The January Conversation.

Over the past decade, I’ve heard a familiar set of complaints from my ad-seller clients at this time of the year. There’s no visibility…Clients are late releasing budgets…Agencies don’t have any planning direction yet…We’re in a holding pattern right now…

By the time budgets and briefs are all sorted out, much of Q1 has slipped through our hands and we’re hastily thrown into the scrum of RFP response and the scramble to sell off our most valuable inventory, services and channels late in the quarter – often at discounted end-of-quarter rates. Like a bad morning at LaGuardia, the pileup impacts all the subsequent flights and schedules. The only thing surprising about this pattern is that it still surprises us.

Here’s a potential solution: Don’t politely wait your turn anymore. Focus your strategy on being one of your client’s first meetings of 2021. Prepare differently to get this meeting, and then prepare for a very different meeting once you get there.

It’s Not About the Media Planning Schedule. Stop asking when they’re planning or what the direction will be for the year. You’re just asking to be sidelined and made to wait for the rest of the pack to assemble.

Know the Customer’s Business Calendar. Look for important dates… product launches, holiday sales, big IRL events the client is tied to, traditional dates for clearance sales. Your client may well spend ahead of cycle in support of important dates. Start there.

Mind the Gaps. Every client has blind spots, underserved audiences, excess frequency against the same heavy viewers, difficulty telling a timely story in an authentic way and inefficiencies in their current marketing approach. Your approach needs to be diagnostic: instead of asking the client what they need, tell them. Your company has insights, your coworkers have experiences, and you have access to a browser. Take a shot!

Say Less. More Powerfully. Sooner. To the Right People. Plain English, people! Short messages. We’ve seen customers with your profile struggle with X…We think you’re missing an opportunity to outflank a key competitor… We’d like to shore up your efforts to do X in time for the big president’s day push. We need to be honest and vulnerable in sharing our diagnoses with customers.

Don’t Worry About Being Wrong. Worry About Being Left Out.  Be curious and thoughtful. At the very least you’re telling the customer that you’ve thought about their business and have a point of view. The real point of it all is starting the conversation early…jumping the line. If you get the January conversation it might result in an early deal; it will likely mean you’ll see dollars released sooner; and it will definitely give you better information about what’s coming--- information you’ll know before your competitors.

Without a disruptive strategy to get the January conversation, you’re just another player hanging around the rim waiting for a rebound. You deserve better. So grab the ball and take your shots.

Upstream Group hosted 102 Zoom workshops for 37 client companies in the final 10 months of 2020.  Reach out to talk about how we can help your team with fresh energy and disruptive thinking.