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Small Spark Theory: a marginal gains approach to new business and marketing
31 minutes | Sep 6, 2021
EP56: New business leadership | Claire Humphris | Iris
Earlier this year, Claire Humphris was named CEO at Iris, the agency she co-founded with five other colleagues in 1999. Iris now numbers over 1000 people across 17 offices worldwide. As agency breakaways go, it is a perfect case study. But of course, what interests me is the new business story. Claire has spent the past 7 years leading the agency’s global new business operations, driving growth across the network and winning some of the agency’s biggest integrated pitches. In this episode we get together to discuss new business leadership and culture, the importance of the marketing calendar, marginal gains and making your own luck. As we shape up for the final marketing and new business push of the year and begin planning for 2022, this is just the inspiration you need. As always we’ll be giving away a copy of Claire’s recommended read, The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F**k by Sarah Knight listen in to find out how to win.
46 minutes | Aug 9, 2021
EP55: How to scale at speed | Felix Velarde | 2Y3X
In 2017 I interviewed Felix Velarde for this podcast to discuss agency growth planning. It was our 4th episode. Lots of people got in touch to talk about that episode and the way Felix delivered such a calm, pragmatic approach to a subject that frustrates so many agency owners. How do you grow, and just as importantly, how do you sustain that growth? Later that year, Felix mentioned over lunch that he’d been approached by an agent who had heard the podcast, and suggested he write a book about the process. Fast forward to 2021 and I’m delighted that Felix is back to discuss that very book: Scale at Speed: How to Triple the Size of Your Business and Build a Superstar Team. This book is such an invigorating read, whether or not you are in a position to take on the full 2Y3X programme that Felix and his team deliver, it is full to the brim of practical tools and advice to motivate anyone to switch up their growth plans. We always do a book giveaway with each episode but Felix has kindly agreed to donate 10 signed copies to listeners. Simply listen in to find out how to win.
32 minutes | Jul 12, 2021
EP54: Overcoming adversity | Sarah Yeats | Sledge
I’ve said many times that the people in business I admire the most are independent agency leaders. And over the past 18 months, as our industry, largely populated by small businesses has rallied against such unforeseen challenges, my admiration and respect has deepened. Through all of the conversations I had with agencies during this time I was aware that it was surely those in the events sector who had been dealt the most difficult hand. In this episode, I speak to Sarah Yeats, Managing Director of events agency Sledge, to understand what happens when your projects are cancelled and your pipeline disappears. I’ve called this episode ‘overcoming adversity’ but it’s so much more than that. It’s about leadership, resilience, communication, but most importantly, the power of relationships. Listen in to find out how to win a copy of Sarah’s recommended read: Be More Pirate by Sam Conniff Allende.
28 minutes | Jun 7, 2021
EP53: Understanding client context | Jennifer Crowley | Kin + Carta
In the discussions we’ve had on this podcast, and in the work I do with agencies, the theme of walking in a clients’ shoes has been a recurring one. From rethinking our messaging to talk to client needs rather than services, to our approach to prospecting and the way we build advocacy with our clients. But aside from simply understanding the client / prospect business attributes – structure, revenue model, audience, product and service lines, what we really need to get a handle on is change. What’s shifting for them? Buyer behaviour? The competition? Regulation? Supply chains? What does the change mean for them? I’d argue that a key differentiator in the best performing agencies is having a process for staying ahead of these issues and having more informed conversations with clients, a commitment of time that our traditionally lean servicing models often overlook. However, as we stand here in 2021 blinking into the sunshine after the dull shock of the past year, there is change that we cannot ignore. Every client business will have been affected on some level from the pandemic, meanwhile the issues of sustainability, climate, diversity and inclusion are rightfully gaining traction. To ignore these challenges as we work together with our clients is missing a vital opportunity. Someone who has been leading the charge for such conversations is Jennifer Crowley, Client Partner and Digital Sustainability Lead at Kin+ Carta and BIMA 100 Class of 2021. In this episode we explore the benefits on engaging on broader businesses challenges and understanding shared values, and how, with such wide reaching topics, we can find marginal gains to build better client relationships. As always we’ll be giving away a copy of Jennifer’s recommended read – Greener Marketing by John Grant. Also mentioned in this episode: https://www.kinandcarta.com/en/social-responsibility/ https://thegreenpages.bima.co.uk/the-green-pages/ https://www.londonspeechworkshop.com
37 minutes | May 6, 2021
EP52: Bringing in expertise | Andrew Southcott | Captivate Group
It’s always a good day when someone gets in touch to pitch a podcast episode idea. Even better when that someone is a client. Andrew Southcott is Managing Director at creative agency group Captivate. Andrew hired me last year to work with Captivate’s new business talent, a move that came as part of a wider initiative to bring in external expertise for advice, support or training on a range of themes across the business. For me, this is a dream engagement. Mentoring up and coming new business talent is one of the most rewarding parts of my job, but I was interested to explore Andrew’s leadership approach – a growth mindset clearly focussed on development, improvement, and well…. marginal gains! In this episode Andrew talks us through his experiences of the last year and how a range of experts and outsourced resource are adding value across the business. It’s a fascinating listen, jam packed with great insights and advice. Breaking with convention, instead of a book recommendation, check out the YouTube channel Ashville Aggregates – for a example of entrepreneurship in action.
