If your agency isn’t actively managing its own brand growth, what makes you think they're prepared to handle yours?

If you’re in charge of running an agency, then you know growth isn’t optional, it’s essential. And while all agencies understand that recruiting and retaining talent is a key driver for agency growth, I think the current trend in our industry may be focused more on providing distractions (Yogibo furniture, catered lunches, ping pong tables), rather than opportunities for development that will ultimately benefit their team, their agency, and—the most important part of this equation—the client.

I believe that having a culture that celebrates a “mentorship mentality” is one of the quickest and most cost-effective solutions to help agencies overcome the challenge of how to grow leadership in their organization. And the beauty is that it doesn’t always have to come from the top, so all you busy bosses can relax because anyone can be a mentor. There are only two requirements:

  1. You have a great deal of knowledge and experience.
  2. You’re willing to share them with someone else.

As an agency leader, I’ve benefited immensely from the mentors I’ve had over the course of my career, and mentorship is a foundational principle at our agency today. Here are some of the ways we’ve made mentorship a part of our culture:

  • We have formal internship programs with several colleges in our area. In addition to rotating through each department, every intern is paired with a senior team member specific to their educational focus.
  • We encourage everyone on our team to spend time each week learning something new or developing a skill they have a passion for (even non-agency stuff like extreme couponing). The only caveat—they must participate in our monthly Lunch and Learns and share a presentation of what they’ve learned with the rest of the team.
  • Part of our onboarding process requires new hires to identify 2-3 short-term and 1 long-term professional development goals that they want to achieve within 12-18 months. Once identified, they have the option to meet with me on a scheduled basis where I help them develop a plan and provide ongoing guidance and support as needed.

I’ve seen the benefits of mentorship, both in my career and in the growth of our agency. Just seven years ago I started as a brand consultant. Today, Paris Marketing has a team of ten highly invested and deeply committed creative brand warriors, and our portfolio of work includes clients from start-ups to global legacy brands. And in 2017, we became an affiliate of The BlueHive Group; that allowed us to add custom exhibit design and build, and custom branded interiors to our list of services. The combined creative staff and resources of the BlueHive Group amounts to nearly 100 employees and lets us offer end-to-end brand management solutions that other agencies of our size just can’t.

So if an agency’s offering is only as good as its people, then mentoring makes a strong case. Otherwise, how can you trust your team to keep your clients happy, if you haven’t created a culture that empowers your employees with the knowledge and confidence to do so.

Does this matter? Well, I think it says something about an agency that can maintain a client and employee churn under 10%, especially when the industry average hovers around the 30% mark.

Maybe you can distract a frustrated client with an agency-branded Yogibo lounger? Just kidding, I love bean bags chairs as much as the next gal, but I hope you understand the salient point here. If you’re an agency struggling to grow, feel free to try some of these tips. And if you’re a client that’s looking for an agency to help you grow your own brand, ask how they’re handling that challenge within their own house before you make the decision to trust them to help you grow yours.

 

Lisa Woodford

CEO? More like Commander-in-Chief. Someone’s got to aim our team’s creativity at the right target, and Lisa’s the woman for the job.


Legally Purchasing Cannabis for Recreational Consumption: A Massachusetts Resident’s Experience.

On November 20th, 2018, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts witnessed a historic moment: the first legal sale of recreational cannabis. In spite of this incredible moment, I didn’t step into one of the two facilities currently serving the public until December 1st. You might be asking why it took me thirteen days before venturing into one of these facilities. The simple answer: I didn’t want to wait in a line comprised of hundreds, if not thousands, of individuals awaiting their first legal, recreational cannabis purchase.

Nearly two weeks after the facility opened its doors to the general public on December 1st, I drove by the Leicester, MA, dispensary, Cultivate. My eyes widened with shock as I saw the swarm of people waiting in line. After seeing this, I was adamant: “I’m not going to wait in that line.” I thought as I drove by the facility, frustrated that, as a resident of Massachusetts who lives a stone’s throw away from a dispensary, why was I unable to even get near the door?

