10 Ways Freelancers Can Benefit Ad Agencies

Ad agencies commonly use freelancers to alleviate heavy workloads and meet deadlines. But in today’s uncertain financial times, agency owners are forging stronger relationships with key freelancers and creating strategic partnerships with independent contractors to reduce overhead and stay on top of the game.

Below are 10 ways that using freelancers can benefit an ad agency.

USING A FREELANCER CAN HELP YOU TO:

1. Reduce payroll. Some weeks you have more writing work than your agency can comfortably handle – and some weeks you only have a few hours. Rather than hiring a full-time writer, you can hire a freelancer. It’s like having an on-call employee that you only pay for the hours they work. Plus, you don’t have to pay their taxes and benefits.

2. Avoid missing deadlines. You coordinated your project timelines with the precision of an FBI special ops agent, and your team has been right on track. All of a sudden, you’re thrown a curveball. The client doesn’t like the creative, they’re suddenly adding major elements to the project, or something changes that requires a complete project overhaul. Hiring a freelancer in these tough times will allow you to keep projects on track and meet your deadlines.

3. Handle sudden, urgent projects. If you work at an agency, this situation is probably a common one for you: Everyone at the agency is up to their eyeballs in work for important projects when one of your major clients calls and tells you he needs a couple of press releases and radio scripts – by tomorrow. You could tell him no, that you’re too busy right now, but let’s get real; you’re not going to say no because the relationship is too important and you need to come through for your client. Rather than derail your current projects and completely irritate everyone on your team, you can call a trusted freelancer to handle the projects for you. Freelancers usually have more flexibility than a busy agency and will often be able to make your project their #1 priority.

4. Reduce waste. When you hire a freelancer, you only pay for the time when that freelancer is actually working on your projects. I personally don’t charge for the time you spend briefing me or our phone conversations. I only charge for the time I spend conducting research and writing.

I’ve found that the tendency in agencies is to include as many creative people in meetings as possible. This can be inefficient. Since a freelancer doesn’t usually work in your office, you won’t be tempted to drag them into every discussion you have. Plus, you don’t have to pay a freelancer for the time they spend chatting around the coffee pot and, if you have a slow week, you don’t have to pay them for forty hours.

5. Ensure you have the skills you need. When you use a freelancer for a project, you can always be sure to hire someone with the right skills for that job. By using freelancers you can offer your clients specialized skills and knowledge without paying the specialist the hefty salary required to keep those skills around full-time.

6. Handle busy times that may be short-lived. You’re swamped right now. You just landed a handful of huge projects and the workload is definitely too much for your current team. You’d hire some new employees, but what happens if business is slow after the projects are completed? You could convince yourself that your employees want to make some extra money working overtime and risk making them mad and wearing them out. Or you could hire some reliable freelancers to assist your team. The latter definitely sounds less risky to me! But, of course, I’m biased. 😉

7. Relieve pressure in times of employee turnover. It’s a fact of life and business that employees sometimes don’t work out. When they leave, your agency doesn’t have to be left in a state of disarray. Using a freelancer buys you the time you need to recruit a quality candidate to replace the one who left –without the pressure of looming project deadlines.

8. Relieve employees & improve morale. Agency life can be hectic. Most advertising pros get used to it or get out of the business. However, while your employees may be used to coping with crazy deadlines and workloads, the demands of the job can sometimes become impossible when there’s just too much going on. Freelancers can alleviate some of this stress. Your employees will appreciate it — and they’ll be able to think better because they might actually be able to sleep at night!

9. Keep creative fresh. It happens to even the most stellar creative teams: you have a long, arduous creative brainstorming meeting and leave without finding the great idea you need. Being too close to the account or pressure to come up with that great idea can hinder creative thinking. And sometimes when you’ve communicated the same message for the same client for years, using the same creative team in the same creative process, coming up with fresh ideas can be tricky. It’s times like these when it can be helpful to throw a new mind into the mix.

10. Improve accountability. Your work is probably very important to the freelancer you hire. Doing a knockout job on your project is the one way they can ensure that they will be able to continue doing what they love (and, not to mention, never have to go into an office again). Plus, many freelancers work on a project-to-project basis, so there’s a good chance your project will be the most important one they’re currently working on. And if your relationship doesn’t work out, you don’t have to go through the uncomfortable and costly process of firing them. You just vow to NEVER hire them again.

