Impacting the critical career discussion you’re NOT in

Yup. It’s true. You are not in one of the most important conversations of your career. It’s the kind of conversation that gets you promoted, earns raises, or keeps you around when layoffs are in the air.

The one that might even be happening right now, as you read this. I’m talking about the chat happening between your boss and your client’s boss about you, you, you. Or maybe’s it’s your boss’s boss. Or boss’s boss’s boss… It’s between two people that may or may not really know you and what you do on a day-to-day basis.

Story time!

Before yours truly got into new business… And before I started helping agencies find senior-level leaders, yours truly was an account guy. I’d worked at big agencies on big, household name brands for many years. And for the most part, really enjoyed it! It was fun. But that ended when the CMO at my client told the senior-most account guy (my boss’s boss at the time) said, “I like Steve, but he sells too much.”

Uh-oh. This, my friends, is a body blow. Not fatal, mind you. But not good. Basically, I was told that while I wasn’t being asked OFF the business, I was not going to get promoted ON it.

The point to this tale is that you aren’t in that room when that quiet conversation is being held. But you CAN do things to help make sure the conversation is a positive one versus a negative one. Two quick thoughts:

Do good work

So much easier said than done, right? But pretty damn important. And it really doesn’t matter what discipline you’re in: account management, account planning, creative, media, digital… Heck, even client side.

Of course, quality in our business can be a very subjective thing. But generally speaking, it’s going to be something you’re proud of and excited about. And there’s always the non-subjective side: results. I’m NOT talking just about revenue growth. There are PLENTY of other ways to identify success. Think about your target here. What does your target consider success? A blog post for later, perhaps.

Don’t be a jerk

Man, does it make a difference. The reason I was moved into new business at that agency was because those around me perceived me as a good guy and I kept my nose clean. I wasn’t a jerk. People who charge more for their time might call this “reputation management.” Whatever you call it, it’s a crucial part of your career if you want to earn the big bucks. Particularly in the world of professional services.

I did a little bit of research on The Google, and was surprised by two things: #1: being a jerk seems to be male gender-specific. And #2: there’s no writing on how to not be one at work. Just lots of advice on how to deal with them when you run into them. Both topics are blog-worthy. But again, I digress.

So, is it really that simple? Well, no. But if you can do the two things listed above fairly consistently, the conversation you’re not in about your career prospects could go pretty well.

 

How to identify ad agencies that will hire you

Howdy, agency job-seeker! So, you’re looking for a new job. One that’s better than what you have now. While of course, you just way want to talk with an experienced, friendly recruiter… there are lots of other ways to find an agency that will hire you.

But for now, why don’t you read a few hundred on two simple ways that just may help separate you from all the other folks looking for that same job. Because you have a dramatically better chance of getting the job if you’re one of six versus one of sixty.

Hint – it ain’t the job boards. Many of the candidates I speak with – terrific, well qualified professionals – send their resume in blindly to a posting they see on LinkedIN, for instance…only to never hear from the agency in question.

Sigh.

Thankfully, you’re reading this post. So now, you can get ahead of that by doing two things:

Pay attention to agencies that are winning business.

This ain’t rocket science. Agencies typically don’t need anyone unless they’ve just won a piece of new business. Keep on top of the top resources: Ad Age, Adweek, AgencySpy, trade magazines (by industry). You might also want to keep the newspapers in mind, too. And, of course, your local business journals.

Pay attention to agencies that have just hired someone.

Because sometimes that means the agency wooed someone from an agency that just might now have an opening. And they might be looking for someone like you! You can see these things in the sources listed above. But with a heavier emphasis on local / regional news sources. Most business journals and dailies have a new job listing. Crain’s, for instance, lists this section as People on the Move.

You can also use LinkedIN for this kind of thing, too. Your mileage will definitely vary there. Typically, you just see friends who have changed jobs. But surely you have friends who have jobs you might want or could keep an eye peeled for you… But I digress.

Find more triggers, too.

Hope this inspires you to look for other triggers that signify an agency will be hiring someone with your skill set. This is absolutely the kind of thing that will improve your shot at getting a job. For instance, when a discipline head is hired, that often leads to staff changes underneath that professional. Layoffs, even, can spell agency staff change, because the agency is trying to optimize their resources (and you might have something they don’t already have.)

Should you have any questions or would like to discuss your career and related interests, feel free to contact me at your convenience. Thanks!

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Agency growth secret: sharing job leads

Howdy! Yours truly recently had coffee with a friend of mine. And he reminded me of a great new business idea.

It’s easily worth a few hundred words for agency new business growth seekers. Because the idea will help build your relationships with prospective clients and referral sources. And is a great way to keep your network green and growing.

I’m talking about sharing job leads.

It’s one of the easiest and more rewarding way of networking. What my friend does is monitor The Ladders, as they send him an email based on some keyword searches he has identified. They also focus on senior-level talent. The kinds of jobs that people want. He has a list of folks that he knows is looking, and plays selective matchmaker.

It’s a great relationship valentine. And, since many of his friends are looking for client-side gigs…

This is the kinda thing that puts your agency in another new business pitch or two.

Of course, it can also work for prospective clients you may know who are also looking.