Later that evening, I had accepted the facts: if I wanted to make a legal cannabis purchase, I’d have no choice but to wait in that line. Once again, I drove to Cultivate, only to have my hopes dashed by a sign on the roadside outside the dispensary, which read: Recreational Sales Closed for The Day.

Most people would have taken that roadside sign as an omen—December 1st just wasn’t the day. I, on the other hand, had had enough waiting. With two of my closest friends, we drove to NETA Northampton—Massachusetts’ only other recreational cannabis dispensary currently in operation. After an hourlong ride, we finally arrived only to see that, like Cultivate, this dispensary also boasted a mile-long line. The plus side: recreational sales were still open and would continue until 10 P.M.

We walked to the back of the line and stood in the bitter New England cold for three hours before finally entering the facility. During those three hours of waiting, I spoke with many individuals who, like myself, were beyond excited to make their first legal cannabis purchase. These people were of all ages and nationalities; the line was a veritable melting pot which showcased the array of individuals who wanted to be legal, recreational cannabis consumers.

The demographic diversity—both in nationality and age—of the crowded line held little surprise for me. What did surprise me was the locations these individuals called home. There was a woman in her 60s who’d driven, by herself, all the way from Pennsylvania, wearing nothing more than sweatpants and a hoodie; another woman in her 40s had made the pilgrimage from Massachusetts’ northern neighboring state, Vermont; a husband and wife who shivered in the bitter elements (and who also gave me a half-dozen McDonald’s chicken nuggets two hours or so into our wait) had driven from hustling, bustling Manhattan; another couple, I’d guess to be in their mid-60s, came from New York. Like my friends and me, they had come to get their first legal taste of the cannabis industry. The difference between them and my friends and me? They had driven between four and six hours to stand in that mile-long line.

Eventually, my friends—both the ones I had gone to the dispensary with and the new ones I’d made while waiting in line—and I walked through the dispensary doors. We purchased our wares and were on our way back home to enjoy the crop less than fifteen minutes after we’d walked through the door. After the ride home, we got our first taste of legal, recreational cannabis. The product was just as incredible as we had hoped, but I was left with a myriad of thoughts regarding this experience. Paramount among my thoughts was this: Why, if so many individuals are cannabis users, has the federal government not legalized cannabis for the whole of the nation? This is a question that citizens across the country are asking themselves, and one which we all hope will soon be answered. Until then, people will continue to travel far and wide to experience what may be the first legal cannabis purchase they’ve made in their lives. How does that impact me, a resident of Massachusetts interested in exercising my legal right to purchase cannabis? Until more dispensaries open their doors, I fear the lines outside the facilities will be far from empty. It will likely be another three-hour wait in line before I can purchase cannabis from a dispensary again. But despite the inconvenience to Massachusetts residents, I think this is a great problem to have. The excitement among all states regarding the prospect of legal cannabis is clear. You can see it for yourself; all you have to do is visit a dispensary and talk to the people waiting in line.

Eric Troy

A master at bending plywood to his will, Eric is also a fledgling writer. Stick around so that you don’t miss the moment when his ideas take flight.


How to Achieve Staggering Click-Through Rates Using LinkedIn Sponsored InMail.

When the BlueHive Group exhibited at HCEA, we did so with a mission: to help event and meeting planners in the Pharmaceutical, Biotechnology, and Medical Device industries who needed to improve their tradeshow experience. Exhibiting proved fruitful; we met many great event and meeting planners within the aforementioned industries, but that’s where our mission to ease the process of meeting and event planning really started. Through our conversations with HCEA attendees, we learned a lot about the specific pain points that event and meeting planners in these industries experience. Armed with better insight, we took our mission to the next level, setting our sights on the digital world.

The BlueHive Group offers customers end-to-end brand management solutions to help clients thrive. With industry experts from varying industries under our roof, coupled with the insights we’d gained from speaking with HCEA attendees, we developed a survey for event and meeting planners designed to help ease the meeting and event planning process.