45 minutes | Apr 6, 2021
EP51: Raising your profile – part three | Ash Jones | Great Influence
There are so many reasons for me wanting to do an episode on personal brand. Let’s go back to the beginning. At the start of my agency career, I worked mostly with ad agencies. This was in the 90s and honestly – it was dazzling. The high profile exit of Maurice and Charles from Saatchi & Saatchi to set up M&C Saatchi, Dave Trott setting up Bainsfair Sharkey Trott then WCST, Trevor Beattie making waves with Wonderbra and FCUK, and so it went on. Everywhere you turned there were names. I’ve often said that to a degree, the rise of digital and social media has evened out the playing field from an agency profile point of view, allowing everyone a share of voice if they get a good plan in place. However, there has seemed a notable lack of high profile individuals in quite the same way as we had before. With so much noise – was it just too hard for anyone to cut through? For me, that changed when Social Chain founder Steven Bartlett catapulted on to the scene, transcending industry trade press, appearing in mainstream media and attracting over 2 million followers online. All by the age of 27. (Not to mention taking the company public). To help me understand how that happened, and what we can learn from it, I’m joined by Ash Jones, part of the founding team at Social Chain and founder of Great Influence. We talk about what it takes to create a personal brand, how to cut through the noise and how to manage imposter syndrome. As always we’ll be giving away a copy of Ash’s recommended read – the newly published Happy Sexy Millionaire by Steven Bartlett.
36 minutes | Mar 8, 2021
EP50: Raising your profile – part two | Laura Hannan | Pitch121
We’ve talked a lot on this podcast about LinkedIn over the years, and specifically the often untapped potential of Sales Navigator. From the conversations I’ve had with my clients, I know that whilst consistent LinkedIn engagement can deliver fantastic results – for many, finding the time and focus required to create momentum can be a challenge. Which is why I was intrigued by the service that Laura Hannan and her team at Pitch121 provide. Laura joins me for the second episode in our mini-series exploring different techniques and resources to help raise your agency profile. Listen in to hear a how the clever combination of tech, content and highly targeted Sales Navigator outreach is connecting agencies with their audiences, and a wealth of tips for elevating your own LinkedIn presence. As always we’ll be giving away of Laura’s recommended read; Social Selling: Techniques to Influence Buyers and Changemakers by Tim Hughes.
22 minutes | Feb 8, 2021
EP49: Raising your profile – part one | Sarah Paterson | CommsPeople
Many of the conversations I’ve been having with agencies over recent months have centred around marketing and new business resource. This is good news. It shows that we are looking forward and taking positive action to create better, more sustainable agency marketing practices. In particular, the biggest shift I have seen is agencies recognising the need to prioritise profile building activity, and in turn realising that there is a gap in their existing team skillset to provide this. Over the coming months I’m going to be focussing on the different ways we can look at building agency profiles and the varying shapes of resource available to help us do that. To kick us off for this episode, I invited Sarah Paterson, co-founder of CommsPeople to join me in sharing the story of her lockdown start-up; providing flexible support from a talent pool of high calibre communications professionals. This is an ideal solution for agencies with great ideas for connecting with prospects with relevant content, but find themselves too caught up in the day to business to make it happen. If you need help defining your audience and content strategy then feel free to get in touch with me here or if you want to discuss a brief for support from the CommsPeople talent pool, you can reach Sarah here. As always we are giving away a copy of Sarah’s recommended read: The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz – listen in and find out how to win. And of course, if you have a new business or agency marketing question for us, or a top tip to share, please get in touch. Useful links: 2021 Freelance trends How to manage freelancers Lunchclub
33 minutes | Jan 12, 2021
EP48: Habits | Clare Rees
It’s safe to say that for most of us, 2021 arrived without the usual fanfare, excitement and expectation but instead, with an exhausted sigh and a resolution NOT to have any New Year resolutions. Let’s be clear, the ambition and optimism are still there, but big fat goals can feel meaningless when we are surrounded by so much restriction, distraction and uncertainty. So what can we do? In true Small Spark Theory, marginal gains style, for this episode we wanted to focus on some small stuff. Some helpful, positive habits. The things that can help us put one foot in front of the other, to keep going and stay motivated, even when we don’t feel like it. To help me unpick the subject of habits I co-opted my long-term colleague and Small Spark Theory Institute co-founder Clare Rees. Clare learned a thing or two about forming good habits when taking on the mighty challenge of writing a novel, so has a great perspective on how to take small steps, avoid procrastination and keep our motivation strong. As always, listen in for the chance to win a copy of Clare’s recommended read: Atomic Habits by James Clear – you can also download the first chapter here. We also have some questions and tips from our fabulous listeners. If you have a question or hot tip and would like to contribute to an upcoming episode – please get in touch. Also mentioned in this episode: Stephen Covey’s seminal 7 Habits of Highly Effective People Liz Wilde
28 minutes | Dec 7, 2020
EP47: The power of community | Ian Harris | Agency Hackers
I can’t imagine finding an agency owner, who since March, hasn’t tuned in to at least one of the myriad of webinars or zoom chats that have been made available through either our industry bodies (see our earlier conversation with DBA CEO Deborah Dawton), individual agency experts or peer networks. From HR and culture, finance and operations to client service and new business, the range of advice and resources available have been momentous. So for our final episode of this year, it feels fitting to pull up a chair and chat with the founder of one of the UK’s leading agency peer support groups. Ian Harris has been running Agency Hackers for the last four years, providing a community of agencies with insight, education and support. Ian joins to me to reflect on a year of twists and turns and look ahead to 2021. As always we’ll be giving away a copy of Ian’s recommended read: Charlatan: The Fraudulent Life of John Brinkley. So don your Christmas jumper, grab a mince pie and settle in. The end is in sight.