Don’t Make Promises Your Product Can’t Keep

There are two creative roads a company can go down when advertising a beauty product:

1. They can show the benefits of using the product under ideal circumstances. For example, a print ad for a moisturizer might show a half-naked, gorgeous woman with already flawless skin, glowing under studio lights.

2. They can promise the product will improve realistic circumstances. A great example of this approach is The Body Shop (TBS) ad shown here.

When my co-worker sent me this ad, I instantly fell in love. This is a great concept. It makes a believable promise to customers, and (without being preachy) takes a moral stance that customers who buy TBS’s natural products can probably relate to and admire.

But the ad also got me thinking about which of the two approaches mentioned above is smarter from a sales standpoint. Which one is gonna sell more makeup and lotion?

As a woman, I’d be lying if I said I’d never been duped into buying overpriced shampoo or lipgloss by a print ad with a gorgeous model. Although I’m fairly comfortable in my own skin and not overly concerned with appearance, there’s a little slice of my brain that’s poisoned by entertainment media’s unrealistic depiction of what a female should look like.

I should mention this brain-chunk is a primitive fixture. It can’t really be wholly quieted. I see an ad with a beautiful model and the chunk half yells and half belches, “Drive to Rite-Aid! Buy the lotion! It’ll make you look like a supermodel!” When I was 20, the chunk was bigger, and it sometimes won. Today, I see an ad like that and say, “Shut up, chunk. That stuff isn’t miracle cream. We’ve got lotion at home that’s working just fine.”

But I appreciate the fact that self-esteem is an evolving quality, and every woman’s “chunk” is probably a different size at any given time. TBS ad shown says, “There are 3 billion women who don’t look like supermodels and only 8 who do.” We know this, and yet we can still be swayed by ads that promise products will make us look like supermodels. WTF?

Anyway, I’m sure I’ve gone off on a little bit of a rant to express the emotional nature of beauty purchases in relation to approach #1. This approach speaks to the insecurities of women. But, if you think about it, SO DOES APPROACH #2.

SO what’s the difference? The difference takes place after the product is purchased. When you buy a product promoted in ad approach #1 ad, you’ll be disappointed. This is why you see such rapid product turnover in beauty companies – customers are unsatisfied because results don’t match benefits shown in ads.

Approach #2 makes a more realistic promise: take care of yourself and you’ll like what you have just a little more. This is a promise that a product can live up to. And in my opinion, that is exactly the kind of promise you want to make for an ad to be effective for repeat customers.

So that’s the lesson we learn from this great Body Shop ad: If you don’t want customers to give up on your brand, don’t make promises your product can’t keep.

Why the “Reasons Your Company Shouldn’t Blog” are Bogus

Recently someone sent me a link to this article:

Top 10 Reasons Your Company Shouldn’t Blog

They thought the article raised some good points – and it definitely does. However, the conclusion I draw from these points isn’t that companies shouldn’t blog, but rather that companies need to find cost-effective blogging solutions.

Blogs definitely don’t pay off instantly, but over time they are great for boosting search rankings and building relationships.

Some stats from an awesome powerpoint you should check out (http://www.slideshare.net/HubSpot/marketing-charts-graphsdataapril2010slideshare):

  • Companies who blog have 55% more web traffic than those who don’t.
  • B2C companies who blog generate 88% more leads than those who don’t.
  • B2B companies who blog generate 67% more leads than those who don’t.
  • Companies with >51 blog articles experience a 77% lift in median monthly leads.

How to Have a Successful Blog

Companies should hire a skilled blogger/blogging company/ad agency to write the blog. That person/company needs to figure out what will interest the audience and how to deliver the company’s messages in ways that will be engaging – this is already our job as advertisers.
The best way for a company to integrate a blog into their online campaign is to:
  • hire an outside blogger
  • identify a small group of people within the company who needs the blog who stay up-to-date on industry news & trends.
  • each of these people can send an e-mail once a month to the blogger with article ideas.
  • the blogger can then compare the ideas with their keyword research, and check out online how viable the best ones are.
  • then the blogger writes and markets the thing.
  • this should happen AT LEAST once a week.

Ideally, an internal blogger would be hired or the ad agency the company already uses would be skilled enough to perform the blogging so that they can ensure the blog is integrated into all possible components of the marketing campaign. However, this won’t be financially feasible for many companies.

For companies in such a situation, I’d recommend hiring a good freelancer by posting an RFP on a site like Elance where you can check the writer’s credentials, samples and references. I don’t think it would be a stretch for a company to get a really good weekly blog for under $150/month.

