Where Agencies Go Wrong: Know Your Client Better Than They Do.

A good friend came to town who runs the websites for a major clothing retailer. I hadn’t seen him in a few yearsand we talked about work, among other things. He bemoaned the ad agencies that come in and pitch them, interview him (the IT guy) hoping for answers, and try to add value to their business. He scoffed,

“How could they possibly know our business better than we do?”

I get his point, but he was off by one word: business.

It’s probably true, more often than not, that an agency can’t know the company as well as a long-time employee, but the business is much larger than that.

Knowing the business starts with understanding the customers – your audiences. What makes them tick? How do they feel about your brand? How are their lives and habits changing?

Knowing the business also requires an intimate understanding of the competitive landscape. Who is on the verge of disrupting your business model and mowing your lawn, so to speak?

I believe in the perspective that a good agency partner can bring to any company, any brand, any organization, regardless of how great they may be. Even brands like Apple, Nike, and Trunk Club need help. Agencies attract and employ people obsessed with psychology, cultural anthropology, behavior, research, and trend-spotting. There is no substitute.

If you work on the agency side, remember the bar is set high. You can never really know their audiences and competitors as well as you should, so never feel satisfied.

Search: The Overlooked Medium in Advocacy Campaigns

Search is well-established in ecommerce as a must-have medium. Without solid search performance, companies lose. But in the DC-centric issue advocacy world, advocacy organizations are missing out.

I’ve written about many of the reasons why advocacy organizations should care about search on my company blog: Search: The Most Underrated Medium in Advocacy. Others, like the good people at CQ have picked up on it: The Case for SEO in Advocacy. Here’s a summary:

  • Search reaches the unbiased middle – the people you need to sway
  • Search is trusted and top-heavy, so you need to perform well
  • Journalists use search in their jobs, so there is PR value to be had…not to mention link building
  • Search performance builds over time, driving down your costs to drive traffic, acquire advocates, and generate actions. With paid media, you get what you buy — not that paid media is bad, it isn’t — and costs usually rise.
  • Search delivers eyeballs. They can be yours or a competitor’s

There are groups doing it well and taking advantage. Just try googling “gun control”, “tpp”, “fracking”, and others to see what you find.