Planes, Trains and Automobiles

July 25th, 2014 by Thomas Selby


Planes, trains and automobiles

Let’s be honest, we all love a bit of Doctor Who, whizzing around willy nilly in a blue, time-travelling, teleporting box.

Teleportation is still science fiction, not science fact. There are pretenders to the throne (of sorts): Skype, FaceTime, phones… Or the UK Gov’s latest attempt HS2. Not quite the same though, are they? So I ask myself, do we really need it?

Here is my yes and no answer:

I recently spoke to a prospective client who had engaged a number of agencies in a pitch process.

We had been ruled out initially because of scale, but after a few (extremely well delivered and positioned… Ahem) retorts we both agreed that my business was in fact a more exciting proposition than initial inspections had shown. Objections had been well and truly handled…

Excitement began to creep in through a crack in my brain, and I allowed myself a modicum of hope… Foolish hope… (Slightly over dramatized, but you know where I’m coming from).

We carried on for a couple of minutes, and certainty began to set in (in hindsight a bit like rigor mortis). One more question, I was ready for it, I could handle anything he was going to throw at me.

“So where are you guys based?”

“Leeds.”

“Oh right… We’re only looking at businesses from London. We need regular contact with everyone delivering the account.”

At that moment I was sure I heard the local infrastructure creak, but it turned out to be my fingerprints rubbing off as I tightened my grip around the phone.

Game over.

This is something I come across quite a lot, especially with London based businesses, and I’m certain this isn’t exclusive to me.

Is there really that much of North-South divide for agencies?

Surely in this modern era of Trains, Planes and Automobiles, location shouldn’t be this much of an issue. We now have technology to hold ‘virtual’ meetings, and Leeds to London is roughly 2 hours on the train. How far away from London could you get in a car in the same amount of time?

Clearly a ‘virtual’ meeting or 2 hours each way for travel aren’t the same as popping round the corner for a meeting, but should this preclude us from working with businesses that are at opposite ends of the country?

I am biased as I currently live up here, but the north has a huge amount to offer; our overheads are much cheaper so we can be more competitively priced (not cheap, that implies lower quality work), and we have some major cities and educational institutions to pick the very best talent from.

This sounds like I’m campaigning for HS2. I’m not, though it would be good to know if the government has even considered (or asked) whether a slightly quicker train journey would convince southern businesses that the North isn’t too far to go.

I am a massive hypocrite though, frequently spouting the virtues of us being ‘just round the corner’ to more local prospective clients. So I suppose the real question is… What do you consider ‘round the corner’?

If HS2 is a bench mark, we’ll all be living on roundabouts by 2026.

6 killer criteria for selecting an agency

July 15th, 2014 by Simon Bollon


tick2

After a recent pitch I got sight of the scoring system that the client was using to rate us. They shared the results after, and whilst some of the criteria was surprising, I realised in hindsight that whatever they had put on the sheet we would have scored highly. That might sound arrogant, but the reason I say it is because we knew we had every chance. We had carefully selected the client as a good fit for us, and us for them. On that basis, we knew that we would tick most, if not all, the boxes.

My point being, whilst clients select agencies, agencies should also be selective in their process. We have a refined list of potential clients with whom we want to work because we know we’d add value to their communications strategies. We use a 6 point tick-off when assessing whether a prospect should hit our ‘we want to work with’ list. That means we have absolutely conviction when telling them we’ll do a better job.

So, whether it’s an agency picking prospects or clients selecting an agency, I think there’s key criteria that stand out. With that being said, here are my 6 killer criteria for selecting an agency…

Culture – Does it match, is their synergy and will relationships build? Generally, similar sized clients and smaller agencies will find that synergy whereas bigger operationally driven agencies will find a good match in process focused clients. Don’t appoint a beast of a corporation and then complain when the 5th account exec in 12 months isn’t ‘feeling it’.

Hierarchy – How big an account are you to the agency? The client wants to be important but not the account the agency relies on. They don’t want to get lost in the agency but they need to understand the agency has a track record of delivery. A level of reliance and therefore collaboration is healthy but make sure the love goes both ways!

Management – Essentially, clients need to consider who will work on the account. Team A for the pitch and Team B for running the account is no bad thing for some clients. The question is whether the agency is delivering the right resources and skill set for the account. A marketing team of 25 working with an agency of 5 is going to get underserviced and pissed off pretty quickly. On the other side, a business owner that has a graduate running their account shouldn’t be comfortable with the arrangement.

Experience – Can the agency demonstrate a knowledge of the client’s marketplace and a case study of a similar sized account? In some sectors this is critical, in others maybe not so much. As a media agency we would argue that it’s an experience in the pertinent media avenues as much as the experience of the sector. Perhaps sector experience in broader marketing and creative is more important? Either way, a track record should provide some comfort that they know what they are doing.

