AdAge’s annual Small Agency of the Year Conference is being held in Chicago on July 26 & 27, and marketers and agency execs everywhere should attend. This event recognizes the best in small agencies from overall agency of the year to agency of the year in regions and in areas like media, experiential and international. The awards include categories for different size agencies and this year also includes categories for the people behind the work, like Creative of the Year; Strategic Planner of the Year; Media Planner of the Year; and Account Manager of the Year.
Why attend? Well, to start with the speakers and panelists are first rate. Mark Figliulo, Tom Denford, Tom O’Keefe, Kerry McKibbin, Jeff Sweat, Krystle Watler, Laura Janness, Kristen Cavallo, and many others… including yours truly.
Well, if you’re a marketer and you want to hire the next Translation, OKRP or FIG – this is a great place to start looking.
If you run a small agency and you want to be the next Translation, OKRP or FIG – then you should come and see what you can learn.
As a prep for the event, we’ve put together a number of resources for small agencies and marketers, including how to register, why previous winners won, why a marketer or agency exec should care and even a plan for agencies to follow if they want to win in the future.
At Mercer Island Group, we love small agencies and we’d love to see you at the event.
Why should small agency execs and marketers care?
We wrote at length about this here. Suffice it to say if you are an agency exec, it is great for business. Sandy Greenberg of Terri & Sandy recently told me:
“I’ve told AdAge editor Judann Pollack a million times that winning top honors at the AdAge Small Agency Awards led to more new business inquiries than anything else. Our phones rang for well over a year.”
If you’re a marketer, you really need to know these firms. Small agencies like these winners have an incredible commitment to helping clients succeed:
Kate Higgins, Erich & Kallman: Being identified as one of the agencies who are rising above the fray is always appreciated but winning during the pandemic is even sweeter because of how hard the team had to work to make sure we delivered for our clients.
How did past winners win?
We interviewed a number of past winners and their smart commentary is here. A quick summary:
- They had a good story to tell, and it was well told.
- It takes a strong team and great clients.
- Momentum is a key driver of success.
5 Strategies to win: Small Agency of the Year
The five key strategies that we learned can be found here. These strategies were based on what we learned from our discussions with a number of fine agencies – all past winners – and they are a blueprint for how an agency should approach the challenge of winning Small Agency of the Year:
1. Have a plan and a story to tell.
SAOTY winners are interesting shops that have a point of view and a distinctive, interesting story to tell. And they build a plan to tell that story effectively. What makes your agency special? How is that expressed? How are you planning to tell the world?
“Don’t be afraid to tell your true story. Ad Age wants to see how you faced a difficult situation like the loss of a big client – and how that may have propelled an agency forward. These stories show the agility of a small agency to move fast and take decisive action.”
– Toni Lee, Toni Lee PR, an independent PR consultant to agencies
2. Focus on your clients’ success.
Client successes and new client wins are the most visible sign that an agency has something special to offer. This success is the agency’s proof that they deserve attention and becomes a core part of the agency’s story. Help your clients succeed and you’ll have a good story to tell.
3. Get PR help.
4. Get on the radar of the selection committee.
These folks have tough jobs. Be warm, friendly, and helpful. Be planful and selective in your outreach, and always be responsive to their requests as they live on deadlines.
“It helps if your Small Agency submission isn’t the first time Ad Age is hearing from you. The PR your agency does throughout the year can play a significant role come judging time, as it’s worked consistently to keep you top of mind in a world of constant clutter and competition. Having your agency be a regular part of the industry conversation and having your work and wins raise eyebrows and gain coverage across various publications throughout the year only helps support your small agency awards submission and narrative. It all just sort of works together.”
– Alyssa Siegel, founder, AJ Media Communications, an independent PR consultant for agencies
5. Start early.
You can’t tackle the first four strategies without starting early. Want to win in 2023? Your agency should be starting now. Use this plan.
Mercer Island Group has helped a number of agencies win their biggest ever client and have helped clients manage hundreds of successful reviews. Feel free to reach out if you have a question about how to find the right agency, or if you’re an agency, how to be unavoidable to prospects. Or stop and say to us at the conference!
Steve Boehler, founder, and partner at Mercer Island Group has led consulting teams on behalf of clients as diverse as Ulta Beauty, Microsoft, UScellular, Nintendo, Kaiser Permanente, Holland America Line, Stop & Shop, Qualcomm, Brooks Running, and numerous others. He founded MIG after serving as a division president in a Fortune 100 when he was only 32. Earlier in his career, Steve Boehler cut his teeth with a decade in Brand Management at Procter & Gamble, leading brands like Tide, Pringles, and Jif.