Anass Koudiss | Global Education Programme Manager, Leadership
Reading time: 3 minutes
If you’ve read a newspaper or an advertising industry magazine in the last few weeks, it’s very likely that machine learning and automation were mentioned at least once. They’re the hottest new topics in the marketing world. As the tech evolves, and manual tasks move towards automation, it’s up to agency leaders to make sure it’s being used to provide new value to their clients and spur agency growth. Since every agency is unique, each will need to take its own approach. Every agency has its own strengths, growth opportunities and resource capabilities. What many agencies have in common, though, is their powerful ability to grow and transform quickly in an industry that’s constantly changing.
At Google, we’re powering our advertising solutions with machine learning. Automated solutions like Smart Bidding, Smart Creatives, and App campaigns take care of routine tasks, freeing up your team to focus on ad-testing, advanced insights, or more face time with clients. As with any big change, adopting this new approach takes a lot of planning. So we developed a powerful framework called “The Web of Transformation”, to help you envision the future of your unique agency. To get started, bring your leadership team together, print out this A3 poster, and spin your agency web with the following steps: 1. To begin, choose the eight most important dimensions that make up your agency. Specifically, pick the eight things that help you and your clients grow.
2. Feel free to choose from the suggestions here, but make sure you pick dimensions that make sense for your agency.
3. Next, with the help of your team, rank each of the eight dimensions from most important to least.
4. Finally, grade your ability in each dimension on a scale of 1 to 5. Here’s an example of what it should look like.
5. Make sure to evaluate and analyse where you excel, and where you need to step up your game. Ask yourselves the questions below to help drive the discussion.
Together, we can use this process to capitalize on automation and Machine Learning opportunities, as we've done before with mobile, multi-screen, and video. So weave your web carefully, it will give you a glimpse into the future of your agency.
In a world of superheroes, creativity is a real human superpower. Everybody has it. It doesn’t just live within certain types of people within an agency. We all have creative potential. But as we get older, safer and more comfortable, we run the risk of losing that creative spark as life becomes associated with routine and order. So is there a way to get back into your creative self? What methods from business, innovation or anywhere else are there to help you tap into that wellspring of positive ideas? We sat down with Doctor Frederik Pferdt, Google’s Chief Innovation Evangelist, for the Google Partners Podcast episode 31, and he offered some fascinating insights (and tips) on how to answer some of those questions. During the discussion, he offers his thoughts on how adults can rekindle some of the creative fire they had as children, and other key takeaways to spark innovation at every level.
According to Doctor Pferdt it’s not only about ideas, but also about asking the right questions, finding good problems and therefore developing a healthy disregard for the impossible. Find a “what if” and a “why”. As author and marketing guru, Simon Sinek recommends that you see if you can reframe the problem by getting to its roots. “Start with a Why.” Why do you normally approach a certain challenge from the angle you do, and why not step away from the issue and take a completely new perspective? Try something new. Get into a room, fill a wall or even two with post-it notes: what connections can you make and what new associations can you find, when you are free to consider them?
Every human being is looking for routines. They give us safety, security and save our brains energy. They make us feel good. That said, routines sometimes only help us to perform to our average level or below. Like putting your smartphone into ‘Low Power’ mode, some of the more complicated applications won’t work. To free us from the shackles of everyday thinking, it can be necessary to break those routines. Go and walk a mile, go check out a local gallery. Or even, as Jan Chozen Bay suggests in Mindfulness on the Go, pause and take a breath every time you walk through a door2. You can also make a list of your routines and they see if any of them are worth breaking (just as some will be worth holding onto).
Two modes for thinkers
As Doctor Pferdt mentions, it’s helpful to consider different approaches to thinking. According to him, there are two kinds of thinking: Divergent thinking powers the imagination, so it’s used for generating new possibilities and combining new thoughts. Convergent thinking powers your judgment, when you’re making decisions it’s how you evaluate and it’s the mode you use when you’re testing something or criticizing. Allow yourself to recognize which of the two modes you are using. For example, try to think divergently when considering your methods or plans, so that you can embrace new possibilities. Give your ideas a chance to breathe before you start to criticize (and think convergently). One practical example writers use: if you have a speech or memo to deliver, try writing it out with a pen and paper before you type it out, and don’t stop to edit yourself. Let the words flow first and come back to edit later. You’ll find the shape of your ideas, which you can then come back to and refine with your critical eye later.
