Wednesday, March 1, 2017

What the SuperBowl Taught Us About Winning Pitches



The Atlanta Falcons gave us a perfect illustration about how to win or lose.  It doesn’t matter that they were playing football and in the agency world we are trying to win new business. They broke what may be the most important rule in the new business game.



--- Rule #1 in winning pitches: Make sure you don’t lose ---

While New England played a truly heroic game and did everything that they could to notch a win, they never should have been given the opportunity.  Atlanta didn’t just shoot themselves in the foot by passing and getting sacked with 4:30 left in the game, an eight point lead and the ball at the New England twenty yard line.  They then proceed to blow their entire foot off with a holding penalty on the next play.  Had they simply ran the ball three times from the twenty yard line, ran down some time and kicked a field goal, they would have given the ball back to New England with about three minutes left and an eleven point lead.

Think about times where your agency has done the same thing.  Think about times where your agency didn’t just not win…you actually lost the pitch.  Part of winning pitches is making sure that you make no mistakes.  That does not mean that you need a perfect strategy or perfect creative.  It means that you need to execute flawlessly.  Make sure that you are not only providing reasons for the prospect to hire you.  You also need to make sure that you are not making any mistakes that cause them not to hire you.

Some mistakes that could give the prospect a reason not to hire you, in spite of some terrific work:
-          A lack of cohesion on the team which is evidenced by people talking over each other during Q and A
-          Presenting two different strategies (because you want to be safe) which makes you look like you have no point of view
-          Making creative recommendations that are so strong they make you look difficult to work with
-          Running over on time which gives the impression that you would rather talk at the client than listen to them
-           
These are just a few example but you get where I am going.  Sometimes you win a pitch because the other agencies simply lose the pitch. 

New England is a tremendous team and they did everything necessary to win.  But did Atlanta simply give the game away.  Did Seattle do the same thing last year by passing on first and goal only to get intercepted?

As you create your pitch deck, look at from two perspectives.  First, am I doing everything that I need to do to bring home a win?  Second, am I doing anything that could cause me to give the pitch away to another agency?

Mark Schnurman is President of Filament Inc., a communication training and new business consulting firm that works exclusively with both consumer and pharma agencies.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Why do clients kill the best creative?





An unfortunate reality in advertising is that frequently, the best ideas get killed.  Some of the this can be chalked up to risk-averse client attitudes.  But from what I have seen, client's frequently reject great ideas not because they don't like the idea......they reject the idea because they don't even get the idea.

It is easy to blame this on clients not being creative.  Or maybe they are just dumb.  Or maybe, just maybe...the creative person did not do a good enough job presenting the creative.

You can/t fix dumb clients.  You can fix poorly presented creative.

Creatives have a number of challenges helping clients understand what makes an idea great.  It starts with establishing yourself as solving a business problem (not a creative problem).  Next, help clients understand what the challenge is in bringing the idea to life.  It also helps to let the client understand how the idea came about instead of simply showing the idea.

It comes down to how you set up the idea.  Many creative show the work and then describe the work.  The challenge is that once the clients sees work, they start judging.  Once they start judging, it is too late to sell the work because they are not listening to a work you say.  Their mind is made up.

It is a little hard to explain in a blog but there is webclinic on the topic.  For more in for click here.

-Mark Schnurman
Filament Inc

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Advice for the first job after college

The following are some thoughts from a friend of mine who always seems to come up with smart, helpful, heartfelt wisdom.

