We asked Cary Hatch, who heads DC-based MDB Communications, for a list of things for you and your agency to consider for survival in 2009. She provided the following seven points:
- Adopt a greater appreciation of ROI and demonstrate it with your behavior. Most CMOs are under tremendous pressure to validate the budgets they commit to your agency. Help them help you, by providing timely reporting BEFORE they ask! Whether it’s online reporting, or year-over-year sales, every one is being pressed to not just talk about performance, but demonstrate it. Define success upfront, set metrics with your clients, and face the music – good, bad or indifferent. Valued agency partners are those that don’t just talk ROI, but share the burden of reviewing campaign results with their clients, and press on to see what can be done even better.
- Acknowledge (at least to yourself) that “10% down” is the new definition of success. Most client spending is down anywhere from 10 - 30% or more; embrace it, and challenge yourself and your team to devise solid alternatives to traditional strategies. Social media and experiential initiatives possibly. Identify strategic partners – PR firms, online programmers, etc.
- Conserve cash, invest wisely. Any business (or person for that matter) that successfully navigates tough times needs to employ both conservative cash management (and risk management) and thoughtfully assess everything from office supplies to which pitches you pursue. Investing in great staff is key – those who have the skills, maturity and work-ethic are the centerpiece of what makes any business successful. Especially during these times.
- Show up. Be there to show you care about your job, your client, your team, and your collective mission. This is not a great time to be showing up late and skipping those key client meetings or agency brainstorming sessions. As they say – out of sight, out of mind. Make sure you’re counted (and can be counted on) when the going gets tough. It will be appreciated by your client and your boss ... and demonstrate your commitment to the team.
- Think like a CMO – and think like a CEO. In all likelihood you will be asked to present and defend your recommendations as if it was your money being invested. Be ready. Now more than ever, agencies are being asked to “consider” incentive compensation as a portion of their remuneration. Be willing to listen and consider such arrangements.
- Be nice to other people. Not just because it’s the right thing to do, but because you never know when that wacky account guy or media “fruitcake” you work with might become the new Marketing Director you’re pitching next month! Hey, we’re all in this together people! Make sure that when the market turns around, you’re not remembered for having your knives out! Your personal brand matters as much as your company's. Make sure you conduct yourself in the manner you want to be remembered.
- Take a break from the insanity. For me, it’s turning on classical music at the office – or a good dose of disco or James Brown. Living in the age of constant communication does take a toll on your psyche and eventually your confidence in the future. Not unlike the downturn of the early 80’s or the burst of the dot com bubble, we will get through this. We all need to keep our wits about us, protect what’s worth protecting (good clients, good people) and remaining healthy for the inevitable turn-around. As the saying goes, "Bad times don't last. Good people do."