Timeless New Business Commandments

Ad legend, David Ogilvy, wrote the book on advertising. He did so decades ago, but thankfully universal truths wither not.

Mr. Ogilvy had a keen sense of the big picture, including the specific operational needs of his agency. I particularly value his insights into the delicate dance of bringing on new clients.

    1) Regard the hunt for new clients as a sport.

    2) Never work for a client so big you can’t afford to lose them.

    3) Take immense pain in selecting your clients.

    4) Only add one new client every two years.

    5) Only seek clients with a product or service you are proud of.

    6) Only accept a client if you can improve their existing work.

    7) Don’t take on clients whose business is dying.

    8) Only work for clients who want you to make a profit.

    9) Don’t publicly pursue clients.

    10) Avoid contests in which more than four other agencies are involved.

    11) Getting new clients is a solo performance.

    12) Remain flexible when selling clients.

    13) Tell prospects about your weaknesses.

    14) Don’t get bogged down in case studies or research numbers.

    15) Explicitly tell clients why they should hire you.

    16) Don’t pay an outside source a commission for new business.

    17) Beware of clients who have no budget but a great idea.

    18) Don’t underestimate personality.

    19) Fire clients at least 5 times more often than you get fired.

    20) Use what you specialize in to find new clients.

I highlighted the most important point made by Mr. Ogilvy above. “Only work for clients who want you to make a profit.”

This is both a brilliant insight and perfect rule to apply. If clients don’t care about your profitability, they don’t care about your survival. These clients are not on the “partner” page. They see the agency as skilled hands that exist to output materials to their liking. They do not see the agency as a strategic partner deeply committed to their mission and marketplace success. In other words, these type of clients are highly toxic and must be properly disposed of.

I also love number 13 in the list above, “Tell prospects about your weaknesses.” Every business and every person in it has professional and perhaps personal weaknesses. Denying this is denying reality and that’s no way to conduct an honest business relationship. By forming a team built on trust, we uplift one another and cover each other’s weaknesses.

Whatever values you bring to the new business process, it’s crucial to have a guiding set of principles. Many firms inside and outside of Marcom abandon their values as soon as it becomes difficult, or expensive, to maintain them. At this point, a mission or values statement is null and void. There’s no reason to have one, as it is just another mask to obscure the real motive, which is almost universally a preference for profits over all else, including people.

Ultimately, it’s an honor for an agency to serve clients and represent their customers’ concerns and point of view. Not every agency sees customer advocacy as part of the job, but that’s to their detriment. Happy customers make for happy clients, and that’s the opening for risk taking and profit making that we all seek. You don’t win hearts and minds with the safe play. You take a stand and make a case.

Hats off to Client Giant for promoting this helpful list.

Client Showcase #24

Danville Services brings joy to people with disabilities. This company of 1200 dedicated people leads with its heart and we are proud to partner with them on key communications initiatives like the launch of their new website.

Taking care of people with disabilities requires patience, compassion and integrity. Many of the roles are entry-level positions but the responsibilities are always immense. By using a combination of custom photographic assets and iconography, we are able to relay the power of the Danville story in ways that words alone can’t touch. Even when it comes to describing the scope of services provided—96 residential and day programs across four western states—it’s best to bring the facts to life in a visual way.

Scrutinize Your Brand Communications Before Someone Else Does

Integrated marketers work to ensure that every customer touchpoint is maximized for the customer’s benefit. When all the touchpoints eventually line up, you can display them on a customer journey map and begin to visualize in greater detail what moves customers to buy.

According to McKinsey:

In most companies, there are a handful of critical customer journeys. Understanding them, customer segment by customer segment, helps a business to maintain focus, have a positive impact on customer satisfaction, and begin the process of redesigning functions around customer needs.

“Redesigning functions around customer needs,” it must be noted, is for the brave of brand heart. Many people prefer to approach their ever delicate sales and marketing problems with a jackhammer.

If you’re concentrating on what you want to say instead of what your customers need to hear, you’re doing it wrong. If you won’t admit that you’re capable of doing it wrong, you’re also doing it wrong. Saying so isn’t a blame game, it’s a reminder to look at your own Marcom practices and see the parts that need improvement.

Novelist, Barbara Kingsolver, recently argued that “politeness is no substitute for morality, and won’t save us in the end.” She was talking about politics, but the same holds true for our businesses. The best work in all fields is the result of ruthless and steady scrutiny and a willingness to re-examine time-tested concepts.

