Thursday, June 24, 2010

Need an alternative to your agency?

I've recently utilized the following content for an eblast to the Texas market. We continue to hear about how companies are having a hard time with their agencies and the three most prominent themes that we hear about are that they are too expensive, they don't listen/or understand, and those actually working on their account tend to be at a junior level in capabilities/experience.


Need an alternative to your agency?

Does your agency actually understand your business?

Why is it, when an agency is pitching for your business they send the flashy pitch team, and when the deal is done, they quietly usher in the "B" team to deliver?

The result: you spend a majority of your precious time managing them and in the end, you see the creative and gasp, "they just don't get my business."

There is a different way - an ideal way - to manage creative and marketing initiatives. With Creatis as the alternative to your agency, you will discover creativity in alignment with your business goals - at a fraction of the cost. Seriously.

Ready to manage your business, not your agency?
Call 877.558.3233 or e-mail:

With Creatis as your creative partner, your ideal day starts today.


I'm curious to hear your reactions to this approach.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

"Have we weathered the storm?"

Is it time to start spending on marketing again?

A February 2010 CMO Survey ( based on a nationwide poll of 600 top marketers conducted in partnership with the American Marketing Association and the Fuqua School of Business, projects an optimistic future that may put some wind in your sails as we navigate through the rest of this year and into 2011. Finally a forecast that gives us hope and encouragement!

The CMO Survey highlighted:
  • Increase in Marketing Spend. Marketing budgets have taken a beating the past few years, and the winds should change and set us back on course. Marketing budgets are anticipated to rise by over 5% within the next year. Of course, the area that will see the largest allocations are expenditures for Internet marketing. Also, branding and customer management will receive significant increases, as well as allocations for social media - even in the B-to-B companies. Social media is going to stick around for awhile as companies continue to refine how it fits into their overall strategy.
  • Increase in Hiring. This is what we've been waiting for. Over half the companies polled are planning on hiring new marketers within the next six months, which is an increase of 8% over last year. However, marketing executives will seek marketers that have skills specific to Internet marketing, customer relationship and brand management. B-to-B product companies are projected to lead the pack in hiring, followed by B-to-B service companies.
  • Increase in Outsourcing. Currently over 72% of firms outsource components of their marketing programs, and over 40 percent are planning on increasing outsourcing. Companies need to continue to stay flexible and focus on the strategy of their products and services. By engaging with key outsourcing partners, companies can maintain control of brand and strategy while focusing on what is important --the needs of their customer.

 What does this mean?

Even though marketing executives are optimistic about the future, it may not be smooth sailing yet. New standards and accountabilities have been set, and metrics need to be met in order to sustain the increase in spending and hiring.

Marketing executives have been required to be more precise with their planning, discern how to get more impact and leverage with their budgets, and they've been required to establish effective resources for marketing analysis and return-on-investment.

As you experience calmer waters and you are given more resources to deploy, be careful not to fall back into old habits of over-hiring, overspending, or implementing initiatives that lack measurement or accountability. Consider alternative solutions - such as Creatis or other strategic partners - to maintain flexibility and effectiveness to weather the next storm.

"Never in my life before have I experienced such beauty, and fear at the same time. Ten icebergs so far today ..." - Ellen MacArthur


Monday, June 14, 2010

Top five influencers when marketers pick a new agency

According to the RSW/US 2010 New Business Report on "A Client's Perspective on Agencies", when marketers are deciding on a new agency, the follow factors are the top five in influencing their choice:
  1. Advice or recommendation from a colleague.
  2. Timely approach by an agency.
  3. Recommendation from a marketer from another company.
  4. Quality and content of agency websites.
  5. General, unattributable awareness.
So, obviously, creative firms and agencies need to continue to work on their referral programs to find new business. Most people are more open to working with someone they've discovered through a referral, which also reflects on the impact that social media is having on providing real reviews.

Another note, is timing. Call it luck, if you will. If firms can connect with marketers when there is a need, then the chances are much higher that an engagement will occur. So, as I've always believed, in order to be lucky, you have to at least be present to win!

So, how do agencies be "johnny-on-the-spot" and work the referral angles at the same time? Deliberately.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Thinking of hiring? Think again!

Embrace the new economy with a new labor model

There are inklings that the economy is coming back. Stocks are up -- slightly. Consumer spending is up -- a little. And, according to the American Staffing Association's (ASA) Staffing Index, temporary and contract job growth increased 25% from the beginning to the end of 2009. Growth in temporary/contract hiring typically indicates strengthening of the economy as it emerges from a recession, and employers generally begin hiring permanent employees soon thereafter. Which could have you thinking about beefing up your staff this quarter or next.

But wait! Before heading down that beaten path, you may want to consider how the business world has changed -- and how best to navigate hiring today.

