There’s no end to the financial advice available about what to do in a downturn (including our own podcast), so I’d like to focus on the priorities that principals and managers should follow as they lead the agency. If that doesn’t describe you, perhaps you could pass this along to someone who might benefit from it.
Without a single exception, there are five priorities for where the principal focuses. But it’s not just the list that’s important—the sequence is also in a very specific order. You make sure you’re doing the first one, and if that’s all you have time to do, then so be it. But if you are doing the first one well, you can and should advance to the second priority. And so on, until there is no more time or energy left.
We’ll walk through all five of them, but you really only need to worry about the first two (unless you’re a really small marketing firm).
No. 1: Minding the Finances
Your first priority as a principal or manager is to pilot the ship. That means ensuring accurate tracking of your firm’s financial performance against industry benchmarks, useful forecasting, and prudent decisions about the source and use of money. Armed with that information, you will make good decisions about staffing, benefits, facility, miscellaneous overhead, and the use of outside resources. Other people can help you do all this, but your finger must be on the financial pulse of the firm.
No. 2: Hiring/Molding Key Staff
There’s been a shift over the last few years to the point where it’s actually more difficult to find the right people than the right clients. It follows, of course, that there’s more at stake when you make a mistake with employees than with clients. All that to say that you need a marketing plan for staff to yield so many candidates that you can be picky about finding that influential person with the right talent and perspective on the working culture of your firm.
If you are currently spending your time taking care of clients, you’re on an endless treadmill that’ll keep you running until you’re so tired that you collapse and fall off. You’re solving the same problems every day, and growth will only exacerbate the problem.
Of course, a major portion of your effectiveness in managing these key people will depend on hiring the right ones in the first place. So before you write the marketing plan for staff, start with the right positioning: crafting a place where great people want to work, in part because you’re there shaping them.
By the way, if you aren’t sure who is in this group, consider that you should not have more than six people or so reporting to you. That’s the group we’re talking about.
No. 3: Positioning/Closing Opportunity
Once you’ve nailed those two things, it’s time to make sure your firm has a very clear and differentiated positioning in the marketplace, built around deep expertise that’s different from nearly every one of your peer firms. Even though that task is critical, it is not time-consuming, and you don’t need to revisit it except every few years.
From there, it’s important to have a presence in the process of closing opportunity while making clients out of prospects. You don’t need to orchestrate that process, but the prospect should register the fact that you’ve shown your face, complimented the team that will serve them, and described the culture of your firm, their new partner.
These three are as far as you need to go, but if you still have time and energy left, add the next two, in order.
No. 4: Strategizing for Clients
You’ve been doing this for years (standing “naked” in front of prospects and clients, thinking on your feet), guiding recommendations to clients from your acquired expertise. The best way to be involved with clients without being their daily go-to person is to bounce in and out of the relationship while you help them formulate the strategic portion of the marketing plan for their product or service.
Clients will be grateful for your attention, and your employees will soak up the shared knowledge that’s imparted in the process.
No. 5: Implementing for Clients
If you’re managing the first four priorities like you should, there’s virtually no chance that you’ll have time for client implementation work. But if you do, you’ll probably be doing the same things that got you into the field in the first place. That could be copywriting, media relations, design, advertising, or whatever.
But never dip your toes in those waters again unless you’re doing a terrific job with the first four priorities.
If there’s more than one of you running the firm, you can enjoy one of the few advantages of a partnership: splitting up the responsibilities and focusing deeper in the process.
Otherwise, use this checklist to make sure you’re being the leader your firm needs.Download Full Article (165 KB pdf file)