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    The Wacky and Wonderful Agency Holiday Cards of 2014

    By Jami Oetting


    It's that time of year again. 

    The time where agencies use all their remaining creativity and joyful spirit to create festive holiday cards, videos, websites, and even fruitcake. It's also the time where agency staffers are given free reign to get down-right weird -- and this year did not disappoint.

    If you're looking for messages of goodwill and hope for humanity, you won't find it in these examples, but you will find awkward people dancing around in onesies, a hipster santa, and a Pomeranian in 12 different outfits. And isn't that the most you can hope for this holiday?

    Check out this list of the weird, wacky, and wonderful world of agency holiday cards:


    There's nothing like pelting your ... Read More

    How to Increase Profits From Your Existing Clients

    By Jami Oetting

    As an account manager, your most important priority is developing a trusted advisor relationship with your client. Although some of that will come from genuinely empathizing with her, when you achieve the goals you both agreed to, listen to her, co-collaborate, and educate her, you earn her trust, gratitude, and respect. If you own a small agency, we’re betting that you (or your principals) wear this hat as well.

    Your next priority is to improve each client account’s profitability. Why? Because it’s far easier and less expensive to get more business from a loyal client than to find and close a new one. Acquiring a new client can cost four to 10 times as much what it costs to retain an existing one. (This is a major reason why strong and strategic account management is so crucial to an agency’s success.)

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    The Top-Drawer Business Books of 2014

    By Jeff Swystun

    You've probably already seen a few lists of the top business books of the year. This is another one, but with a spin: The tongue-in-cheek title describes books that are top-of-mind, notable, relevant, well-written, practical, thought-provoking, and innovative. 

    As Robert Weider said:

    Anyone can look for fashion in a boutique or history in a museum. The creative person looks for history in a hardware store and fashion in an airport.

    These books should be kept within easy reach for repeated reference.The top-drawer list has always been less than traditional (or duplicative), as too many of the other best business book lists are narrow in both definition and focus.

    That is why this list includes books not categorized as “business.”

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    What Ad Execs Really Want in a New Hire [Agency Collective]

    By Jami Oetting

    You read a job decription, thinking how you have all the skills needed to perform the required duties. So, you refine your résumé to highlight past experiences, and describe how you are the perfect fit for the position in your cover letter.

    Yet, you never hear a word from the agency. 

    You're left wondering, why didn't I make the cut?

    Landing a job is about more than what you know.

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    Why You Don't Need Agency Experience to Launch an Advertising Agency

    By Gary Vaynerchuk

    We’ve all heard LeBron James talk about how he wants to be a tight-end in the NFL. People laugh at that. The youngsters don’t remember Deion Sanders and Bo Jackson played two sports. We underestimate the idea that many athletes in today’s world could, after a short while, become dominant players in a totally different sport (Yeah yeah, I know you’re all thinking, “But Michael Jordan … ”. I get it.).

    Why am I talking about this? The reason I’m painting this picture is that I believe business is very similar. For a lot of people on the outside, it appeared that my move into the agency world was some big audacious thing where I thought that my Twitter following would somehow translate into successfully acquiring clients for an agency.

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    13 Brands That Mastered Marketing on Vine in 2014

    By Jami Oetting

    Social video has had more than its six seconds of fame.

    In 2014, stars (or specialists in the micro-video format) emerged and partnered with big brands, and the platforms hosting the videos matured to provide advertisers with more tools and functionality -- including auto-play and sponsored videos.

    These short videos are in big demand. And brands are using the format to make a big impact on buyers.

    Here are 13 brands that exceled at using Vine as a creative outlet in 2014:

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    Greg James of Havas Media on Programmatic and Native Advertising [POV]

    By Jami Oetting

    Havas Media was founded in 2012 after Media Planning Group (MPG) and Media Contacts merged. The agency currently employs around 1,000 people in North America and operates in 118 countries. Greg James is the chief strategy and development officer for Havas Media.

