On a mission to find your mission?

Written by Jon Ross
19 May 2022

The best agencies consistently outpace the industry in terms of revenue growth, profitability and a culture that attracts A-level talent. They have several characteristics in common including effective management of the variables that drive agency success over time.

In our experience, we’ve found there are eight key variables that characterise best practice:

  1. A compelling mission that attracts talent and clients.
  2. Defined vision with a strategic plan on how to achieve it.
  3. Differentiated and compelling value proposition defined by deep knowledge and expertise.
  4. Organisational structure that effectively and efficiently sells and services the value proposition.
  5. A belief in core methodologies and IP.
  6. Culture (including formal training around those methodologies).
  7. A dedicated new business development function.
  8. Understanding how to manage an agency for fair profit.

Successful agencies dedicate time and effort to developing and carefully managing each of these.

The first step to becoming successful.  You must have a MISSION.

Your Mission should be a soaring, aspirational and unequivocal statement

It starts with defining a compelling reason WHY clients should care you exist and WHY talent should want to dedicate their abilities and careers to your agency.

So, your Mission should be a soaring, aspirational and unequivocal statement of your reason for existence and how you improve the agency landscape. This WHY is your purpose for being. Your passion. It’s the reason you and your team come to work every day to apply your skills to help clients further their missions. It becomes the reason clients elevate their view of your firm to being a strategic partner, not just another supplier.

We share author and consultant Simon Sinek’s belief that “People buy your Why”. If you begin your sales pitch by describing your services (which Sinek categorises as your “What”), you are commoditising your agency. The lowest price wins when buying a commodity. You and your team can be better.

What your agency provides are likely the same services that any number of your competitors provide. They’re like table stakes – the price of admission in any pitch. Therefore, if you lead with your “What” in new business opportunities, you miss the opportunity to establish the differentiating characteristic of your agency… and the prospect perceives your firm as a commodity.

Your Why begins to differentiate your agency from the many other choices your prospects have.

The right soaring mission will:

  • Attract and retain the right talent for your agency.
  • Inspire and align your team (and yourself).
  • Help you understand and attract the prospective clients that are right for your agency.

Your mission aligns passion with knowledge and expertise, continual reinforcement of your powerful mission is necessary for growth

How to develop your mission.

Start by answering three questions:  1) Where does your firm have the greatest passion? 2) Where does the team have the most knowledge and experience? 3) How can we help clients benefit customers by providing more choice, building significant opportunity or alleviating problems?

Your areas of strongest knowledge and experience can be specific industry categories, target groups, issues, specialty skills such as investor relations or a combination of these.

Simply put, your mission aligns passion with knowledge and expertise.

Continual reinforcement of your powerful mission is necessary for growth

The next step is bringing your mission to life. It must go beyond being a set of words inscribed on your agency policy manual and website. Your mission should be so compelling and reinforced that all staff are able to recite it. It should be a fundamental, living and breathing strategic component of who you are and how you make key decisions.

Mission is a critical weapon in your arsenal that should be consistently used to begin all communications (both internal and external). Internally, use it to open every staff meeting and conversation with potential employees and the media. As major events transpire in your agency, always connect them to how they further the agency’s mission. This includes new hires, promotions, new business wins, marketing initiatives, etc.

Significant decisions should also be guided and placed into the context of your agency’s mission, vision, values and strategic plan.

Externally, Mission should be your lead messaging point in every marketing effort, new business presentation and prospect communication. It helps explain how your firm is different than competitors. It should also be your lead message point in your talent recruiting process.

Mission will help your agency determine the prospects to pursue, clients to service and talent to hire.

Agencies that short-change their efforts to develop the most compelling mission possible are missing out on a great growth opportunity. At some point, these firms inevitably find that their evolution as a business will stagnate. Revenue will plateau or, worse yet, decrease. And key staff members will depart for a more motivating work environment.

As an agency owner, don’t underestimate the power of Mission in your firm’s success.