Maybe it’s finally started to dawn on me, but as one who runs a small advertising agency, I’m realizing that I cannot do it alone. While serendipity set in, I also know that certain aspects of my job require me to do the selling of agency services. That process has to be systematic, consistent, and in some respects automated. I’m wasn’t big on ad tech, but it’s a necessity. “One must adapt – resistance is futile,” a former client of mine that resembled a Borg Soldier (from Star Trek mythos) told me. He was right.
Too many of us in the small agency arena have the illusion that we’re glib MadMen. We aren’t. I seldom consume alcohol. So is very unlikely that I will get a client agreement after a three martini lunch. I’m not friends with a politician or some big business owner. Getting clients requires hustling, and when relating the virtues of what we do in my shop, speaking with the fervor of an evangelist.
That doesn’t mean that I have to become the king of alliteration, breaking out into a gospel song in the middle of the presentation, but it means something that is lost on most of us. We must believe without whole hearts in what we’re doing and offering and that it is good.
Easy. Change has to come from within. I referenced MadMen, not because of the television show, but the familiarity people have with it and the era of advertising it represents. Below I have studied the subject, my principal learning came from reading and consuming everything that I could get my hands on regarding David Ogilvy, Bill Bernbach, Jerry Della Fermia, Roy Eaton and Leo Burnett. I had no illusions of walking into some agency and showing off my portfolio. I transitioned to marketing and advertising but wanted to bring the same sensibility and vision to what I was doing, as had the Masters of Madison Avenue.
That era has passed not because of creative obsolescence, but as the winds of time move the sand, it does the same to our lives. Thankfully, they passed down a legacy. Strive to be great.
For me, the lessons learned from studying the greatest should translate into developing a level of confidence and competence. The agencies of the Masters grew not only from superior creative work but also from unison within the agency. What’s produced these days can be summed up by a line from the lips of Jack Lemon in the movie Glengarry Glen Ross: “It’s horseshit.”
I’m a firm believer that the fame of Ogilvy, Bernbach, and the rest came about because they had strong sales ability – if not people in the trenches kicking in doors. The creative work spoke for itself – it was magnificent. Account services were practiced on a level generally not seen today. So, that’s what slipped past.
When CDM Digital Advertising was in its nascent days as Carson Dunn Media Advertising about eight years ago, or whenever the recession started, I was the face of the company. Sales came because I did the majority of the networking consisting mainly of going to civic organization meetings, and being the agency motor mouth. Here’s what is unpleasant about sales: rejection. There is also a hint of ridicule behind that. Can you imagine some CEO puffing up his face, turning his nose at the mention of your agency? It happens.
But in rejection, you’re reminded to persevere. An evangelist believes in the word they are spreading. Nothing should deter him or her. In the last year, I examined different sales funnel models, methodology to convert leads into actual clients, until I turned blue. (I have a Carmel complexion, so can you imagine?)
Here’s an observation. I’ve noticed that perspective clients have made a decision prior to meeting me. That decision is based on their belief of the benefits of their brand. My shop is a brand, too. Thus, despite differences in bank accounts and business clout, the client is the same as I am. They want to interface with a human being. As a communicator, I should be able to develop rapport, as I grow to understand what they are dealing with and growing their businesses.
It’s my hope that as I turn over the reins the new business development and sales to someone in my organization, they have that understanding as well. Marketing automation tools help a great deal to keep everything organized, but without commitment and belief, the agency evangelist is hitting his head against the wall.
Bernard Alexander McNealy, President
CDM Digital Advertising Agency LLC