    Where did you get your start in advertising?

    I actually started my career in film, theater, and production. I was a marketing manager on the Edinburgh Festival in Scotland and had amazing exposure across the branding, sponsorship, PR, and promotion of about 100 shows and arts companies. From there I landed in a PR agency that was working on a lot of entertainment brands and personalities, and things led from there into bigger brands and different kinds of advertising, media, and marketing.

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    10 Things Agency Marketing Directors Should Track and Report on Each Month

    By Amahl Majack

    Many agencies fail to make the investment to market their own firm. They are worried about client KPIs, not their own sales pipeline or website conversion rates. 

    If, however, you are one of those firms that understands the need to invest in growing your client base through scalable campaigns, then you also know you need a monthly evaluation of your marketing campaigns to understand what is working -- and what's not. 

    But with so much data available, which metrics really matter? The best way to determine which KPIs you should measure is to document your agency's business objectives. That means sitting down with decision-makers at the company to determine overall goals and how you can help the agency achieve those.

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    5 Reasons Why Your New Hire Interview Skills Suck

    By David Shepherd

    All hiring managers know that evaluating candidates when hiring is tough work. Most of us just hope that we don't make a mistake and bring on a person who either can't be trained or is detrimental to the agency's culture. The sad truth underlying this statement is that most hiring managers don’t do the hard work to improve their interviewing and candidate selection skills. They chalk up their successes to their aptitude, but they blame the candidate when he doesn't work out. This absolves them from the responsibility to improve.

    It is time to come clean, look yourself in the mirror, and admit it: You stink at interviewing candidates.

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    Jeter, Penguins & Potty-Mouth Princesses: 10 of the Best Ads of 2014

    By Carly Stec

    The most effective ads become a part of our culture.

    They prompt dialogue and debates, they convey meaningful messages, and they aim to create a visceral response.

    Unlike sorry, stale ads that parrot back the status quo, influential ads aim to break new ground.

    These ads made us laugh, made us cry, and in some cases, made us question our conventional wisdom, but above all, they earned our attention in 2014.

    From the jokesters at Dollar Shave club to the brilliant minds behind the Pepsi brand, we’re tipping our hat to the best moments in brand creativity this year.

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    The Single Most Important Metric to Measure Your Agency's Financial Health

    By Patrick Armitage

    What’s the difference between the good and the great agencies? Good agencies churn out great strategy, keep clients happy, and maintain a healthy new business pipeline. And really, shouldn’t every agency be doing this anyways?

    Great agencies are the ones that continue to grow and scale in spite of countervailing market forces by putting their financial interests first. Prioritizing financial interests starts at the top, but they should be understood by every employee within an agency. After all, agencies don’t sell widgets -- they sell time. And if employees, the people ultimately responsible for how that time is spent, aren’t well-versed in the finances of an agency, how can they ever be held accountable?

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    The Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide for Agencies

    By Jami Oetting

    You thought shopping for your 16 nieces and nephews was a challenge.

    But choosing gifts for your agency colleagues is making a trip to Toys R Us on Christmas Eve sound like a vacation. You don’t want your bad gift to become the subject of the next office happy hour or the thing people remember when you win your first award at Cannes (One can hope.).

    If you're struggling to get into the festive spirit, yet don’t want to be the Scrooge who opts out the tradition of goodwill, then peruse our list of pin-worthy gifts for six different professionals in your office.

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    What to Look For When Hiring a Performance-Driven Marketing Agency

    By Paul Roetzer

    The marketing services industry is in a state of flux. As CMOs navigate the marketing talent gap, they are increasingly seeking performance-driven agency partners that are immersed in marketing technology and staffed with digital-savvy professionals. SMBs need partners that can deliver fully integrated solutions and in essence function as outsourced inbound marketing teams. Large enterprises commonly look for niche expertise in core digital disciplines such as content marketing, paid search, SEO, social media monitoring, and analytics to complement internal marketing teams.