Workforce flexibility is a success marker

In an article from Current Issues in Economics and Finance, two Federal Reserve Bank of New York economists noted, "Use of temporary or contract employees to smooth out labor needs has grown substantially ... Firms increasingly hire temporary help when they are busiest and then cut back when demand falls." This corresponds with the Bureau of Labor Statistics' projection that "Employment Services" (primarily staffing) will be the country's second-largest growth industry through 2016.

Looking deeper into the trend, a study published by Decision Sciences Journal back in 2001 (in the midst of our first recession this decade) found that companies that embrace workforce flexibility perform better. The study concluded, "Increased reliance on contingent (i.e., temporary and part-time) labor ... is associated with superior subsequent performance..."

But the good news is that flexibility benefits everyone: employees, employers and the economy at large. In a 2006 survey of staffing employees, the ASA found that a flexible work schedule was important to two thirds of respondents, and 88% would refer friends to work as temporary or contract employees. Below is a list of benefits the ASA has attributed to a flexible workforce:

Flexible Workforce Benefits
  • Flexible work schedule
  • Hiring flexibility
  • Labor market flexibility
  • Variety of employment opportunities
  • Access to specialized talent
  • Lower unemployment
  • Training; new skills development
  • Opportunity to try out a variety of candidates
  • Worker training
  • Bridge to permanent employment
  • Reduced trauma of layoffs
  • Enhanced productivity

The advantages of flexibility came home to me in particular last year. A client had converted a number of Creatis employees to full-time employees for their in-house agency -- when the economy was strong. When the recession hit, they laid-off most of them. If the client had kept the employees as contractors through Creatis, they would not have had to go through the pain and expense of layoffs, and Creatis would have had the opportunity to redeploy them to other clients.
So, as the economy gains traction in 2010, don't hire -- keep your workforce flexible and your staffing resources ready.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Agency Headaches and Heartbreaks

The breakdown in agency-client relationships

Agencies will pull out all the stops when pitching to win your business -- from marvelous rich-media presentations to charming meet-and-greets with senior management. But once the hoopla is over and the agency is settled in as an extension of your business, what happens when there is a breakdown in the relationship? Is it a minor headache or an intense heartache?

Addressed in an article from BNET Editorial from, agency-client relationship expectations need to be discussed both during the selection process and as the relationship matures -- for better or for worse. It is important to set clear expectations up front.

Following is a list of typical comments clients offer in frustration, as well as reasons why agency-client relationships break down:

  1. "I don't think the agency 'gets' our business." The agency does not have a solid grasp or understanding of the client's business.
  2. "I explained the budget up front. Why are we so far off?" Expectations like budgets, deliverables and quality are not met by the agency.
  3. "Why do I have to push them to get things done? Shouldn't they be able to manage my needs?" The agency is devoting too little time or resources to the account.
  4. "I don't feel they are bringing new ideas to me anymore." The agency is losing enthusiasm for the account or the relationship becomes stale.
  5. "I brought them in to help me with my challenges, and it has backfired on me." The agency feels that poor results are caused by problems on the client side.
  6. "Why do I have to tell them the same thing three times? Are they listening?" A communication breakdown prevents the agency from understanding or responding to the client's real needs.
These areas of frustration can quickly change from headaches to heartaches if they are not resolved quickly. However, the first step is to be proactive and set expectations right away. Both parties need to level-set to understand the needs and wants of both sides. From there forward, setting structured review meetings to discuss the relationship and expectations is very important in developing a strong long-term partnership. Expect there to be headaches, and be prepared to swiftly resolve them.

At Creatis, we frequently have companies approach us due to frustrations with their agencies. Either the agency has told them that they are a full-service agency but have failed to deliver on their promises, or the list of headaches have mounted to the point that they need to make a change. Although Creatis is not impervious to the issues that can arise from a breakdown in the relationship, we are driven to understand expectations up front, and to manage the headaches with open communication and forward-looking problem-solving.

Consider the alternatives

BNET mentions, "Many agencies claim to be good at all types of marketing and call themselves 'full-service agencies'. However, a single agency may not always be able to meet your requirements in all areas." Take note. Some of the headaches may be coming from agencies' struggles to live up to full-service expectations. Consider appointing alternative or specialty firms, such as Creatis, to handle specific services such as marketing planning, creative development, media buying, social media or product development.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Are you building a brick wall or a cathedral?

There is a story set in medieval times that tells of a traveler who comes upon three stonemasons. He asks each in turn: "What are you doing?" The first answers, without hesitation, "I am cutting this stone." The second, who appears to be doing the identical job says; "I am building the wall." The third, again seems to be doing the same job slowly raises his eyes to the sky and says, "I am building a cathedral."

Who are your cathedral builders?

Are you prepared for the grand migration of creative and marketing talent? It is upon us. As the effects of the recession linger, people on both sides of the employment equation continue to be haunted by the uncertainty of long-term employment. Many valuable marketing professionals - your cathedral builders - were sent adrift in 2008 and 2009.

