Avery & Brown // Choosing an Agency

Episode 14 'Choosing an Agency' Season 2

Published on October 11, 2022 by Alex Holliman

Episode 14 of Choosing an Agency out now

Episode 14 features Russ Avery and Tim Brown from Avery & Brown, a sustainable brand transformation consultancy. 

Russ and Tim discussed the importance of sustainability and becoming a regenerative business, as well as what to look at when selecting an agency. They covered values, checking an agency’s reputation, and red flags. 

They also addressed awards, certifications and other credentials which might be of more importance. 

Episode 14, series 2 transcript

Alex Holliman: Hello, and welcome to choosing an agency. My name is Alex, founder search agency climbing trees. And I’m here to talk about how to get the right agency to grow your business. So today, I’m joined by Tim and Russ at Avery & Brown. Hello chaps.

Tim Brown: Hey Alex, Good afternoon. Thanks for having us.

Alex Holliman: So for people who are meeting me for the first time, could you share a little bit more about who you are, and what you guys do?

Russ Avery: My name is Russ Avery, I’m a sustainable marketer. And yeah, and a bit of an eco entrepreneur, we end up ended up setting up the business very naturally, through meeting each other and merging our respective businesses, which Tim can elaborate on a bit later. But we’re, we’re a full service, sustainable marketing and creative agency. So we what does that mean? Well, we only work with truly sustainability focus brands and businesses which have to pass certain criteria with us, for us to even onboard them as a client in the first place. They’re not necessarily a list of specific questions, because it will differ based on the person we’re talking to. And their business. And sometimes there’s more of a grey area than others, which are more black and white. But what do we do specifically? Well, we do everything from brand strategy, which is really important to us, because we think it’s the foundation for solid business growth, right the way through to rebrands. All the creative stuff that Tim and his team do executing marketing strategies and campaigns, social media blogging, SEA personal branding stuff by writing, writing content for, for CEOs and founders on their LinkedIn profiles, and stuff like that. I’ll let I’ll let Tim talk now.

Tim Brown: So So hi, guys. My name is Tim. And as I saw, I look after in the business, basically all of the work. So my team will work on the creative side of things. We all have a laugh. And so I’m head of edit delivery, essentially. So when Russ gets the briefing with the client, and we talk to the team, I will make sure that that work gets delivered to the client, but my background is creative, digital, creative, graphic design, content creation, social media, creative, etc. I’ve been doing this for quite a while now it feels. So I’ve been around the block in a few agencies. And when Russ and I joined forces, 18 months, two years ago, it was a really good fit to mix marketing with creative services. And it’s working out very well. Yeah.

Alex Holliman: And then what was your was your agency background then Tim?

Tim Brown: So I graduated from uni, back in 0 five, and joined an agency as a junior creative. So all of the all of the fun jobs, business card design, letterhead, design, all the stuff that they would give to the junior and rapidly rapidly learn way more in that in the six months that I had the chance to work with my fantastic MD, before sadly, he passed away. then I ever did it three years at university, which is, which I think is quite common for a lot of people going to university, especially in the creative industry. And I worked there for about three and a half years before, we all got made redundant and the agency shut down. And then I took all of the clients started at my own little one man band agency, I suppose, and then joined. I did that for about two and a half three years and joined my previous agency which were which was an internal comms corporate communication consultancy here in Farnham, and I worked with, with the MD and the team there for about eight years. So I worked in that as the digital and the creative lead as part of that agency and learn a lot about employee engagement and internal comms and, and stuff like that. So you have to be creative and storytelling and stuff.

Russ Avery: And I’ve got no agency experience. So this is literally my running Avery Brown is my first agency experience. I’m learning about 100 things every day. And it’s really good fun. So I was in house before beforehand. So yeah.

Alex Holliman: Awesome. And I think that there’s a surprising amount of agency owners that have never run an agency before. I’m always I’m always surprised by it. But I think there’s always a sort of approval trajectory and the Learning Path regardless of whether you’ve been at an agency or not actually stepping up and running an agency is a very different thing, isn’t it?

Russ Avery: Absolutely. Absolutely. Yeah.

Alex Holliman: So what is it that you guys do on a day to day basis then? So Tim, you do the work?

Tim Brown: Yeah. And that’s all you need to know.