    The future belongs to dynamic agencies with more efficient management systems, integrated services, versatile talent, value-based pricing models, a love for data, and a commitment to producing measurable results. These tech savvy modern marketing firms thrive on change and continually apply advances in technology to strengthen their businesses, adapt their services, and deliver greater value to you, the client.

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    The Good, Bad, and Ugly of Published Agency Pricing

    By Mike Lieberman

    If you run an inbound marketing agency or are transitioning from a more traditional agency into an inbound marketing agency, you’re getting a lot of advice from a lot of different people on how to be successful. You job is to sift through the advice and adopt what works for you and your agency.

    One of the things you are probably considering is, “Should we publish pricing on our website?” Once you start looking some of the more popular and successful inbound marketing agencies, you see that a majority of them do publish pricing on their site. However, before you make that decision, you should be aware of the pluses and minuses of putting pricing on your site. 

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    Don't Risk Destroying Your Culture: Know and Live Your Values in These 3 Areas

    By Heather Whaling

    It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day minutia of tasks, meetings, and emails when you’re running an agency. But what happens when you get so busy sweating the small stuff that you lose sight of the bigger picture? Suddenly, the agency you’re running is far from what you wanted it to be -- and that’s not good for anyone involved.

    Why do people want to work for you? Why do clients want to work with you? What are those beliefs and nuances that make you, you? If you want to ensure your agency grows in the right direction, you have to crystallize those values first. Then, use them to guide how you make decisions and approach your business.

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    12 Tips for Negotiating and Winning Your Next Contract

    By Jami Oetting

    You’ve finally persuaded another prospect to do business with you. Now, it’s time to negotiate the contract. But secretly, you’d rather get a root canal. (Especially whenever it’s a big company with a purchasing department.)

    You dread negotiating because past experience says you’ll find yourself at one end of a rope playing tug of war. Instead of acting like partners, you’ll become adversaries. In the end, you almost always feel dissatisfied. You worry that you’ll either lose your shirt or leave money on the table -- both are less than ideal outcomes. 

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    8 Marketing Skills You Need to Land Your Dream Job in Ad Land in 2015 [SlideShare]

    By Jami Oetting

    The advertising and marketing industry is facing a talent crisis.

    The complexity of marketing and advertising is growing as fast as innovation in technology occurs -- a pace that is difficult for any industry to keep up with. But brands and agencies can’t afford to be the tortoise or the hare in this story. They are simultaneously trying to catch up and look ahead for the next disruption or barrier that could cause their brand to fall behind.

    This provides an interesting opportunity for driven marketers who want to advance their career, change jobs, or get into a new field.

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    3 Tips for Improving Your Agency's Sales Forecasting

    By Matt Sunshine

    Improving sales forecasting is critical for the long-term sustainability of any business. This is especially true at an agency, where the majority of expenses are tied to personnel. Forecasting requires you to have accurate information and a steady pipeline to make the best decisions for both immediate needs and long-term growth. That’s what drives sales performance and maximizes revenue potential. Your goal is to avoid what I call the curse of, “I have a good feeling about this one.”

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    5 Last-Minute Mobile Marketing Tips for Holiday Campaigns

    By Jessica Stephens

    This holiday season, retailers are looking to mobile marketing to connect with busy, on-the-go shoppers.

    Online shopping on mobile devices has recently overtaken desktop for the first time, and 52% of website visits are now made via mobile phone. It's the right time to get your mobile strategy in place, and it's not to late to attract holidays shoppers looking to check items off their lists via their personal device.

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    The 6 Secrets to Achieving Sales and Marketing Alignment in Your Agency

    By Scott Miller

    Business development says they need more leads. Marketing produces more leads thinking they’ve satisfied sales. Sales doesn’t follow up on the leads, stating that they need quality leads -- to the dismay of marketing. So marketing attracts a more targeted prospect, resulting in fewer total leads. Then, sales demands more leads. This vicious cycle spins ever further out of control.

    Sound familiar?