Have you ever asked someone to fill out a survey? Or, better yet, have you ever received a phone call where the person on the other end of the line asks if you have a moment to answer a few questions? I’d be willing to bet you have, and I’d also bet you swiftly hit the end call button before answering any questions. Getting survey responses in the digital world isn’t so different. It’s difficult. That’s why determining the best channel to elicit responses from event and meeting planners was extremely important.

After the survey was built, the BlueHive Group team put our heads together and determined that LinkedIn was the most effective social channel for this campaign. Moving forward, we developed a LinkedIn Sponsored InMail campaign. Unlike other ad formats, Sponsored InMail allows you to send a personalized message directly to a LinkedIn user’s inbox. We wanted to capitalize on that AND add an additional incentive for LinkedIn users to fill out the survey, offering users a $5 Starbucks gift card which they would receive after the survey was completed.

Before I tell you about the jaw-dropping click-through rate our ad received, I want to tell you an approximate estimate for click-through rate averages across LinkedIn for Sponsored InMail ads. According to LinkedIn’s internal data, open rates for Sponsored InMail messages are 45% and of those 45%, 4-7% will click-through to a desired landing page. For our purposes, the landing page would be the survey. So, now that we have a little context, here are the results of our campaign.

During a span of one month, our ad was delivered to 1,000 LinkedIn users who fell within our targeting criteria (meeting and event planners within the Pharmaceutical, Biotechnology, and Medical Device industries). Of those 1,000 users who had seen our message, 570 clicked-through to the survey. That equals a staggering click-through rate of 57%.

The BlueHive Group #WhereGreatBrandsGrow #MoreThanMarketing

Connect with Creative Brand Warrior Eric Troy to learn more about this article.

Eric Troy

A master at bending plywood to his will, Eric is also a fledgling writer. Stick around so that you don’t miss the moment when his ideas take flight.


Trend Observations, Pt. I: To Infinity and Beyond

Since last Friday (9/28/18), I’ve been riding the high of trend observation. It’s a pretty straightforward concept: observe themes in entertainment, advertising, and your surroundings at large to establish relevant, timely trends.

What trend did I observe last week and how did it become more than just an idea and observation? Let’s get to it.

My girlfriend and I often settle down for the evening with a binge-worthy T.V. show. We had just finished watching the Hulu series Castle Rock (which I highly recommend) and were looking for the next series that would captivate us while we finished off our night with a cold one and a bag of chips. What did we find? The First, featuring Sean Penn. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the show, it’s a story about astronauts in the near future as they plan a Mars expedition.

Because we don’t pay for the ad-free version of Hulu, we get stuck watching commercials. To clarify: Just because I’m an advertiser doesn’t mean I like commercials any more than the next person. In fact, I can honestly say I hate commercials just as much as you do, if not more. But, when the commercial for the new iPhone XS came across my television screen, inspiration ignited in my mind like a freshly struck match. I thought of the soon to be released movie First Man and the film’s premise (The Apollo XI mission). I thought of The First. I thought of the iPhone XS advertisement. Epiphany: Space is in. Space is the trend.

So, that’s how I realized the trend, but what happened following the observation? Implementation, baby. Implementation and inspiration.

For our client, AO® Eyewear Inc., we created a social media campaign which I’ve affectionately titled “See New Worlds”. Our image content was space-themed and our audience is comprised of people with interests like, NASA, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Neil Armstrong, Cape Canaveral, etc. We’ve yet to launch this campaign, but audiences will be sure to see it within the next week or so. I’ll be making another entry in this blog following the results of this campaign, and I’m hoping they’ll be out of this world (pun intended).

So, in partial conclusion, inspiration and trend observation can be found anywhere and at any time, you’ve just got to be perceptive enough to notice.

Eric Troy

A master at bending plywood to his will, Eric is also a fledgling writer. Stick around so that you don’t miss the moment when his ideas take flight.


Want to Know What It Really Takes to Grow A Brand in the Cannabis Industry?

We’ll give you a hint, it rhymes with calls.

