Monthly Archives: June 2012

How to Handle A New Business Inquiry

Inbound Marketing 101: The 13 Questions

The hot biz dev phrase du jour is Inbound Marketing. Agencies are taking great pains to leverage Social Media and converting the prospect leads into inquiries. Sounds good — until it actually works, and you get a new business inquiry. What’s often missing in the Inbound Marketing game is the marketing part. A lot of agencies talk the new biz talk — but their cultures are more of an operational culture than a marketing culture. Except for one or two folks whose livelihoods are dependent on new business — who are accountable for new business results. Most other employees at a creative agency are service and operationally driven. They are mostly billable employees, or part of an administrative team.

There are two types of people and mentalities in the world: Marketing people and Operational people. And I’ve noticed more than occasional friction between the two forces within creative agencies (and  most companies, in general). Too often, the two archetypes are sitting in the wrong seats on the agency bus. Every point of contact in the new business chain is vital — and often in reverse order of management hierarchy. When it comes to Inbound Marketing, your switchboard operator is more important than your New Biz Director. At least, on the initial call. I’ve masqueraded as an inquisitive prospect with some of my client agencies and sometimes I’m baffled that they’re not better prepared to expedite the inquiry. I empathize with the intern that is juggling 8 vendor calls and lumps the prospect inquiry in with that lot.

“Hello, I’m with the marketing department of the Global Acme Corporation and we’re interested in working with your agency. Who can I speak to about our upcoming assignment?”

“Uhhh, I’m not sure, lemme check.”  HOLD MUSIC. “That would be Joe Blow, but he’s out of the office on vacation. Can I put you in his voicemail?”


“Thank kewww.” (by the way, what’s with this baby talk “thank you” that is so popular in today’s young female vernacular?)

Let’s assume the Inbound Marketing call gets to your biz dev person. What do they do with it? Are they so excited to be getting a call or an RFP that they fumble the kick? Do they talk too much? Not enough? Are they asking the right questions? Here are the golden 13 questions of handling a new business inquiry:

 Handling a New Business Inquiry (first call):

  1. How do you know about us?
  2. What are you looking for in a new agency relationship?
  3. What services does your current agency provide?
  4. What communications are most important for you to to develop?
  5. (If not requested) Are you also looking for a Media/PR/Direct/Interactive partner?
  6. (If services have been unbundled) Have you considered one agency to integrate all disciplines?
  7. What is your agency fee range? What is the expected agency revenue opportunity?
  8. Does that include production?
  9. What is your timeline?
  10. What is your selection process?
  11. Who else is part of the selection process
  12. How can we learn more about you, your customer and your goals?
  13. (IF YOU’RE TALKING TO A MARKETING COORDINATOR OR ADMINISTRATIVE ASSISTANT) “Can we set up a 20 minute phone call with the person driving the review”? (Be sure to get his or her NAME!)
And then what? Sit and wait for another call? NO… follow up on that inquiry.

 Following up on the Inquiry (second call):

  • Can we possibly gain access to your consumer research?
  • Can we possibly see a copy of your marketing plan?
  • (If they don’t have one) What are your goals/What do you want your marketing to accomplish?
  • (If it’s a strong prospect) Is it possible to set up a “discovery meeting” – where we can learn more about you prior to a review?

The Mobile Technology That Will Change the World: **Me

The Keys to the Kingdom

It seems like everyone has suddenly, almost overnight, become an “expert” in Social Media. First, I’m rather leery of anyone that purports to be an “expert” at anything — no less one in a discipline that’s less than a decade old. I prefer to use the moniker, “student”. I am a student of wine, not a connoisseur. I am a student of best practices in sales & marketing, not an “expert consultant”. Above all, I am attracted to students of LIFE, not know-it-alls that ask me for my watch and then tell me what time it is. The whole idea of leveraging Social Media to create inbound marketing leads for any business (advertising included) is so “no-duh” that it’s passé. What these experts fail to uncover, is where is Social going, and what can we meaningfully connect it to?

For Social Media to be truly effective, it needs to CONNECT to something. I’ve said this for the past two years: the keys to the marketing kingdom will be handed to the technology that can seamlessly and simply connect Social to Mobile. Social alone is relatively weak. Who cares how many people “Like” your brand? What are you doing about that?

