March 30, 2021Comments are off for this post.

How To Create an Impactful RFP Response

Effectively communicating your agency’s value proposition and how you can solve your potential client’s challenges matters more than ever. Having read through more RFP submissions than we can count, we thought some tips on how to best position your agency in written form would be helpful (and hopefully help you win more of the right business for your agency):

  • Thank you note: Less than half of agencies kick-off the RFP response with a personal note from the CEO, Founder or President thanking the potential client for including them in the RFP and setting the stage for the rest of the RFP response. It is a kind and impactful way to begin building a relationship. We hope to see all agencies adopt this classy approach.
  • Talk less about yourself: Of course, your potential client needs some important stats about your agency (where you operate, your services, your credentials as they relate to the client ask, etc.), but be very concise with this section. Consider an “agency stats executive summary” at the beginning of the response with additional general information about your agency at the end.
  • Answer questions directly: Clients know there are other amazing things about your agency and the services you offer, but make sure to specifically answer the questions asked in the RFP. Your potential client is reading through several submissions, make it really easy for them to compare “apples-to-apples” between you and your competitors. Be direct, concise and thoughtful in your answers.
  • Information overload: As mentioned, the client scoring team is reading through 5-15 RFP responses, be clear and concise with your answers. Be conscious of slide overload, giving too much information and providing deep details on questions/services not requested. Decks should not be 100 slides.
  • Get to the good stuff, quick: As early as possible in your response, shift the conversation to how your agency can solve your potential client’s challenges. We suggest not using the first 20 slides to talk about your agency, rather use those slides to show how your agency is uniquely qualified to leverage your experience and approach to evolve the client in the ways they need your help.
  • Be custom: While repurposing agency slides is great and there is not an expectation that every slide will be custom to a specific RFP, customize content on the slide with information that is specific to your potential client when possible. Use their name, add information about audiences they are targeting, include key topic themes that are important to them, do specific research that is relevant to them, and include their correct logo, etc. Help them to easily see how “your solution” can become “their solution”.

During this COVID-era where meetings are virtual and people are having “screen burnout,” it is more important to clearly and concisely convey your agency’s value to your potential client. When writing your response, ask yourself a couple of questions:

“Would I want to read this information?” and “Is this information relevant to what the client has asked?”.

Keep your audience in mind at every moment, paying special attention to what life is like right now for the person reading your response. Make reading your answers easy for them and a delight. Leave your potential client confident in your ability to  overcome their key challenges with a strong sense that you truly understand their unique needs and excited to get to know you better.

December 8, 2020Comments are off for this post.

Creating Chemistry Over Zoom: Pitching in a COVID-era

Creating chemistry was a tall enough order before migrating to online pitch meetings. In the absence of sitting around a table, popping up to whiteboard ideas, hearing the sounds and feeling the energy of the room, agencies have had to adapt their approach to pitching business virtually.

If being “pitched at” wasn’t painful enough before, being talked to for an hour over Zoom is worse. So, how do agencies create chemistry, create lean-in from clients and create trust via a Zoom pitch? We’ll tell you, it is tough, but it can be done.

Here’s how you can create pitch chemistry, virtually:
Icebreaker: Do something different to show your team’s personality. Our personal favorite is team “fun facts”. Think less about the formal introductions and more about how you can get your potential client to connect with who you are as people. Clients don’t pick an agency because of your agency name or how long you’ve been in business or where you opened your first shop or how many people you have; they pick an agency because of your people. Focus on what matters and we recommend keeping intros to under 5 minutes.
Make the pitch interactive: Without sharing too many winning secrets, walking people through a slide deck with narration is not interactive. Real-time ideation and game playing is interactive. You should not be afraid to be creative. Today, virtual meeting applications come equipped with polling options, interesting background suggestions etc. Play around with some of these features to animate your next meeting.
• Pause regularly to ask for feedback: This allows for natural banter and creates a conversation. Conversation leads to chemistry.
Time clock management is key: With virtual meetings, you can’t lag around after your pitch for a quick chat or continue the conversation while you’re walked to an elevator; when the meeting is over, it’s over. Don’t waste valuable time telling the client information they are already aware of about your company. Yes, it is fine to set the stage, but they don’t need you to read them their pitch brief or spend time talking about yourself. Dive into objectives and focus on how you can help the client solve their challenge.
Gather relevant background: Do your research about who you’re pitching and ask them about a shared detail (you both happened to go to the same college, you noticed they speak a language you do, they worked for your childhood bestie, something). These moments matter.
Don’t talk over the client: Talking over your potential client is not one of the establishing building blocks for creating chemistry or successful long-term relationships. When you hear the client you’re trying to win start to talk or if you see that their body language show that they want to say something (yes, you can tell even on Zoom), listen to them.