Cannabis branding, you know it’s a “real” thing when Adweek starts writing about it. Snarky sarcasm aside, there is something to be said when one of the most influential publishing platforms in advertising starts posting articles on best practices to brand your bud. And while this type of recognition is also vindication at the highest level (no pun intended), the legitimization of cannabis as an industry, while long overdue, is certainly not going to make building your bud brand easier. Cannabis is a billion-dollar industry; to think Fortune 500 companies and big pharma with their million-dollar marketing budgets aren’t going to be jumping on the Pineapple Express soon is not just short-sighted, but fatalistic.

Smart growers in the cannabis community know that once the federal government opens the commercial flood gates, their priority—in addition to growing healthy plants—will be nurturing brands that can thrive in an emerging market.

As seasoned advertising professionals (code for we’ve been at this a long time), both my co-author Brent and I have worked with clients from a wide range of industries from legacy brands to start-ups. And regardless of size, product, or service, we’ve discovered that the one constant across all good advertising is this: great brands don’t just know what makes them different, they celebrate it!

Federal regulations notwithstanding, should cannabis marketing be any different? We don’t believe so if your goal is to present an honest face to your consumers. It takes courage and a few calculated risks, but when brands are fearlessly authentic and creatively accountable, the risks are undeniably worth the rewards—just ask True Humboldt.

Of course, many of you reading this article have spent your days (years) developing your grow-craft, not managing national marketing campaigns. But that’s good, because while making a profit is important in any business, the passion you have for the product is what’s going to help you grow your brand without having to sell your soul in the process.

So, if you’re interested in developing a cannabis brand that can stand out among the competition, you may want to consider the following before you get started:

Be Really Clear About Your Purpose

Many people mistakenly believe a brand is a product or a logo, but that’s not the case. A brand is a collection of immutable characteristics that together represent a promise about:

  • What your company does, creates, or offers that makes it awesome;
  • Why everyone at your company wants to do, create, or offer this awesome thing; and
  • Whether your company really cares if this awesome thing matters to its customers.

A clearly articulated, authentic purpose makes it easier for customers to understand what they can expect from a brand, especially when it’s unapologetically and proudly reflected in the logo, website, packaging, content, and throughout the retail space. But when digital and physical experiences aren’t consistent with what a brand promises or is so weakly executed that the brand message isn’t shining through, then it becomes harder for consumers to trust you.

Get to Know and Love Your Customers

Strong brands don’t just have relationships with their customers, they have love affairs. And like all great romances, not only is it reciprocal, it may even border on obsessive. Just think about your first real crush, how many hours did you spend thinking about:

  • What they liked, or didn’t like;
  • What made them happy, or didn’t;
  • Could you orchestrate a way to talk them again, and when you did, what would you say;
  • What were their hopes, their dreams?

Ok you get the picture, but every relationship is built on trust, so be honest about your purpose and don’t be shy about it sharing it. If you’re not honest about this stuff then your customers are going to find out—maybe not right away, but ultimately, it’s going to happen. And just like dating, if you break your promises, if you try to be something you’re not, if you just aren’t emotionally invested in the relationship, then you’re going to get dumped.

Send the Right Message to the Right Customers

Because it’s not practical to market to every individual, begin by placing your customers into several main groups that encompass your main customer types and then create personas that represent them. The personas should include basic demographic information like age, sex, education, location, and so on. But it should also include factors like:

  • What is a day in their life is like?
  • What are their pain points?
  • What do they value?
  • What’s important to them when selecting a vendor?
  • What are their common objections to buying?
  • Where do they go for information?

Creating these personas allows you to send the right message to the right customers. For example, if middle age professionals are one of your major customer groups, they’ll likely respond differently to an ad that’s targeted at younger people just entering the workforce. By knowing your brand and who you’re trying to reach, you can focus your marketing and advertising efforts appropriately. This saves time and money, something you can’t afford to waste as a business owner.

Conclusion

Growing your brand involves being honest about what you want your brand to represent, learning who your customers are and what they expect from you, and having the guts to tell your message. If you can keep this mantra of honesty and courage in all your marketing efforts, it’ll pay off. Don’t try to be something you’re not and your brand authenticity will show through. As a bonus, you won’t end up selling your soul—just your grow.