Resources – If the client needs it, does the agency have the resource in-house? What tools does the agency have access to? What solution is right for the client and can the agency deliver? Equally smaller clients with limited requirements need not finance the capacity of an agency to deliver to the biggest clients. Be clear from the outset and ensure the agency can show you what’s on offer.

Price – A proposition relevant to the client and their requirements is obviously a key consideration (and let’s be honest, probably still the most important element?). The very biggest spending clients will appreciate the scale of the account and will expect agencies to resource the account appropriately. They will also understand the cost of running their account and look to structure deals accordingly. Equally, and something we see far too often, is the smaller spending accounts expecting the rates of the biggest spenders. It ain’t going to happen so be realistic!

I always find myself talking about size when I debate the agency/client relationship, but I think it really matters. Big agency, small client or small agency, big client are two combinations that experience tells me do not work. Ensuring you select an agency that feels like the right kind of size will ultimately be a good starting point.

Do you have any other tips to share for selecting an agency (or even a client)? Tweet us @boutiquemc!

We are the best of both worlds

July 15th, 2014 by Simon Bollon


world plug

We are Boutique, and we are the best of both worlds.

As a privately owned agency, we’re nimble, flexible and client-centric. That means we’ve shaped our business to match the demands of clients. We’re old school media buying and planning, but new school communication. We don’t talk about price, we talk about your customers and engagement, whatever platform that might be.

However, we know scale, resource and buying power are critical to clients and that means we have to compete.

Agencies like to say they’re different. We don’t, but we have a unique trading process and that makes for a compelling proposition. We offer the best of both worlds; we marry the scale, resources, buying power, intelligence and experience of the biggest agencies with the service-focused, passionate and assiduous approach you would expect from an independent, director-led agency.

We’re called Boutique for a reason.

We don’t want to compete with the big boys and we don’t want to grow a behemoth of an agency. £10m accounts just don’t excite us – but businesses that we can make a positive impact on do.

We’re an agency where a Director works on every account, every day. Now that’s service.

A small(ish) team, we employ only the best and most brilliant minds, hand picking skilled individuals from other agencies, meaning our clients only deal with the best. We can do that as a smaller agency with miniscule employee churn.

Combine that with the tools and resources (all in-house) that you would only normally see in the biggest agencies, and you’ve got a heady mix of agency brilliance.

Want to know more? Tweet us @boutiquemc or call Tom on 0113 394 8997.

6 killer criteria for selecting an agency

July 15th, 2014 by Simon Bollon


After a recent pitch I got sight of the scoring system that the client was using to rate us. They shared the results after, and whilst some of the criteria was surprising, I realised in hindsight that whatever they had put on the sheet we would have scored highly. That might sound arrogant, but the reason I say it is because we knew we had every chance. We had carefully selected the client as a good fit for us, and us for them. On that basis, we knew that we would tick most, if not all, the boxes.

My point being, whilst clients select agencies, agencies should also be selective in their process. We have a refined list of potential clients with whom we want to work because we know we’d add value to their communications strategies. We use a 6 point tick-off when assessing whether a prospect should hit our ‘we want to work with’ list. That means we have absolutely conviction when telling them we’ll do a better job.

So, whether it’s an agency picking prospects or clients selecting an agency, I think there’s key criteria that stand out. With that being said, here are my 6 killer criteria for selecting an agency…

Culture – Does it match, is their synergy and will relationships build? Generally, similar sized clients and smaller agencies will find that synergy whereas bigger operationally driven agencies will find a good match in process focused clients. Don’t appoint a beast of a corporation and then complain when the 5th account exec in 12 months isn’t ‘feeling it’.

Hierarchy – How big an account are you to the agency? The client wants to be important but not the account the agency relies on. They don’t want to get lost in the agency but they need to understand the agency has a track record of delivery. A level of reliance and therefore collaboration is healthy but make sure the love goes both ways!

Management – Essentially, clients need to consider who will work on the account. Team A for the pitch and Team B for running the account is no bad thing for some clients. The question is whether the agency is delivering the right resources and skill set for the account. A marketing team of 25 working with an agency of 5 is going to get underserviced and pissed off pretty quickly. On the other side, a business owner that has a graduate running their account shouldn’t be comfortable with the arrangement.

Experience – Can the agency demonstrate a knowledge of the client’s marketplace and a case study of a similar sized account? In some sectors this is critical, in others maybe not so much. As a media agency we would argue that it’s an experience in the pertinent media avenues as much as the experience of the sector. Perhaps sector experience in broader marketing and creative is more important? Either way, a track record should provide some comfort that they know what they are doing.