Our devices are shrinking, every day. It won’t be long before the laptop and the tablet are obsolete. Someday soon we will use one primary device, and that will be our phone. They will figure out a way to build a phone device that outperforms current laptops and tablets. As for today, the majority of us spend more time on our phones than our computers anyway. We are already a mobile primate. So why isn’t there a real connection to this by Social (beyond ho-hum, watered-down, condensed Apps)? Why is there a power outage in the transition? Why do I have to work so hard to make the translation?

Hello! I’m here to unleash that power/knowledge upon the creative community today. It’s a new technology from a company in Palo Alto called Zoove ( You need to embrace it and sell it in to your clients, or it may put you out of business. Because in less than 3 years — this technology will replace most current digital communications — along with QR codes, 1-800 numbers and SMS. And there will be no more archaic typing of clunky/goofy URLs into your search bar.

I’m not going to explain to you how it works. You need to be a “student” for yourself. Do your homework. I’ll just give you my own personal testimony:

Baby, I’m a Star Star

As of today, I have a new phone number. It’s **PALMA. That’s right, dial **PALMA from any mobile device and you will ring my cell. If I cannot take your call, it will immediately text you an experiential message. In my case, it’s a link taking you to this blog site. But, it could direct you to any content I chose: a video, an app, a photo, a coupon… any form of digital content can be part of the experience.

On the surface, it’s a “vanity” cell phone number, like vanity license plates. But, in reality, it’s a seamless and simple way for me to serve any content I want. If you dial **DD you will get a voiceover message from Will Smith shilling a Men In Black 3 promotion for Dunkin’ Donuts. And instantly, you’ll receive a text message with a link to a coupon. Dunkin’ Donuts is one of the leading innovative marketers in the world. They’ve transformed themselves from a moribund brand into a powerhouse through MARKETING. If they embrace a marketing technology, you should pay attention.

Some of the stories out of Zoove are mind-boggling: This past season, at Madison Square Garden in the 3rd quarter of a Knicks game, the P.A. announcer says, “Dial **Knicks now and receive a 25% discount on all souvenir merchandise for the 3rd quarter only”. Guess what? Fans flocked by the thousands to souvenir kiosks — truly capitalizing on Linsanity. This is real- time, seamless and simple Mobile marketing that’s connected to something tangible. And it’s also surgically measurable and adjustable.

As I mentioned briefly, Star Star will replace QR codes (they’re ugly, meaningless, unbranded, and complicated). It will replace SMS (already glitch-ridden), 1-800 numbers (and the like). Thousands of brands will soon be signing up for Zoove. If you take this technology to your clients first — before they discover it on their own, you will truly be a Digital Marketing star — an expert, if you will. You will be the innovator that you purport to be. Star Star will change the world, making it a simpler and more creative place to live. What does this have to do with creative? Think about the great content that can be created in the user experience. It’s an idea and a technology whose time has come. The rest is up to you.

Star Star You.

The Real Scoop on Creative Salaries

Keeping Up With the Benjamins

“Did you do it for love?/Did you do it for money?/Did you do it for spite?/ Did you think you had to, honey?”  — Don Henly/Glenn Frey

Money, money, money; that’s what I want. That’s what almost everyone wants. The root of all evil (well, not quite ALL evil). Dough re mi. Cabbage. Gap. Dead Presidents. Benjamins. Bread. Cheddar. Clams. Dinero. Cake. Jack. Lettuce. Loot. Moolah. Wad. Wampum. We all sit on the jagged precipice at the juncture of Art and Commerce.

The Long Run

There’s a perception that the only way to prosper in the ad agency business is to move about like a gypsy — one desperate agency upping the ante after another. This perception has become reality. We’ve become a peripatetic species. The proliferation of creative headhunters has certainly exacerbated this condition. This isn’t a bad thing, nor a good thing. It’s just the way it is. Everyone’s looking to make a buck. What’s lost on everybody is The Long Run — how much money will you make in your cumulative career? And, the dark side of the road: when do you become irrelevant in this business?

This is a complex question and concept. If you break down your creative career into segments and evaluate how to maximize your marketability — you may have to sometimes take LESS money (or make a lateral move) to enhance your career. Why? As always, it’s because of the work. But, too many reject the notion of a lateral move (or less). It’s beneath them. Their buddies will snicker. Their spouse will bitch. Greed is a terrible thing — it’s the work of the devil. I’ve learned that creatives who focus more on the work than the money ALMOST ALWAYS make more money in The Long Run.

