Episode 73 – How a 63-Year-Old Ad Agency Stays Relevant by Launching New Service Offerings – Member Case with Marc Cooper

As professional services firms scale, the development of new service offerings is critical to staying relevant with your clients. On this episode, we hear from Marc Cooper, President and Partner at Junction59 to learn how his firm uncovers new client needs and develops new service offerings.

TRANSCRIPT

Greg Alexander [00:00:15] Welcome to the Boutique with Collective 54, a podcast for founders and leaders of boutique professional services firms. For those that don’t know us, Collective 54 is the first mastermind community to help you grow, scale and exit your firm bigger and faster. I’m the founder. My name’s Greg Alexander and I’m also your host today. And on this episode, I’m going to talk to Mark Cooper and we’re going to talk about designing new services. So, Marc, welcome to the show. 

Marc Cooper [00:00:47] Thanks for having me today. 

Greg Alexander [00:00:49] Would you mind properly introducing yourself to the audience, please? 

Marc Cooper [00:00:53] Absolutely. I’m Marc Cooper, and I’m the president of Junction 59. We’re a Canadian integrated ad agency based out of Toronto. We like to say that we work at the intersection of people and points of view where ideas meet to make a better tomorrow. 

Greg Alexander [00:01:10] Okay, very good. And what types of clients do you serve, Marc? 

Marc Cooper [00:01:15] So we’ve a broad range of clients actually that reflect, I would say, the Canadian landscape. But for the most part, we divide up into three different categories B2B clients and B2C clients who are interested in reaching their clients throughout the journey. So a lot of direct marketing and journey marketing and then not for profit clients. 

Greg Alexander [00:01:41] Okay. 

Marc Cooper [00:01:42] All about fundraising. 

Greg Alexander [00:01:43] Very good. Okay. So the topic today is about designing new service lines as a way to scale your firm in the the common sense explanation. It’s pretty basic. And it says if you have one thing to sell and deliver, scale is going to be hard. So at some point in the journey, you know, firms invest in additional service lines so that they can go back to their happy client base with new things to talk to them about and potentially earn expansion revenue. So let me start with kind of a 30,000 foot question, which is how many service lines do you have today? And in how has that evolved since the founding of the firm many years ago? 

Marc Cooper [00:02:25] Well, it’s an interesting question because in a marketing and communications business, you know, you could bucket all of our services under marketing communications and say we have one service. Yeah, but of course, you know, as the industry has evolved and different platforms have come to life, you know, there are lots of agencies that specialize just in digital, just in traditional print or television or out of home. And then across that, you’ve got some that have strategy and some that don’t. So if you start to look at all of the different service offerings that we have at a much more sort of focused level, I would say we have upwards of 30 to 40 different services that we’re able to offer. 

Greg Alexander [00:03:14] And and you’ve been around for how long? 

Marc Cooper [00:03:17] We’ve been in business since 1959, which is where the 59 and juncture 59 comes from. 

Greg Alexander [00:03:21] No kidding. My goodness. Well, okay, so 30 to 40 different offerings, I guess, unique services. And I understand bundled together into a solution that you might sell a client. So since your firm has been around so long and developed so many services, what advice would you give those listening that might have one or two things that they sell and deliver? How would they go about identifying the need for additional services? And then how would they go about developing those into something that could be sold and executed against? 

Marc Cooper [00:03:56] Sure. Well, we have a number of different ways that we do it. One of them is quarterly business reviews. At the end of every quarter, we sit down and we look at the work we’ve done for a client over that past quarter. Then we look at the work that their competitors might have in market, and we look for opportunities, including any trends that are happening in the marketplace with their customers, and then sit down and talk to the client about what we’ve done, you know, all under the guise of how could we get better at what we’re doing for them, but also to point out opportunities where they might do things a little different when going to talk to their customers. And it’s usually at that point that a service offering that we have that we may not have been offering to them comes up in discussion. And I think for us over the years what would happen is the same service offerings were coming up over and over again with particular clients. You know, we do group our clients into like minded sort of buckets across those three buckets we serve. So it’s not surprising to learn that, you know, a high tech company and a telecommunications company might start to see the need to do a particular type of marketing. And when we didn’t offer those services, we would always find a partner we could work with to offer them a service. But as they came up over and over again, we decided it was time to bring those services in-house and offer those services directly to our clients. So it created a whole new service offering. 

Greg Alexander [00:05:33] Interesting. So the quarterly business review, the ah, so that’s done between your team and the client. And it’s a review. It’s always a best practice to do such a thing and it naturally comes up during those Cuba hours where the client would express new needs. Is it my understanding that correctly? 

Marc Cooper [00:05:52] That’s right, yeah. Or we would suggest new needs based on what we see their competitors or the market doing. 

