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Hank Blank - Why Agency Case Studies are a Blessing & A Curse

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Published on Mar 31, 2016

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I know from the many times that I have conducted agency reviews that clients want the security of agency case studies.
Experience is one on the key ways that agencies get on the short list.
It provides reassurance for the client’s management. Some talking points when they bump into their boss on your way to the bathroom and they get to do their sixty second update.
They tell me that yes I am considering them because they have done great things for similar clients with similar problems and have had success. At the start of a search you can’t tell your boss that the agency has great chemistry because you haven’t met them.
They can also talk about the passion of your agency, if your agency sent them a first class submission that they are proud enough to share.
The good thing for those agencies is that you have what clients want. Clients want experience.
That’s the blessing and here is the curse.
It may keep your agency in a box you want to escape.
Sometimes agencies only have cases that are a stretch for the pitch. Agencies will always stretch in the new business game even if I fail to see their relevance. I have also been entrapped by the drug of the chase only to end up in the trap of failure.
Clients comment that they like their creative for other clients but end up saying they aren’t a fit for them.
Yes the bad thing about your agency case studies is that it can define you in a place you may want to leave but don’t know how to leave.
Often the case studies you have are for clients that you no longer have but that’s all you’ve got that the client may find relevant. It’s a house of cards that can easily fall.
Often your case studies were done by new employees at other shops and you turn that energy into a case but it is not yours. In times of transparency their relevance will probably fade away.
So how do you break out of this chicken or egg scenario?
I’ve worked at shops that have developed spec creative for clients they don’t know and send them unsolicited presentations. I’ve delivered them personally when I couldn’t off the tap of wasteless enthusiasm at the agency. Every New Business person has been in places that they don’t want to be.
I’ve seen agencies that have worked pro bono for nonprofits and hip clients that don’t believe in advertising.
They may win awards but I wonder if they win new clients?
The best way to escape the curse is to expand you ring of client circles within circles of similarity. If you have an automotive client then chase tire or accessory companies.
But if you stretch too far you will end up like Icarus and fall back to earth.

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