The advent of the Social Era spawned numberless online creative communities. Job Boards. Resume and Portfolio Farms (er, I mean “forums”). Creatives have become cattle in the slaughterhouse. Another hyperlink in the chain. Lost toys on Hyper Island. There are more shills on Twitter than there ever were in the diners along the New Jersey Turnpike, or Telegraph Road. They feed off online creative communities. These charlatans are quite adept at touting the results of their latest poll (as if statistics prove anything). One of the most amusing myths that emerge from these online communities: “Salary Monitors” — by region, by title, by gender, by height, by shoe size, etc. Quite often, creative candidates tell me how much salary they should make according to some cockamamie Salary Monitor.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news — but salaries in the ad agency business are exactly the same as they were in 1989 when I began placing creatives in Raleigh, NC. The minimum wage in NC that year was $3.35 per hour. In 2012, NC sports a $7.25/hr minimum wage. That’s more than a 100% increase! Okay, that’s a common laborer at the low-end of the scale. Possibly an incongruent example. So, let’s go to entry-level salaries out of Wharton School of Business in the same period. Guess what? Same 100% increase. Yet, ad agency salaries are exactly the same in 2012 as they were in 1989.

Why is this? How can this be? It’s the law of the land/supply and demand. Employers pay what they have to and not a penny more. That’s why I chortle at salary monitors. A boss likes a book and asks me what it costs. And if it matches up with the person, they pay it. The really bad news, even in this era of creative dearth, is that creative salaries are beginning to trend down slightly . We can only theorize why. No theory ends happily. When push comes to shove, technical skills trump creative skills today. Style trumps substance. Context trumps content, despite what the blowhards are spewing at Cannes this week. This is not a complaint, it’s just the way it is. There’s a New Kid in Town.

                                                      The New Kid in Town

Quite simply, a technologist that can think somewhat conceptually. This is a freakish morphing of the creative species. Reminds me a bit of flying roaches or two-pound   cannibal shrimp. The New Breed of Art Director is a Developer that can think conceptually. It’s a Designer that thinks in terms of web experience. The new Writer in town creates the “new poetry”: tweets. They ghostwrite blogs. Their favorite brand tagline is: “Like us on Facebook”. But if you follow the money to get to the immediate truth, you’ll see that the best paid folks across the board are still doing traditional television commercials. Why? Clients still pay more for traditional media than digital media. Therefore, agencies pay accordingly. This, too, will pass. The new kids in town, the Jeff Benjamins, and the new media, are fledgling and will ultimately prevail.

                                                     The End of the Innocence

With the Social Era comes an inescapable transparency. Most transparency is good, but some is toxic. We “friend” people we hardly know. We “connect” with people we’ll never talk to or even email. We share secrets with total strangers. We’re left to live out an inescapable irony: being “Social” encourages us to be less social than ever. We lose a little bit of innocence with every Instagram that we pin onto Pinterest. Voyeurism and Exhibitionism replace Sociability. Does it surprise that in this environment money trumps creativity? Or that widgets trim ideas. What does that have to do with creative salaries? One does not need to look any farther than the rash of consumer-generated content in the past 5 years. Allow the late, great Phil Dusenberry to explain:

WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THE STATE OF COPYWRITING, GIVEN THAT WE HAVE USER-GENERATED CONTENT AND CONSUMER INFLUENCE IN THE CREATIVE PROCESS? Dusenberry: “As far as consumer-generated content, I think that’s a joke because you should leave it to the pros to get something done. You may luck out and catch an idea from some amateur, but that’s not really the way to go.”

SO, YOU THINK IT’S A FAD? Dusenberry: “I don’t think it’s going to last, and you’re going to see it take a powder very soon.”

EVEN THOUGH “CONSUMER ENGAGEMENT” IS THE PHRASE OF THE MOMENT? Dusenberry: “The whole idea of consumers generating ideas is like pulling your own teeth as a dentist. Leave it to the professionals. That’s what they’re paid for.”

“Professional” is the operative word here. Your “profession” has been devalued to the point that clients think they can get what you provide from anywhere. It’s like if the Boston Red Sox allowed me to play left field for them because I love Ted Williams and Carl Yastzemski. Your skill set is commoditized to the point that brands can’t distinguish between you and an amateur. That’s why hybrid technologists are in greater demand than creatives at ad agencies. How did we get here? That’s why creative salaries are exactly the same as they were 23 years ago, and may soon drop.