As an agency owner, you’re overwhelmed. Just managing the everyday stuff – client emails, strategy sessions, vendor and freelancer partnerships, and even students who want an internship can be a challenge. We know you need help, too. Whether it’s advice from industry pros, access to more information, training, or industry news, a marketing and advertising association can be a good choice. Here are the top marketing and advertising associations to join right now.
These associations will give you access to people who have been there before. The people who understand the complexities and processes of running a marketing firm. Networking with other executives and having open conversations about the challenges you’re facing can not only help you gain insight into better managing your business, it can also tremendously impact the success of your growth in an ever-changing landscape.
Below, we’ve curated detailed information on the top marketing and advertising associations we think are worth your time to explore, along with their top recommended events.
The ANA arms members with the skills, tools, and resources to grow their careers. With best-in-class content, events, and training, the ANA helps members build stronger brands and provides leadership that advances marketing excellence and shapes the future of the industry. Founded in 1910, the ANA’s membership includes more than 680 companies with 10,000 brands that collectively spend over $250 billion in marketing and advertising.
The ANA also includes the Business Marketing Association (BMA) and the Brand Activation Association (BAA) which operate as divisions of the ANA, and the Advertising Educational Foundation which is an ANA subsidiary.
As one of the leading associations within the advertising and marketing industry, we highly recommend joining the ANA if you’re an agency executive. Their events are highly relevant to agencies and companies and most of the members are corporate marketing executives.
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Event: 2019 ANA Masters of Marketing Week
Date(s): October 2-5
Location: Orlando, FL
Mirren works closely with CEOs and their management teams to support agencies through consulting and training regarding best practices in new business development. Their membership gives you access to their resource center of On-Demand Learning and Advanced Webinars. Although Mirren is technically not an association, we included them because they are a household name for agencies.
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Event: Mirren CEO Summit
Date(s): November 7-8
Location: Chicago, IL
Founded in 1917, the 4A’s is the national trade association representing the advertising agency business in the United States. As a management-oriented association, the 4A’s offers members the broadest possible services, expertise and information regarding the advertising agency business. Its membership produces approximately 80 percent of the total advertising volume placed by agencies nationwide. Although virtually all of the large, multinational agencies are members of the 4A’s, more than 60 percent of our membership bills less than $10 million per year.
The 4A’s is the ultimate organization for agencies of all types and sizes. They offer valuable training, conferences, and best practices in how to drive agency sales, profits and develop new business.
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Event: 4A’s Mothers@Agencies
Date(s): August 28 – December 4
Location: Online Program
Event: Launch for Leaders
Date(s): September 18-19
Location: New York, NY
Event: 4A’s Stratfest 2019
Date(s): October 15-17
Location: New York, NY
The Insights Association is a founding member of Privacy for America, a coalition working with Congress to modernize data privacy protection via a bold new national paradigm. Their members are the world’s leading producers of intelligence, analytics and insights defining the needs, attitudes, and behaviors of consumers, organizations and their employees.
IA more wide-reaching content designed for easy consumption. You’ll find videos and case studies on particular trends, as well as frequent editorials on the latest marketing news. Membership is divided into multiple levels, but the focus is primarily on research and data as opposed to more social aspects of marketing.
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Event: CEO Summit Europe
Date(s): September 11-13
Location: Edinburgh, Scotland
Event: CRC 2019
Date(s): October 22-24
Location: Orlando, FL
Date(s): December 10-11
Location: Los Angeles, CA
The IAB empowers the media and marketing industries to thrive in the digital economy. Its membership is comprised of more than 650 leading media companies, brands, and technology firms responsible for selling, delivering, and optimizing digital ad marketing campaigns. The trade group fields critical research on interactive advertising, while also educating brands, agencies, and the wider business community on the importance of digital marketing. In affiliation with the IAB Tech Lab, IAB develops technical standards and solutions.
The IAB has many tools and classes for free without requiring membership or certification which is always a plus. This includes fee calculators and ad view-ability guides. Certification is divided into several different specialties and levels of expertise, allowing you to customize your training based on your position and goals.