If you like what you read, then check out our podcast for more episodes on creative accountability and how to bravely develop a brand in the cannabis industry at creativebrandwarriorpodcast.com.

Lisa Woodford

CEO? More like Commander-in-Chief. Someone’s got to aim our team’s creativity at the right target, and Lisa’s the woman for the job.

Brent Martino

How can so much mystery fit into his earthly frame? Who is the man behind the unicorn mask? Is it a mask? The world may never know.


AO Eyewear Block Island Photo Shoot

20 sunglass styles, 18 hours, 7 models, 5 crew members, 3 vintage cars, 1 legendary photoshoot. Check out this behind the scenes look at our recent lifestyle shoot on beautiful Block Island for our client American Optical Eyewear.

Brent Martino

How can so much mystery fit into his earthly frame? Who is the man behind the unicorn mask? Is it a mask? The world may never know.


Cannabis and Social Media

How Social Media Marketing Can Help Your Cannabis Business

At Paris Marketing, we think cannabis is pretty dope (insert picture of a pot leaf with a smiley face and sunglasses, here.), but more specifically, we think successfully marketed canna-businesses are.

So, let’s talk about how you can market your cannabis business on social media.

Sponsored Social Media Updates are a No-No:

For other industries, my first suggestion would be sponsored social media ads. For those of you in the audience that are asking, “what’s a sponsored social media ad?” allow me to elaborate: Sponsored social media campaigns are posts, tweets, updates, or other content that are backed by cold, hard, cash ensuring that the content shows up in the news feed of targeted users.

Why would you want to spend your money on social media ads? Because social media is an incredibly viable marketing source with a lot of potential for getting in front of the right people. Unfortunately, social media platforms are reluctant to allow sponsored advertising for cannabis under its current, federally illegal, status. When the Federal law inevitably catches up with forward-thinking state legislations, this is bound to change, but for now, sponsored social media campaigns for canna-businesses aren’t in the cards.

Organic Social Media Updates are a Go-Go:

So how can you utilize social media to increase your brand’s awareness, reach, and ultimately your bottom dollar without putting money behind social media content? Organic social media is the ideal alternative solution.

Organic social media is just a fancy way of saying you can post social media updates without putting money behind those updates. In early 2018, the kingpin of social platforms, Facebook, updated its algorithm to prioritize content that engages audiences (content that inspires conversation between users, is “Liked” more often by users, or is more relevant to connecting friends and families through social networking). By and large, this resulted in greatly reduced organic social media effectiveness for businesses. Why then, am I suggesting organic social media for your canna-business? Because if you provide relevant, engaging content to your audience, you can still reach those users who matter most to your business.

Canna-businesses lack the ability to sponsor content, making organic social media their new best friend. By maintaining a consistent posting regimen that promotes relevant content to your audience, your canna-business can still achieve great results from its social media efforts.

What content would be relevant for my business?

That all depends on what type of canna-business you’re running. For some businesses, photos of flowers would entice your audience. For others, showing your unique manufacturing processes and how they relate to the cannabis industry could be the stuff your audience craves.
Every business is different and should highlight what makes them unique, while still keeping the audience up to date with industry news and showing them content that entices.

In closing: Until federal legislation changes and social media platforms allow sponsored updates, organic social media is your brand’s best friend.

P.S. Don’t forget to check out Paris Marketing’s Creative Warrior Podcast.

Eric Troy

A master at bending plywood to his will, Eric is also a fledgling writer. Stick around so that you don’t miss the moment when his ideas take flight.


Content Marketing

5 Things to Know About Content Marketing.

First off, I’m a big fan of content marketing. I believe when done well it works for many. Done poorly, it’s a huge waste of time and money. Having said that, I’m not a huge fan of many content marketing agencies. I find many overpromise the effectiveness of content marketing as well as the level of time and money required to implement a successful program. If your company is considering a content marketing strategy you need to first make sure it’s right for you. As Flava Flav said “don’t believe the hype”.