Words of advice to my intern, who is leaping into the big city for her first job after college: These things will help you succeed:
  • Arrive on time; don’t leave early
  • Bring a notepad with you at all times
  • Never say “I don’t know” but “I will find out for you”
  • Don’t let an email sit in your in box without a reply for more than 24 hours; follow up, even if it’s to say, “I’m working on it;” 
  • Ask “What else can I do for you?”
  • Learn how to criticize tactfully – surround it with compliments
  • When you make a mistake, apologize, then quickly do whatever it takes to fix it – and learn from it
  • Shake hands firmly and look in the other person’s eyes
  • Don’t get involved in office gossip
  • Ask “How am I doing?” well before your annual review
  • Don’t kiss ass, but if you have to, do it with sincerity
  • Be as transparent as possible while remaining professional – you want to establish credibility, and you can’t do that if you are not upfront and honest about your own performance
  • Check email on the weekend – your boss is!
  •  Do what’s asked of you even if it’s not in your job description because you will be known as a problem-solver
  • Own each project
  • Your opinion will not always matter; your opinion always matters
  • Don’t say “I feel” or “I think” without backing it up with facts
  • Make sure your head can still fit through the door
  • Don’t settle
  • Family is the top priority, and they will forgive you if you can’t be there 100% of the time – just make sure you are there 99% of the time
  • Exercise
  • Don’t ask about your boss’ personal life
  • Don’t talk about shoes … no, wait, definitely compliment your boss’ shoes!
  • When someone asks what you did this weekend, be vague but say you had a good weekend
  • Don’t play hooky
  • No task is below you
  • Smile and say hello to everyone from the janitor to the CEO
  • BE YOU!

Sunday, September 18, 2016

New Advertising WebClinics



Are you looking to enhance your ECD’s skills? Do you want to increase the agency’s bottom line (of course you do!). Has word gotten back to you that some employees are bad presenters (the cause: nervousness perhaps)?? How familiar are you with programmatic buying? Want to learn how to keep clients longer? Are you maximizing social media to attract new business?

If the responses to these questions have piqued your interest, advertising agency consultancy Filament Inc. is the answer.

Bob Linden, after a decades long stint at The American Association of Advertising Agencies (4As) and most currently as 4As Senior Vice President, Training, Education & Development, has joined forces with advertising training and consultancy firm, Filament Inc.  Bob has created a new WebClinic practice designed to train you and your employees in the practical, advertising specific skills that can be put to use immediately.

The following is a partial list of the topics that Bob has assembled.

  • Managing Creatives
  • Writing More Effective Creative Briefs
  • Using Social Media to Attract New Business
  • Keeping Clients Longer
  • The Next Generation of Programatic Buying
  • Creating Better Social Advertising Faster
  • Negotiating to Win (targeted to Account Service)
  • Succeeding When You Are Not the Client’s Only Agency
  • Building Strong, Sustainable Client Relationships
  • Techniques to Improve Your Bottom Line
  • Marketing Strategies for the Modern Mother
  • How To Create a Powerful Presentation
  • Managing Presentation Nerves

Time is a valuable commodity in the agency world.  The Web Clinics will begin at 12:30 pm EST, so agencies may be able to utilize them as lunch and learns.

People have asked us, given the saturation of webinars, how our WebClinics differ from others. The  answer can be summed up in one word—content.  Bob has lined up best-in-class WebClinic leaders who will address issues facing the advertising community today.

A listing of WebClinics and online registration will be available shortly.

#Filamentwebclinics

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Are you Pitching to Win?



Many agencies seem to believe that great creative, great strategy, great research, great chemistry, great (insert your criteria here) is the key to winning a pitch.  And that the agency's creative/strategy/chemistry/etc. is so great that it will overcome any shortcomings that they may have.

Unfortunately, a pitch is more like a hurdles race.  You do not get extra credit for sailing three feet over a hurdle.  It is not like you can use that extra three feet on the next hurdle.  Each hurdle, whether it is creative/strategy/chemistry/etc. is a new challenge.  Fail any one challenge and you will likely lose the pitch.

The difficulty is that each of the different criteria require resources and effort.  The internal competition for resources at an agency can be a political minefield.  There are a thousand reasons that a particular department may get more than their fair share of resources but this can have a detrimental effect on the overall pitch.