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Event: 2019 NewFront West
Date(s): September 11-12
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Event: Direct Brand Summit
Date(s): November 20-21
Location: New York, NY
Founded in 1995, AMI provides training, consulting, and original survey data on salaries and benefits for small- to mid-size agencies. But the core focus is the owner peer networks, where members meet for two days twice a year to discuss financials, business development, marketing, and staffing.
AMI wants to help agencies “increase their AGI by at least 25%, attract better clients and employees, and best of all — exceed the agency owner’s life/financial goals.”
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Event: Build a Better Agency Summit
Date(s): May 18-20, 2020
Location: Chicago, IL
You hear it all the time – brands are moving more advertising and marketing functions in-house. From media buying to SEO to full service offerings, every day brings news of another brand deciding it’s better, and cheaper, to do it themselves. Brand experience is the same. As brands embrace experience-led thinking, they tend to hire internal experts who understand creative through the traditional experience lenses of activations, pop-ups and live events.
This leaves your agency with two options – either expand your offerings and cast a wider net for more opportunities or waste time going against the current. But moving out of your niche causes your agency to be spread too thin. As a result, you’ll find yourself relying on freelancers to fill in the gaps and run the risk of damaging relationships and reputations by underdelivering. We’ve also seen agencies start to create friction with clients’ internal agencies who are trying to protect their shrinking piece of the pie. Both approaches can create barriers to sustainable agency growth.
We suggest a third option for success.
Focus. It’s not a dirty word. Go narrow, clearly identify where you excel, and make it your mission to be absolutely best in class in that area. All too often we see agencies who have a fear of focusing and differentiating themselves because they are afraid of leaving money on the table.
Brand marketers continue to turn to those who know a subject area, a target audience, a technology or tool, or a sub-discipline of marketing and advertising. They want genuine expertise over generalization. This should resonate with you more than anything. Whether you are partnering with in-house teams or part of a multi-agent effort, in order to adapt to today’s landscape, narrowing your focus should become your new normal. While it may mean closing off certain revenue streams (in the short term), it ultimately future-proofs your agency by making you an ideal partner with valuable expertise.
But how do you narrow your agency focus? To get started, here are two things to consider.
Identify your strengths and weaknesses.
This one is trickier than most think. If may seem risky to lower the number of revenue generating avenues in front of you, especially when times get tough, but the truth is, expertise will always be valued. It is critical to assess what your agency does well, and strengthen in these areas. At the same time, be intentional about removing offerings that aren’t at the core of your business, or within the capabilities of your own team. Expertise will ultimately lead to increased trust and more honest, profitable relationships.
Build relationships with trusted partners.
“It’s only by saying “no” that you can concentrate on the things that are really important.”
We know you don’t want to say no to a prospect or client, but it doesn’t mean you should be quick to say yes. As you eliminate your non-essential offerings, reach out to partners that are experts in that field, and cultivate new relationships with them.
If clients ask you to take on something outside your narrow focus of expertise, suggest sharing the load with a trusted partner. The benefit of this is you keep your trusted relationship with the client while also building a strong relationship with partner agencies. As a result of this, there could be reverse opportunities as those partners begin recommending your team when in similar situations. It can feel risky to ask for help, but if you’ve laid a solid foundation, you should be able to avoid a situation where you underdeliver.
Here are the benefits of narrowing your focus and finding your true point of difference.
When you offer everything, you’re really competing with everyone.
A few things happen when your agency finds the importance in narrowing your focus and becoming the best at your niche. You may notice your competition is virtually eliminated. The more you focus on your niche, the less other companies will offer what you offer. Once you determine your focus, your competition will be a fraction of what was there before, and you’ll realize only a handful of agencies are doing exactly what you are.
When you narrow your focus, your competitors can become partners.
After eliminating thousands of agencies that were once your competition, you’ll find you now have many potential partners. You’ll also realize there are so many companies with complementary services to a similar client. This aspect of narrowing your focus could lead to the greatest amount of growth for your agency. Coming together with other partners who specialize in different skills in the same industry can help achieve the greatest outcome for clients.
