say Process again.

Bottom line; involve users (especially creative folk) in evaluation and decision-making of technology. If they understand why you decided to do this to them, they’re just a little more inclined to use it – and use it the way you intended it to be used.

Ask for their recommendation. Don’t make it an ordeal. Involvement takes 10 minutes. Any more than that and you’ll lose all of the creative folks. You take care of the rest, and then give a 5-minutes or less dog-and-pony of the awesome solution you found.

There will always be a few who refuse to comply. If the culture allows it, then that’s part of your job: find out how important it is for management, then they have to do their part. Compliance can require tough love. You don’t have to be a jerk – help them get over the resistance.

Last, if I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times – customize your solution to fit your agency.

Out of the box, plug ‘n play, is a complete lie. Trust me on this.

Technology doesn’t change behavior. We still do what we have to do. These days, we don’t have keep timesheets on a three-part form, we click a button.

The inclination (or lack thereof) to do so will never change.

And in case I didn’t make it clear: I love the creative guys. I really do.

Your work pays the bills.

The Process People Answer Back

You're late and over budget. And get your timesheets done before you leave!

You're late and over budget. And get your timesheets done before you leave!

I love the Adcontrarian. I read every post on his blog and I own his books. He has the Number One Ad Book on Amazon.

So I took his recent post to heart. It struck a nerve. It cut me to the core.

I’ve heard it before.

I am not one of those people.

But I am.

Yep, Bob Hoffman (AKA The AdContrarian) wrote a piece the other day called The Process People. From his post:

“In my last few years in the agency business a new variety of doubly non-productive people were gaining ascendancy -- "operations" people. Not only did they produce nothing of value, they stole time from the people who did.

They had meetings about meetings. They wanted to know what everyone was doing so they could... I don't know... know what everyone was doing, I guess.”


Because this guy is my hero, and I [usually] hang on every word (he is a master wordsmith) – and I totally trust him – I answered back.

My comment was thoughtful, and 84 words longer than his post.

I didn’t mean to commandeer his gig, and from the other comments, I surely didn’t.

There’s a notion out there that us Process People, Project Managers, and those old-fashioned Traffic Managers are out to wreak havoc on creativity. 

We produce nothing of value.

If you are one of those, please stop it, because you are not the star of the show and it’s giving me a headache. I hate pissing off my hero.

Yes, creative gets all the awards, kudos and lunches out (and drinks) on the company dime. But it’s your job to ensure things get done. Blame doesn’t work. Threats don’t work. Facilitating does.

This is where we provide value . . .

The way I see it, we work in the background and everything magically happens. I know it’s not really magic – it’s difficult, tedious work. You signed-on for this job. I've written about this before, guys.

Ours is a world where we walk the line every day between creative and account and keep them from killing one-another.

If you don’t understand the creative world, start listening. If you don’t understand the account world, do the same. Understand their minds (scary, yes), the way they think, what’s important to them – then great creative can actually happen.

Yes, your job is hard – a real pain in the ass. But I guarantee that if you quit playing the role of dictator and start listening, you’ll actually get a little cooperation. And eventually, the creative folks will trust you just a bit, and ask you to save their butts when deadlines loom and last minute art direction comes in from the client.

Save them. They’re doing the work that pays the bills.

Use software to manage your work. Understand that not everyone is willing to log-in to your system and provide updates. Find out why. That’s your job too.

Let’s all make it easier for everyone to know what’s going on by not being a bunch of process- workflow- software-spewing hags.

I am not a hag. I’m here to make sure your work gets done.

And yes, it is time for a drink. Ketel One will do just fine.

By the way, I don’t want to rank lower than social media, Bob.

Choose Agency Management Software Wisely

Once you invest in an agency management system, you spend a lot more than money – there can be hours of evaluation, process mapping and then there’s the implementation process, training and learning curve.