Greg Alexander [00:06:00] Okay, very good. Now, let’s say that you spot a trend, you know, and you’re hearing the same thing enough times where you say, Jesus, something here at first you service that need by partnering with others, and that makes total sense. But then it’s a substantial enough business that it might be worth investing in that capability in-house. Let’s let’s for the purposes of education today, let’s assume we’re at that point. So you’ve made the decision to bring this service in-house and you’re going to develop it internally. How do you do it? 

Marc Cooper [00:06:33] Well, you know, being an entrepreneur, there’s always that leap of faith. Right. But you go out and you’re hired for the for the role. And honestly, instead of working with the third party service provider that you were bringing in, you work with your internal team. Our clients tend to care more about the partners in the agency that are delivering their service than they do about the individuals that are actually working on all the different components. So they gladly accept a new name on a call or in a meeting that’s going to be helping to build out their their solution. 

Greg Alexander [00:07:18] Yep. And the focus at that point of the new service line that you’ve developed. Is it to bring it to the existing client base and therefore expand the revenue stream from the current clients? Or are you also taking it out to new pursuits? 

Marc Cooper [00:07:35] Yeah, I think it’s like everything we do, right. About 70% of the business is servicing the existing clients. But then you’re always thinking, you know, maybe you hit that break even point where it makes sense to bring them in and sell them off to your existing clients. But now how do you make that incremental revenue and using it as a way to go out, reach new clients and new prospects, you know, as maybe a new foot in the door to build a bigger relationship with those new clients is always sort of top of mind. Yeah. 

Greg Alexander [00:08:04] What I love about this approach is it’s it’s outward in, you know, you’re listening to the client and then responding. Sometimes owners of boutiques that are trying to scale, they do the opposite. You know, they’re educating themselves in their domain and they get excited about the new hot thing. And they put forward all this effort to hire some people and design methodologies and automate with tech, etc. And then they go and they take it to their customers and it doesn’t sell and they can understand why I’ve made that mistake myself in the past, and it’s painful when it happens. Have you been able to avoid that or from time to time, does that happen to you as well? 

Marc Cooper [00:08:44] No, I think like like everybody we’re human that we think we know better and we try a few things. But I would say majority of the time it’s because we’re listening to our clients. We’ve heard them ask for something and we do it. Yeah, you know, but every once in a while you try to also be ahead of the curve. And if you’re going to be ahead of the curve, that’s when you have to try. I think an experiment, maybe even if you haven’t heard as many clients say, they want something. Yeah. But you know, most of the time it’s listening to your clients and delivering on what they’re looking for. Okay. Biggest payoff. 

Greg Alexander [00:09:22] You know, there’s a few other tactics that members are using to develop new service lines, to listen to the clients, to see what the need is. We talked about your example of the quarterly business review. Another one that I’m seeing gaining traction is the Client Advisory Board. And just to simply explain that you collect a few clients of yours, you meet with them maybe twice a year for a day and a half or so. And in this particular case, a client is saying, you know, here are the challenges that I’m having in my business right now, now and in the future. And they’re giving feedback into kind of what the what your roadmap may or may not be. What are your thoughts on a client advisory board? 

Marc Cooper [00:10:00] You know, I love the idea and it’s something that we’ve talked a little bit about but haven’t really pursued as much as we should. But, you know, one of the things that we do like to do is bring clients together for social events. And when you see each you know, your clients actually interacting with each other and talking about what they’ve learned, you know, outside necessarily of the agency relationship, you can see that there’s something really powerful happening there where those clients are sharing their own experiences with each other. So to tap into that and get them to focus on how we could get better delivering against their needs, I think is would be well worth exploring even deeper. 

Greg Alexander [00:10:46] Yeah, it’s something that I’ve done in my past and in what I would suggest is it’s a way to formalize it. You know, the informal way of getting clients together and socializing is very beneficial for sure. And I’m glad you’re doing that. This would be the next logical step. You know, you would formalize it. What I always liked about it is, you know, it’s one of the only times where the client’s presenting to you. So imagine yourself in a conference room and you’re sitting there and the clients walk in you through their deck, which is really, really cool thing. Okay. Another thing that we hear is client satisfaction reviews or sometimes people use NPS as an example and there’s a way to structure those survey tools to collect ideas for new service lines. Do you do any type of client satisfaction reporting? 

Marc Cooper [00:11:31] So we have a scorecard that we make available to clients after every project and now after every significant project. We have a lot of projects as an ad agency where we might be changing an offer in a banner ad, and we don’t necessarily seek big feedback on that. But on the more significant projects we seek feedback and the feedback is really a lot of it’s about process and creativity, making sure we’re bringing the right ideas to the table. So there are a few times, especially when it comes down to were we being proactive for their business, where we bring in the latest and greatest ideas to the table. That’s where some of those new service opportunities pop up when they think they indicate maybe that, you know, we did a seven out of ten on something. It it inspires a conversation, but we don’t have a formal spot to actually ask, was there anything else that we could have delivered that we didn’t or anything like that? And I think as I’ve been researching this more, I think that’s an area where I want to spend more time. Yeah. 