    It’s not just your clients that face this dilemma. Advertising agencies or marketing firms with more than 20 employees lack the very alignment they preach. 

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    5 Areas Agency Owners Must Consider When Planning for Growth in 2015

    By Starr Million Baker

    December is upon us, and that means the year-end sprint has begun. On top of end of year client to-do’s, agency owners should be turning a close eye to what the new year will mean for their businesses. Growth at all costs? Or only if it’s in line with the bottom line? New staff or new training for current staff? Squeeze the most efficiencies out of your current space, or go for that shiny new office downtown? 2015 is a blank canvas at this point.

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    Inspiration For Non-Creatives: Where To Look When You’re Out Of Ideas

    By Jacqueline Zenn

    There are hundreds or even thousands of websites and resources for anyone looking for creative inspiration online -- everything from design round-ups to lists of examples and more. And that’s great -- if you’re a designer or work in a similar creative capacity.

    However, if you are on the account side at an ad agency or similar gig, these sources of mostly visual inspiration are excellent but not quite applicable to your daily work life. Here are some places where you can find real inspiration and key takeaways that will help you get excited to go to work on days when you don’t even want to get out of bed (hey, we’ve all been there). So let’s get started...

    1) Reddit And Specialized SubReddits

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    5 Steps You Need to Take When Switching From a Billable Hours Model

    By Paul Roetzer

    Billable hours can present challenges for both clients and agencies. Most clients want control, especially when it comes to a budget. But because time tracking isn’t exact and agencies make a habit out of rounding time, they never really know how much a campaign will cost -- or what exactly they paid for when all is said and done.

    Tracking hours also causes issues for agencies. Employees, for one, have little to no motivation to be efficient. Agencies evaluate and reward employees based on billable hours, so the focus is now on quotas rather than delivering the service and quality necessary for a successful campaign.

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    How to Align Your Agency’s Case Studies With the Buyer's Journey

    By Jami Oetting

    Your agency’s website can’t be just a brochure for your service offerings and contact information.

    Consider this: Forrester Research found that B2B prospects could be anywhere from 60 to 90 percent through the buyer’s journey before even contacting a sales person. If your web presence doesn’t sell for you, then you may never get the chance.

    Case studies educate prospects throughout the buyer’s journey, making them important for both people trying to understand their problem and those who are comparing your agency to your competitors prior to purchase.

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    What to Look for in a Marketing Director for Your Agency

    By Brian Hasenbauer

    While many agencies consider every employee an expert in marketing, there comes a time when you need a single point of accountability for your agency’s marketing. You know this from working with your clients. Campaigns are executed more smoothly when someone with experience is at the helm.

    Having a marketing director leading your agency’s efforts can accelerate agency growth, create a consistent brand message, and lead to increases in revenue. But some agencies are hesitant to hire a full time marketing director -- they can't imagine actually spending money marketing their own agency.

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    3 Tips for Preventing and Managing Scope Creep

    By Nicole Hoglund

    We've all been there. A new relationship with a client begins; you’re both happy and ready to get going. You outline the services your agency will provide the client, determine payment and timelines, and gleefully get started on the tasks at hand.

    Then, one-by-one, small requests start to come in that weren’t part of the contract. You feel inclined to complete them, as you want to make sure the client is happy. Next, larger requests start pouring in, and since you have opened up the door to doing out-of-scope work, things begin to spiral. The project gets bigger, your costs go up, and your revenue goes down. 

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    Etsy, PEZ and Cadillac: The Stories Behind 35 Iconic Brand Names [Infographic]

    By Jami Oetting

    Naming your company used to be easier. You could slap the founders' initials or last names on a piece of letterhead, add an ampersand, and secure a listing in the Yellow Pages.

    Now, small startups even have a global presence, so they need a memorable brand name. They add an -ly, drop vowels, or double up on consonants. It makes it easier to secure a URL, albeit more difficult to pronounce. 

