We are starting a series of interviews articles in which we ask agency owners, business leaders, and marketers, their views and opinions of the future of agencies with the fundamental changes we are observing during what we call The Great Agency [R]Evolution. Ryan Foland, our first guest for this series, told us about his approach to adapt to the change.
Meet Ryan Foland
Ryan Foland is known as a ‘craftsman of communication’ and a ‘black belt of branding.’ He coaches leaders worldwide on the art of simplifying messaging.
His 3-1-3 Method is a process whereby core messaging begins as 3 sentences, condenses into 1 sentence and then boils down to 3 words.
Ryan is a keynote speaker who has four TEDx talks, he is recognized by Inc. Magazine and Brand24 as a Top Marketer, and was named by Entrepreneur Magazine as a Top Personal Branding Expert. Ryan is the Managing Partner of InfluenceTree, a branding accelerator.
He specializes in helping companies and their leadership harness the power of authenticity by teaching them how to create content that reveals their whole self to drive differentiation, growth, and loyalty.
His book Ditch The Act: Reveal the Surprising Power of the Real You for Greater Success, will be published on October 25th, 2019 by McGraw-Hill.
What changes in the agency market are you observing in the last few years?
Over the last few years, there have been lots of changes that have, and will continue to impact agency marketing efforts. If I had to pull one off the shelf that is catching my attention and that I believe will continue to be important to watch, is the trend towards a focus on the importance of the customer experience.
I see the increase in attention towards customer experience branching out into two categories.
One category is what you would typically think of when you hear “customer experience,” as in how a company communicates and interacts with their customers along the buyer’s journey. The focus on can been seen in agencies working to create relevant content marketing. I believe this will continue to be a strong play, and plays right into the hands of agency models that do the heavy lifting of content creation for their clients.
The second side of customer experience that I am beginning to see is the focus on a new type of “customer experience,” specifically where employees are considered to be “customers” of where they work. Let me explain…
The reality is that people want to do business with people. Agencies traditionally focus on the end user or customer experiences and how they interface with a company and its products or services. If you want to be an agency that is positioned to be in front of the trends, you need to start to consider challenging the companies who have hired you to look internally at their employees as “customers” of the company.
We are approaching an era, where employees are looking for more than just a paycheck. In fact, I recently saw a tweet from Joe Martin, who shared a Harris Poll statistic that 70% of employees are somewhat likely to leave if they don’t get the career development they want.
You may be thinking that your agency is supposed to help your clients gain business, not necessarily help them keep retention of their employees. This is the old way of thinking. The new way of thinking is to realize that your client’s problems become your problems. If they are losing their employees, that will directly impact you.
The trick is to convince your clients, that their employees are a key piece to your agency’s ability to do your best work. When you do this, it opens up new channels of content, and new creative conversations.
As an agency, if you want to stay relevant, especially in a time when AI is quickly gaining traction to take over many of the traditional research roles that you once offered, you need to look at how to empower employees of the companies who hire you, to become brand advocates. And you do this, but helping those employees to build personal brands that highlight their expertise, and their passion for where they work!
How this content sourcing approach benefits clients and agencies?
When agencies start to help their clients get employees excited about what they are doing and encourage them and teach them how to be part of the content marketing machine, you can solidify your value and drive impressive results. As an agency, you can start to ask your clients to help identify employees who can share their stories and weave the employee narrative into the overarching content marketing and ad strategy.
A big part of this strategy can also be in helping to facilitate training for employees to feel more comfortable and know how to share what makes them excited about working for the company and what makes them excited about the products and services that they represent.
In essence, it’s encouraging employees to build personal brands by helping them to document their expertise around the products and services that they are selling or interacting with or manufacturing or marketing, in an authentic way.
This is a new way to look at employees as more than just human resources, but as actual people who are humans.
When you can humanize employees, you have a higher chance of connecting with potential clients than on a billboard or in digital adverts of products and services that you’ve optimized to get in front of a digital audience.
This is what we do at InfluenceTree. We help our clients learn the value of helping their employees better connect with themselves. There is ROI when you can successfully tap into what gets them excited about going to work every day. It makes them happier at work, and happier employees make for better interactions between your employees and your customers. And that is how it all ties back to the trending focus on “customer experience.”
We have all been on the line with a customer service agent, or have interacted with customer service or sales agents in person. We know when they enjoy their jobs, when they are happy, and when they are excited to be working at that company. If you want to help your clients truly deliver a great customer experience, then you need to show your clients that they need to look at employees as their primary “customers,” and ensure they have a great “experience” at work.
As an agency, when you are seen as the experts and help your clients understand the importance of supporting employees as a key function of the overall marketing strategy, you will solidify your role and reinforce the extreme importance of your services.
If you want to drive growth for your client, you need to impact their culture.
And you do that through empowering employees to be more human. I cover this in a book that I’ve written with Leonard Kim, called Ditch the Act. It serves as a guide book to companies showing them the value that their employees have beyond their job title.
When your agency can help do more than just manage ads and create content, you are helping the company leadership understand the importance of creating a “ditch the act” culture that results in employees being happier at their jobs, happier with what they do, and that will ultimately translate to them sharing their excitement on their own social channels. Together, this new approach will lead to better service, which translates to better “customer experience,” and ultimately more revenue for your agency and your clients.
How simplifying of communication like your 3-1-3® Method can contribute to a more efficient briefing, collaboration, reporting between client and agency?
