Staying healthy: how does a digital marketing agency protect itself?
For those who don’t know, I have a background in martial arts and self-protection. Believe it or not, there is much more to self-protection than being well trained in a brutal range of unarmed combat techniques. In fact, if things get physical, that’s an indicates an earlier failure in the process of self-protection in the first place. This article looks at the principles of self-protection and how these can be applied to a digital marketing agency!
For the sake of the article I am going to stick to elements of the self-protection process that are equally applicable to a marketing company. Key factors in personal self-protection are:
- Legal rights
- Rules of engagement
- Appropriate clothing
- Route planning
- Not becoming a target
- Spotting trouble in advance
- Conflict avoidance
- Conflict resolution
- Don’t let an issue become a crisis
- Physical engagement
- Preventing an assault
- Dealing with the aftermath
Well, in terms of personal self-protection this comes down to an understanding of what you can and can’t do within the law. This easily translates into our self-protection for digital marketing agency analogy.
This is where nailing down agreements at the start comes into the equation. Your company will have a way of doing things. For some that will mean charging clients based on retainer hours, agreeing objectives to be achieved and regular reporting. Other agencies charge an agreed set fee for creating campaigns. Whatever your business model, ensuring that your client knows exactly what they are paying for and making sure that both sides have clear expectations that are spelled out and signed up to will protect you and them, making conflict much less likely.
Let me spell out what I meant by “appropriate clothing” in regard to personal self-defence. For those who are wondering this is not related in any way to how much flesh somebody decides to show on a night out. What it concerns is how practically you are dressed for staying safe. For example, high heels can be restrictive because it is very difficult to run while wearing them. Leather soled shoes can be slippy in the rain which presents another impediment to a quick get away if one is in danger.
So this is all about being correctly equipped for a situation. If you want your digital marketing agency to thrive they need to be appropriately prepared. In previous blogs we have looked at the how to make a marketing team more agile so as to be able to respond to situations, creating a happy environment of harmony and openness to lift spirits and encourage creativity, which will includes how you plan your team’s work. Effective scheduling improves efficiency and means your marketing team are not twiddling their thumbs or overheating.
In regard to protecting your company’s future, planning is all about setting your team up to be able to respond to unexpected change, to the curve balls that come their way. Morale, technical training, equipment, scheduling, physical environment and communication channels all have a part to play in improving overall responsiveness.
People often become targets of anti-social behaviour because of their own behaviour. Staring at a mobile phone in their own world, in an area they are not familiar with or making themselves vulnerable through excessive alcohol consumption. We have a right to walk freely without harassment and everyone is entitled to have a few drinks but in the real world, everything comes with risk.
From a digital marketing perspective, we can secure our position by ensuring that we don’t put ourselves in danger through our behaviour. How can we do this?
At the negotiation stage, don’t overstretch your resources by making promises you can’t keep. Being a yes man will not work in the long run. You must be able to walk the walk after you have talked the talk. Over promising will only bite you in the backside later when your team is over scheduled or you are having to use unbilled time to deliver the service that your client will expect.
Again, another mention of those legal agreements is relevant here. Contracts make it much easier to resolve some issues that can arise.
How transparent is your company? In our experience, the more transparent the better. It is one thing to care about delivering an excellent service to your clients, and to implement procedures and plans to do that, however being seen to care, to plan effectively, to be doing a great job is a completely separate can of beans. Monitored, documented and reported work keeps your clients up to date and makes you accountable at all times.
In many cases being aware keeps people safe. By knowing who is around us, gauging the mood, assessing our surroundings we can actually see potential for drama and avoid it.
For your marketing agency to run smoothly and to avoid any issues becoming serious, communication is vital. There are several channels that need to work effectively. You need to be listening to and reporting to your clients. Clients’ needs must be effectively communicated to the marketing team and the appropriate data must be measured and reported on so as to give clients an accurate picture of how their projects are running.
Another key element of awareness for a digital marketing team is to understand the market you are in and to stay ahead of change. If you are not aware of new technologies, changes in the platforms you are using and current trends, for example, you are sleepwalking into irrelevance.
How do you deal with issues as they arise?
It looks like you are not going to meet an expectation. What do you do?
Disaster strikes and half your team are down with the flu. How do you respond?
None of us can see the future and some issues are impossible to predict but you can nail down contingency plans for known risks. Understanding how to nip issues in the bud because you have already thought out alternative plans, or even simply managing client expectations when the faeces is about to splatter through the fan will make escalation less likely!
This is a personal favourite of mine and ties in greatly with many of the aspects of culture and personal development that I often write about. In self-protection we look at ways to avoid traps that suck the unsuspecting into dispute, or how to diffuse potentially aggressive situations. It is all about taking control and responding to the situation intelligently rather than reacting to ego – the latter will lead to a fight most of the time. The strategy is to make peace the more attractive option than conflict. That sounds like common sense but sometimes judgements become clouded especially if somebody feels badly done to.
The same rules apply to a business so what are the key points for avoiding conflict and diffusing friction?
Can you turn the other cheek? Sometimes people let off steam. It could be the boss, a colleague or a client but it is not always about you. Let’s say you haven’t dropped the ball in the least, either as an individual or as a digital marketing agency, but you are facing fierce criticism either face to face, on the phone or via an email for example. Not escalating does not have to mean being a doormat however addressing the issues raised calmly and neutrally is not the same as reacting emotionally.
Take a deep breath, listen, stay fully aware of all that is being said and wait for an appropriate opportunity to respond. If that is not possible because the other person is not allowing you to speak or shouts you down, then they are not in the right space for you to communicate with them. Trying to force a response, to be heard or to win an argument is pointless and will probably escalate the situation. Most people calm down naturally if they are heard without interruption.
If a situation is unmanageable, create the space for emotions to simmer down. Show that you have heard and took on board everything that has been said and arrange to come back to the issue within a reasonable time frame. That space is all that is needed sometimes to make a massive difference to the outcome. In particularly volatile situations it is sometimes better to address issues by email which gives both parties the time to process before responding.
One key thing to remember is that the real cause of the issue may not be explicitly stated. Your client may feel as though they have been neglected because communication was not effective or your activities were not transparent. A staff member may be feeling overworked or have other issues. Unless you remain mindful, objective and detached and manage to identify what is really going on, it will be more difficult to come up with a resolution that lasts.
You can’t win an argument. Don’t entertain one.
I always tell people that if they end up having to use physical force to escape from a situation, they have failed on a number of key self-protection points already. Either they were not as aware as they should have been or they failed to plan their journey effectively for example. It’s no different in business whether you run a digital marketing team or a restaurant. Make sure you have procedures in place for handling all eventualities. If your largest client ended their contract now, would your company survive? What would be your plan if you lost all your company’s data? Do you have a procedure in place for dealing with an extremely unhappy client? Business is not always a bed of roses.
If physical measures have to be taken to defend oneself from a physical threat, other actions have to follow. Is the other person seriously hurt? Are they a danger to themselves or others? Do you need to call the emergency services?
Clearly the “threat” for a digital marketing agency is completely different than the threat for somebody out on the town on a Friday night however there is an analogy here. What is your follow up like when incidents occur?
It is always a good idea to minute discussions and follow up with confirmation of agreed action points. Lessons will usually be learnt and these can lead to new ways of doing things. Let your clients know you care. Acknowledge the points that have been raised and the actions you are taking and make sure that you follow through with effective implementation.