There are a number of top marketing and creative professionals who have either chosen to go it alone, or have been pushed out on their own - and they are prospering as a result. The recession has required that companies and professionals think outside the box, take risks and try new alternatives. We are in a very entrepreneurial stage, and we should embrace it.

As companies start to gain momentum, the valuable employees who have been retained - your cathedral builders - may now start to look for new opportunities and new challenges. We shouldn't be surprised. Even at the height of the recession, was reporting on the importance - and scarcity - of high-value employees. According to a January 2009 article by Alex Dodd, "Human capital is the asset that drives organizational success, and the battle for this finite resource is becoming more and more intense. 20% of established U.S. companies will lose upwards of 40% of their top talent over the next four to five years."

A trend toward a more flexible business model?

In his article, Dodd concludes that forward-thinking companies will implement a flexible approach to managing their workforce. Bringing in specialized expertise and extra hands as needed may become the preferred model, while companies that rely on old, inflexible hiring models will be "pummeled."

There are plenty of benefits to a flexible workforce approach. Companies throughout the Twin Cities and Texas have discovered partners like Creatis to help them manage their creative and marketing initiatives through the peaks and valleys of their business, without hiring and without overspending with external agencies. Some of these benefits include:

Cost savings associated with a flexible model to respond to marketing resource demands - an efficient way to manage through the ups and downs of this economy

Cross-pollination of ideas with experts from other industries and corporate cultures - consider alternative and creative solutions for your initiatives

Retaining talent - your cathedral builders - they are the drivers of your organization's future success and should be allowed to focus on strategy rather than tactics

Support your top performers - your cathedral builders

We have quickly moved past the first decade of the twenty-first century, and it is clear that creative and marketing departments are being redefined, due in part to the 2008-2009 recession. We are leaving behind the remnants of twentieth century business practices and entering a new period in which flexibility and innovation are rewarded. We are not only cutting the stone and building the wall, we are building cathedrals. Creative and marketing departments are now challenged with doing more with limited resources while retaining and supporting their top employees.

We need to take time to support these top employees - help them find the right balance and challenge them with new opportunities. Recognize them for their contributions. And as you move forward in managing your business, remember that companies that consider new alternatives will create a competitive advantage for themselves and their employees. Be entrepreneurial, consider the alternatives, and build your own cathedral.

"Behold! The future of the marketing department"

"When it comes to the future, there are three kinds of people: those who let it happen, those who make it happen, and those who wonder what happened." - John M. Richardson, Jr.

Recently, I was engaged in a lively discussion with a group of CMOs and marketing executives from within the CMO Network on LinkedIn. The question that started all the active dialogue was, "What will the marketing department look like in the future?" CMOs from companies across the globe responded with a variety of forward-looking, futuristic perspectives.

A few key themes or perspectives that resonated include:
  • The marketing department will be smaller, but more powerful. Some departments will be populated by strategists and analysts to respond to the ever-changing marketing conditions and the demanding needs of consumers and buyers. The non-critical functions will be outsourced to specialists. However, smaller does not mean less complex or less robust. It actually means more market-driven power with a level of flexibility to respond. This will allow the department to focus on the customer and the market segment requirements.

  • The marketing department will redefine and streamline media strategies. In today's battle for attention, and the availability of rich content through various media outlets, there are large numbers of consumers who compartmentalize their media consumption - using the Internet to the (near) exclusion of any other media, reading nary a newspaper or magazine in print form, spending less (and shrinking) time looking at television.

  • The marketing department will focus on KPIs and metrics. Marketing can no longer run from being accountable to the top and the bottom line. Marketing will continue to be held to the fire for budgets and outcomes with an emphasis on metric-focused environments and major attitudinal shifts. There are too many organizations where "marketing" is just seen as the "comms people," rather than something that is absolutely core to the business. Metric-driven marketing will be critical and ROMI (return on marketing investment) be it on a project, group or organization, will be expected.

  • The marketing department will embrace integrated media. Yes! Even though "integrated media" is not a new catch-phrase, vehicles such as social media, SEO strategies, and other new tools will become just "another tool" in the marketing toolbox. We will most likely see fewer separate organizations on "Web marketing," SEO/SEM marketing and social media marketing in the future, and strategies will develop to be much more comprehensive.
As you look to the future to enhance your marketing department, be forward-looking as you set up your strategies, and allocate your budgets. Because the information landscape is changing so swiftly with the consumer, you will need to adjust your business accordingly. However, the core principles of marketing have not changed, so we need to be prudent on how we craft our future, reach our customers, and maintain relevance in their minds.

Where does Creatis fit into all of this? Creatis has a valuable window into how many companies set up their marketing departments, and our vantage point provides us with valuable insight into how organizations either cling on to old-school ways or aggressively work to reinvent themselves. If you would like to learn about our perspectives or experiences, please contact us at, or call 877.558.3233 to learn more.

"My interest is in the future because I am going to spend the rest of my life there."  - Charles F. Kettering