Why is it that way, why can’t it be different? New, radical solutions mostly emerge outside of our comfort zone. Constraints should be welcomed as an opportunity. Consider early users of Twitter. Writing a coherent message in just 140 characters (as it used to be) seemed a crazy challenge. But the constraint became creative fuel to millions of messages and new ways of communicating in shorthand. Just as the rigid structures of the meter, rhyme, and theatrical convention were subverted by William Shakespeare - even as he adhered to them. From the Elizabethans to the present day, forms of convention and modes of communication move forward inexorably. The most successful thinkers and doers have to be ready to learn new ways and keep themselves learning, so they can stay in touch.
Build innovation into your daily routine
When you consider the pace of change in technology, it makes sense to include ‘innovator’ in your job description, in both your actions and attitude. What can you learn and take on in your thinking that will prepare you for the changes to come? Doctor Pferdt recommends adopting what researcher Carol Dweck calls a “growth mindset” (the idea that we can grow our brain's capacity to learn and to solve problems), which can start a virtuous cycle whereby believing you can improve, you actually improve. There is also a sense that having an open mind to new ways of working will not just be crucial in 2019 but might also be the key to agency success in the future. Scott Harrison, founder of The Boom! has this to say on learning at work and the importance of a certain kind of versatility.1
In the end, the challenge comes back to us all. How do you change your everyday approach to get creative? Tune in to the Google Partners Podcast to find out more; and let us know your thoughts on Twitter.
More than ever, people are speaking to devices as part of their daily routine.
In the same way that smartphones revolutionized the way we shop online, the impact of voice assistants is now starting to show through integration with phones, cars, TVs and homes.
We use the Google Assistant to put together shopping lists, manage our finances, and control our homes. But recent research has shown that we don’t just use voice to multitask - we use it to make purchases.
These insights show the massive impact that voice-activated speakers like Google Home are having on the average consumer.
They drive action
62% of people say they’re likely to make a purchase through their speaker in the next month, and 44% make weekly purchases. People are growing more comfortable using voice to shop online, and retail websites need to take notice. Speaking of growing more comfortable…
They're part of the family
Almost 70% of voice searches are made through natural language, not the keywords we use in web searches. And 41% of people say it feels like talking to a family member or friend, using words like “please” and “sorry” as part of the conversation.
They're part of the daily routine
72% of people say their speakers are used as part of their daily routine. From checking commute times in the morning to setting shopping reminders in the evening, smart speakers are now “part of the furniture” in an increasing number of homes.
More than half of the people we surveyed said they want to receive info about sales, deals, and promotions from brands through their speaker. This opens up a huge opportunity for companies to project a literal ‘brand voice’, strengthening their emotional bonds with consumers.
It’s not just special offers either - people want to hear from brands about a wide range of information.
As voice search grows in popularity, it’s up to agencies to stay up-to-date with the tech, and find creative and practical ways to integrate it into their clients’ campaigns. The best way to do this is to get familiar with Actions on Google Assistant.
The Google Assistant is the voice that answers when you ask Google Home for the weather forecast, or the app on your phone for the fastest route to coffee. Actions are the programming signals within the Google Assistant that process these requests. These Actions can be built for free by anyone, simply and effectively.
So if you have a restaurant client, you could build an Action to check the daily specials or order food for takeout. Or if you have a client in retail, you could build an Action for instant checkouts or personalized recommendations.
Google Assistant is available across over 500 million devices, and growing. It’s a major part of the future of online shopping and advertising. Before talking to your clients about its capabilities, check out this video playlist for everything you’ll need to build your first Action.
You can also find out more about how voice assistance affects consumer behavior with this handy video:
Consumers are more digitally savvy than ever before, effortlessly bouncing across channels and brands, making up their minds as they go. In fact, 49% of users visit 2-4 websites before they decide to make a purchase.* So how can we make sure our marketing is on-brand and in-sync with our brand message across platforms? By amplifying and strengthening that message with synchronized marketing.