Just like when we all used to meet in person, the agency who wins does the best job of creating professional chemistry; they get the client to lean-in and buy-in at every step of the way. The same is true during a virtual meeting.

Smart brands aren’t picking the cheapest agency or the agency who answered the 128 excel question questionnaire best. They are picking agencies they trust. Trust is the baseline for building a successful relationship. These micro-engagements help to establish that trust and build chemistry.

Building chemistry virtually isn’t easy, but it can be done. We hope these tips are helpful the next time you are virtually pitching.

May 12, 2020Comments are off for this post.

Data Shows how Business Resumes During a Pandemic

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When COVID-19 hit the U.S., the financial markets felt the hit too. Many companies responded by pausing budgets and advertising campaigns to focus on immediate business needs during the early weeks of shelter in place. This is shifting again.

Bombora is a trusted partner of ours and we use their data to keep a close eye on the market through their surge data on advertising related topics. Their data has given some strong insights into the health of the advertising industry over the past several weeks.

It is no surprise that during the first few weeks of “Shelter in Place,” the advertising industry halted. Most brands were not focusing on their advertising, but on business critical changes like turning an in-office team to remote employees, assessing how their business will be impacted by the changes to the world with the Corona Virus, what technologies they need to support the new way their business is running, etc.

What is surprising is the quick bounce-back of the advertising industry. It is no secret that strategies, messaging and media mixes have had to shift. This week’s Bombora report tells us that lots of brands are hitting the ground running to further amplify their messaging and getting their messaging to the right audiences. While you may not be experiencing this shift directly in your role or at your company, the shift is starting to happen.

This really the tale of Two Cities, “It was the worst of times, it was the best of times.”

Many brands technologies, products and solutions are truly needed right now to support this new environment. They are working tirelessly to support the growing needs of their customers, establishing quick wins, trying to find the most efficient ways to scale, and looking for the best ways to spend money. They are ultimately doubling down on their core and working to expand.

Then there are the companies who are struggling to stay alive during this time. They are also working tirelessly, but their focus is to stay afloat. They are trying to avoid lay-offs or having to make tough decisions, pausing budgets and hiring, reallocating resources and rethinking financial investments.

Regardless of which city you find yourself in, these changes have happened suddenly and massively. Quick and efficient pivoting is essential for survival.

Many brands have very talented in-house teams and deep agency partnerships, but the data also tells us that many brands are on the search of help from new agency partners for their evolving needs. This begs the question: What do brands need the most from their agency partners?

The CMO Council’s Marketing Supply Chain Report, “Understanding the Critical Factors to Achieving Marketing Supply Chain Operational Effectiveness and Optimization” tells us that “Just nine percent of senior marketers believe traditional ad agencies are doing a good job of evolving and extending their service capabilities in the digital age.” Since most offline advertising is shifting to digital, the need for agencies to evolve their strategic digital offerings to their clients is more pertinent than ever.  The 250 Senior Marketers responding to the CMO Council survey also ranked the top five causes of pain and friction in their agency relationships:

  1. An agreed upon set of analytics and metrics that defines success and failure
  2. Limited knowledge and comprehension of the client’s business
  3. Lack of value-added strategic thinking
  4. Pricing and budgeting issues
  5. Integration of marketing plans and services

To provide the most value during this unprecedented time, brands need the most support from their agency partners to help them quickly, effectively, and strategically evolve their digital approach to connecting with their customers from messaging through to digital execution. Perhaps, a new evolved partnership will be the outcome: one where brands will be able to trust their agency partners to act quickly when business priorities shift. After all, we are in this together - now more than ever.

 

 

April 14, 2020Comments are off for this post.

