Good leaders are not as rare as you may think. Many individuals have risen to the occasion and faced the challenges that surfaced these last years: a pandemic, economical crisis, market oversaturation, talent burnout, and the logistical and organizational test of remote work. No sweat, right? The advertising and marketing industry as a whole has also faced troublesome hurdles, and specific field-related problems, with agencies specializing in certain markets that took a great hit, or regular clients lowering (and even canceling) their service demands.
At COR we are in the business of supporting agencies to optimize their operations as streamlined and profitable as humanly possible. Today we wanted to shine a light on what are the issues we usually see our agency clients struggle with, and how to solve them from the top.
Simple KPI tracking
It is impossible to occupy any sort of digital space as a business and not track your Key Performance Indicators. Well, it is impossible to do so and maintain a profitable bottom line anyway.
KPIs are vital for any digital strategy, be it marketing or advertising, these metrics are a requirement to keep up the agency’s goals at a business and project level. They are integral for setting business objectives, measuring them, and regulating the direction the agency will go in. In order to manage this, you need to acquire and store internal data as well as market research.
COR, our AI-powered all-in-one project management software manages to keep a historical data bank of every service provided, every task that amounted to a project, and how the talent managed to create their deliverables. This knowledge can be accessed in a simple and clear way with our reporting feature, granting Project managers, supervisors, senior executives, and C-Levels the valuable insight they need in order to make important decisions that will dictate future initiatives of the business.
These reports can help analyze the progress of a campaign in real-time, and evaluate the allocation of important resources like the talent’s time. It is even possible to inspect on a case basis specific period of time, clients, product or service types, and cross-reference the data.
Business intelligence and data-driven decision-making
Chief executives are usually the final decision-makers. And as such, they carry a big responsibility, in order to make the correct decisions they need to have the right datasets, and the insight from the people reporting towards them, as we mentioned before. This last detail can make all the difference.
When you are only looking at reports that passed by several hands, without seeing the crude data, you need to be sure the reports are flawless and are born out of the same information. For example, the CFO needs to make an analysis of the cash flow for the last quarter and promote an initiative regarding the findings. What happens when the information used in several reports is not taken from the same samples? The insight gained is skewed and could lead to an erratic executive order.
How can you be sure the knowledge is correct? Especially when you don’t have a huge finance department, which many small businesses don’t. Automating the data recovery is an amazing way to start. With COR’s automated time tracking, reporting, and template-making features you can be sure the information being introduced in the system is a transparent reflection of the state of the business, without wasting the employee’s time in mind-numbing data entry tasks.
Hindsight and simple visualization are a gift. With clear information and even forecasting the profitability at a project level, you can set a higher standard for payment and fee negotiation. On top of that, you can actually show clients the number of hours dedicated to their projects, and explain where the value your agency grants them lies.
In the rush of day-to-day agency life, it’s easy for employees to slip into multiple roles and responsibilities that are not inside their usual scope of work. Taking into account that the 3 main ingredients of any business endeavor are time, money and human resources it is simple to see why team members are burdened with tasks that may be outside their field of expertise. It is logical for these issues to happen when resources are stretched as thin as possible.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. Of course, every collaborator or contributor will put in the effort in order to meet deadlines and present the highest level of quality deliverables, but people work best in an organized and streamlined workflow, and in tasks for which they have the right competencies. COR is a holistic project management tool, every step of the way is taken care of: from task allocation to C-Level executives reporting.
Scheduling and task time estimation is a simple affair with our software, allowing PMs more time to support teams across the agency, and making sure everyone is doing the best possible job. When you let the talent work with sustainability, in a healthy environment, they will produce the best results for the business’s bottom line, and enjoy their time in the agency, thus reducing attrition levels.
Collaboration is key
Having spent a significant amount of time working from home, people have gained some important understanding of this new work methodology. On the management side, we know that it does not correlate with a drop in productivity. Offering remote work flexibility as an agency policy in the form of hybrid days can even be a competitive advantage when recruiting new talent.
But there is a downside to new office possibilities, and that is the loss of un-schedule conversations and moments that can bring a new idea to the table. The water cooler effect, if you will. And due to the very synergistic nature of these encounters, it is very hard to replicate. So what can you do? You need to present the space and opportunities for coworkers to build their team in order to foster collaboration.
Having a close-knitted team can do wonders for a project, it opens their vision, and allows for a healthy idea flow. That is why COR has managed to centralize operations in one tool. With its many APIs, it can keep an organized record of everything that is happening while never losing a thread of information, and keeping up responsibility and collaboration.
Time is one of, if not the most, valuable resource an agency has. It can be the basic unit of billing measurement, which translates into profit. Collaborative and creative-centered tasks are extremely hard to measure in units because the complex matrix of problem-solving that goes into deliverables is astounding. So how can you quantify the amount of work done in order to better understand the internal process as well as the costs of production?