32 minutes | Nov 9, 2020
EP46: Presentation materials | Shan Preddy | Preddy & Co
In previous episodes we’ve tackled various aspects of pitching and presenting, specifically with Tony Spong from AAR (episode 10) and Catherine Allison at Master the Art (episodes 3 and 33). In those discussions we concentrated largely on our behaviour – our pitching processes, how we question, how we listen. But the area we didn’t really […]
20 minutes | Oct 8, 2020
EP45: Client satisfaction | Alisha Lyndon | Momentum
Back in April this year, Claire Beale wrote this brilliant Campaign article about the client/agency dynamic. It was a rallying cry for cultivating deeper working relationships built on partnership, trust and mutual support and a move away from the procurer/supplier mind set we know all too well. I’ve reflected on this theme often over the intervening months. […]
31 minutes | Sep 14, 2020
EP44: The agency podcast | Isabelle Jarvis
The podcasting juggernaut shows no sign of slowing. Four years ago, when we started planning the idea behind Small Spark Theory I thought we were too late to the party. Yet here we are now and with Apple estimating some 1 million active shows and over 30 million episodes on iTunes (double the figure in […]
27 minutes | Aug 10, 2020
EP43: Business planning for agencies | Deepa Shah | Lab Eight
One of the biggest challenges we face for the remainder of 2020 and beyond is undoubtedly our ability (or inability) to plan ahead. Almost daily, we are bombarded in the news by a roll call of redundancies, rumours of regional lockdown, interspersed with “is it a V, U, W or ‘swoosh’?” predictions for our economic […]
35 minutes | Jul 19, 2020
EP42: Design industry outlook | Deborah Dawton | Design Business Association
Regular listeners will have noticed a slight change to our usual programming. A global pandemic has shifted our focus from the very specific, detailed insights intended solely to improve new business performance, to include a more contextual viewpoint. Of course, context has always been important to new business, but with so much change and uncertainty […]
42 minutes | Jun 30, 2020
EP41: Positioning v proposition | Robin Bonn | Co:definery
There aren’t enough podcasting hours to do justice to the agency positioning and proposition debate. We’ve explored this before in episode 13 with David C. Baker and then again in episode 36 with master of the agency messaging, Roland Gurney. But with entire industry sectors in crisis and an uncertain economy ahead it has never […]
35 minutes | Jun 7, 2020
EP40: Agency leadership | Sally Henderson
Across the world, leadership is under scrutiny. Citizens are looking to their politicians, employees are looking to their employers. Amid continued uncertainly, everyone needs direction and reassurance. So what does good leadership look like? Does it change in a crisis? And how can agency leaders look after their teams, and their own wellbeing, as we […]
51 minutes | May 7, 2020
EP39: Maximising cash | Michelle Cook
Over the past six weeks I’ve been speaking to lots of agency leaders. Those one-on-one conversations have highlighted to me, just how many variables there are determining how agencies are able to weather this extraordinary storm. Aside from agency size and structure, services, client sector focus, and the deeply personal experiences of managing pipeline, clients […]
28 minutes | Mar 2, 2020
EP38: The first new business hire | Dave Corlett
I’ve spent a lot of time recently thinking about small agencies. Typically, those with headcount up to 10/12 and/or annual revenues under £1m. It’s worth pointing out that this band of agencies makes up an increasing large proportion of the UK landscape. But regardless of their specialism, at this size, effective new business resourcing is […]
21 minutes | Feb 3, 2020
EP37: New agency models | Emma Sexton | MYWW
There is no doubt there has never been a better time to rethink the way that agencies deliver their services to clients. With endless technology options, flexible workspaces, and an increasing supply of freelance talent, the barrier to entry is lower than ever for budding agency founders. So far so good. And yet I’ve met […]
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