If you’re ready to do it right in 2017 and beyond, let’s outline the opportunities and a plan of action. It all starts with a brisk walk in your customer’s shoes. To schedule the first in a series of brand communications walks, give me a ring at 503-970-3862 or send a note to david@bonehook.com.

Client Showcase #23

HealthCo Information Systems has a compelling brand story to convey to physicians and to clinic admins. We gathered video testimony from customers and company leaders and condensed it into a two-minute narrative.

The Tualatin-based healthcare IT specialist also seeks to reach new staff and its current team with information that reveals company culture, and a clear look at future objectives and directions.

The new video is now featured front-and-center on the company’s homepage.


Major hat tip to Jenn Byrne for her expert shooting and editing on this project.

Only Fully Revealed Brands Are Open To A Customer Relationship

It’s fun to unearth a thoughtful talk on YouTube, one that can help inform your own work. The following offering from Chicago Booth School of Business features two professors and a client. The client is sharp.

Ann Mukherjee, former President of Pepsi Global Insights and current Global CMO at S.C. Johnson, says:

Every corporation today is looking to build sustainable results for their shareholders. What a brand does is connect your product, your service to a consumer. You want that growth to be sustainable? You better have very strong brands.

In today’s world of infinite choices, you have loyalty today and not tomorrow. What brands do is create a relationship, and in today’s world of marketing it’s not just about buying brands, it’s about buying into brands.

I love that she says a brand’s purpose is to connect to a consumer.

When we go to work for clients, we want to win hearts and minds—that’s the path to brand preference and customer loyalty. The question is, how does a particular brand achieve these lofty goals when people don’t like advertising, and they don’t like altering their behaviors?

The answer is simpler than you may think. Companies must peel away their layers and truly reveal themselves. People need something to grab onto and hold in their minds. Something simple but strong.

Columbia Sportswear, for instance, is “Tested Tough in the Pacific Northwest.” That’s simple and strong (and not something we came up with). It also happens to be true.

It’s never easy to pare things down to one elegant thought that perfectly captures the company’s spirit. It takes the kind of focus that a craftsman brings to woodworking or a sculptor to stone. You chisel away—day after day—until the true form is revealed, and the meaning conveyed.

Make Better Connections And Stronger Bonds By Practicing Conversational Intelligence

conversations matter

Judith E. Glaser, noted author of seven books and the founder and CEO of Benchmark Communications, is an organizational anthropologist focused on “Conversational Intelligence.”

We now know from neuroscientific research how the brain opens up or closes down during conversations. We know from our own personal experience, that when we work with others as ‘peers’ and our ‘peers are open to listening to connect, the quality of our conversations elevates. In addition, our ability to generate new ideas, especially really different and radically new ideas, elevates, and we trust that we will not be rejected, or diminished or judged.

For those of us operating in creative industries, it’s essential to develop a culture that allows for everyone to be genuinely heard. Company leaders must encourage people to speak up, which means leaders must also create organizational fearlessness. That is, it must be safe to oppose the prevailing winds, regardless of their force.

It sounds simple, but deep listening is a skill that’s missing from so many of our day-to-day conversations at work, with friends and family, and online. To me, it’s important that we address this missing piece in almost all content marketing plans. Brands and their agency partners are so wrapped up in what they need to say, they forget to pause, to breathe and to allow for other voices to be heard. I might add, hearing is not an end in itself. We need to hear from our audiences and then apply what we’ve learned to our operations. Otherwise, it’s listening for listening’s sake, and that’s the kind of false politeness that can come nowhere near a thriving brand.

Is it possible for marketers learn to quiet their “mind?” Yes! It means developing empathy for the audience members, or customers, as the case may be. When a company’s leadership team honestly values and consistently promotes empathy inside the organization, it naturally extends to the brand. Customer interactions can be dramatically improved, and loyalty earned through the company’s ability to nurture staff so they can, in turn, extend themselves to others with compassion, heart, and grace. It sounds like I am advocating for a new form of marketing yoga, but I think it’s simpler than that.

Treat people well, and they come back for more. Click To Tweet

In marketing terms, treating people well means shining truth on the product or service. You can imagine how things fly off the rails when the product or service isn’t what it claims to be. When a company fabricates a story, instead of finding the real stories inherent to the brand, it treats people poorly, not well. “Treat people well and they come back for more” means finding the core truths about your product or service and helping people to see how it serves their best interets, not yours. When you get this alignment just right, your own best interests will also be served.