Russ Avery: Honestly, Alex, that is his favourite joke, and I hear it at least five times a week. So

Tim Brown: What can I say? No, in all seriousness, so then what is it that We’re doing on a day to day basis. So we’ve got a handful of retained clients as well as project based clients. So, you know, typically I think, every Monday morning, we always have a team meeting to go through the week’s deliverables to see what fell off the radar last week to understand what each team member needs either support on or where they’re at in terms of their deadlines. And we’re certainly getting much, much better making sure that that is a rigorous process. But we’re delivering creative, we’re working on brand strategies, we’re working on delivery, marketing, you know, traditional marketing, so content, copywriting, creative for social, working closely with our clients, on a daily basis, it helps that one of our main clients is in the same building as us. So that’s always, that’s always good. And it’s just about maintaining a consistent amount of delivery for those clients, as well as having been able to have the space to be to be creative and be able to answer those briefs.

Russ Avery: And yeah, so while Tim jokes about doing all the work, I bring it all in. So I’m the reason we have a business in the first place, if if we’re gonna we’re gonna make jokes about each other. So yeah, we worked with a business coach from very early on. And he, he really helped us to focus on the business instead of in the business as much as possible. And obviously, that happens over time, because it can’t happen overnight, when you’re so small, and you’re growing your team and stuff. But part of the outcome of that was me focusing solely or predominantly on business development and stuff. And that was just a very natural way around for it to happen, wasn’t it? Because I’ve got a much bigger network of contacts within sustainability. So our target sector, after 12 years of working in it, then then Tim does who’s new to the sustainability angle. So that’s quite natural. And we do hardly any outbound stuff. It’s just content publication, as you know, Alex from our LinkedIn profiles and stuff, which generates conversations and awareness and people get in touch, I’m happy to say

Alex Holliman: Absolutely and you produce one of my favourite email newsletters.

Russ Avery: 1984 Thank you very much. Yeah. So yeah, both both 1984 babies, and we like to name parts of our website and stuff, different things. So 1984 is the name of our newsletter. outpost is the name of our blog, etc. And yeah, for anyone who doesn’t know what it is, it’s, it’s a monthly roundup of things that are going on in the marketing world, the design world, the sustainability world, and then our world, the Avery Brown world, and it’s, you know, maybe maybe five links in each section or something like that. And just a nice little monthly Roundup, which we will maybe increase to do bi weekly or weekly, as and when we get more capacity and resource to do that.

Alex Holliman: Excellent. So to get a feel for who you both are. If you could invite four people past or present to a meal, who would they be?

Tim Brown: We’re talking about this question over lunch. And fictional or anybody?

Alex Holliman: I guess it has to be a real personal can’t be fictional.

Tim Brown: So, so I’m going to say the Ghostbusters.

Russ Avery: No real Oh, real, real people? Yeah.

Tim Brown: Shame. Okay. The actors from Ghostbusters

Alex Holliman: Tim Tim. I’m really sorry to break it too. But that was a that was a film.

Russ Avery: That’s not this happens a lot.

Alex Holliman: Yeah, mix. Yeah. Marty McFly.

Tim Brown: Yeah, not not such real life. Okay, so that is? That is a fantastic question.

Russ Avery: I’ve got one while Tim is thinking. So I’m a bit of a geek for. So Ernest Shackleton and his amazing Antarctic adventure. So if they can be past or present, I think one of mine would be, would be signers, Shackleton, who people should read about and stuff if they haven’t heard of him.

Alex Holliman: He was the Irish chap that went to Antarctica and got stuck in a nice flow and then managed to rescue his men and they stayed in some island somewhere and did the vacation to somewhere.

Russ Avery: Yeah, so absolutely grueling, like true life, tale of adventure and leadership. And yeah, just incredible. And I think they all survived. And they, as you said, they stayed on an island first, and then he eventually found a whaling station and they got rescued and yeah, incredible. And that was in the early 20th century before you know, we had all our like tech and warm weather gear and stuff like that. So it was really brutal.

Alex Holliman: Wow, that sounds incredible. Yeah, that’s one out of four.