Improvement at a faster rate.
Practice one thing for hundreds of hours instead of hundreds of things for one hour.
Once you eliminate the other things that were dividing your attention, you’ll soon realize your can spend so much more time learning and practicing on your area of focus. You will find you can keep up with the latest methods and trends within your niche that you never had time for before. A narrow focus helps you improve at a much faster rate.
The most important benefit of narrowing your focus is the increased value you can bring to your client. When you provide a specific service for a specific industry, you are better and faster at solving problems. You’ll understand the needs of your client quicker with less of a learning curve on each new project. It may seem like you are eliminating potential clients once you find your niche, but remember how valuable you’re making your agency to the clients that are right for you. Ultimately, you’re growing your pipeline and your business.
We are all living in a world of sameness that needs more specialists.
Think of all the revenue generating opportunities you will create when you excel in your uniqueness. A tight focus on your core expertise ensures your agency is easy to buy and difficult to dismiss. That’s what true differentiation is all about.
While it’s exciting to win an award within your industry, most people question whether applying for awards is worth the expense and hard work it takes to submit them. Awards help boost your agency’s reputation, earn credibility, and differentiate your agency from the competition.
At Catapult, we believe today’s agencies are creating incredible work that needs to be seen. How will your agency benefit from winning a prestigious award?
According to Forbes, here are five ways your agency benefits from entering awards competitions.
- Winning an award boosts your credibility.
- Awards distinguish you from your competition.
- Award recognition raises your organization’s spirits.
- Award ceremonies allow you to network with fellow honorees.
- Awards prompt you to take a closer look at what makes you qualified for an award and identify areas for improvement.
Big brands are looking for innovative outside partners. By highlighting your agency’s specific design, social, creative or activation capabilities, you can demonstrate your work to a large audience and stand out in the competitive landscape. Yes, it’s a lot of work. And you’re worth it (to borrow a famous advertising line). Here are five tips to keep in mind when you apply for agency awards:
- Follow all instructions. Many entrants fail because they miss the award entry deadline.
- Label everything carefully. Proper labeling can give your entry the edge it needs to win.
- Speak with someone who knows what the judges are looking for – nuances can make all the difference.
- Keep things clear and concise.
- Be sure to answer every question exactly as asked. Coloring outside the lines is fine, but add content only if word counts allow after you’ve answered the question.
Similar to our Q2 list, here’s a quick glance at award shows with an application deadline starting in July of 2019. These awards have high standards, are widely recognized by the industry, and if won, are guaranteed to enhance your credibility among clients and prospects. Apply for these agency awards in Q3:
Believing that summer is the wrong time to proactively prospect could be detrimental to the growth of your agency. We hear it all the time, “everyone is on vacation; budgets are locked down; no-one picks up the phone.” Our experience is just the opposite. Brand marketers are “on” 12 months a year, and when summer approaches, many of them are either getting a head start on 2020 planning, or better yet, figuring out how to spend any remaining budget in 2019. Summer is their time to try that one tactic they’ve been putting off, double down on a program, or invest in a targeted campaign. Yet many agencies slow down or stop their prospecting entirely over the summer months.
In fact, summer is a prime opportunity for you to break away from your competitors. Growth driven agencies who continue a steady pace of proactive business development into Q2 find significant success in overall revenue goals by creating conversations and opportunities with their prospects.
Here are three reasons to continue prospecting through the summer:
1. Consistency drives results.
The Q1 emphasis on business development – emails, phone calls, events, blogs – burns everyone out, and agency after agency will put their new business efforts aside as Q2 approaches. We typically see 50% of agencies stop their proactive outreach for new business completely after the first quarter. There are two reasons this is alarming. As we’ve already mentioned, summer is still a rich time for prospecting, but being in front of your right to win clients over and over again is the key to getting and keeping their attention on you and the problems you can solve for them. The other reason to stay consistent is your competitor’s lack of momentum will leave a gap you can fill.
