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.
Save The Date
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.
Save The Date
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.”
Save The Date
Event: Build a Better Agency Summit
Date(s): May 18-20, 2020
Location: Chicago, IL
Websites are revenue generators; in fact, I’ve written about it before. If you’re like most agencies, you want to represent your business in the best light which often means refreshing your website once a year, or possibly create an entirely new one. When undergoing changes it’s critical to not sacrifice your business development efforts.
Often times I hear from clients that they’d prefer to put their prospecting on hold until their website is just the way they like it. Their fear is: I talk to a prospect, they visit my site, they don’t like our old site, and we have now burned that prospect forever. Because of that fear, outreach efforts are put on hold, and new business takes a back seat to web design. If it’s like most website redesigns, timelines get dragged out and that one month projection somehow turns into three.
Don’t fall into this trap. A four-month hiatus is something your new business outreach can’t afford. Business development is a process that should happen consistently throughout the year, regardless of your website redesign. There are options however to keep your new business machine up and running through situations like this.
Play to your strengths, and drive conversations to those areas with these workarounds:
Landing Pages – I find these are grossly underused in the agency new business world, which is crazy. They are the easiest way to create specific content attached to your site that is directly relatable to your new business conversation. Need a page highlighting a particular service, vertical, or expertise? Create a single new page and link to that while your new site is being build. This allows you to drive people to something relevant and there is less distraction to some of the weaker parts of your site.
Hosted content – Every good marketing automation platform at this point has the ability to host media content. That means we can utilize the hosted media links to not only send people to a safe space for content, but we can track every one of those clicks and reads in order to follow up with them at the right time. For those of you trying to avoid your website completely, there is the added benefit that it is entirely away from your site.
Trying to perfect the imperfect can be a long, daunting task. Losing sight of your new business goals while obsessing over a website redesign can put you behind your revenue goals by 4-6 months in the blink of an eye. So if you are starting that site redesign, I’d encourage you to build a few new landing pages, get yourself a few pieces of content hosted, and keep selling!
In our most recent webinar, Chris Martin from Advertiser Perceptions went through some interesting statistics around what factors are most important during the agency buying decision. You know what factor came up almost dead last? Cost.
Feels counter-intuitive to everything we are told from clients, right? We have all received that dreaded phone call or email from our prospect that our competitor just came in at a better rate, or that they aren’t moving forward because we are just too expensive. The truth is, the majority of the time, this is just the easy way out when having to give negative feedback. It makes the buyer feel better because they don’t have to come right out and say “we don’t like you or what you pitched.” Most people want to be liked or at least somewhat polite, so using cost as an excuse is absolutely an easy way to keep things from feeling personal. And, it’s just simple numbers.
Here’s the deal, though: The importance of cost changes depending on how good of a job your team has done showing value during the sales process. We all know there is a clear correlation between Perceived Value and Cost Tolerance. When the perceived value of something goes up, so does my willingness to pay more. Obvious, right?
If we have shown a tremendous amount of value in that they can see exactly how the strategy will be executed, how it will generate results, and how it will possibly decrease other costs, then why would a prospect not be willing to pay a little more for this extra value? We do it in our personal lives all the time. We pay a little extra for a Lexus, or a bigger house, or an Apple product that we think will bring more value than their counterparts.
The next time you leave a prospect meeting and they say “your price just came in a bit too high,” don’t start changing everything within your pricing model. Start asking yourself these questions:
- Did my proposal focus on their #1 problem?
- Did I show value beyond just solving their problem?
- Did I show real value at all? Did I have results (hard numbers) from previous campaigns and projections of what we can do for them?
- Was our value prop unique? Were they easily able to distinguish what we can do from the competition?
- Was there anything in my proposal or pitch that could have distracted from the value we bring?
Unfortunately, we lose sometimes because of our failings as a new business person, not our price. Having the ability to go back through your process and be honest with yourself around each stage of that process, will allow you to ensure that the next time you pitch, you’re showing value where it matters most to the client – results.
Agencies win more business when they can better connect to the marketing decision makers they are pitching. We want to arm our agencies with as much information as possible, so your new business approach is flawless.
We co-hosted this webinar with Chris Martin from Advertiser Perceptions, an expert on making decision makers pick your agency. Chris will take you deep into the minds and decision processes of marketers so that you can feel confident in your new business approach.
We will cover specific topics like:
- What drives the decisions during the agency selection process for marketers?
- How do they compare your agency competitors during a pitch?
- Which areas of your agency are marketers analyzing before/during a pitch?
- What aren’t marketers telling you about their decision process?