Marketing is a team sport - each message needs to be in tune with another to survive in the ever-evolving advertising ecosystem. Marketers need to start thinking beyond a single campaign, and more about ensuring our messages are in-sync with one another, and the overall brand message.
Simply put, it’s taking integrated marketing ideas and expanding on them with the consumer in mind. There’s no need to abandon your marketing strategies, because a simple tweak may be all that’s missing in your plan. Here are five areas you can fine-tune to make sure you’re nailing your marketing efforts every time.
Define your purpose
What do you offer your clients that others can’t? What problems are you solving and how? Define what makes you unique, and let that message be the anchor that keeps your brand message consistent throughout, even when you introduce new products.
Keep the dialogue going
Thanks to the evolution of social media, marketers can continuously engage with their audience to keep their brand front-of-mind. A conversation that starts on Facebook can easily spill over to Twitter, blogs, and other mediums, amplifying the message for your audience. Let your customers know you care by responding to comments, complaints, and questions quickly and compassionately across all platforms.
Sync up your various platforms
Digitally-conscious consumers often blur the line between online and offline, reality and virtual reality. When marketing is synchronized, all touchpoints feed off each other. The conversational nature of social media is a great way to kick off a campaign online and then use the promoted hashtag on print, out-of-home and video ads, seamlessly marrying offline and online marketing efforts.
Repurpose and recycle content
Create content that you can repurpose across multiple channels. 60% of marketers produce at least one new content piece every day,** but pumping brand new content can be expensive. However, a stimulating white paper can be condensed into a blog piece, excerpts of key learnings can be shared on social media with a link to download the full report, and you can feature it on a company podcast discussing similar topics.
Treat employees like brand advocates
Employees are the heart and soul of the brand and can act as a direct line to a broader audience. People are more aligned with their online profiles than ever before, and happy team members that are proud of what they do will sing about it from the rooftops across multiple platforms. And their reach is incredible - a recent study found that employees have on average ten times more connections than branded channels online.*** They are the messengers that can make or break your brand, so make them feel valued and appreciated.
Synchronized marketing is all about thinking beyond a single campaign, and making sure every message we send out harmonizes across all channels. It’s tougher than ever before to know how and where a customer will see your brand for the first time, so make sure you provide a consistent experience throughout your marketing efforts.
The podcast industry is booming, so it’s no wonder savvy marketers are weaving them into their content marketing plans. They are a great way to reach your audience, and podcast listeners are also a loyal bunch: 80% will listen to a full podcast once they’ve started it, and 45% will follow calls to action after hearing them.*
With the marketplace experiencing a growth spurt and over half a million podcasts to choose from, there are no signs of podcasts losing popularity. But, it takes more than a microphone and an idea to attract such a highly engaged crowd. So, here are some tips on creating a podcast that survives the marketing ecosystem and stands out from the crowd.
It can be tempting to follow in the footsteps of the podcast greats, but if you want to generate interest and excitement, you should venture off the beaten path and find your niche topic. To do that, become the market and start researching what’s already out there. Start with something that interests you. Show up in the comments on some of the podcasts that you find useful, listen to what could be improved, and participate in the forums. Once you gather all your insights, sit down and deep-dive into your findings - an opportunity will be hiding in there, you just need to listen for it.
Be committed and consistent
Team up with like-minded people who enjoy the same type of content, to ensure you are all aligned on tone, topics and what you want to achieve. Building up interest and listenership takes time and effort, so having people pulling in the same direction is key to getting across the finish line. Consistency is key, so commit to a schedule you are comfortable with and stick with it. To set expectations, make sure you post regularly and at the same time.
Don’t be afraid to amp up your promotions or content to be heard. Recycling is great, but reciting the same old repertoire will only get you so far. However, this doesn’t mean that to succeed you have to reinvent the wheel and come up with something completely original. Instead of thinking brand-new, think better-new. Take something that’s already out there and put a spin on it; introduce a new way of looking at the topic, mix it up with a twist on delivery, or delight with a surprising host choice.
For example, the gaming podcast What’s Good Games is hosted by four female experts who are taking the predominantly male gaming industry by storm. The topic itself isn’t new, but the hosts’ unique insights put them at the top of the leaderboard.