Tim Brown: Right? Okay. I know everybody says it, and everybody always says, says him, but definitely I think it would be incredible to actually have a proper conversation or, or a face to face conversation with David Attenborough. I think it really would I know we’ve we all love him. And I know a lot of people would absolutely say that, but I think it would be an incredible experience to sit down and and and understand what he’s really like and, and, you know, what drives his passion and things like that. So

Russ Avery: I think that’s a great one. And you know, he did is a cliche, but that’s just the only because of how many people he’s influenced. But yeah, he’s, he’s one of the main reasons I got into sustainability. Because I just grew up watching, watching David Attenborough nature programmes on a Sunday evening, since as young as I can remember, and

Tim Brown: Still do

Russ Avery: Yeah, series are incredible. Okay, two more, two more.I might say Mark Tremonti, he’s a guitarist. He is yeah, it was one of my favourite musicians.

Tim Brown: I’m not sitting next to him.

Russ Avery: They don’t have to be people that everyone has heard of, do they? That’s who would we invite to dinner? So yeah. And you’ve probably go for some DJ I’ve never heard of I imagine. So yeah,

Tim Brown: I would quite like to I would actually. Well, now you say that. Actually, I do love Annie Mac. I think she’s brilliant. I’m gutted. She’s not on the BBC on Radio One anymore. But her podcasts are incredible. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard any of them. But she’s interviewed some really, really impressive people. And I think she’d just be a really good, good person to have around the table.

Russ Avery: They go, that’s an eclectic mix of four people at a dinner party. Yeah.

Alex Holliman: Excellent. Well, I think Annie Mac next to David Attenborough. Perfect. So the main reason for this podcast is to try and help clients get the most out of their relationship with work with the agency that they’re working with, or the agencies that are looking to select. And so when it comes to briefing agencies, how important is it for a client to share the budgets for a specific project? Do you feel

Tim Brown: I think it’s like, quite vital and saves so much time upfront, for both parties, them and the agency that they’re talking to. We’ve in the last 18 months, we’ve had some lessons that we’d could have learned from and we could have asked the question about budget more upfront, we’ve got much better at that. And we’ve put processes in our Yeah, in our sales process to kind of help that we’ve got a new prospect questionnaire that works really well for us. And there’s a question about their budget in that, and it can immediately, like price them out and save time further down the line. And, yeah,

Alex Holliman: And what sort of stuffs in that sort of qualification process, that document you’ve put together?

Russ Avery: So the new prospect questionnaire doesn’t have that many questions about the sustainability side of things. It’s got one or two maybe about what it means to them and their business. And it’s an open ended so they can write as little or as much as they want. Most of it, Alex comes from the first chat, whether that’s a zoom call or a thing and just getting to know them a bit better, and a gut feel counts for quite a lot of it. Because I can tell quite early on whether they’re kind of saying they’re doing stuff to pay lip service to sustainability or jumping on the bandwagon a bit, because it’s now quite a trendy thing to do, whether it’s like, actually part of their core purpose. And so dig in a little bit, the grey area. And what’s really interesting is, we say we only work for truly sustainability driven businesses, but actually, there might be some that are currently doing nothing on their journey, but they’re looking at and they we absolutely don’t disregard them, because we can’t only work with the people that are already converted, otherwise we won’t affect maximum positive change.

Alex Holliman: Absolutely. And I think that’s preaching to the converted is there is less impact and value in that so having conversations with other people in trying to encourage them to find a better path is quite an important thing for everyone to do.

Russ Avery: So when we say are you currently there tell us a bit about what sustainability means to you and your company or what you’re currently doing. And they say nothing but we really want to be you know, then there are a lot of wise digging down into it. Let’s find out why what it means to them. And from the end of that part of the conversation we have a pretty good idea of okay, these guys are serious about this like I can hear the passion coming across from the the founder or the CEO, which is typically who we speak to. And and then yeah, we take the conversation flowed from there and decide whether or not they’re, they’re a good prospect and a good fit for us.

Alex Holliman: And then for client, how important it is for a client for agencies to have values and to talk about those values?

Tim Brown: I think it’s really important, I think, to be able to connect between the two between client and agency on those on those values and having those core beliefs ingrained into both parties, I think it’s really, really important. You know, we’ve we’ve worked, or we’ve turned down work, because the values aren’t quite right. And we haven’t had it the other way around yet in terms of clients, or potential clients or prospects, saying that we’re not quite aligned with them. But I think it’s really important to make sure that those those values and those those beliefs are, are aligned.