You are solidly on your way to committing valuable resources to making the best use of the system, entering all your important data and assets, and voila! you’re fully committed.

It’s hard to end a committed relationship. But like a personal relationship, if it was established on the first blush of awesomeness, it’s hard to let go.

You were so thrilled! This was going to solve all your problems! It would Fix. Everything.

In the effort to hang on to that dreamy plan, you usually put up with some pretty crummy stuff. The passion to do everything just right slowly deteriorates. Then you find yourself just walking through all those process steps. The critical path that doesn’t seem all that critical.

Then you avoid it altogether and end up doing all your work in Excel and email.  Sleeping on the couch.

Other solutions start looking more appealing. You’re thinking about steppin’ out.

I believe in process and I believe is solid agency management systems. But unlike what your sales gal or all those corporate logos and too-cool agency names on their website say, one size does not fit all.

You can choose a solution where you simply login, create a user, and you’re off. Or you can choose something complex that does everything. And by the way, complex doesn't mean complicated.

But either choice can and will trip you up.

Diving-in with marginal planning can lead you down the path where you to once again depend on that old, reliable mainstay of email and Excel. Complex systems work great if you have a team to customize, implement and shepherd through (and past) the infatuation stage of the relationship.

And by the way, the simple systems work better if you actually take the time to do the customization they offer – like build templates.

The complex systems work better if you pare-down the features you use. There are more bells and whistles available that any individual can fully appreciate, especially in the course of a busy day. Implement in phases.

Pace your implementation, train, and require [some level of] compliance. A group of individuals playing with the same set of rules is, er, um, a team. (cliché I know, but true).

So do your homework, ask your sales gal how her company will help you get the most out of their software. Oops, solution. Then use those resources. Get input from your colleagues, address what they hate (and there are lots of haters), take recommendations for improvements to your software rep, and continually improve. The goal is to make this second nature – not a long, involved process.

The net result is a system that makes process easy. They’re just steps you walk through to get a job done. The same as when you sent an email to the guy next to you to write a line of code. Same actions, but now it has structure, it’s reliable.

You may not stay in love with the software, but you’ll have a partner that you can count on, and you won’t spend hours searching through email, or Google docs, or SharePoint for all that crap that should be in one place.

I’ll go for a stable relationship any day.

I Am The Greatest

That is true for Muhammad Ali.

It is not true for software.

That goes for claiming that a specific software solution is the only one that does X.

I guarantee there is something out there that is similar.

Therefore, when you’re looking for a software solution for your agency, (yeah, definitely not as cool as Ali) forget the hype and look at functionality. How it will fit in with your agency workflow (you have that mapped, right?).

And for crying out loud, you do not need it to look like facebook®.

It does need to be user-friendly, integrated, and provide the reports you need to manage your work, your staff and your agency (aka get stuff done and make money).

It takes some research – and do interrogate your sales rep. They may say anything to make a sale, and they’ll give you a super-shiny demo. Give them specifics and have them demonstrate how their software will solve your problem

(I know you are looking at (perhaps new) software because you have a problem.)

And once you sign on the dotted line, be sure to set up the software to suit your agency’s specific needs; get someone who will shepherd the implementation process; train everyone who will be using it; and get everyone on board.

Including management. They can’t just push this stuff down and expect compliance without being part of the solution.

Ali trained his talent

Features Training vs User Training On Software - They Are Not The Same

Let me guess, you just got new software in your agency – to manage your agency. Everything from job forms, SOW, and briefs to project management, collaboration, accounting and billing .You were trained in a two- to five-day session and now you’re LIVE!

Oh, for cripes sakes. More software? Please. Shoot. Me. Now.

Oh, for cripes sakes. More software? Please. Shoot. Me. Now.

Do you remember anything? Was there so much thrown at you that, now that it’s up and running, you don’t even know where to start with that great Agency Management and Productivity Solution?

Maybe you were trained on all the features, but not how you actually should use the software specifically for your workflow.