Oh – and this article is absolutely correct that the blog WILL NOT produce results quickly and IS NOT a substitute for advertising. The blog is an investment that will pay off over time if it is properly integrated into a solid online marketing campaign.

20 Blogs All CNY Copywriters & Bloggers Should Read

Despite a sub-par job market, I’ve had the good fortune of landing two great creative positions here in Central New York. For the past 3.5 years, I’ve worked under the title of account creative at MPW Marketing in Clinton, NY. This was an absolutely outstanding experience, as I was able to work closely with topnotch marketing strategists and to gain confidence as an advertising creative.

A few days ago, I accepted a job as senior copywriter/client advocate at Designworks Advertising in Syracuse, NY. I’m really excited because I’ve heard lots of great things about this creative team. Of course, I’m sad to leave my MPW peeps, but I’m stoked that such a big portion of my 40-hour workweek will be devoted to the craft of writing.

As a writer, I feel the best way to keep the work from getting stale is to continually strive to get better. That’s why I was excited when I came across the blog post 20 Must Read Blogs for a Successful Copywriter.

Granted, these blogs are recommended for those focused on online copy writing careers – but a lot of them are really good! I’ve visited some before and some are new to me. But I thought all are worth sharing, so below you’ll find the list of blogs with links. Their subject matter is in parenthesis.

Problogger (blogging & writing)

Dumb Little Man (personal development & productivity)

Copyblogger (blogging & copywriting)

Zen Habits & Write To Done (writing, blogging & creative)

The Writers Manifesto (writing)

The Simple Dollar (finance)

Chris Garrett (internet marketing, freelance writing & blogging)

Dosh Dosh (freelance heaven)

Seth Godin (freelance writing & blogging)

43 Folders (productivity)

Life Hacker (freelance writing, just a great blog)

Entrepreneurs Journey (blogging & entrepreneurs)

Men With Pens (improving writing skills & content)

Chris Pearson (most sought after freelance WordPress designer)

Daily Blog Tips (duh)

Steve Pavlina (4,000 word essays)

Skelliewag (blogging)

Life Hack (productivity)

Chris Brogan (social media)

Syracuse University to offer Blogging Course

Many Central New York businesses and organizations are realizing that blogging is an important part of online strategy. Blogs are a great way to engage current and potential customers, to build relationships and to optimize online content for search engines. So it’s no surprise that local universities are offering courses to teach students how to harness the power of blogs. I just read a press release that Syracuse University will be hosting a week-long blog-writing course called “Blogging for Information Professionals.”

During grad school at SU, I had the opportunity to take a few of these week-long Maymester courses and found that I learned a surprising amount of information in those short periods of time. I’d recommend them to anyone, and this particular course sounds great.

  • The course is offered by professional blogger Sean Keeley. He is the editor of the sports blog sbnation.com and maintains two of his own blogs: nunesmagician.com and freemontuniverse.com.
  • The course will cover pertinent blogging topics such as how to build a blog, how to make money from blogging, and how blogging differs from reporting.
  • Other discussion topics to be featured in the course: the symbiotic relationship of bloggers and journalists, using a genuine voice, and how important blogging is for all companies and organizations.

It almost makes me wish I was still a student as I’m always interested to hear what’s working for different bloggers. Think I could disguise myself as a college student? Eh – probably not.  I don’t own a pair of  brightly -colored galoshes.

Why CNY Businesses Should Spend Money on Search Engine Optimization.

Today, most Central New York business owners know they need a website and have at least heard of search engine optimization. Many are even concerned about SEO and spend a good amount of time wondering how they can get to the top of the search engine rankings.They think, “if only I could be #1…” And then they call an agency, like the one I work for.

We analyze their website, write up a plan and meet with the business owner. Sometimes, our recommendations are simple. Sometimes, we have to tell them that the flash website they spent a pretty penny on should be scrapped and rebuilt. All too often, they are reluctant to spend the money.

I feel bad when a potential client walks away from a proposal that includes search engine optimization. (And it’s not because we’re missing out on business — we are very busy!) By the time a client says ‘no,’ we’ve had a number of conversations with them, heard about their goals and vision, and we really want them to succeed. And, most important, we know we can help them do it.

But, as I said before, we’re busy and we move on. And then in a few months, I’ll notice that the same client who said no to spending money optimizing their website is all over the yellow pages, radio and newspaper. And I just shake my head.

