L ast year I wrote a blog entitled ‘What clients want from an agency’. If you have read it you will know that it was written from a position of knowledge, having been both client side and agency side. As well as a blog it is also a story that I tell every talented new starter who joins the agency. What I don’t tell them, because I want them to find out for themselves, is just how exciting it is to work in an agency that is full of dedicated, focused, and creative innovators. To me there are three key things that excite me every day I walk into the building, and keep my head buzzing virtually every waking hour. These are the three areas that as C.O.O. I really focus on driving: our People, our Product, and our Prospects.
People. My previous blogs on winning teams, leading teams, listening and leadership, have all dealt with my passion for developing, and leading highly talented people. At Burrows, I am fortunate enough to be surrounded by many such people. As a Leadership Team, one of our five key objectives is developing our talent. I am personally committed to leading the charge in this area. Early in 2019 I plan to talk more about how we focus on the development of our talent, and how with a combination of training, engagement, and staff empowerment we will take the next step towards this key objective.
Product. As an agency we get our revenue by delivering world class marketing solutions for our clients. When you strip it down to its most basic elements, our client has a challenge that we must solve. This is what pays the bills today. But what about tomorrow? If all we do is focus on delivering for the here and now, how can we expect to continue to solve the challenges our clients don’t have yet? Or, just as important to Burrows, how do we predict the challenges we don’t yet have or even know about?
One word. Innovation. We must continuously develop our product offering to make current tools more effective and processes more efficient. We need to imagine, innovate and invent our new product offering. To do this we have what we call the Commercial Team. This is a combination of Strategy and Client Management, who look at our industry and our clients and map out a direction for our innovation. Any brief coming from the Commercial Team must meet my three C’s. Are we capable (with a bit of stretch), are we credible (can we leverage current work to show a natural adjacency), and is it commercial (can we sell it to clients)?
Once the brief is agreed it goes to the Innovation Team. This is not drawn from any one department. Instead we needed a team that could draw on expertise from all areas of the business, depending on the requirements of the brief. This does mean that we often have to juggle innovation with client-funded work. Some people are less comfortable with the need to be nimble and review resource plans daily, but for me, it is this dynamic environment that gives me the buzz!
Prospects. Equally important to evolving our product offering, is growing our client base. We are fortunate to have several long standing clients that we have serviced for over 10 years. However, changes to markets, economies and technology mean that clients evolve, change, and move on. Complacency is the biggest killer of businesses outside of cash flow (OK I made that up). We must be constantly looking for opportunities to identify new clients who we can work with and grow new long term relationships with. At Burrows we look at growth in a number of ways:
Additional business is finding new solutions for existing clients, or offering our products to new departments within current client organisations.
New Business is finding that new client. This can come from recommendations, a lead generator, or the strength of your reputation.
We are finding more and more that our reputation is leading to new business opportunities. In fact, of all the new opportunities we have worked on this year, around 80% has come from potential clients contacting us. This brings me to the most exciting and frustrating part of leading the agency’s push for growth…
Having spent over 20 years working with clients and prospective clients, it can often feel like they don’t really understand the importance to an agency of winning a pitch, or how exciting it is for the team involved. I cannot remember a pitch in the past 5 years where a client has stuck to their RFP timings. Don’t they realise that there is a team of talented people waiting for a phone to ring or an email to arrive? Sometimes they won’t make a clear “Great news, you’ve won it!” statement, but will start to talk to you at length about the project, until after a polite interval you actually have to ask them, “Did we win?”
As I type, I am waiting for the result of a pitch to a potential client who would be a top five client to us if we win. They are one week late on the decision and we are under radio silence! I’m in that doubting state of mind that constantly asks, “If I chase will I annoy them? Or if I don’t chase, will they think that I don’t really want the business?”
But for me this is still the biggest buzz being agency side. Pulling together a team of highly talented people; creating a pitch proposition that can’t be ignored; feeling that it is ‘the best we have done’; that it ‘has to be the winner’… and then waiting! It’s the thrill of the chase that I love and that drives me on every day.
Chief Operating Officer