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November 27, 2007
Help Us Help You

Not a day goes by that we are not contacted by agencies asking: “What is the best way to get onto your radar screen?” Here are five easy tips for grooming Search Consultant relationships. For some of you this may simply be a refresher. For others, consider this a New Years To Do List.

1. Be Clear. There are still relatively few agencies in the US with full-time Business Development Directors, though the industry is slowly realizing the tremendous value that a dedicated person or team can bring in terms of ROI. Many agencies still divide these duties among their senior staff. While there is no correct model, it is important to identify a single Biz Dev contact at your agency with whom the consultants can speak. This person should be senior enough to have an agency-wide purview and be able to speak knowledgeably about any area of the business. Be sure that everyone at the agency knows who he/she is, including your Receptionist. Remember to also clearly identify this person on your website and provide their name, e-mail address and direct extension (because no one likes to send e-mails to info@youragency.com).

2. Be Proactive. Don’t wait until you read about a specific review to contact a consultant. In fact, by the time a review is made public the process is often already well underway. A list of consultants can be found on the AAAA website (www.aaaa.org). Visit the consultants’ respective sites to learn useful information regarding their particular areas of expertise as well as the specific ways that they like to be contacted. Some agencies make special trips (road shows) to make credentials presentations to consultants. This can be a costly investment. Alternately, if you have clients in the same city as a consultant, kill two birds with one stone and try to get onto their calendar for an introductory chat. Remember, it is just as much OUR job to know who YOU are so we welcome the outreach.

3. Be Truthful. Many consultants offer a way for agencies to submit their information via some sort of online database on their website. When submitting your information, be honest. Agencies have been known to beef-up their headcount or billings in the hopes of appearing larger than they truly are because they think it makes them more desirable to a prospective client. Not all clients want a ‘big’ agency, however, as some recent major client wins can attest. Embellishing numbers not only hinders your chance of working with some great brands, it can also make for an embarrassing agency visit (unless you intend on hiring actors to fill desks, which we have seen and do not recommend). There is no ‘right size’ for an agency to be considered in a review. While agency size is surely a consideration it is not always a disqualifying criterion.

4. Be Consistent. It is a consultant’s job to know what is happening in the agency marketplace. We do our best to keep up with which agency has which accounts, to know which agency currently employs that superstar Australian ECD, which splinter group has left the mother-ship to open their own shop, etc. With 4,000+ agencies in the US alone, however, consultants must also rely on the agencies themselves to keep them up to speed and informed of significant developments. Now that you have established contact with the consultant, be sure that you maintain that relationship. Find an easy way to share the news of senior hires, new work, enhanced capabilities, awards won, client wins and (just as important) client losses. Make it easy and timely. A lot can change in only a few months at an agency so please keep us appraised.

5. Be Patient. While we cannot guarantee, by following steps 1 through 4 above, that you will be included in a consultant-led review, we do know that your chances become infinitely higher than if you didn’t. Good consultants respect the resources (time, money and effort) required of agencies to participate in a competitive pitch so they only invite those agencies that best fulfill a marketer’s specific search criteria. If you find that your agency has not been invited to pitch an account that you strongly believe that you should be considered for, drop the consultant a note explaining why you believe that you should be included. But remember, there may be criteria that you are not aware of that precludes your agency from participation. Either way, by remaining persistent, professional and patient your efforts will eventually be rewarded.

We wish you all a very productive and winning 2008!

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Ken Robinson has nearly 20 years of global marketing and management consulting experience on all three sides of the table -- as a client, a consultant, and more than 10 years managing business development for some of the country’s leading agencies. In 2007, he founded Ark Advisors with Ann Billock and Russel Wohlwerth, a management consultancy specializing in best practice solutions to the broad range of complex issues facing advertisers and their marketing communications agencies. 

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