Why Agencies are Lousy Self-Marketers.

As seen in ADV Magazine March 2000

Having irritated the minority of you who are good self-marketers by the headline (for which I apologize), the truth is that many communication agencies are woeful self-marketers.

Perhaps they have seen FIELD OF DREAMS too often – “If you build it, etc.” (PS – They’ll come faster if you promote.)

Perhaps the agencies have intentions of spending time and money on self-promotion but were distracted by the client crisis du jour, putting off the important focus to another day, which never comes.

Or worst of all, perhaps they don’t really believe in the craft in which they earn a living. For them, may a thunderbolt strike down their houses if this is the case, or less Biblically, may their clients all leave and go to an agency which believes in the power of marketing.

So enough excuses. What are you doing to promote yourself?

Don’t need to. Business is terrific, you say. We’re having a hard time in keeping up with the work we already have, you say (true in many cases for the moment, particularly since the number one issue for every agency is finding good people). But it’s amazing how many shortsighted agencies believe they’ve gotten so brilliant because some well-funded start up dumped a bucket of short-term money on their heads. Business is good for most NOW, and may remain so for some time in the future, but the need to continually market a communications agency is always paramount – good times and bad.

In fact, the seeds planted by self-marketing are not planted for this month’s harvest, but for another season.

So, what should a smart self-marketer do?

Here are the (not so easy) steps:

1. The most important step is to truly and deeply analyze your agency’s strengths. Who are you? What does your agency stand for? What are your unique qualities?

Probably the most difficult thing to do is to be objective about yourself. One tends to believe one’s own BS after a while. In fact, objectivity is the number one value an agency brings to a client. But the absence of it is why so many agencies’ own “house ads” are dreadful. It’s often helpful to have outside counsel to help with an objective evaluation.

2. Assuming you have a good fix on who you really are, you need to develop a strategy of what you’d like to accomplish and how you might do it.

3. After you’ve developed an overall strategy, then develop a total communications plan. This should include:

  • Internal communications: always the best place to start. Make your employees into your sales force.
  • External communications, including:
    • Advertising
    • Publicity
    • Community and industry visibility, regionally and nationally
    • Web site
  • Relationships with key influencers:
    • Industry associations
  • Prospects: Let those who you want to do business with know you want to do business with them and why they should want to do business with you.
  • Clients: Don’t need to “market” to clients. They already know you (perhaps). Clients feel good about the success of an agency – so long as they don’t feel they’re being left behind. It reinforces the wisdom of their relationship with you.

A smart agency is one that looks at itself as a brand and manages that image over time. Clients come – clients go – but an agency’s image remains.

Those who carefully nurture that image are always more successful in the long run

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