“The humanness of a brand is what attracts the humanness of us all” – Messaging in the time of COVID-19

Business “as usual” is hard as brands are doing their best to exist, operate and communicate during these unprecedented times. Among the many changes to our personal and professional lives, climate appropriate messaging has to be at the forefront of this change. This is not the time for slinging a product, but a time for sharing support and building a sense of community.

Competition between brands is taking a timeout and the ambulance chasing is no longer acceptable (frankly it shouldn’t have been acceptable the first place). Messaging is taking on a new life and the way it should have always been. During a time that many are calling “The Great Pause,” now is the time for brands to realign, reevaluate, reallocate and reposition.

Many consumer brands have been quick to respond to this need for change with messaging. Some notable shifts have been for campaigns like State Farm’s “New Normal," Ford’s “Built to Lend a Hand," Quilted Northern’s “Since 1901." All of these brands have shifted to an “in this together” type of messaging and have really doubled down on the human element of their brand and it is working.

Tech companies are realizing how important messaging is too. This is less about where you fall in a Gartner Quadrant, how you’re better than your competitor(s), or claiming to be the silver-bullet to solve all of the IT Buyer’s needs. This is about treating people like people. Slack has done a really good job of this with their first ever national TV commercial “Let’s Come Together."

People are always going through things in their professional and personal lives. There has always been stresses at home and work. But now, we are all facing a new level of difficultly. This has helped brands to understand that when you treat people like people, you gain advocates and you gain business. After all, regardless of your business, we are all being impacted by this and sharing a message of empathy connects with the heart strings in a powerful way.

When all of this is over and we move forward to a new version of our “normal lives," we need to make what we’ve learned from this stick. The humanness of a brand is what attracts the humanness of us all.

January 28, 2020Comments are off for this post.

How To Avoid the Agency “Bait and Switch”

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We’ve heard many clients say, “they pitched us with the ‘A Team’, then we got the ‘C Team’.” This is an ongoing issue that can be avoided.

An example is during the pitch process, you get to know an agency and try to evaluate them to see if they are a good fit for your company based on their expertise and experience. You meet many senior agency members and start to establish rapport and trust. Once you start working with the agency, you realize that your assigned team wasn’t part of the initial pitch and may not have the same level of knowledge, experience, and passion.

How do you avoid feeling bait and switched?

After you have vetted your agency list, narrow the list down to the final 2 -3 agencies and insist on getting to know your potential agency team. This request is always hard for agencies since they may not have talent assigned to your business, in the event they win the pitch.  However, think of it this way:  If you were using a recruiter to find your next employee, you wouldn’t simply trust the person they found is the right fit. You would want to interview them as well. Interview each agency’s non-pitch team to understand how the agency operates and to get a better feel for their culture. This is how you will be able to determine if the non-pitch team is a reflection of the things you liked about the senior agency pitch team.

If you’ve made it this far narrowing down the lists of agencies, you should already know that they have the right expertise and experience for your business. Below are some suggestions to consider when it comes to vetting the final list of agencies so that you avoid the ever looming “bait and switch”:

  • Have a video call with individual members of each agency’s team without the presence of senior leadership. This isn’t to exclude senior agency leadership. Rather, to get a more natural and honest read from someone without their boss listening in
  • Meet each “potential” agency team in-person, outside of the formal pitch for lunch or have a mock working/briefing session to get a better idea of how they think, as well as getting an impression of their personalities and work ethic
  • Ask them questions about their working styles: how are they strategically thinking about your brand? How can they add value through new ideas? Make sure to cover anything that is important to you based on any pain-points from your previous/current agency relationships
  • Ask questions about agency retention rates. While this is tough and not completely fair to the agency, it is important for you to know how often people are leaving the agency and the agency’s plan for back-filling vacant roles. This will help you understand the potential risk for having to reeducate and restart relationships with newly assigned members to your team
  • Trust your gut. So much of the agency/client relationship comes down to chemistry. Pay attention to how you feel when you are with the agency team

Slowing down your agency RFP process to include this vital step is imperative for selecting the right partner. Doing your due diligence will save you and your team from avoidable post-pitch relationship frustrations. In the long run, this will save you time, money and lots of headaches. Ultimately, this will save you from the immeasurable toll that a bad agency partnership will have on your brand.

January 14, 2020Comments are off for this post.