There’s a saying around our office that if you look at a company’s website, and you can’t tell what they do, they are probably an agency. That ambiguity might be considered cheeky when the visitor knows who your agency is, but it spells certain doom for any agency looking to generate new business and leads through their website with prospects that are visiting them for the first time. While your website can be a fun, creative playground for your team, we need to remember that the primary goal of any good website is to convert prospects into new revenue.
The fact is 39% of people will stop engaging with a website if images won’t load or take too long to load. (Source: Adobe). What does this mean for your design? It means that we need to be conscious of where our visitors come from, what devices they are using to research you, and make sure that while your site is attractive, that attractiveness does not take away from the experience of finding out just what you do. For creatives (non-sales people) I understand the push back here. Nobody wants a plain or salesy feeling agency website, but we do want to be sure that it is a revenue generator, not a confusion generator.
The most successful agencies I’ve seen all have their past creative prioritized on their site, but it’s important to remember – it’s not the website itself that is the creative showcase. This is an important distinction, because when a prospect is visiting your website, they want to know:
A) Can you solve my problem? (clear and unique agency positioning on all pages)
In the case below, the positioning is very clearly and cuts directly to the problem they solve for their clients. Within 3 seconds, we know exactly who they are and what they do that is unique.
B) Have you done it previously? (clear view of past creative and case studies)
Love this use of Case Studies – short and clear problem, solution, results. This is a great CTA target for any outgoing communication.
C) How do we get in contact? (contact page for key agency decision makers)
Multiple places to take action on this homepage, giving prospects a place to convert from anywhere on their site. They do a nice job of consistent positioning as well, along with vocalizing that immediately.
If we can simplify this online journey for our prospects, then we can greatly increase our chance of converting them from an anonymous visitor to a lead conversation. I would encourage you to sit down and go through this journey yourself with your current website. If you can’t find a truly unique positioning statement on each page, we need to edit. If you are not led quickly to outstanding results and work, then we need to edit. If you have to click a few times to find someone to contact, we need to edit.
This isn’t meant to say that your site should be boring and plain, or that you should just have random “contact us” buttons on every page like you are pushing a free trial. Be creative, show off your digital chops, but just be thoughtful in where and how you do that. If they have to sit through a five minute video, or go through an interactive hide and seek on the home page to find your agency’s past work, they will probably run rather than seek.
As an agency executive, it’s important to always have options for the future. If 2017 is the year you’re looking to increase the value of your agency, either for agency growth or a potential sale, this webinar will show you just how to do that. We’ll be co-hosting with Charles Fallon at SI Partners, a worldwide expert on all things Agency M&A. Whether you are looking to sell your agency now, or simply want to understand the options available, Charles will break down the steps required to strategically grow your agency and attract premium value.
We’ll cover specific topics like:
- What the acquirer landscape looks like, and how it’s evolving.
- Investors types and new market entrants.
- The different types of acquisition deals available today.
- What you need to do to attract a premium offer.
- How to find a strategic growth partner.
Driving Agency Growth and Building Value Before the Sale from Catapult New Business on Vimeo.
“2017 is the year my agency is going to stop relying on business to find us, and the year we start proactively finding new clients.” We are only two weeks into this year and already I have heard this statement from over two dozen agency principles who are absolutely convinced this year they will finally turn that proactive corner in their agency growth. In order to make that turn, those agencies have to make investments into its processes and the people in charge of it.
Here’s a quick list of investments that, if made this year, can actually make a difference in your 2017 new business plans:
Invest in People
Finally, after all of these years, somebody will have an exclusive focus on new business development! This means you are either going to hire someone in-house to manage new business full time, dedicate an existing employee to this full time, or outsource to a new biz partner. By not selecting one of these three options you could quickly find yourself accumulating wasted resources, meaning the opportunity cost of having employees work on new business while juggling other responsibilities. Investing in the focus of a full time employee to run this important task for you can save money in the long run, and more importantly produce a better ROI.
Invest in Data
You want to find new prospects? Well then you better have a resource to help you find exactly which companies are the best fit for your team, who their main points of contacts are, and what their most recent marketing activities are. There are plenty of data resources that exist (I am partial to Winmo), but without a resource the amount of time wasted in the “research” phase of prospecting can easily drain the enthusiasm of any new business director. Being more efficient in our prospecting efforts with quality data can be the difference in talking to 5 prospects a day and talking to 20 qualified prospects a day.