Of course, sometimes you just need a break. But don’t shut down all your proactive efforts. Here are two ways to keep the momentum going:
- Build content 2-3 months out. Work ahead to have as much content planned, created, and scheduled as possible so your prospects won’t forget about you in months where you are less proactive.
- Utilize technology as much as possible. Marketing Automation is key to ensuring that even when you aren’t proactively contacting prospects yourself, your new business efforts aren’t affected.
2. Brands still have money to spend in 2019.
We see a significant number of brands still planning Q3 and Q4 projects in June. This is a huge opportunity for your agency to take advantage of available funds in your prospect’s budget and impact your 2019 revenue goals. According to our sister company, Winmo, 3,065 brands are currently planning for Q3 and Q4.
Here are the numbers by industry:
|Vertical ||Number of Brands
We tell our clients not to leave money on the table – be there in front of your ideal prospects to help them spend it!
3. Brands are planning for 2020.
They say the early bird gets the worm, and the phrase couldn’t be truer in proactive prospecting. How can a brand marketer choose your agency as their partner in 2020 if you aren’t on their radar? As you approach the end of Q3, the focus of your outreach should be on creating relationships that ensure you are in consideration as brands plan for 2020. This approach will impact your own 2020 revenue early in the year.
Below are just a few of the top companies planning for the new year in Q4:
|Packaged Goods||Financial Services||Technology||Beverages||Food||Entertainment||Healthcare
|3M Company||BB&T||Dell Technologies||Anheuser-Busch||Kellogg Company||MGM Resorts International||Pfizer, Inc.
|Mars, Inc.||Mastercard||HP||Starbucks||General Mills||Stubhub.com||Johnson and Johnson Family of Companies
|Flowers Foods||Quicken Loans||Microsoft||The Coca-Cola Company||Frito-Lay||Turner Broadcasting System||Bayer Consumer Care Division
Are you still thinking summer is a bad time for proactive prospecting? I’d love to chat and share some stories that illustrate why it is a myth!
Growth is not optional. It’s essential to the survival of your agency. As the landscape continues to change and become more competitive for agencies of all sizes and stripes, the challenges to growth are increasing at a rapid pace.
With 15+ years of agency business development experience, I can safely say that most if not all of the challenges faced today are much the same as in years past. Whether your agency is struggling with where to focus your business development efforts, whether or not to do proactive outreach, or how to position your agency for accelerated growth, you’re not alone. The good news is that there are solutions you can implement to impact 2019 growth.
Here are the top 4 agency growth challenges with actionable solutions:
1. Lack of Bandwidth
Hubspot’s 2018 Agency Growth Report found that the number one barrier to agency growth was lack of time/money to spend on their own sales and marketing efforts. It’s a fact that as the agency space grows more and more competitive, sales and marketing are an essential element to standing out. And yet, most agencies are working on extremely thin margins and have their employees doing twice the amount of work they were doing a few years ago. This leaves agencies with very few resources to market or proactively sell the agency itself.
The report also indicated that agencies have limited time to focus on tasks such as staffing plans, new business investments and finding top talent. Without these resources, leadership is busy putting out internal fires and scrambling to find employees. The old adage of a disproportionate amount of time spent “working in the business vs. working on the business” rings true.
The solution? If time is the biggest challenge, invest in the right tools and hire the proper people to handle growth channels such as marketing and business development. If hiring is a problem, consider outsourcing the tasks to a qualified and trusted company. That way these areas aren’t getting pushed the backburner and you can begin creating an inbound and outbound strategy that will drive leads and eventually revenue into your pipeline.
If budget is the challenge, make the time (and consider an outside perspective) to develop a strong strategy that clearly identifies the optimal allocation of the budget you have to the tactics that will net the best return.
- A strong, differentiated positioning that will resonate with your prospective clients.
- An investment in technologies and/or training that will streamline effort and investment.
- A communications plan across multiple channels (ex: email, social media, cold calling, etc.) with clear KPI’s and budget allocation.
- A resource plan to execute on all of the above, whether internal assignments or external resources.