COR has a time tracking feature at the center of its AI, where the tool offers a spreadsheet to every employee at the end of the day to stamp their OK regarding what tasks they invested their time in. This is not a means of controlling breaks or anything as inconsequential as that. The goal is to gather information on how much each task requires until completion, with this data the software is able to make project estimates and improve the accuracy of deadlines and planning.
Another positive aspect of this feature? It makes profit estimations in real-time, letting the team and the stakeholders know if there’s an area that needs modifications in order to stay on track. It can be an asset during client fee negotiations, arming the agency with detailed information to show where each expense comes from.
Taking care of the Talent
Agencies have an extremely bad reputation in the human resources area. It has become a staple in the popular consciousness that agency employees work more than the regulatory hours a day, deep into the odd hours of the morning, rushing to complete projects against the clock while getting a salary that’s on the low end. And while these notions are antiquated, the ad and marketing industry does suffer from terrible attrition rates.
Creative work doesn’t require an exceeding amount of certification requirements, but it does require an enormous amount of skill and intelligence. And those are not so easily found, the top talent is always receiving offers from competitors and other agencies. So in order to keep the best employees, you need to take care of them and offer the benefits they really need, not simple and ordinary empty perks.
Taking up from the previous point, in our all in one tool’s dashboard when you allocate tasks based upon the time you can better differentiate how much each collaborator has on their plate, and avoid oversaturation. COR shows each employee’s avatar with a color ring, depending on the number of hours they are assigned it changes color. So PMs can avoid overloading the team’s plate at a simple glance.
The first step into getting new clients is lead generation, attracting and maintaining high-quality leads is critical for the business side of an agency. Good lead campaigns use a multiple prong approach. And what happens in multiple prong campaigns? You use every possible format of marketing tool, from social media, data procurement, website, SEM, cold emails, and beyond. Everything with its own CTA, and data reception base in order to analyze what is bringing in the best results. Sometimes it’s hard to accurately differentiate what is the more valuable aspect of a strategy. High numbers do not equal high value.
What projects are the most costly? Are they bringing the best results? What is the behavior of those leads? Their loyalty? With COR you can separate the historical data to a client level and see what actions are the most valuable according to results and costs.
After leads, the next best thing. Leads mean nothing like a stand-alone rate, the conversion rate is what really reflects the value of the lead team efforts. But both rates and data are important to track, in order to know for sure what are the best strategies.
An important aspect to understand regarding this area is that certain campaigns take a very long time to deliver results. In the meantime maybe the team changed members, the market shifted, the industry took a sudden spike in popularity, or the agency’s overhead expenditures were greatly modified. So how can you be sure that the analysis done for conversions is a reliable comparison?
With COR you can track these important metrics in a centralized manner, and forget about losing precious amounts of time searching through old emails for additional information. It can also be a great way of employing risk management. Since the AI that powers our tool can show profitability analysis in real-time you can check important datasets even if the current fees, both for costs and invoicing have dramatically changed. This means being able to check the most representative data without losing information on the variables.
Creativity and innovation go hand in hand. In one of our talks with David Sable, we managed to discuss the current state of the advertisement industry. On the topic of trends and information technology, he explained that historically it has been one of the pillars of an agency’s work. The most eye-opening piece of knowledge he shared with us was that in the early days of the internet, advertisers and marketers did not jump into the new possibilities it presented. Which is odd.
Technology is advancing at breakneck speed and a constant re-actualization of knowledge is not only vital for agency talent, it can make or break a business. So in order to remain responsive and in shape, agencies must contribute to their employees’ continual education. With our features, you can check what are the types of tasks teams are struggling with, and promote training in difficult areas. You can also see what are the services that usually require out-sourcing collaborators, and see if they are a profitable operation for the agency. In a positive case, you can start to build that knowledge in-house, as a way of investing in the future of the agency.
This is also an amazing way of promoting the agency’s eligibility as a place to work in. If the only perks you offer are health care and fresh produce at the office you are missing the mark. Education and career options are really desired benefits, you can show why people would want to work in your business.
Managing a business is very hard. Managing an agency? Well, it might just be tougher. Many professional service businesses can have a difficult time scaling their operations, and agencies are not immune. Why does this happen? We don’t want to go into the nitty-gritty of an agency’s overhead costs and gross income fees. (We already did here and here).
The main takeaway of what we have seen regarding small agencies’ disabilities to grow and scale are born out of maladaptive internal operations. Which can fly under the radar when an agency has few employees and a small client pool. but the time comes for an effort to scale the business, adding more clients and talent, maybe moving to a new location with a bigger office, creating a partnership with a bigger operation, etc. And whenever this happens before doing a diagnosis of the internal affairs, the agency’s profitability can sink tremendously fast.
The explanation is simple, gross income does not necessarily correlate with a better bottom line, sometimes a growing operation can end up losing revenue. COR has made helping agencies its mission. We want to see healthy businesses that can operate profitably while giving value back to their communities and creating job opportunities. And if they wish to grow their operation they can count on us to support them every step of the way. If you want to know even more ways in which your agency can benefit from our tool, request a demo today.