Over the last several years, I have been pitched just about every content marketing platform out there, and I’ve worked on many different content marketing strategies for clients. Over time, I have learned much about the benefits and pitfalls of content marketing. Here are the five content marketing questions you should know the answers to before you pull out your checkbook.

What’s the total cost of a content marketing program?
Let’s get the question of budget out of the way first since budget is one of two things that prevent many content marketing programs from getting off the ground. Content marketing IS expensive. First, there is the cost of the platform. For packages that include the most-needed features, the top platforms charge between $800 and $3,000 per month. Many also have add-on features for additional cost as well as upcharges for more contacts. There’s also usually some sort of onboarding or training that is typically an extra charge.

There is another major cost associated with content marketing and that’s agency fees. Unless you plan to manage your content marketing in-house, you will need to pay someone to create all of your content, build landing pages, track results, build workflows, and report analytics. This gets expensive fast. The more you blog, the more content you put out, the bigger the chance you have to generate leads. But all that content comes at a cost. Make sure you have the budget to create the content you need to make this successful.

Many marketing tools are expensive, so is the expense worth it? It all comes down to ROI and what a sale is worth to you. If you’re in an industry where a single consulting gig can be worth tens of thousands, then spending 15 or 20k a year on a platform plus the cost of developing content, can be worth the investment if it means additional sales you wouldn’t have gotten without content marketing. If you are a smaller business with lower dollar sales, your mileage will vary, so be sure to weigh the costs vs. benefits of content marketing.

How much time does it take?
A lot, at least at first. It takes at least a couple of months to set up the platform. The basic setup is pretty easy; but once that’s done, you need to create templates for emails and landing pages, develop calls to action, create workflows, set up your analytics, connect your CRM if needed, and do all the training. You also have to create a good deal of content—blog posts, infographics, whitepapers, case studies, videos, etc.—these things take time. If you choose to do this in-house, you need time for your people to create this content. If you hire an agency, you will typically generate content faster, but it will cost you.

I find what often works best is to split the difference. No one knows your product or service better than you. Spend time creating the basic content, then give it to your agency so that they can turn it into beautiful content your prospects will want to download. You can also use content development companies like https://contentwriters.com/ who work on a pay-per-post model.

What if we can’t handle all the leads?
If by some miracle you get so many leads you can’t handle it, you should remind yourself that there are much worse problems to have. Luckily (or unluckily) this rarely happens. Will you get leads? Probably. Will there be so many that you can’t handle it? Probably not. If you are talking to a rep from one of the platforms or an agency pitching you on content marketing and they tell you that a content marketing program is going to bring in tons of leads and you barely have to do anything, you should run. Content marketing is just another tactic, that’s all it is. If content marketing was a guarantee of leads, everyone would do it and we would all be rich. Like all other marketing tactics, leads take work.

In reality, content marketing isn’t about pulling in mega leads; it’s about pulling in useful leads that you can walk through your sales funnel to weed out the bad prospects and end up with a handful of qualified leads who are actually interested in spending money on your product or service. This saves your sales team some leg work. Make sure your agency and/or platform provider gives you an honest answer on what to expect from your content marketing.

Content marketing will replace “blank”.
You have to love a marketer’s optimism. Everything new will replace everything old. Everything new and shiny is the best. Everything old sucks. Over the last 20 years, I have been assured that computers will replace paper; they didn’t. The internet will kill TV; it didn’t. Billboards are over; they aren’t. Content marketing will crush everything; it won’t. As I mentioned before, content marketing is a tactic, nothing more, nothing less. It’s not going to replace your sales team, or your website, or anything else. Marketing is a strategy that achieves an objective, everything else is a tactic to help make that strategy work.

Don’t be convinced it’s more than what it is, and don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Content marketing won’t replace other tactics, but it is a great way to tie them all together. Add a URL or QR code to your print materials to drive users to a landing page where you can capture their information. Offer a whitepaper or other download as the call to action for your YouTube videos or tv commercials. Don’t think of it as a replacement. Instead, figure out ways to combine tactics to make the most out of all of your marketing efforts.