For example, an agency may spend a bunch of money on primary qualitative and quantitative research but only assign two teams to concept for the pitch.  Another agency may put six creative teams  on the pitch but rely on secondary data and a few qual interviews for their research, creating a flimsy strategic foundations for their recommendations.  It could be that they agency already knows the category and doesn't need to do the research but no clients wants to hear that their agency already knows it all.

A terrible example that I witnessed was an agency spent well over $100,000 on primary research and did their presentation on a poor quality, $700 projector.  Poor allocation of resources.

Another frequently squandered resource is time.  How much time is the agency spending tweaking slides or creative instead of rehearsing.  While I realize that there is such a thing as over-rehearsing, experience says that most agencies never get anywhere near being too rehearsed.  A poorly presented presentation can torpedo a good pitch very quickly.

Money is the most obvious and scarce resource.  For every dollar that the agency spends on freelancers, that is one less dollar that they can spend on research, production, staging, etc.

The challenge is in making sure the agency clears every hurdle.  You can do this by better managing resources like people, time and money to insure that every area is being addressed.  Are you using resources as wisely as you could?



Mark Schnurman
President - Filament Inc.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Overcoming Presentation Nerves

While everyone knows that fear of public speaking is common, you may think that your nervousness is much worse because you get nervous just presenting to a few people.  When you are speaking to a small group, it is hard to call it “public” speaking.  It is just a meeting!  You may think you are the only one suffering, since your coworkers don’t seem to be having the same problem.


The fact is that most people get nervous presenting at some point in their career.  For the past 15 years we have been asking workshop attendees if they ever feel nervous.  More often than not, the majority of hands are raised.  One day I was coaching at an advertising agency where people are required to present frequently.  When the HR person discovered that I had a spare hour to run a discussion, they put out an online request for who would like to attend a discussion on handling nerves?  Two hours later, there were 50 people in the room.  

How can this be when it seems most people around you don’t look nervous?  The reason is some people don’t show outward signs of nervousness.  Some people just get a little formal or soft spoken, or they speak too quickly.  Some lose their personality and warmth.  If you had the opportunity to ask them, they might tell you they thought they did a horrible job and they were trembling inside.

So the first step in addressing nerves is focusing on the physical signs of nerves: Do you speak too fast, too softly, do you scan the room or break eye contact and talk to the screen for too long? Do you use fillers such as um, like, sort of, kind of?  Do your hands shake or do you rock back and forth or flush?

If you are not sure what makes you look nervous, take a video of yourself and take a good look at it.  Pick out one area to address. For example if you fidget, don’t clasp your hands together.  Instead  use a one handed rest position such as putting one hand in your pocket or on a chair so you don’t trigger the fidgeting . You might also be pleasantly surprised that you are not as terrible as you think.  Sometimes we are our own worst critics. 
   
If you do see some problems, your goal should be to focus on one area at a time so it doesn’t become overwhelming.  Also, don't worry about getting it perfect.  Concentrate on getting it better.  For example, if in your video you notice 32 ums during your five minute presentation, this will create the impression that you are not confident in your material. Work on eliminating those filler words by pausing more often.  Perhaps in the first week you can eliminate 50% of them.  Some people can do it in a day while others may take a month.  Once you cut the fillers in half continue reducing another 50% would bring your total to 8 ums.  At our starting point of 32 ums, it is safe to say that you did not come across as confident or knowledgeable …and you seemed nervous.   At just 8 fillers in your presentation, no one will notice. This is simply a physical speaking habit that is creating a bad impression.  
 
Another option is to work on addressing ums in the first minute of your presentation.  The way that you start a presentation sets the tone for the entire presentation.  By addressing ums in the first minute of you presentation, you can set the tone for a much better presentation even if the ums creep back in during the balance of the presentation.