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    From a Fortune Teller's Mistake to Gaga in a Cher Wig: 5 Ads to Watch This Week

    By Jami Oetting

    The New York Times advertising columnist Stuart Elliott announced that he will take the paper’s buyout, and there is no news if or who will replace the well-respected journalist who has covered and commentated on the industry for more than 23 years. Google’s newest report confirmed your fears: More bots are looking at ads than humans. And someone "wasted" billable hours finding look-alike dogs for people who work in advertising.

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    How to Keep Up With Consumer Trends

    By Sara Kohles

    Staying ahead of the competition is not just about winning new clients; it’s about survival. As we all know, understanding the ever-changing and endlessly diverse consumer is the holy grail for marketing agencies. Knowing the current consumer landscape and predicting the future will help your agency and your clients stay ahead of the curve. But how can marketers, especially those who are not in consumer insight roles, stay on top of recent trends?

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    12 Questions to Help You Craft a Killer Creative Brief

    By Jami Oetting


    Great creative briefs have one primary function -- to inspire your creative team to come up with the most brilliant and effective communications response to solve a particular problem. Its secondary function is to confirm back to the client that you “get” her problem, strategy for solving it, and the objective you must achieve.

    So what makes a “great” brief? Clarity. Brevity. Inspirational language (which may include slang and swear words). The creative brief isn’t being published online to the masses for approval, nor does it need to be PC for your client’s board of directors.

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    UX vs. Marketing: Can These Opposites Attract?

    By Anthony Franco

    The first volume of The SoDA Report revealed a disturbing survey result earlier this year. When asked about talent gaps, 77 percent of agency respondents identified user experience (UX) as the biggest shortfall on the client side. One possible explanation is that the UX discipline is still a “field in evolution”. While the report offers UX infancy as a cause for this glaring talent gap, another answer could be that UX and marketing have fundamental core values that are in direct opposition to one another.

    The primary function of marketing is to sell to the customer; the primary function of UX is to serve the needs of the customer. One campaign, one application, or one digital product simply cannot do both.

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    The Complete List of Cultural Trends to Watch for in 2015

    By Jami Oetting

    Understanding culture, and using this intelligence to create relevant and appealing advertising, is something all agencies struggle with. And while some brands think they can easily jump into these cultural conversations, there are enough instances of missteps to make any company’s social media manager nervous (DiGiorno Pizza, Build-A-Bear, New England Patriots -- the list goes on).

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    Begin Planning for 2015 With the 3 P's of Agency Success

    By Bob Klein

    Agencies are notorious for being owlishly focused on what helps to power our clients’ successes. We go to great lengths to clearly define and achieve results.

    But what of the agency itself? How does an agency define and report on its own success? At the risk of pointing out the obvious: an agency wants what every other business wants — superior return on investment.

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    How to Retain Your Client When It Decides to Go Global

    By Kevin Freedman

    How do you prepare yourself for the day when the brand you helped build decides to go global?

    Maybe you’ve been with the brand before anyone had even heard of the company. And now, the brand is considering entering the global market. It needs an agency that can handle this. What assurances can you give your client to prove you can handle a campaign on this scale? And if you manage to convince them to stick with you, how do you plan to deliver?

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    Is Advertising Art? Famous Artists Tackle the Debate for The New York Times

    By Jami Oetting

    Branding no longer only applies to blue chip companies wanting to increase awareness or corporations dealing with a crisis.

    It is a tool everyone from authors to entrepreneurs to recent college grads are employing.

    But what does this changing world of marketing mean for artists? A group that is known for its secrecy and self-imposed seclusion. While the artist's product has always been a matter of public debate, the artist usually projects a layer of privacy to separate the creator from the creation.

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    What's in a Name? What 6 Popular Brands Are Called Across the Globe

    By Erik Devaney

    Vincent: "And you know what they call a Quarter Pounder with cheese in Paris?
    Jules: "They don't call it a Quarter Pounder with cheese?"
    Vincent: "No man, they got the metric system. They wouldn't know what the [heck] a Quarter Pounder is."
    Jules: "Then what do they call it?"
    Vincent: "They call it a Royale with cheese."