Way back when, there was someone in your agency who decided it was time to get out of email, Excel, Google Docs, Basecamp, a free timesheet app, and whatever accounting program you were using – and use one comprehensive program – that is more efficient by gathering everything in one database.

But to make the software really work for you, it has to be customized to your needs, and training absolutely must be tailored to your particular workflow.

That’s how training sticks. It needs to be relevant to your needs, the way you do things, and addresses the pain you endured.

In other words, it has to fix stuff. Make life at work better.

Every agency is slightly different, in structure, roles and responsibilities, culture and . . . compliance.

Merely buying, installing, getting an on-site (or online) overview (aka training) of everything the software does is fine – but that brief approach is the path to workarounds, maintaining old systems (just in case), low adoption and worse, software implementation failure.

Change isn’t easy. Giving up old ways is hard if the shiny new thing doesn’t relate in any way to the way you work.

Your workflow may be entirely screwed up, or non-existent – then you need a structured solution to get you on track. But that doesn’t happen via plug ’n play.

The best way to ensure success is to clearly define problems, review roles and responsibilities, map out your current workflow, review current documents, then find a solution that will work for your agency. Some tools are replacements, and some introduce new processes. It’s all designed to get you on track and make you more profitable. At the very least, you should emerge from training with a real sense of which tools to use, and how to use those tools for your specific workflow.

Need help? Contact me. The first call is free.


Cloud vs Client Server…Or Relying On Your ISP

I have worked in agencies and in-house marketing departments at a time when things weren’t going well. Unimaginable, I know.

Nobody knew where anything was. Projects late or over budget, or more commonly – both. The blame game. Endless complaining to partners, VPs, each other.

So we looked for ways to fix the problem. That’s where I came in. Figure it out. Find a solution. Implement it. Take the blame – thankyouverymuch.

In the early days, we didn’t have the Cloud, but we did have an intranet. So we usually built a system for opening jobs, preparing budgets and schedules, and shared access – usually using FileMaker Pro, FoxPro, or some database program that someone customized. A proprietary system. Oy.

Later came the designed-for-agencies software like Advantage, Creative Manager Pro and others.

Then came Cloud offerings. Then came apps. The evolution of Agency Management Tools in a nutshell.

Advantage and CMP (now Workamajig) now offer Cloud Versions of their software. Nice because you don’t need to invest in hardware or software upgrades (well, Windows 95® won’t do) and you can access it from anywhere your privileges allow.

Then there’s BaseCamp, which many think is an agency management solution. Nope. It’s a collaborative tool. And yes, you can buy all kinds of apps that will link. And if you want to manage your agency in bits and pieces, Be My Guest. Good luck with that.

Cloud is great.

But a couple weeks ago, my internet service provider, CenturyLink, had a 22-state outage. That meant, had I needed to access my agency data, I was S.O.L. The very nice person I spoke to at CenturyLink Customer Service said they were ‘working on the problem’ and ‘didn’t have an ETA on repair’. When I say she was nice, I mean it. Super friendly and super busy. Props for Good Customer Service.

By the way I live in Nevada. My daughter, in Medford, Oregon works in a supermarket. Their entire POS system was down during the outage. Imagine not being able to use your debit card for milk, eggs and Cherios®.


Most of us seldom lose internet service. But when we do, everything comes to a grinding halt. And it wreaks havoc. Everyone pops up – Hey, can you get on the internet? Try a different browser. Click, Click, Click.

I know this is how we do business now, but do give thoughtful consideration when investing in, and relying upon Cloud solutions to run your agency. Well, heck, this goes for any business.

Your source, whether it’s enterprise or an app, may rarely be down, but everything else in-between is vulnerable.

We are living and dying by the data we can gather and share immediately. When going to the Cloud, consider your provider, speed, and security.

No, this isn't an episode of Doomsday Preppers.

Now, where’s my typewriter and carbon paper.