Is Content marketing dead?
It’s not. It’s a little older and wiser, but it’s not dead. Just a few short years ago, content marketing was the new kid on the block. Content was king and the companies who did it well were pulling in tons of leads. Sure, there was a time—as there is with all new tactics—that content marketing was a novelty. Many companies did well with it at first. More companies implemented it and now it doesn’t work as well, how come? It’s not that it doesn’t work, it’s just harder to stand out. You are competing with massive amounts of content so you need to make sure you stand out. Put out quality content that’s useful to the prospect. Add content regularly and make sure it looks great. People are visual, no one wants to read the ugly whitepaper you made in Word.

Conclusion
Overall, I am still a big fan of content marketing. When done well, it can generate results. Just make sure you know what you are getting into. Make sure your agency and the platform vendor are honest with you. If it sounds too good to be true it probably is. Marketing takes work, content marketing is no exception. Measure your ROI!

My recommendation
My favorite platform is HubSpot. It isn’t the cheapest (it’s also not the most expensive), but the software is elegant, easy to use (with training), they have great support, and I feel they are honest when it comes to setting expectations. As far as my favorite agency goes, that’s ummmm…oh yeah, Paris Marketing of course.

Brent Martino

How can so much mystery fit into his earthly frame? Who is the man behind the unicorn mask? Is it a mask? The world may never know.


How to Ensure You’re Not Overpaying for Agency Work

Many organizations debate whether they should keep a marketing project in-house or outsource it to a marketing agency. One of the big factors that often comes up is how projects are scoped and managed within an agency. In this blog, I will explain how our agency, and many others in 2018, are moving towards the approach of tracking employee hours on client jobs.

Let’s start with scoping:
The statement of work/contract that an agency sends to a client is based on the estimated number of hours that the agency anticipates spending on the project. The agency creates this forecast based on their understanding of the project tasks and the amount of time each employee time each task requires. We use a tool called Function Point to help with employee timesheets, estimates, timelines, and jobs (other agencies use similar tools such as Workamajig, Workfront, FunctionFox, etc.). These tools allow agencies to look back at similar projects and validate their estimated hours with data.

The projected number of hours is not necessarily disclosed to the client but instead used to determine the price estimate. If the agency goes over the number of scoped hours and there’s no provision in the contract about this occurrence, the agency does not bill the client unless there’s a disclaimer regarding the use of change orders.

There are instances when (potential) clients push back on price and express that they do not have the budget for what has been scoped. The agency will then go through the tasks that have been scoped in the project and determines what can be eliminated to lower the cost for the client. For example, if the original estimate included three rounds of revisions on each deliverable, the agency may propose only two rounds of revisions on each deliverable to cut back the price.

Building honest timelines:
Once the client has signed off on the project, the agency can now look at how many hours the project should take. Based on the number of hours scoped, the project manager/account manager can build a timeline for the client. By basing project timelines on the hours currently spent on all active clients, agencies can manage their workload and allocate time appropriately to the creative department. Reviewing previous timesheets and studying the time it took for past projects allows account services to build honest timelines.

This, however, does not necessarily mean that the project will launch on the date outlined in the timeline. Within agencies, I find that the main reason for project delays is usually due to the time spent waiting to receive client feedback. As a client, the deadlines for returning feedback to the agency should never be over looked. Make sure to review the timeline in detail and let your agency know if it is not a reasonable amount of time for you to provide feedback.

Keeping enough staff on the client’s account:
One of the big benefits of tracking time is that it allows agencies to know when their employees have reached full capacity. If the amount of time allocated for clients are more than the available employee hours in a week, agencies can make the decision to staff up, backed up with data to show they have the work to support a full-time hire. A negative of keeping a project in-house within your organization is that if the project requires staffing up, your organization may not have the long-term need for a developer, designer, SEO specialist, video developer, etc. By using an agency, the agency absorbs the cost of increasing staff without the long-term costs to the client.