Invest in Content
One of my favorite quotes from Inbound this year was from Brian Halligan in which he said, “In 2006 your website augmented your salesperson, but in 2016 your salesperson augments your website”. While your New Business Director is vital to creating and cultivating a relationship, your website and the content you put out into the world is vital to establish credibility for your New Business Director. Too often we see New Business Directors left on an island unto themselves, where they are told to produce new business, but have no resources to show the value the agency can bring to the brand. Take the time, whether through a content person in-house, or outsourced, to create multiple quality content pieces that are easily sharable for your new business team.
Invest in Technology
Yellow note pads are not a CRM. I’ve walked into multiple agencies over the last month, sat down with the principal and seen a yellow note pad on their desk that is “tracking” all of their open opportunities for new business. Occasionally, I see someone tracking sales opportunities on an excel spreadsheet, but even then, there is no real automation or process around ensuring new business is handled in consistent way no matter who begins the sales process. At this point, a CRM and Marketing Automation tool should be mandatory for any agency, no matter how small. Salesforce is the most robust CRM out there, with plenty of connections to Marketing Automation tools like Hubspot and Pardot. My personal favorite for any agency just beginning their outbound efforts and starting from scratch is SharpSpring, which includes both a CRM and Marketing Automation tool.
Invest in Networks
Let’s face it, you can do everything alone, but why would you want to? If you are an independent agency, there are tons of independent agency networks out there that can be a real benefit to your team in the form of sharing ideas, successes, and failures. The ability to learn from others can make beginning any new business effort that much easier in the upcoming year. Aside from your typical agency networks, there are plenty of executive networking groups where you can share experiences with people in similar positions across industries. Vistage is fantastic group executives that provides its members a structured environment to learn and grow in small groups.
Invest in Time
The most valuable of all resources. Where you spend your time is where your priority lies. If you are going to change your new business outcome for the better in 2017, then you better be committed to putting time aside every single day to the process. Non-negotiable. You can buy all of the technology above, but if you do not consistently set time aside to properly utilize all of these, nothing changes. The easiest way to put that time aside – put an event on your calendar immediately, make it recurring, and do not allow it to be moved because of another priority. This is the priority, and it needs to happen if anything is to change in the New Year.
Growing an agency is not cheap. There are investments that absolutely have to be made, but if done thoughtfully and with an eye on creating repeatable, scalable processes, the returns will more than make up for the cost of building the processes. If 2017 is your year to change, then make the investment in yourself, and the returns will come.
The road to agency new business Nirvana is paved with never-ending training, consulting, workshops and self-help guides. Undoubtedly, growth through a systematic business development program often eludes agencies, but there’s no reason for agency business development professionals to go at it alone.
The reality is, like anything worth doing well, its hard. Really hard. New business is work that the vast majority of those within the professional marketing services industry didn’t sign-up for, and have no inclination to be held accountable for now, or in the future. I see it and hear about it from out of work agency new business people and frustrated agency owners every day.
The good news? It is possible for your agency to have an effective new business process in the year ahead. While it can be difficult to know what your competition is doing to be so successful, we have found that the invisible trend has increasingly been to outsource your new business.
Over the past five years, for more agencies than you’d guess, the answer to solving the business development equation has come from partnering with an outside firm for proactive prospecting. More recently, the trend has evolved to include organic client development too, once the exclusive domain of the agency account and leadership team.
Why are more agencies increasingly handing the reigns of client growth over to a third-party? It’s a daunting thought for some, but for those who’ve experimented with this model, success has come quickly. “I’ve seen agencies win more business from our involvement in their organic client development efforts this year than any other,” said Dave Currie, President of List Partners Inc. “Its often the low hanging fruit that everyone can see, though rarely is there a systematic and accountable plan to harvest it,” he continued.
What value do agencies find in outsourcing?
A Systematic Approach.
Agencies often find that creating a new business process from scratch is difficult. It’s usually thrown together last minute at the onset of a lost account and the strategy and tools are often lacking. Outsourcing to new business professionals, like Catapult, allow agencies to implement a systematic approach to how they win new business. Teams are able to move swiftly into market because there is a proven model of success, and the tools to back it up.
We come across agencies every day that have multiple people working on new business, but not dedicated to it with 100% of their time. Once you have this “we all chip in approach,” when it fails, who is accountable? All? Nobody? With this outsourced model, it is very clear who is accountable for success and we can put clear objectives and goals at each stage of the process. This leads to greater transparency and understanding to who the responsibility of driving new business lies with.