Greg Alexander [00:12:39] You know, it’s a it’s a pretty easy fix. You know, you add a sentence or two or a question or two to a survey and send it out. And and when I’ve used that before in the past, it was, it was the origination of some really good ideas. And what I love about it, it’s easy to execute. So that’s a good idea for the audience to kick around. Okay. Kind of a kissing cousin to that would be win loss reviews. And what this is is that for new pursuits, you mentioned 30% of your business comes from new clients. You know, after the sales campaign for those that you’ve won and for those of you lost, you know, some type of feedback mechanism with the prospect that went through the sales campaign to understand why you won and why you lost. And sometimes that can be a fantastic way to identify new opportunities for service line extension. Have you experimented with that at all? 

Marc Cooper [00:13:24] Yeah, we have. You know, every time we do a pitch, especially in a formal RFP, we ask for a debrief afterwards, win or lose, and we sit down. Sometimes it’s with the procurement manager, sometimes it’s with one of the the review panel. But we’re always looking to figure out why did we win and why did we lose? There was one instance where we actually won a very large client. They’ve been with us now for 12 years. Fantastic relationship. And we discovered that we won for a reason we had never anticipated. It was because during our pitch presentation we put an emphasis on the great quality we put into the production of the end product. And we’re a creative agency, but we still talked a little bit about the production that goes into the the end product, and that was what differentiated us from the others in that particular pitch. So since then, we’ve been actually able to monetize the fact that we have better standards or put a bigger emphasis on the production there. And so it actually helped us make that a bit more of a service offering than just a table steak that we thought it was. 

Greg Alexander [00:14:41] That’s a great story. I appreciate you sharing that. That’s a real pragmatic implementation of that technique and it’s working really well for you. So now inspire many others to do the same. Okay. And the last idea I want to get your opinion on is, I guess before the pandemic, we would all go to some conferences. There’s lots of industry conferences and I always found those very interesting to go to did stimulate creativity or new things. We could bring up everything from just the agenda to see what the topics are, because normally whoever’s putting on the conference surveyed the audience to see what what should be discussed. I also liked walking the trade show floor to see what all the other vendors are doing. Did you use conferences as a way to stimulate ideas for new services? 

Marc Cooper [00:15:25] Yeah, we still do to a certain extent in the virtual conferences. You know what we like to do. I mean, we attend all the marketing and advertising conferences that we should that are, you know, in the marketing and advertising field. But we also like to attend conferences that are in our clients industry. Yeah, a lot of them have an industry association who put on an annual conference. So not only do we attend, but where we can, we try to present, we try to get a speaking role, whether it’s on the main stage or in a side room. And it gives us an opportunity to explain to our clients that not only do we care about their business, we care about their industry, and we want to learn as much as we can so that we can be a true extension of their team. And while we’re doing that, of course, we open ourselves up to a whole new audience because we come across as experts within that particular niche. 

Greg Alexander [00:16:23] It’s great idea. I mean, it’s such a subtle thing, but if you’re going like in your case as a marketing agency, if you go into just the shows for agencies, it’s a little bit of, you know, everybody talking about the same thing, right? It’s a little of an echo chamber. But if you go to the conferences of your clients, it’s now a step beyond that and you’re hearing how other people in that industry might need your services. And that can be a great source of inspiration for new service lines. Awesome. 

Marc Cooper [00:16:54] Absolutely. We we also have in the past acted as judges for those industry associations when they have their own marketing awards. And so that opens us up to other, you know, our clients and their competitors even at those associations ceremonies. 

Greg Alexander [00:17:13] That’s a great idea for sure. Plus, it has lots of credibility. If you’re if you’re judging American Idol, you know, you’ve become a celebrity, right? It’s all right, Mike. We’ll. Listen. Fantastic input today. Thank you very much for that. If the audience members would like to get a hold of you to continue the conversation, what’s the best, best way to reach you. 

Marc Cooper [00:17:33] If they can head over to Junction59.com and there’s a lot of information there about us and including all my contact information. 

Greg Alexander [00:17:42] Okay, fantastic. And for those listening, if you want to learn more about this subject, how to develop new service lines and many others, you can pick up a copy of our book called The Boutique How to Start Scale and Sell the professional services firm, which I’m proud to say just became a Amazon number one bestseller in our little niche. And then also, if you’re interested in meeting great people like Marc, you might consider joining our mass in my community. And you can find us at Collective54.com. But Marc, thanks again. It was great to say hello to you and to listen to how you’re implementing this particular scaling technique. 

Marc Cooper [00:18:18] Great. Thanks for having me on today, Greg. Really appreciate it.