Pitch Pitfalls: Observations and Recommendations

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We have seen a lot of pitches. Every agency brings their own unique style and personality to the process. The opportunity goes beyond “selling” your agency as this is the time to establish the building blocks of your relationship with your potential new client and for them to get a feel of what it is like to work with your agency. That said, below are some pitfalls we have noticed along with ideas on how to overcome some of these challenges:

    1. Being too salesy: Agencies can focus too much time on upfront creds, showboating their achievements in financial growth, flashy logo slides and the number of awards they’ve won. We have seen winning agencies say things like “Enough about us – let’s talk about you”, spending very little time on data and facts about their agency.
    2. Bringing an army of people but only a few people speak: Often times, the most senior person in the room does the majority of talking. All clients are well aware that after the “win” they will barely hear from the senior folks that did 90% of the talking. Trust your team enough to let them speak in the meeting. Empower your group to walk through a case study or have them share examples of campaigns they have worked on. Finally, make sure every person in the room has a speaking part. This gives your potential client an opportunity to get to know your agency better and builds stronger chemistry.
    3. Interrupting the client: You probably don’t think you’ve ever done this, but you likely have. Even if you’re on a role and have something important to say, if you notice that the client has a question, stop talking. We’ve sat through so many pitches where agencies lose a valuable chance for an authentic conversation with a client simply because they talk over the client. When you don’t take the time to listen to the client, they don’t feel respected and stop listening to you.
    4. Not asking the right questions: You’re not expected to walk into a pitch knowing everything about the brand. Ask questions. You’ll learn a lot from the client and build a deeper bond by opening up a fluid conversation. Get to know them - this builds trust. Clients like working with agencies they trust. However, don’t ask too many questions. We’ve seen agencies ask a stream of questions and not reacting to the answers a client provides which can be seen as a waste of time.
    5. Not enough research and insight into the client’s business challenge: You are the expert and you’ve likely made it to the pitch meeting through some type of vetting process. Now is the time to build rapport with a potential client through your knowledge of their business. This goes beyond case studies of how your organization solved a similar business challenge. This is the opportunity to personalize the approach for this particular client. Conduct some research: How do they compare to their competitors? What is the potential addressable market this client can tap into? Winning pitches have demonstrated the ability to focus solely on the client’s business challenge which builds immediate confidence between you and the potential client.
    6. Don’t rely on your deck: Although your deck has everything you need in guiding the conversation, sometimes “death by PowerPoint” can occur. Breakup the presentation flow by whiteboarding your ideas or sharing your case study in a brief two-minute video. Shifting from the presentation deck to a different format allows the client to “lean in” and stay engaged throughout your pitch.
    7. Not being able to read the room: The client is giving you feedback throughout your entire meeting. Read signs and pivot accordingly. Pan around the room and see which clients are reacting positively to your group. If a client starts to look less engage stop the flow and ask if there is something different they want to see. Agencies not being able to read the room effectively have typically not advanced to the next stage in pitches.
    8. Making promises that you can't realistically deliver: Let’s all just make a pact to stop doing this. It doesn’t benefit anyone. Everyone is eager to win but nothing is more frustrating to a client when an agency makes promises that they cannot deliver on. Saying “yes” to everything costs your company time, money and talent. Be honest, if your firm doesn’t have a certain capability, “At this time, we are not focusing on this but happy to look into this if it makes sense” or “Our focus as a business is to stay strong in what we are really good at before we make these other investments”. A client will appreciate and value

The pitch meeting is the time to connect with your potential client. Let them get to know your team, what your agency stands for and how you can help them. Make sure to be authentic, flexible and to listen to the client. Slow down a bit and let the client navigate the conversation so that you can dig into what’s most important to them. Don’t make promises you can’t keep. And, remember that you should also be getting to know the client to make sure that they are the right for your business.

December 11, 2019Comments are off for this post.

So, you need an agency. Now what?

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Finding a new agency partner is tough. It’s a big risk to take and is a lot of work. What if the new agency isn’t the right fit? How do you go through the process of evaluating possible agencies? Where do you find the agencies? What should you look for in a new agency relationship? How do you balance and meet the needs of multiple stakeholder needs across your organization?