Reward your listeners
Making your audience feel special and appreciated is a great way to encourage your audience to tune in to your podcast. So, reach out to them on social channels, and reward your audience with exclusive offers, content, and freebies. Shout outs and special mentions at the end of each podcast can also be an excellent incentive for people to stay tuned in until the very end, and it can help you connect with your listeners on a more personal level. Let them know that you’re listening to their thoughts, suggestions, and concerns. Not listening to feedback is the fastest way to isolate your fans, so ensure you’re actively taking notes on what’s working and what could be amplified.
Be loud and proud about your podcast! Learn where your audience lives online, to know how to reach them on channels they love to follow. Make sure to create a call to action - what is it that you would like them to do after listening to your podcast? Visit your website, download your e-book, subscribe to your newsletter? Choose one and sprinkle it at the end of each episode.
Create a buzz around upcoming episodes by teasing your audience with a short audio snippet, sharing fun facts about the topic, and what they will learn if they tune in. Harness the power and reach of social media to let your followers know about your podcast. Don’t be shy about sharing your podcast more than once - the social media landscaping is overflowing with content, and it is more than likely that some people will have missed your original post.
A podcast should be like a pop song - it should be playing on all stations. Make your podcast available on all main directories, such as Google Podcasts, iTunes, Spotify, SoundCloud, Stitcher, TuneIn, Podbay and Podtail to make it easier to find for your audience.
Repurpose podcast content
It takes a lot of time and effort to record a podcast. Repurpose that content and publish it across different mediums to make the most of it. Write a blog post using key takeaways from your podcast, publish videos of your podcast recordings on YouTube, create social media posts using quotes from guests, and promote your other content within your podcast. Look at your content marketing engine as an ecosystem that supports each other and helps it thrive.
Starting a podcast is no easy feat - it requires a lot of time to build up your audience, and hard work to cut through the white noise. But with a little planning, commitment, and research, this could become your path to a regular, highly engaged audience. Check out the video below for more tips on podcasts that resonate, and the Google Partners Podcast for more marketing insights and these tips in action.
Promoting diversity in the workplace isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s also good for business. Diverse teams are proven to be more innovative and creative, not to mention the tangible financial benefits it brings. Despite the clear benefits, the industry still has a long way to go.
So what can you do to ensure you’re promoting diversity in your agency too?
Build a diverse team
The first step is to seek out different mindsets. To create advertising that resonates with the vast diversity in the marketplace, we need to seek out and hire talent that truly understands different cultures. So, we asked our partners how they ensure diversity in their agencies and found that 31% focus on embracing diverse voices and leadership. After all, agencies with diverse talent can generate around 30% higher revenue per employee (Deloitte Insights).
Diversity is not just about being colorblind or gender neutral - agencies need to start looking beyond educational backgrounds, age, and portfolios too. The focus should be on the raw talent in front of them instead.
It’s important to work on creating an industry that nurtures a culture of voice, where everyone feels comfortable speaking up. There’s little point in hiring diverse talent and then asking them to act like everyone else. By embracing different backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives, marketers are in a better position to gain valuable insights that can help them tell more inclusive stories.
The hiring process is just the beginning. Far too often the boardroom chairs are occupied by men, and we need to start asking what we can do to change that. It is on us to always ask questions and ensure that we are striving for equality for all, at all levels.
Culture of empathy, not sympathy
Inclusion and diversity have to be more than just a once-a-year initiative. Diversity is an action, but inclusivity is a culture, and an agency’s culture is shaped by the people at the top. It’s important to strive for diversity across all levels, especially leadership. Having different experiences and ideas in the room naturally leads to more creative and diverse solutions, and a culture of empathy and inclusion.
A culture of empathy is the ultimate goal, and the company’s culture is defined by its leadership. It is therefore paramount to have diverse leaders and mentors for people to turn to for guidance. Agencies must strive to create a sense of belonging and an environment where everyone feels comfortable. That’s the only way to truly embrace different ways of thinking, and understand the value of the insights that brings to the table.
Make diversity an integral part of your business and create actionable, good habits to harness the power of diversity. Make it a habit to show your employees you appreciate their efforts, and that their ideas are valued. This will help transform your workforce into an environment where everyone respects and appreciates the different styles, mindsets, and ideas. After all, a culture where diverse thinking is celebrated attracts talent, improves team morale and employee retention.