Often these clients don’t even come up on the first page when their own name is Googled, so when a potential customer hears their ad and turns to the internet to find out more (as a great percentage of customers will), they won’t find the information they need to choose that business.

And what about the huge majority of potential customers who START their search for products and services ONLINE?

*sigh*

The plot thickens. I run into that same potential client. I find a tactful way to mention I saw their ads, and ask why they chose to allocate their budget in such a way. The following seem to be the top 2 reasons business owners make this mistake:

  • THEY ALREADY SPENT MONEY ON THE WEB AND IT DIDN’T WORK.

They spent thousands on a website and when it was launched, they were hopeful that customers would flock to their beautiful site and business would boom. And then…nothing happened. And their dreams were crushed. Now they are worried about putting more money into the web when they’ve received no returns on their initial web investment.This is very sad, because many websites are made by designers and programmers, not marketers. So they lack the strategy to generate ROI. This is nothing against web designers. Their job is to produce a tool that will help businesses to favorably represent their brand. Unfortunately, for the business, if they don’t take the next step to market their website, they’ve wasted their money.

  • IT’S NOT TANGIBLE; THEY DON’T KNOW WHAT THEY’RE GETTING.

And at least when they get business from a physical ad, they know where their business is coming from. This answer blows my mind, because almost everything we do on-line is super trackable and it is so easy to monitor ROI.

Why Invest In SEO?

The Internet Book put it well: Not optimizing is “like opening a retail store on a dead end street, which means you’ll get no drive-by traffic.” With the majority of consumers looking for goods and services online, your position on the information superhighway is important!

How important is Search Engine Optimization?

According to Optify, the top 3 results in google get a WHOPPING 58% of clicks! The results of their recent study show that the #1 result gets an average of 36.4% of clicks. Those in second place 12.5% and those in third 9.5%.

An earlier Chikita study found THE SAME RESULTS. They found that the #1 spot on Google gets 34.35% of traffic.


Furthermore, Optify finds that being further back than page two has no real business value for you at all.

What is your search engine ranking? Type your location and industry into Google. Are you #3 or higher? If not, give us a call at 315.264.8514. We love to talk with Central New York business about how they can help their websites to work harder.

Facebook Deals is Here! (Well, not actually here in Central New York.)

But, as of today, it is launched in San Francisco, Austin, Dallas, Atlanta and San Diego. And social media marketers are calling it “the Groupon killer.”

How does it work?

Users who opt into Deals are geo-served deals via e-mail and news feed. Each deal has its own FB landing page, and users can “Like” it, or buy it immediately with a credit card or – here’s the kicker – FACEBOOK CREDITS.

Mashable said it best yesterday when they wrote that Facebook is “paving a smooth path between a virtual currency and real-world goods and services.”

CRAZY!

MPW Wins Award of Excellence for National Print Ad.

The ad agency I work for, MPW Marketing, located here in Central New York, has won loads of awards for our Totaline ad campaign. Here’s a press release I wrote about a recent award:

MPW Marketing, a Clinton-based advertising agency, recently won an advertising excellence award for a print ad they created for Totaline, a division of Carrier Corporation.

MPW received the award based on the results of a study that found the ad to be highly remembered by readers of the national publication in which it was featured. The study reports that 77% of readers recalled the ad.

This is not the first award MPW has won for their zany Totaline ad campaign. Over the last two years, MPW received 19 Readex Awards for their memorable ads. “We’ve created over 50 print ads for Totaline but continually challenge ourselves to come up with increasingly imaginative and visually-compelling ads,” said Sara Furlong, MPW account creative.

However, MPW owner Matt Wilson points out that the company’s pride in the award runs deeper than creativity. “The really great thing about this award is it is based on statistically-sound research that measures the effectiveness of the ad. It is true we always try to come up with creative and surprising ideas, but our number one goal at MPW Marketing is to give our clients a product that works because it speaks to their target audience.”

Totaline marketing manager Jim Flynn agrees. “With the amount of money we spend advertising in these national publications, it is great to know our ads are being remembered by the right people,” he said.

In addition to creativity and good strategy, MPW Marketing attributes their success in the Totaline print ad campaign to Nancy L. Ford, the Utica-based photographer who shoots the Totaline ads. “We come to Nancy with some pretty crazy ideas and she’s never failed us in bringing them to life,” Furlong explained.

The award-winning Totaline print ads created by MPW can be viewed at totaline.com/contractor/news.cfm.