Resources – If the client needs it, does the agency have the resource in-house? What tools does the agency have access to? What solution is right for the client and can the agency deliver? Equally smaller clients with limited requirements need not finance the capacity of an agency to deliver to the biggest clients. Be clear from the outset and ensure the agency can show you what’s on offer.

Price – A proposition relevant to the client and their requirements is obviously a key consideration (and let’s be honest, probably still the most important element?). The very biggest spending clients will appreciate the scale of the account and will expect agencies to resource the account appropriately. They will also understand the cost of running their account and look to structure deals accordingly. Equally, and something we see far too often, is the smaller spending accounts expecting the rates of the biggest spenders. It ain’t going to happen so be realistic!

I always find myself talking about size when I debate the agency/client relationship, but I think it really matters. Big agency, small client or small agency, big client are two combinations that experience tells me do not work. Ensuring you select an agency that feels like the right kind of size will ultimately be a good starting point.

Do you have any other tips to share for selecting an agency (or even a client)? Tweet us @WeAreBoutiqueUK

Free shit and indentured servitude

July 14th, 2014 by Thomas Selby


free

This begins, as all good ramblings should, with a story…

I previously worked at a large, multinational recruitment firm (if you’re imagining Wolf of Wall Street-esque escapades, I have no idea what you’re talking about…)

Whilst at this bastion of moderation and work life balance I decided to take the air and forage for my lunch. There are a number of options within a stone’s throw of my old office (conveniently located in the centre of Leeds) and one can easily become bewildered by the sheer choice of eateries, so it’s  best not to travel alone. My companion, on this occasion, was a senior manager from my team, chosen for his wit, discerning palate and decision making prowess.

It’s safe to assume that as a senior manager he had a fair amount of disposable income, he liked a good lunch and we’d had a good week. I was feeling flush and the prospect of slightly more expensive feed had put a spring in my step. We set off walking up the riverside and through the train station – it was 13:00 and the place was buzzing. For those that don’t know, the station itself has quite a few good options for lunch, and I’m sure the sandwich section at Marks and Spencer was making eyes at me. I turned to my companion, head to toe in Hawes and Curtis, and suggested we give M&S a try. He nodded in agreement and we took half a step in the right direction, then something horrifying happened. Out the corner of his eye, through the crowd, he had seen something. He turned his head and shouted “OOOOOOO free shit!” and set off at pace (expensive shoes squeaking) towards a group of people wearing matching T-shirts handing out food-based freebies.

When I caught up with him he had a hand and a mouthful of free food. “I’ll probably just eat this, meet you back at the office?”

As a man of principle, I carried on to M&S, although an accidental detour back through the station may have taken place…

So where am I going with this?

No matter where we come from, our background or level of income, we love a bargain. More importantly, we love freebies. Many will take a freebie when offered even if they have one already, have no use for it, have nowhere to put it, or even don’t really want it at all. Let’s be honest – we all come back from events with several pens, lots of post-it pads and at least one new USB stick.

So how do we turn this wonderfully human affliction to our advantage?

Consider this: people don’t like being sold to, but they love to buy things.

lemons

The Savvy of both consumers and businesses is growing exponentially. They have alternatives and information at their fingertips, making for well-informed decision makers. Get their attention by giving them freebies and selling indirectly; if they get something free with no obligations, you will get their consideration and attention in return. I don’t mean offer them discounts or money off vouchers, (that’s been done before and if you’re selling a ‘premium’ product can have a negative effect) but instead consider offering knowledge, advice or something of genuine interest.

When selling to businesses, offering industry insight is a pretty easy (and common) freebie that some prospects will genuinely appreciate. Try to be a little more creative: if a client has another need that you can’t service, help them find someone who can. Guess who will get the first call when they need something else? Other creative freebies are flexibility and transparency.

When speaking to prospective clients, it still astounds me how frequently they are locked into 6-9-12 month contracts and having issues. Why would you effectively agree to a prolonged spell of indentured servitude? It’s no surprise that service levels drop and performance can dwindle, because the supplier is effectively un-incentivised (I appreciate this predominantly applies to service based business but it can be tweaked to fit most industries.)

Try this for a freebie: when dealing with a new client, don’t tie them into a contract. Tell them if it doesn’t work they can leave. Be transparent – clients will appreciate results aren’t always instant, but by keeping them regularly well informed of all the facts you avoid nasty surprises.

Retain your clients through the merit of your work and not the length of a contract. Imagine how powerful that sounds when talking to new businesses!

Give people free shit, not indentured servitude.

Tweet us @boutiquemc and let us know what you think!