Wrapping up my recap (is that redundant?) of SEMpdx’s SearchFest, here are my key takeaways from Todd Friesen & Ian Lurie’s very entertaining session on Building Your Search Agency:
Agencies need to-do lists, just like individuals do. Todd’s agency instituted a weekly resource plan. Every Thursday, a single document is compiled and circulated that includes every, single client deliverable for the next week. I’m still getting my head around how to, particularly in a large agency like Performics, make such a resource plan digestible and manageable. But, Todd asserted that since it was instituted, they haven’t missed a single deliverable, and it’s dramatically lowered end-of-week stress levels among his team. Here at Anvil, we all depend on our religiously maintained task lists to keep up with multiple, overlapping client initiatives and ongoing tasks — having an organizational system that can filter upwards until it spans the whole team sure seems like a sound idea to me.
Year-over-year is everything. In search, it’s easy to produce month-over-month gains (one needs only look at this year’s unofficial SearchFest whipping boy, JC Penney). As Todd put it:
Agency: “Hey, look at us! We tripled your traffic and quadrupled your revenue from July to October!”
Client: “That’s great and all, but we sell freaking school supplies…so what did you expect?”
Don’t get too caught up in the cycle of monthly reports and short-term changes and lose track of the fact that, because every business is seasonal, year-over-year improvement means a whole lot more than month-over-month.
You are the expert in the room, so start acting like it. In developing new account executives, Todd and Ian both stressed the importance of making those young go-getters feel like experts. If you’ve ever watched Mad Men, there’s no doubt that marketing is a confidence game – data analysis, best practices and insider expertise are all great, but trusting your gut, getting others to trust you, and having the guts to act with confidence are just as important.
There are no bad clients. Except for the ones that are. During Q&A, someone asked Todd and Ian for some juicy client horror stories. They both politely declined to rip into past clients, and instead offered a few red flags for prospective clients:
- Beware of anyone who says “I just want to pick your brain.”
- Beware of the person who can’t tell you what their company is/does, whether it’s for secrecy or plain, old vagueness.
- Look for any sign that one particular group – programming, marketing, sales, business development — has a stranglehold over the site and/or the company.
- If you hear any nightmare stories about the last agency, look out, as you’re probably next on the firing line.
- Beware of squishy goals (particularly in relation to performance-based pricing) & lack of balance.
- And finally…”don’t work with anyone out of South Florida!”*
*The opinions of the panelists do not necessarily reflect the views of this author or his employers. LeBron, we’d be more than happy to help you with your AdWords campaigns.