Now More Than Ever, We Need Real Information From Real Agencies
Over the past few weeks, I’ve sat in on several agency consultants’ webinars on the future of our industry. Most of them are filled with worst-case scenarios that include cutting staff, hoarding cash, working for free and taking any business just to stay working.
All these ideas are solid and designed to challenge us to make the hard decisions that might be required to keep our businesses open.
But if we’re encouraging our clients to push through then shouldn’t we push through too?
Here’s exactly what’s going on at Square 2, so you also have insights from someone who still has an agency to run.
Leading a group of people is easy when everything is going well. The challenges come when things don’t go so well. I’m making an extra effort to lead our company during this difficult period.
This includes talking to more people individually and asking more questions about them and their families. This doesn’t always come naturally to me. I’m very direct and business first, so to take a few minutes to talk personally is important.
We also started a Zoom happy hour this week where everyone could have some time to hang out together virtually. That was a major success. I want everyone to know we care about them and their families because we do. If you missed this, it's worth checking out, it's only 8 minutes and it's fun to see our team chatting about their new normal.
We’re meeting more as a group than we have before. We’re continuing our weekly all-hands, What’s New Square 2 web show. This is every Friday from 12:15 PM ET to 1:00 PM ET. We have several fun segments like our WOW! Awards where we give out $25 Amazon Gift cards to people who have had an exceptional week. We used to give cash, now we’re giving virus-free e-gift cards. Sorry, we have to keep our sense of humor, right?
We celebrate anniversaries, birthdays and general good news from the agency during this show. I’ve been having team members give updates on clients as well to help everyone know where we are with our current clients. We also share progress on new business because there is some. More on this later.
This show is something that keeps us together and keeps us feeling like a crew.
We’ve tried to show leadership with our clients as well. Reaching out to each of them proactively to talk about how they’re doing and what we can do to help. This gives us a decent pulse on whether we have business in jeopardy or not.
I know the situation is changing very quickly and it has the potential to change daily. But I want our clients to be comfortable talking about their situation and their business’ health.
Many of them have shifted their strategy and campaigns with our guidance. We’ve also offered no-charge consulting (we won’t use their points) to work on overall business adjustments, brainstorming or what marketing and sales changes they need to consider and adjustments to their campaign plans.
Our Own Marketing
We’ve doubled down on our own marketing. I’ve been involved in a number of conversations with other agency owners (in person and via message boards) that have highlighted some concerns about marketing during this time period. I don’t think there is anything wrong with marketing your own services. There ARE companies who want to use this period to get their marketing redirected, restarted, or upgraded. Don’t you dare stop marketing.
This is also how we signal to our clients what they should be doing. Practice what we preach is a Core Value of ours and we have to illustrate what clients should be working on right now and over the next couple of months.
There is a lot of data that shows companies who invest in marketing during downtimes ALWAYS come out of it stronger and in a better position to take advantage of the upswing. This is the story we told during the 2008 financial crisis and it’s the story we’re telling again.
Currently, we have a decent pipeline and several verbal agreements to move forward. These companies have agreements and we’re waiting to get those back. We move deals to verbal when they have said yes and have contracts to sign.
Yes, these companies could delay signing, but as of this article, they are not saying anything like that.
I have been surprised at how there are companies that remain either in somewhat insulated industries like IT Services, software, technology, healthcare and life sciences that are continuing their work to generate leads and close business.
Even some manufacturers are looking at this time as an opportunity when travel is light and business is slower to invest in marketing and upgrade their entire digital marketing effort. These are the companies who are going to keep our economy going.
You have to keep trying to find them. They are out there.
We’re making more changes to our website, ramping up our email marketing, adding new content, working on more videos for our website and upgrading our chat feature on our site. We’re also going to be hosting more webinars and putting more time into our social media marketing. These tactics are all similar to the advice we’re giving our clients.
SPECIAL OFFER: This is a challenging time for agency owners, and I want to help. For any agency owners who want to schedule an hour conversation with me about your agency, I’m happy to speak with anyone, no charge. We can talk about the current situation, technology, your team, structure, or finances. Your agenda, your time. Simply click here, email me and we’ll schedule your hour immediately.
In these challenging times, we must help each other, stick together, and work together to get through it.
Working With HubSpot
I noticed in the HubSpot Solutions Partners Group on Facebook there were several agencies looking for HubSpot to waive fees during this time. Some people thought this to be a good idea, while others felt like HubSpot was in business to make money, and not hand out software for free. This is an interesting conversation.
Anyway, we continue to work with HubSpot and the rest of our technology partners. We’re making more of an effort to work with Drift as chat is a key solution tactic for getting people online to engage in conversations with our client’s customers and prospects.
We have a number of new HubSpot prospects we’re working with to and HubSpot has been very responsive with our demo requests and aggressive on pricing new customers.
Change To The Team
To date, we have not made any changes to our team. However, you should understand some context to that comment. Back in January, we did reduce the number of full-time team members and then moved even more team members to part-time.
This was NOT done in anticipation for the global health situation, but rather to better reflect our business and our client’s priorities.
In hindsight, it gave us a head start on any downsizing that might have been needed in February or March. It also gives us the flexibility to scale down or scale up as needs present themselves.
Over the past few months, we’ve also been leaning into contractors. As clients have cared less about who does their tactical work and more concerned about the cost of this work, we’ve leaned into less expensive contractors to do “stuff” work for clients while our core team focuses on strategy, analytics and guiding clients toward better results.
Today clients pay us more for strategy and less for tactics, but they also get more tactics for their money in our current configuration. Today, clients don’t care if in-house or contractors do their work, they just want good value for their money.
We’ve noticed that it’s easier working with contractors than ever before. It’s easier to find them, easier to rate them, easier to pay them and easier to manage communication with them. Welcome to the Gig Economy. You might have heard of it.
Even in challenging times, there are going to be good people available to work on projects for your agency. If things continue to get worse, smart, talented people are going to lose their corporate jobs and end up in the gig economy, ready to work for your agency.
Set up the systems and the tools you need NOW to work like this going forward.
Today there are platforms that make this switch easy. UpWork, WorkGenius and Freelancer just to name a few. We’ve been testing them all and are leaning towards working with WorkGenius for a number of reasons.
At the top of the list, we can put our own contractors in the system and manage everyone regardless of where we found them. We fund our account and then when the work is approved, contractors get paid immediately. This makes them happy and they want to work with us. We get to rate contractors and see what others have to say about them too. The platform also handles all the legal and government-related paperwork.
Finally, I’ve talked to around 20 Agencies 2 Inbound clients over the past week or two and shared the idea of making a plan. When control is less predictable, making a plan can give us the feeling of control. When there is uncertainty, thinking it through and documented some possible actions can be helpful.
It's scary to go this alone and you don't have to. Consider joining the Mastermind Group and working together with other agencies just like yours to navigate these challenging times, emerge better and ready to grow even faster. This will settle down and we will get back to normal business. We can all get there by sticking together.
Start Today Tip – Sit down and spend an hour making a list of everything you might have to do in a worst-case scenario. I wouldn’t go farther than 15 or 20 items on the list. Don’t worry about the order, just write them down. No idea is too small or large. We did this during the financial crisis in 2008. We called it Austerity Measures. We had 18 items on the list and only ended up acting on three or four of them. It’s very likely the same situation would play out today. Once you have the list, refer to it as often as you like. Daily, weekly, or monthly. Enact the items on the list as they make sense. If you hear about a new one or come up with a new idea, add it to the list. Once the situation settles down, you can put the list away. In the meantime, your list can help your agency navigate the challenging waters ahead.
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