Beyond the really big potential benefit of knowing the decision-maker on a brand new to his or her job and them indebted to you for telling them about the job, putting you in an excellent position to pitch and win the business (and making this sentence even longer when you win said business, retiring to an Italian villa or paying off hookers, booze or gambling debts)… here are just three quick benefits you might realize should you share job leads:

Get the inside scoop on a pitch

Nowadays, no one can promise you will win a piece of business. But inside scoop is a major advantage that can dramatically increase your odds of winning a new business pitch.

Identify other companies looking for marketing talent

Learn a bit more about your friend’s search. Some of these could be potential new business pitch opportunities for your agency!

Become a Godfather

Relationships are currency in new business and growing your agency. Build goodwill and your relationship with this professional by sharing a job lead now. And gain something that just might make the difference in a new business pitch later.

Looking to be a bit more savvy with this approach? Consider doing what my friend does. He checks his LinkedIN network to see if he knows anyone at the company with the job opening. And then, if it makes sense, offers to introduce his job-seeking friend to his connection.

So, next time you hear of a friend or prospect looking for a job, help them. And yourself. And share a job lead.

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Changing jobs and moving to the client side

ad agency new business strategySome dear friends of mine are now looking for senior-level, client-side gigs. So, I thought it might be worth a few hundred words to explore the advantages agency professionals might have vs. client-only candidates.

You are not stuck to one industry

You, the seasoned agency veteran, have probably worked on a variety of brands and categories. Which means your past experience can work across multiple categories, potentially offering you more jobs for which you qualify.

You have seen more

You’ve been in “the shit” more than client-side only counterparts. You have helped brands solve a wide variety of marketing problems. Which again means you might be a fit for more jobs. The benefit to employers? You can help them solve the current challenges more quickly, but continue to be helpful moving forward. You’re an experience utility player.

Your network of contacts might be broader and larger than a typical client’s

This is an added benefit of working across multiple businesses. Your network will be made up of both agency folks and client-side associates. The more people know you are looking for a job, the greater the chance you will hear about a job that’s a good fit for you.

You can bring innovation to a given job

The thinking, strategies and execution you did in one category could be refreshing and therefore very valuable in a new one. This angle can be particularly helpful should you be angling for a job in which you have no prior direct category experience.

You just might be more up to date than your competitors

Some folks with client-side experience might be behind the times a bit. Successful agency people have to stay a little more intellectually nimble. Your mileage will vary of course. And naturally, fans of this particular blog are a little more savvy than the average bear!

You may be a better communicator, too

As a senior-level professional, you are used to presenting and writing decks, internal memos and using the intrapersonal skills your Mama gave you. This can provide you a valuable advantage throughout the search process.

All of this, of course, does not suggest you are inherently better than someone with strictly a client-side marketing background. But it’s my hope the above can give you a bit more hope that your agency experience can prove to be valuable as you search for client-side gigs.

 

How to keep your ad agency new business job

In a word? Leads.

Sure, you could talk about making the agency money. But you can’t do that part of the job until you have a lead. There’s plenty of writing in all sorts of places about how to get said leads. But I thought it might be worth a few hundred words to discuss how leads are related to keeping your job. Meaning, some quick thoughts on how to merchandise what you are doing in agency new business. You know, how to make sure everyone knows you’re worth keeping around.

Think SALES and marketing

A lot of agency new business development professionals look at themselves as marketers. Particularly at the bigger shops. To me, agency “marketing” is the stuff that will impact your agency’s transom – the unexpected, but expected opportunities. You know, the stuff that makes the phone ring. So, craft a plan. Tweak the positioning, the website, your social program, develop some unique agency intellectual property… Absolutely a part of your job.

But to me, “sales” is the stuff you do before, during and after the marketing aspects. “Sales” often has a negative perception in the professional services industries. Get that outta your head. Get on the phone. Get outta your office. And start building some relationships and earning referrals. So that you can say, in a sense,  “I know this person and our agency has a relationship with this person because of my efforts.” Being able to say this and really mean it will go a long way to keeping your job. Yes, when you  do the marketing right, you’ll be able to say this, too. But the “sales” stuff and the relationship you have really matter more. Because everyone should take credit for the marketing.

Treat the agency as your client

Again, not rocket science. But more directly related to keeping your job. (And keeping you and yours from living in a cardboard box on lower Wacker, sipping Mad Dog and bitterly muttering, “new business is a tough racket.”) Two areas worth pontificating on.

The first is the actual act of “surprising and delighting” your boss and the agency with new business progress. Your goal: avoiding the new business grumpies and communicating that you are successfully harnessing the team’s efforts. This can mean things like:

  • Status reports that show progress even when there isn’t any (probably worth it’s own blog post)
  • Email heads-up notes on specific prospecting outreach efforts
  • Showcasing the work after a pitch to the rest of the agency
  • Sharing an idea that will grow incremental business (then stepping out if need be)
  • Making it easy for people to contribute to new business
  • Keeping in mind these folks are billable and already busy
  • Rewarding folks who contribute (particularly after a pitch)
  • Prompt replies and attention to internal new business interest or ideas

The second? All the political stuff. Yeah. That. Super important. Your mileage will absolutely vary there. So, more on that at another time, perhaps.

Hope this has helped. Shout with any questions. Thanks!

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If you liked this, check out some other career-related posts from Thunderclap and other sources:

Big agency new business experience and your career (Part one of three)

Why new business should be a part of anyone’s career 

Michael Gass on three things a new business person needs to succeed. Good read.

Thunderclap (on Michael’s site) on your new business resume. Fine read, too. But check Michael’s links below the post.