The power of an axe comes from its simplicity, and the effectiveness comes from its blade. I find time and time again, that agencies who have axes, believe that having an axe is enough.
But they are wrong.
A dull axe is more like a hammer. And cutting things down with a hammer is a quick way to burn through resources and deliver low-quality results.
If you own an agency, it’s likely that your clients are stuck in content marketing quicksand, most of the time. They end up tossing together a confusing mix of product preach or information overload, then look to you to make it work and perform.
The solution comes in the meeting of the minds. That’s where the 3-1-3® Method comes in, a, proven process that empowers your agency to define with clients what they “really do” in 3 sentences, 1 sentence, and ultimately 3 words. With this small miracle accomplished, the marketing partnership gets better almost instantly, and performance arrives, on time.
The 3-1-3 Method can help agencies to
- Challenge their clients to the core, to get to the core
- Clarify how core messaging leads to actionable content that can achieve top performance
- Make content creation easier for clients with a better aim
- Pitch ideas faster and with more clarity
- Increase revenue and bottom line growth through empowering employees to become better brand advocates
The 3-1-3 Method is a great fit for agencies who are specifically looking for a fun and challenging exercise to re-focus and re-energize their clients. There is nothing worse than an agency meeting with a client, where everyone stares across from each other in the boardroom, bored with the same brainstorming jargon to help come up with new creative campaigns.
Once you and your clients are well down the path, going back to “square one” is usually not at the top of the list.
But when you challenge your clients to revisit the basics, and define core messaging, you might find that they have gotten far from being able to articulate the single biggest problem they solve, the highest level of what their solution is, and who specifically their target market are.
Re-visit these core elements and you will find a new found respect and clarity, as you help your clients regain the focus that they want. In fact. I dare you to ask these three simple questions the next time you meet with your clients, and see how difficult they really are to answer.
- What is the single biggest problem that the company solves? Can you explain it in one sentence without making any mention of what you do?
- What your solution, and can you state it in one sentence?
- Who is your target market, and can you describe them without saying “anyone” or “everyone?”
I also know from first-hand experience that agency owners can benefit working through it themselves. Try answering those questions yourself. I double dare you!
The 3-1-3 Method, challenges one of the core beliefs that is deeply engraved in entrepreneurs and executives heads — they think people care what they do.
I believe that people do not care what you do, but instead care about the problem that you solve.
The 3-1-3 breaks down how to simplify positioning and messaging in terms of the problem being solved. It also taps into the psychology of decision making which has applications for gaining new prospects through my “Permission Based Pitching” process.
Working through the process will re-spark confidence in answering the age-old question of “So, what do you do?” This is a gold mine for new ideas and creative ways to come up with new marketing campaigns.
Once you can simplify the core messaging, then you can use it as a compass for new content, and a diagnostic tool for existing campaigns.
We cover the 3-1-3 Method in my new book Ditch the Act, and we explain how this core messaging is a key ingredient to building both corporate and personal brands. You can also learn more at ryanfoland.com/3-1-3
Do you think that in near future clients will book agencies for cooperation similar to this how people book hotels, taxis, take away food nowadays? If yes, when this will happen?
I believe the future is here and in fact if you Google “I want to hire a marketing agency” you will get over a hundred and fifty Million results in less than a second. People constantly scour social media looking for experts and agencies. They end up having so many sites to go through that they some get analysis paralysis and give up on choosing a provider altogether, which should end up being you.
I also know if new companies who are looking to use AI to automate and compile large amounts of data to do some of the very things that agencies now have as part of their suite of services.
Don’t wait for the machines to take over, instead, leverage the one thing you have that makes you different from everyone. Want to know what that is?
Look in the mirror!
It is you.
The biggest mistake I see agency professionals make when trying to “start” on social media is jumping right into publishing content without taking the time to think through and define their personal brand.
What is a personal brand? A personal brand is what you want to be known for.
The reality is that people who don’t know you make decisions about you based on the information that they can find. This is why you must discover what you want to be known for, then start communicating it with the world, where your target clients are looking for it, so that you become recognized as the thought leader you are.
Your personal brand is essentially the collective information you share about yourself on your website, online feedback, and social profiles. It includes content you create like blogs, images, videos, etc. It also includes the content that others produce about you, like features in publications, podcast interviews, and online reviews (both good and bad ones). When all of the bits of information about you are put together, it forms a representation of you. That “you” is your personal brand.
Everyone has a personal brand already, but not everyone is taking control of their own narrative.
The trick is developing a personal brand that showcases your “whole” self, not just selected information that you think people want to see. In my book, Ditch the act, which is available now for pre-order through Amazon and Barnes and Noble, we take a deep dive into this concept of being the “real” you to find greater success.
Ditching your act and getting vulnerable creates a unique and somewhat ironic combination of differentiation and like-mindedness with your audience.
The sooner you can accept you for who you are, as a result of all your experiences, the sooner you will be able to take off the mask, ditch the act and reveal who you are as the truly authentic person you have always been, both digitally and in real life.
I said it before, and I will say it again. People want to do business with people. So make sure that you showcase you as a person, in addition to touting the success of your agency alone. This goes true for owners of the agency, and for employees that work for the agency.
The way to stay competitive in a market that will offer more and more technical solutions, is to double down on being human.
To learn more about Ryan check his website: www.RyanFoland.com