Remember, it is not about perfection.  It is about improvement. Trying to be perfect might be one of the mental triggers for your stress in the first place.  Striving for perfection can be demoralizing and can get in the way of real progress.  I realize that videoing your presentation is scary but no one is going to watch it but you.  Push through the fear and you will be happy with your progress.

Take a before and after video so you can see your improvement. This alone will start to build your confidence. When you see that you can feel nervous yet project confidence, you will start to FEEL less nervous and more confident. 

Pam Bloore
Co-Founder and Partner
Filament Inc.

Friday, August 19, 2016



Different is a better bet than better


by Mark Schnurman
President - Filament Inc.

If the goal is to differentiate ourselves from our agency competition, then why do agencies spend so much time just telling their clients and prospects how much better they are than the competition? Better is not the same as different. The difficulty with focusing on what you do better than the competition is that the agency can rarely back up its claims. As a result, it just sounds like sales puffery that clients politely listen to and completely ignore.

Many agencies sell themselves as “full-service” and/or “integrated.” However, what they are basically saying is that we all do the same thing. The result of all of our effort is that we have created non-differentiated agencies and commoditized our product offering. When clients have a difficult time distinguishing one agency from another, there’s just one thing they use as a differentiator: price. This is not the situation any agency wants to be in, but it is where many agencies find themselves right now.

The key to a point of differentiation is that it is provable. Saying you’re better is mostly just stating an opinion. Differentiation always has a point of proof.

“Our creative is better” is an opinion. Your agency’s creative may in fact be better, but unless you have a shelf full of awards, you have no proof. And recognize that every agency has won a creative award or two, so unless you have a shelf full of awards, your claim is just your opinion and will not resonate with your prospects.

“Our agency has better experience than any agency in the business when it comes to financial service” is an opinion. Nearly every agency has financial service experience. “Our agency won Financial Services Agency of the Year three years in a row from Financial Service Monthly Magazine” is a fact (albeit a made up fact).

The reason that agencies say “we are better…” is that simply claiming to be better is easier, and as a result more agencies go down that path. It is easier to simply claim to be better than to go through the difficult work of actually making the agency different in some way. The question for agencies is, what is it that you can own in the marketplace? Odds are it is not about what you do better. These types of claims have difficulty gaining traction. It is more likely a controversial point of view or a method for executing some part of the advertising process that will help to put some distance between you and the competition.

One most popular differentiating claim is that an agency’s people make them different. While it is wonderful for morale, it probably is not true. If you are based in the New York area, those people that you claim make you so different probably worked for your competitor just one or two years ago. You could claim that your culture makes you different, but you would need to point out the specifics of the culture before the claim had much of a chance of sticking.

As if this were not difficult enough, the next danger is giving something a name and claiming it is different only to have the client say, “I have seen that before.” An agency’s branding process typically falls into this category. Having seen hundreds of agency new business pitches, from consumer, digital, media and pharma agencies, I know that if your agency has a process that includes concentric circles, a pyramid, or some kind of structure with columns supporting a roof … it is not unique or differentiating. Just because you have a pithy name for the process does not mean that the underlying process is different. It just means that the name is different.

So where does that leave an agency? There are still plenty of ways to carve out your own niche in the marketplace. One way is do primary research and uncover a hidden insight about the market. This is probably the oldest PR trick in the book. In the absence of news, make your own news. You can than build upon this research to become the expert on the topic.

Another strategy would be to develop a unique point of view about the role of the agency, the role of promotion, or the direction of the industry. Anything that gives you a platform to discuss your topic as an industry leader and not just another agency in a sea of similar agencies could work.

A sure fire way to differentiate your agency in a pitch is to not focus on the agency’s brand at all.  Focus on the work that your agency will do for the prospect’s brand.  Your approach to their marketing challenges will almost certainly be different from your competitor’s approach.

While none of the solutions to the conundrum are quick or easy, the value of being different is immeasurable. It may seem silly to preach the value of differentiation to an agency, but sometimes we all need to listen to our own advice.



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