At Paris, each person working on a client account is asked to keep track of their time by adding their hours to the client’s specific job number that they are working on. This process is based on the project management software our agency uses (again, we use Function Point). For clients who have a retainer contract, they can either choose to be charged based on hours spent on their projects or a flat fee. We’ve found at our agency that flat monthly fees work best for our clients. Some months, clients will require extra help and we will spend more hours than estimated and some months we spend less hours than estimated; over the life of the contract, it balances out.

Overall, agencies who require employees to track hours have improved client relationships because clients understand the level of service they are receiving. Additionally, deadlines are less likely to be missed and clients receive the benefit of not having to hire temporary staff. In my next blog, I will discuss the benefits of having a retainer vs. project-based relationship with an agency.

Brittany Wong

Being fabulous is a full-time job, but somebody’s got to do it. Brittany loves meeting other amazing people. She’s also taking applications for a new best friend. Contact her for more info.


Marketing 101: How to Hit Your Target (Audience)

Whether you’re a marketing agency, a business person looking to increase their online presence, or an artist who wants to expand their following, knowing how to capture the attention of those who will find value in your product is essential to building your brand. In this article, Eric Troy explains key steps to reach that audience and achieve your targeting goals.

Step one: Know your brand.
Before you can determine your target audience, answer these three questions.
What is special about your product? What makes you—or your product—better than other sources? What elevates you above the competition?

Know your message, your product, and the value of that product before taking any further steps. After all, how can you set yourself above the competition if you don’t know what you’re bringing to the table?

Know your goals. Know your perspective. Know your skills. Know your brand.

Step two: Find successful examples of similar products.
Looking to the competition may seem counter-intuitive, especially after defining what sets you apart from them. But finding others in your field who have found success is essential to triumphant targeting.

By observing successful examples of similar products, you can see what they’ve done to acquire their following, and more importantly, you can see the individuals who comprise that following.

You catch a glimpse of your target audience.

Step three: Define your audience.
Sure, you want to increase your following, but what does your audience want? What are their interests? What are their hobbies? What makes them tick?

It’s impossible to know every aspect of the individuals who would have interest in your product. They are individuals, each with their own interests that deviate from the others, but what commonalities do they share?

Just as an artist first paints the broad strokes, then adds the color and finishing touches, so too must you determine the characteristics of your target audience.

Here’s an example:

Would a salesperson at Mercedes-Benz be more likely to sell a car to someone who works at the grocery store, or to someone who sells stocks on Wall Street? Who is more likely to be able to afford that vehicle, or even be able to rationally consider buying it?

If you answered, ‘someone who sells stocks on Wall St.’, congratulations, you’ve successfully determined one aspect of your targeting criteria.

Now, what would someone who would be able to afford a luxury vehicle be interested in? Fine dining? Custom-fitted suits? The PGA tour?

What media outlets would they follow? Business Insider? Forbes? The Wall St. Journal?

What age would the purchaser of a luxury vehicle likely be?
Think of determining the characteristics of your target audience as a funnel. Start with broad characteristics-blanket statements-and gradually narrow down to the specifics.

Step four: Use the right tool for the job.
We’ve determined the characteristics of our target audience, but how can we make use of this information?

With the characteristics we’ve compiled, we can now determine the best way to make our target audience aware that our product exists.

How will our target audience most likely see our promotional efforts? Would they be more likely to see our promotion in a newspaper, or from online sources? Would they be more likely to be watching cable T.V. or streaming videos on YouTube?
These answers will vary for each target audience you put your sights on, but the steps you’ve taken to determine who your target audience is will always retain their value. By knowing your target audience, you can discern which form of outreach will be most effective.

In closing, Following these four steps will help you find your target audience, determine their characteristics, and decide what approach will be most effective in reaching them. But the only way to see whether your targeting efforts are successful is by applying the information you’ve compiled.

Observe the data you receive after your promotional campaign has been launched, then adjust your targeting criteria accordingly to refine the characteristics of your target audience, or the outlets you are attempting to reach them on.

Your targeting toolbox is stocked, now get out there and give it a go!

Eric Troy

A master at bending plywood to his will, Eric is also a fledgling writer. Stick around so that you don’t miss the moment when his ideas take flight.