Tell relatable stories
We care about stories that represent who we are and where we come from more than ever before. 85% of women say that ads don’t represent their real lives because more often than not, they are portrayed in stereotypical roles. To create stories that tap into this underrepresented culture, agencies need to have a deeper understanding and empathy for the audiences they are trying to reach. Brands that represent different kinds of people in a realistic way can make meaningful connections with people that rarely feel a campaign has been made for them.
Hold yourself accountable
If truly multicultural marketing is our goal, agencies have to hold themselves accountable. As you continue to work towards a more inclusive culture, here are three tenets to help you stay on track:
Commit - Diversity of talent must be at the core of everything you do. You must commit to striving for diversity every single day, and when your efforts fall short -- ask why. Not only is diversity in the workplace a moral obligation, it also has immense economic value to businesses (McKinsey).
Measure - Data speaks louder than words, so be loud and proud about how diversity is making a positive difference in your agency. Once others see tangible proof and the impact diverse talent can have, they’ll follow suit.
Talk - Diversity must be at the core of every hiring decision. Keep the conversation going about your efforts across all levels, and keep asking if you’re hiring talent that will push your creative talent to the next level.
Most importantly, agencies must be upfront when they’ve made a mistake and learn from it. Diversity is more than just an HR function, so agencies must take time to analyze their mistakes, so they know what they need to do moving forward.
Marketers are in a unique position to reshape the way we think and create positive change. The change won’t happen overnight, but every little step towards where we want to be is a step in the right direction.
Check out the video below to find out what other steps you can take to begin your journey to a more inclusive and diverse agency culture.
Strong client relationships can’t be built overnight; it takes time, effort, and dedication to develop them. But they’re also the cornerstone of any great agency.
Happy clients help you to:
Reduce churn - it’s far cheaper and easier to retain existing customers than it is to find new ones.
Improve loyalty - attract new clients organically through positive testimonials.
Reduce negative sentiment - unhappy clients are perfectly willing to share their poor experiences, and bad news travels fast.
In short, the more you put into your relationships, the more you’ll get out of them. But every client has their own unique needs, so one size never fits all. Luckily, there’s a few universal truths when it comes to strong communication. So follow these five steps to give yourself a solid foundation to build upon.
When you first meet with a prospective client, take the time to hear and understand what they’re hoping to achieve. Painting a complete picture of their goals and KPIs will help you offer a curated service that’s fully geared towards their needs.
Communicate openly, honestly, and quickly. Set an agency-wide target response time for all queries, to make sure each of your clients feels respected and valued. Avoid radio silence at all costs - even if you can’t give a detailed response immediately, get in touch to let them know you’re working on it.
Seek to understand
It’s difficult to juggle multiple clients, especially when you’re dealing with conflict. But in stressful situations, it pays to put yourself in their shoes to better understand their point of view. Ask questions about their business, and when you’re sending on reports make sure they have a strong emphasis on metrics they’ve identified as important.
After every email exchange, phone call, or face-to-face meeting, make sure you follow up with a list of actionable points that you’ll be implementing going forward. This helps to set realistic and achievable results within an agreed-upon timeframe, and reduces the risk of crossed wires affecting your relationship. After every project, you should also follow up with a discussion on what went well, and what didn’t. These insights can then be applied to future projects to make sure you’re always delivering what your client wants.
A missed deadline can have a severe impact on an agency / client relationship, so never make a promise you can’t keep. Push back on unrealistic asks, with valid reasons for why it can’t be done and an alternative solution. You always want to be accommodating, but work suffers when you’re in a race against the clock, and it’s important you always retain your client’s trust.
This honesty and openness can sometimes lead to short-term conflict, but the best agencies realize that conflict is forgotten quicker than disappointment. We even have stats to back it up! In a recent poll on Twitter, 39% of Google Partner agencies said that the key to strong customer relationships is to be engaged and follow up, while 32% highlighted delivering on commitments as their main priority.
We all have multiple clients, and it’s easy to forget sometimes that, very often, you’re their only agency. In giving you control of their online advertising, they’re trusting you with the keys to their business growth and development. If they’re confident in your ability to perform, that job gets an awful lot easier.