2. Challenges Maintaining Consistent Lead Generation
One of the keys to successful lead generation is a sustainable, repeatable and scalable effort over the course of many months, especially if you’re are using inbound marketing tactics. In Hubspot’s 2018 State of Inbound Global Report, 40% of respondents said getting a response from leads was more difficult today than it was just a few years ago. While outbound efforts should also be included in your business development program, inbound is crucial to staying top of mind at the beginning of the buyer journey as well as in the final stages of decision making, when prospects are looking for confirmation that they’re making the right decision.
And yet creating a consistent pipeline is difficult without a structured process. The solution that works best is when the agency aligns both marketing and sales tactics as core elements of the business development strategy. Marketing content attracts the prospects considering or ready to make a purchase. Sales tactics convert and nurture by providing more customized content to demonstrate your value.
As you build your strategy, create an account based marketing approach that builds campaigns around your right-to-win clients, or clients where your services best provide an answer to their problems. For example, if your agency has a portfolio that primarily consists of successful retail work, retail brands might be right-to-win clients for your agency.
Here are a few tips for attracting your right-to-win clients and fuel your pipeline with more leads:
- Create targeted landing pages around long tail keywords
- Offer content based on search intent (side banners on certain pages of your website, pop-ups, etc.)
- Update heavily visited web pages to increase search traffic
- Offer value through free tools and consultations to get prospects on the phone
- Automate your outbound efforts by building email and cold call templates and investing in technologies that will make research more efficient and identify prospects at scale.
3. Working With Clients That Don’t Excite The Team
Every agency has a “bucket list” of clients they dream of working with, and agency leaders know that winning these kinds of projects will energize their creative and account teams. But when agency leadership stops pushing to win those dream accounts and begins responding to any and every RFP, top talent tends to lose morale and walk away.
Most agencies have experienced this at some point or another. They take on clients for the sake of a check and soon realize that they aren’t a great fit for your agency. Maybe these clients constantly made changes, had roadblocking projects, or even poor communication. Either way, working with even one of these clients can make someone not want to go to work on any given day, so it’s crucial you try your best to keep your employees from dealing with these types of clients.
So how do you attract the kind of clients you actually want to work with?
1. Be clear about your culture and values
Only choose to work with clients whose values align with yours. As Buffer said, “Your values tell the world what you’re about. They give your employees a reason for what they do—and your customers a reason to cheer for you.”
2. Create personas that clearly identify your ideal clients.
Some questions to consider while creating these personas include:
- What type of business is my client in?
- How big is their business?
- What is my client’s role there?
- Where is my client located?
- What are my client’s pain points and how do I solve those problems?
3. Get comfortable with the term “no”
Saying no the wrong clients is as important as saying yes to the right ones. Develop a robust onboarding process so that you and the client can get to know one another and determine whether the relationship is a good fit. Sort through the terms of any agreements so that you have a full understanding of what the client expects while outlining the scope of work.If they turn out not to be a good fit, advise them that it’s in their best interest to find an agency partner who can better fit their needs. And help them find that partner with introductions and referrals.
4. New Business Resources Continue To Be Overlooked & Limited
In 2016 Hubspot reported that only 66% of SMB agencies did not have a full-time new business executive. For many smaller agencies, the CEO takes on the responsibilities of driving new business. When C-level officers are asked, many admit they do not have enough time to properly be dedicated to new business efforts.
At Catapult, we can’t stress how important it is to set yourself up for new business success. We’ve seen it many times where an agency only relies on referrals and when their largest client leaves, they are desperate to quickly crank out a new business plan. Unfortunately, this is a one-way street to failure. Setting up your new business resources is a lot like trying to get in shape. It takes consistent work over the course of many months before you have the engine up and running.
Stay out of this cycle by setting up your new business process sooner rather than later. Start by hiring or promoting a dedicated new business person or an outside resource to help you set the correct strategy. And make sure you have the proper resources in place that will enable proactive business development to be successful.
Setting up a new business process is a journey that takes a great amount of time, resources and dedication. Your agency’s growth is dependent on it so it’s not really an issue of if, but rather when and how. Hopefully, the above tips are helpful.