A shoe in the door for the cobbler's child

Most successful agencies are great at communicating on behalf of their clients.

Most successful agencies are great at communicating on behalf of their clients – targeting and reaching key audiences using traditional and the latest new and social media channels. However, communicating their own brand attributes to key audiences – potential clients and agency search consultants – who will help ensure a fresh revenue stream flowing in the door? Not so much. It's a modern day example of the old saw, “the cobbler's children.”

Many agencies simply assume that if they hunker down and do great work, important audiences will somehow intuit it and seek them out. While that might seem reasonable on the face of it, imagine if your clients took this under-the-radar approach with their latest product or service. It's not a winning strategy for attracting new business opportunities.

At the same time, other firms go the extra mile and it pays off many times over. Taking the additional step does not necessarily mean launching a major initiative, by the way.  Sometimes, to help ensure you get and stay on the radar of your important audiences, it's as simple as following these suggestions:

1. Make a plan and stick to it. As part of your annual planning process, decide how and when your firm is going to proactively communicate with those key audiences who could make a difference to your bottom line. Decide on the industries for which you have the strongest affinity and best experience. Then determine how to promote your great work to them using all of the PR and marketing tools you use for clients. And here's the important part: then do it.

2. Target search consultants. Learn who the major agency search consultants are and introduce your firm to them. In the exchange, ask about their particular process and how they prefer to work with agencies.

3. Stay in touch. I've visited more than a hundred PR firms over the last 10 years and have spoken with dozens more to learn about their strongest capabilities and meet their key people. In each case, I've asked them to stay in touch with me, perhaps sending a brief update every six to 12 months detailing what's new, including significant new hires, initiatives, expansion, vision, and thinking. And while they always promise to do so, it's amazing how few actually follow through. The hard part is getting someone's attention in the first place. Once the relationship is established, it's up to you to stay in touch.

4. Circle back after the pitch. If you placed a close second, you'd be smart to stay in touch with the client. While it's not a daily occurrence, clients have been known to realize three to six months out that they made a mistake or that they can't agree on terms with the winning firm. In that case, your check-in call three months after the dust has settled might yield pay dirt. 

The bottom line: make agency promotion to your key audiences as important as your firm's day-to-day quality of work. Your balance sheet will thank you for it.

Dan Orsborn, CEO of Orsborn Partners, has spent most of the last decade leading PR agency searches for major marketers. His column will tap into his expertise, from both sides of the equation, on the agency-search process. He can be reached at dorsbornco@aol.com.  

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