Here are 5 helpful tips for finding the right partner:

  1. Internal stakeholder alignment: Make sure all of the key members of your team are on the same page about what business problem you’re trying to solve for and what is important to you. This is truly the keystone for building a strategic relationship with your new agency partners. (Also, this is a massive opportunity for financial and time efficiencies.)
  2. Ask the right questions, but not too many questions: Make sure you’re asking the agency questions that help you determine if they are able to help you solve the key business issues that you discovered during your internal stakeholder alignment. This doesn’t mean lengthy RFP questions, rather the opportunity to ask questions specific to address your key business needs.
  3. Find a mix of agencies: Review multiple agencies that are built to address your needs and don’t be afraid to consider an option or two that seem a bit outside of your comfort zone – you may be pleasantly surprised. Often times, you are forced to use suppliers vetted by your procurement team or tried and true partners in your vertical. A good agency is strategic regardless of what vertical they fall in. It’s the ability to find “thinkers” and true “problem solvers” that may sit outside of your business comfort zone.
  4. Meet the agencies: You’d be amazed how much you can learn by sitting in a room with people for 60 – 90 minutes. Pay attention to the chemistry in the room and your gut. Insist on meeting people that would be working on your account. Don’t let fancy pitch teams and agency executives fool you to thinking they are day-to-day on your account.
  5. Do background checks: Narrow your list to 2-3 finalists and check references. While the agency will give you their happiest customers, you’ll learn a lot in those conversations about what it is actually like to work with that specific agency. Also, ask to have a 1:1 conversation with an account manager or another day to day person that might be assigned to your account. You’re buying the agency’s people; make sure they are happy.

Finding the right strategic agency partner is laying the groundwork for your growth and future. It is a tough and time-consuming process, but it deserves your attention. Choosing the wrong agency is much more painful than taking the time to find the right fit for your business.

For more helpful hints visit www.tenx4.com

November 19, 2019No Comments

If It’s Broke, Fix It (An open letter about the agency RFP process)

The agency RFP process is broken. 

But, it’s not your fault. The process is not designed to solve your key business issues. It’s incredibly complicated: entails the cooperation of multiple departments, a massive technology overhaul, alignment with finance, etc. Agonizing procurement lead systems, antiquated search consultancy firms and lengthy RFP documents don’t truly help you find the right strategic partners for your business. Not to mention that the ever-evolving complexities of the marketing and advertising landscape require more from marketers than ever before, but the RFP process has not evolved to meet these growing demands. It’s painful for both clients and agencies.

As ex-Agency and marketing leaders, we know the process all too well. Here’s what usually happens…You only RFP agencies you’ve worked with, are referred to by a colleague, find on Google search or see on an AdAge top agency list. You ask them a series of questions to find out about them, but those questions don’t address how they can help you solve your key business issues. You pick an agency that has the most charming pitch team and most flashy pitch deck (the people that you like the most), but they might not be right for your business. As a result of this, the strategy and execution often fall flat.

You’re left with two choices: Try to make a tough relationship work or go through the painful process again. If your agency relationship isn’t salvable and you dare to venture back into the agency dating pool again with the same process as before, you’ll likely get the same results. If nothing changes, nothing changes.

This is painful for the agency too. They spend days or weeks responding to your RFP. They answer dozens of questions, build decks, create case studies. In most cases, they take team members away from their “day jobs” (billable client hours) to work on new business. They work late, lose sleep, miss family activities and agonize over giving you the winning response.

They win the business. They’re  excited, but now have to scramble to put together a team. The work begins, but like we said they weren’t the right fit for your business, so your team gets frustrated. Your team starts making out of scope demands on the agency. Your agency tries to accommodate you, but they aren’t built to address these demands or those demands cost more money (but you don’t want to pay more).Everyone is frustrated. Then, your account lead leaves and you have to start over with someone else. Agencies lose their team over relationships like this.

It’s a lose-lose for everyone; until now. 

This is why Tenx4 exists. We’re helping our client and agency partners cultivate and build better relationships. We are fixing this broken agency RFP system to help our clients find the right strategic partners to bring your business to the next level. We work with you to understand what you actually need. We lead the entire RFP review process all the way from internal stakeholder alignment and brief creation through to contracts and onboarding. We save you time, money and lots of unnecessary headaches. 

Ultimately, when you switch agencies, you’re taking a risk. We eliminate that risk.

Find out how we can help you: hello@tenx4.com