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I've had discussions with several very senior agency folks from many of our top agencies over the past few weeks, and have an unsettling reaction to what I'm hearing. Either there is widespread arrogance—or widespread insanity—at the most senior levels of many of our finest agencies.
Let me explain. The conversations have started off (as many water cooler discussions undoubtedly do) with a great deal of bemoaning about the economy and the prospects for this year. Upon hearing that less than rosy outlook, I inevitably ask "what are you planning to do differently in 2009 that will help your agency achieve your goals?" The answer has routinely been that the agencies plan more of the same. More effort. Being more aggressive. Really hitting on the reviews the agency is invited into.
This, my friends, is madness. 2009 is going to be a tough, tough year, and to think that you'll do better by just working harder, or that you'll somehow miraculously do a better job in 2009 than whatever you did in 2008? Well, that's just crazy.
It's time to draw a line in the sand and recognize that there are structural problems with client retention and with business development in the agency universe. It's time to put in place strategies that will prevent client losses. It's time for "new" new business strategies. It's time to learn how great sales teams really sell in other industries, as opposed to the generic new business pitches that are given in most reviews.
The good news is that the agency industry in the US is filled with remarkably talented folks. The rest isn't rocket science. It just takes senior leadership to take a stand and decide that doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is insanity.