    While the cinephiles in the room will be quick to point out that I'm quoting from Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction, I'm also highlighting an example of a business (McDonald's) tailoring their marketing to better serve a particular audience.

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    How Retainer-Based Pricing Creates a More Stable — and Happy — Agency

    By Mike Skeehan

    Most of us are seeking stability in our personal lives: security, a feeling of safety, the calming effect of steadiness. While true stability originates from within, external forces oftentimes influence the degree to which we are close to or far from a peaceful interior disposition that is the result of stability.

    Our agency spent the first five years of its existence as a project-driven organization. One consequence of this is that our revenue base could fluctuate significantly from month-to-month, whereas our monthly costs stayed relatively static. We’d make money in one month and lose money in the next, which is a cycle that results in a certain lack of peace and a perpetual sense of chaos.

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    Don't Ever Say These 5 Things to Your Clients [Infographic]

    By Emma Snider

    Sales is all about talking, but there are some things that should be left unsaid. Recognizing when it's time to expand on a topic and when it's time to hold your tongue is a talent learned with time.

    However, no matter how long you've been in sales, some of the most problematic verbal misfirings can still work their way into your speech. This infographic from OPEN Forum details five of the worst to eradicate first.

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    Stay Ahead of Hiring to Avoid the Dreaded Talent Rut

    By Jack Ogilvie

    Most people in sales have heard the mantra “A-B-C” (always be closing). We have a similar mantra, “A-B-R", where R equals recruiting. As an agency, talent is your No. 1 resource. You need to attract the best people to maintain a consistent growth trajectory. So the question becomes, “How do I grow a talented base of personnel?”

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    Nail Your Next Pitch With These 5 Tips

    By Billy Fischer

    Leading business development for a small, fast-growing agency has been one of the biggest, most invigorating challenges of my career. During the past year, we’ve participated in a variety of pitches. In most cases, we were the smallest -- and youngest -- agency in the mix . There were times I was so excited I could hardly contain myself, and others where I knew we should have declined from the beginning.

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    Banking on Cryptocurrency: Why Marketing Agencies Should Accept Bitcoin

    By Kathleen Booth

    One of the biggest challenges any business faces is cash flow, and marketing agencies are no exception. With most agencies getting paid on Net 30 terms, there is a huge opportunity to improve cash flow by shortening the payment cycle. This can be accomplished in a variety of ways, from changing terms (which isn’t very client friendly) to providing clients with an expanded menu of payment options (more client friendly, but sometimes costly for the agency).

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    A New Year for New Business — Why You Need to Invest in Time Tracking

    By Corina Ludwig

    The end of the year is a time when many of us step back from our daily grind to think about ways to make next year a better one. We resolve to make personal changes that will improve our lives, like eating healthier or exercising more. The sad truth is, though, that most of us have difficulty keeping these worthy resolutions beyond the first few weeks of January.

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    Black Friday 2014: Is Your Brand Ready for the Online Rush? [Infographic]

    By Jami Oetting

    It's the busiest shopping day of the year.

    And as ecommerce has grown, more consumers are inclined to sleep in and skip the lines on Friday morning in favor of shopping from their laptop or mobile device. Even more appealing is the opportunity to shop during Thanksgiving day, giving people an opportunity to ignore their Uncle Fred's crass remarks and instead focus on purchasing that perfect pair of shoes -- at a discount, of course.

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    8 Epic Marketing Fails From Big Brands

    By Kayla Matthews

    Sometimes a marketing campaign just doesn't work. Maybe you chose the wrong venue or the wrong medium or the wrong time of year. All forgivable. Sometimes, however, it’s much deeper than that: You chose the wrong message. Less forgivable.

    On these rare occasions, your brand’s storytelling doesn’t just fail; it blows up in your face.

    Read More

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