Take a look at the video below for more advice on building thriving relationships with your clients:
Every business has to begin somewhere. Where do you go for inspiration, and how do you find the right way to establish a viable new venture? How will you get from those first stages, huddled around notepads with coffee and dreams, to something more tangible on the road to profit?
The answer is, you can learn from those who have gone before. We’ve crowd-sourced advice from Google Partner agencies, ‘get up and go’ entrepreneurs and online experts, who’ve gone from ideation to setting up their businesses for real. What are some of the themes they keep coming back to?
Believe in yourself and don't overthink
Take the first step and go for it. Like Colonel Sanders, you just have to keep believing, taking your own ‘chicken recipe’ around the country until you succeed. As Shanee Kirk, of Shanee Kirk Marketing, puts it: “Be brave, be fearless as often as you can. Get used to hearing “no” and keep pushing forward anyway. Don’t give up!”
Be flexible to go with the times
You do need to have a plan and stick to it and this will involve discipline and noting down your goals. However, in this digital/mobile age, businesses that succeed need to be able to change course and respond to new practices.
According to Joel Crump, via LinkedIn: “Make a plan but don’t be afraid to stray from it. These days, it’s helpful to be agile and reactive, as technology continues to change our ways of doing business.”
Quick tips that linger
Our network of supporters at Google Partners also note apparent quick wins that can make a huge difference. Like making sure you have a good accountant and researching your target market. Sweat the small things, but dream big.
Is it the application of science or a sprinkling of magic that helps you convert leads into bona fide new agency business? We take a look at some of the tried and tested approaches that Google Partner agencies have put to work when turning warm leads into signed-up new clients.
Here are three top takeaways that can give you an advantage:
Do your homework about potential clients
It pays to find out who the clients are and do your research. Today, every company has a footprint online, and you’ll want to discover how they portray their brand on a variety of digital channels. If they are doing social media right, the tone of their tweets will give you an insight into how they operate. Look at their website, company videos, anything they’ve published. Consider what works well. Also think about what doesn’t work, as this will give you a route into what your agency could bring to the table.
Always be closing
The sales mantra ‘always be closing’ suggests you should continually look to close a deal and check a client’s readiness to do business. With agency leads, more likely it’s the case that potential clients will let you know when they are ready. But they’ll need to understand the added value you offer first. Naturally, your agency will want to be seen as digital experts, so a tip-top landing page on your web domain is a great tool to show off your wares. Make sure your headline copy is punchy and engaging, and don’t forget to use clear and well designed case-studies to add credibility to your story.
It's not us, it's you
However you approach a prospective new client, one thing is paramount: be useful. You need to find out which area you think they could use some help in (having done your R&D), and tell them about a clear solution your agency can offer. No sales talk. They will want to hear about the most relevant things first and foremost. Then you just have to convince them that you are ones for the job.
If you’ve ever butted heads with someone in your office, you know what a nightmare it can be. Did everyone just hear that argument? How am I going to face them on Monday? Will we ever move on from this? It’s a veritable obstacle course of awkwardness.
As the video below shows you, there are plenty of ways to resolve conflict effectively. While conflict is often unavoidable and in some cases can even be a good thing, it’s important to know what caused it to prevent future disputes, and to ensure it isn’t a sign of deeper problems.
Sometimes personalities clash
There is no right or wrong way of working - some people like to make lists, others prefer to wing it, some like to think their points through before contributing, others speak in order to think things through. Differing personality types may conflict with one another, and in this case you may need to compromise on a work style that suits you both and plays to your strengths.
Communication can break down
Lack of communication is another very common cause of office conflict. Maybe the means to communicate weren’t available, or time didn’t allow it. It’s important to identify what led to the breakdown in communication, and find out whether there’s a way to help this in future, whether it’s allowing more time for meetings or allowing face-to-face time instead of emails or phone calls.
Morale can take a dip for any number of reasons, and this might present itself as conflict especially if expectations are high and deadlines are tight. Talk to those involved, and find out whether this played a role. See what you can do to help, whether it’s providing extra resources to take pressure off, or rewarding their efforts. Sometimes small gestures go a long way.
However the conflict started, it’s important to address it early on, ensure both sides are heard, and move forward without gossip or rumor. It also helps to keep this video close at hand, in case you need to resolve any conflicts of your own.