A Specific Focus on New Business
Similar to our Accountability point, according to Hubspot’s Agency’s Pricing & Financial Report, 66% of agencies do not employ a full-time new business person. What does this mean? Those in-house people that are working on new business do not know where to spend their time every day. If I have learned anything during my time as a new business professional, it’s that you cannot minimize the importance of focus. Focus ensures greater success by keeping all efforts dedicated to prospecting and driving conversations with those most sought after prospects.The invisible trend of outsourcing may always remain slightly hidden due to the nature of the business, but we are seeing more inquiries than ever from agency execs that are seeing the benefits of having a systematic approach that provides accountability and focus. I’m confident we will continue to see an increase in adoption of outside resources to manage new business in 2017.
When you can win more business at a lower cost, why would you not outsource?
What are best practices? It’s important to understand that there is a big difference between proscriptive company rules and guidelines that have a basis in legal compliance, and best practices which are designed to move the business forward efficiently. They’re good to have, but sticking to them no matter what can prevent good companies from getting to great.
If you got sick in the middle ages, there’s a good chance that the village doctor would prescribe a course of leeches to your skin, or just go ahead and cut you so he could bleed the troublesome humor right out of you. I could be wrong, but if your doctor tried that today, you might want to sue them for medical malpractice.
Best practices are the best way we knew to get results at a given time. But when times change, those practices need to change, too, and you should constantly be thinking next practices, alongside best practices. Here are a few things to remember:
Best practices have an expiration date
Best practices change over time, across cultures and from industry to industry. It’s not just medical advances like the one above that go out of date, other technologies change, too. You wouldn’t think of circulating important information by telegram rather than email, but 100 years ago it was standard. As recently as a decade ago, working from home was a perk few people enjoyed but now it’s viewed as a great commute alternative, and can make employees more productive and more motivated. Industry leaders see the benefits of change early and adopt practices that leverage those benefits.
Technology changes faster than best practices
Best practices get to be best practices by delivering consistent results most efficiently, but best practices are never cutting edge. To become accepted as a best practice, any process needs to be adopted widely, and earn acceptance across the industry—and that takes time to establish. As a result, best practices can lag technological advances by months or even years as technologies emerge. New technologies can be expensive, but the benefits of early adoption—from preferential pricing to being recognized as an expert when the tech goes mainstream—can often outweigh the cost.
Complacency leads to disruption
Compliance can lead to complacency, and in some industries, disruptive technologies can wreak havoc or steal market share from established players at a blistering pace. From taxicabs to vacation rentals to networking events, organizations that clung to best practices and resisted change all lost ground to more agile digital competitors that chose not to be bound by the same rigid rules. The real conundrum here whether your best practices put the customer at the center of what you hope to achieve, or whether your best practice is simply a hoop for someone to jump through, a roadblock on the way to excellence.
In the end the best, most timeless best practice you can adopt is to empower every employee to ask why—why do we need a best practice? Why do we need that specific best practice?—and to explore how the problems we face can be overcome creatively.
At the end of my last webinar, one of the overriding requests that I received from everyone was help around their positioning statement. Many times I see positioning statements on websites that are overly general, similar to their competitors, or just plain uninspiring. Our goal with any positioning is to achieve two things:
- Be unique
- Be a sales driver
I know, there’s that sales word that I like to throw around. The fact is that when someone first visits your site in their buying process, you want to make sure your positioning statements are always coming from a place that immediately lets them know what you all can do for them, in a very real way. “We produce results” is neither unique nor compelling, and it won’t help you make a sale.
Crafting something unique and compelling is a lot of work, but below are some questions to make your life a bit easier when you are first sitting down with a group (or by yourself) to craft that new positioning statement.
- Why does your agency exist? (less about what and how)
- What’s the one thing you do better than anyone else?
- What are the benefits of working with you?
- Let’s talk about what you don’t do
- Consider us when…
- Don’t consider us when…
- Why do you win? Why do you lose?
- Based on business challenges, where do you have the greatest opportunity?
- Is every piece of content you are producing pushing your unique selling proposition to a specific prospect type?
- Does your website properly convey exactly what you do better than any other agency?
- Is it clear to anyone who sees our content exactly who your “Right to Win” clients are?
Once you have an initial framework for that positioning statement, take a few minutes and look at your closest competitors’ websites. How similar are you to them in your positioning? Are you creating space between yourself and them with this positioning statement? Do they do a better or worse job of highlighting their uniqueness? Once you feel confident you have differentiated, test it on some folks who do not know your agency as intimately as you do. Ask people outside your agency bubble what they think about your positioning versus your closest competitors’ and see what emotions get stirred up in them.
This process is not normally a short one, and definitely not something to be taken lightly. Take the time to think, test and retest, because the content you build in the future will all hinge off this positioning