Lots of other companies provide the same product or service that your company does. Many of them have been doing it longer than you. Many of them have more extensive resources than you: More people. More money. More customers. More clout.

This keeps a lot of businesses (and people) from stretching. It’s intimidating to survey the landscape and see a wall of giants. You have a hard time imagining how your business could possibly compete.

Marketing is the great equalizer for underdog businesses. You may not be able to build a bigger building or hire more people, but nothing is stopping you from dominating the space between your customers’ ears.

The trick is learning to see new opportunities within established markets. You can’t own the hill that your competitor does but chances are likely that you can build a new hill that is yours alone.

What’s Your Ideal Client?

We’ll be the first ones to tell you that we’re not right for everyone. You don’t have to poke around this site for long to see that we operate differently from most of the other advertising firms out there. We have pretty strong opinions about marketing and share them openly and honestly.

We operate this way because there’s just too much B.S. floating around in the world of advertising and lots of companies waste unbelievable amounts of money because of it. It’s a big industry with a lot of legacy players that are either unwilling or unable to break free from outdated practices in favor of new ones that are more accountable.

We don’t have any interest in developing theoretical solutions for clients. We like to build systems that create revenue in a manner that is both reliable and measurable.

Our clients come to us when they are fed up with the wish-washy stuff. They are serious about not just sustaining their business, but growing it with ferocity. They are smart enough to know that they don’t know everything and are open to learning and trying new ideas. If that sounds like you, then you’d probably fit right in.

On the other hand, we’re probably not a great fit for you if you believe that:

  • Focus groups are the best way to determine the success of an advertising campaign.
  • Great brands and great companies are built on brand advertising.
  • “Awareness building” should be the primary goal of an advertising campaign.
  • Results and spending levels always go hand in hand.
  • Advertising is largely a game of luck.
  • Successful advertising is based on choosing the right media.
  • Great marketing cannot dramatically transform a business.
  • Marketing is little more than a necessary evil.

5 Steps to Flawless Advertising

  1. Become comfortable with failure.
  2. Test – Anything and everything that feels right. Start small.
  3. Measure – Everything.
  4. Optimize – Based on the data you collect during step #3.
  5. Repeat.

Demand More Value

So things are slow right now and the economic forecasts show no sign of improvement. You have two choices – read the news all day long and wallow in the negativity or take advantage of the opportunities that volatility creates. No matter how bad things get people will still buy things and will seek out businesses that can provide a great value. At the same time, you need to demand more value from your partners and suppliers as well.

For the foreseeable future the supply of advertising inventory will significantly exceed demand. Consumer spending is down, advertisers are pulling back, and there are more options available than ever before to communicate with customers. For the intelligent marketer this is actually good news because it means you have the opportunity to squeeze more value from every dollar you spend*.

As you begin negotiating your advertising contracts for 2009 here are 5 things you can do to maximize your investments:

1) Demand lower rates.
The simple truth is that supply exceeds demand. The political spending is over and every other category is down. Even online spending forecasts are being revised downward. If your media partners are telling you that rates must go up, it’s time to find other partners.

2) Expect added value.
Most media vendors have plenty of incentives they can offer you in addition to paid inventory. Ask for features, sponsorships, preferred placement, bonus advertising, promotional opportunities, third-party partnerships, links, mentions, category exclusivity etc.

3) Expect preferred placement.
We’ve all heard of under-booked airlines, hotels, and cruise ships offering free upgrades to passengers. As a loyal advertiser you should expect the same type of VIP treatment from your media partners. Ask for larger ads, higher traffic locations, higher-rated programming, better daypart rotation, or prime positioning at no additional charge.

4) Expect more favorable terms.
Avoid restrictive contracts. The market is turbulent and you need to remain agile. Getting locked into anything restricts your ability to rapidly adapt to changes. Make sure that all contracts can be revised or canceled with reasonable notice. Ask for discounts for timely payment i.e. within 15 days, 30 days etc.

5) Expect better service.
If you only hear from your sales reps when it’s time to renew it might be time for a change. A good salesperson should keep you informed about your campaign, offer ideas and research, and care about the success of your business. Let them know what your goals and expectations are and ask for their ideas on how to get there.

Please note – this is NOT about beating up your partners. A strong working relationship with your vendors is essential and will pay dividends. At the same time, it would be irresponsible to not take advantage of the opportunities that a slow market creates for advertisers. If you do not raise your hand and ask for these incentives then they will go to someone else. Ask nicely and be sure to remind your sales reps that any extra value they can provide now will come back to them in the form of increased budgets as your business grows.

How Do Your Fees Work?

There are several compensation structures we offer clients based on the type and scope of work they need. Here are the common arrangements:

Commission Based

For clients that utilize traditional media i.e. television, radio, outdoor, print and other offline media, our fees are usually completely covered by the discounts we receive from our media vendors. The standard agency discount is 15%. Here’s how it would work with a hypothetical budget of $10,000:

  • We purchase $10,000 worth of advertising inventory on behalf of you, the client.
  • At the conclusion of the campaign, the media vendors invoice our agency for $8,500 (a 15% discount).
  • The remaining $1,500 covers the agency fee.

Clients like this arrangement because they end up getting our services without spending any additional money. It works really well for situations where clients use us primarily to manage their media planning and placement.

Retainer Based

For comprehensive consulting services and/or situations where media commissions are impractical, we work on a flat monthly retainer. Depending on the scope of work, these fees range from $3,500-$15,000 per month.

There are also instances where clients prefer to hire us to work only on specific aspects of their marketing program. In these cases, we offer a reduced-rate retainer based on the scope of work. Typical examples of this would be pay-per-click marketing, social media consulting, email marketing management etc. The management fees for these services start at $1,500/month.

Retainer Plus Commission Based

For clients with full-service consulting needs and extensive media plans we often work out a flat monthly retainer plus media commission arrangement.

Project Based

Sometimes clients just need us to do a specific project i.e. build a website, design a logo, write a sales letter, etc. In these instances we are happy to quote a flat fee for the project.

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