Russ Avery: Yeah, the work will be just better all round, I think will be more on the same page from day one, and just lays the foundation for what’s probably going to be a really good working relationship

Tim Brown: And the respect from the client to the agency and who they might be working with as well, I think will then will then also be a lot more solid and a lot more trusted. I think it’s yeah, it’s imperative to make sure that those are those are those sit parallel with each other?

Alex Holliman: And then building on from values, how do you feel that purpose fits into the sort of selection criteria for clients?

Russ Avery: Purpose is interesting, because that purpose won’t necessarily have anything to do with sustainability, tackling the climate crisis or anything, it might be, obviously to be the leader in their specific field, whether they’re an events company or something. So but it’s about then digging down from purpose into vision and mission and stuff like that. And as I said, like having that conversation about your values will come up about their goals, asking them that question, what sustainability means to them? If we do find a company whose purpose is so closely aligned to ours, which, by the way, is to inspire others to be a force for good? Yeah. Which is something we worked on with with our coach, and when we were doing our own brand strategy as a team, then that’s just going to be a much a much quicker, easier conversation, because they’re probably almost definitely going to be the right kind of prospect for us.

Alex Holliman: Absolutely, we like cycling downhill. And then when, when, when looking at agencies, something that we speak about in the agency world, as leaders is how we can do better on things like sustainability. But then there’s things like, making sure that there is a diverse employee base within the industry. And so how can clients check up on, you know, how diverse the talent and agency has is?

Russ Avery: That is a great question. I’m not not sure I have the answer beyond looking at the the team pay team page and asking them, but I guess the team page might not always have yeah, I’ve everyone on it, and

Tim Brown: The same of the employee list on LinkedIn, it might not have everybody on it. Yeah, everybody’s gonna be on LinkedIn. I mean, it’s, it’s a really important thing to, you know, have a strong, strong set of, you know, strong diversity within within any team. And I think the I think, really one of the only ones is maybe to meet the team as much as possible. I mean, it depends on how that relationship works. And who’s working from the client side. But you know, I think, you know, for us we are, there’s just, there’s just three of us. We’re a small team. So it’s easy to see the diversity within hours, potentially, I guess

Russ Avery: I guess a first hand example is how, how the sort of relationship and the output of work in our own team changed when we took on Beth Yeah, who’s our first employee, and obviously now, the first and currently only woman who works for Avery Brown. As Tim said, there are just three of us currently, we’ve got we’ve got some great contractors we use. But that’s the core team of employees is three people. And that was a big change in the dynamic. We produce different creative output as a result due to having Beth on board, which is great. So you know, if they’re working on a rebrand projects, and we’re producing, say, three concepts of new visual identities to show the client and one of those is by Tim and one is by Beth and one is by Ben, who’s one of our creative contractors, the client gets to see a really good range then, of different things. It’s had someone else’s completely different eye on it, rather than three being designed by Tim, which it would have been before. Yeah, we grew and

Tim Brown: Yeah, yeah, which typically, then they all look the same, just maybe a different colour, you know, for concepts for a logo or something along those lines, you know, deeper than that, obviously, but it’s not very good, because I’m not very good.

Alex Holliman: And I think I know for ourselves, we’ve made great strides in terms of what we’ve been doing this time, I think, probably three, four years ago. I wasn’t thinking about it. I was focused on making payroll, keeping the lights on making sure the work that we did It was an excellent quality. That was my focus. And I think then, as the team has sort of grown, they have realised mainly through the B Corp application, actually the lack of diversity we had, and that is whether it’s based on gender, ethnicity, or sexuality or neuro diversity and that kind of thing. And we’ve put some quite specific changes in place to our recruitment page, how we interview people, how we take CVs from people, and then, you know, we’ve been out today on a team building thing. And our team is in a much better place as a result of that, because we are all totally different. They’re not just a sort of Russian, Russian dolls, where you take the big one off, and this little one inside, there’s just a little bit the same. And they’re all the same. It’s not like that we are, yeah, we are a different bunch. And I think that makes it makes our work and the internal experience stronger as a result of it. So we can deliver better work from our clients.

Russ Avery: Amazing. Yeah. So we could learn a lot from what you guys have done, because we’re right, we’re right at the beginning of our journey, and we’ve got the advantage that something like that is on our radar, because we know about it. And we are, you know, sustainability and regenerative driven business. That means that we can think about this from from these early days and try and try and get it right as we grow rather than having to make adjustments later when we’re already a certain size or whatever. So yeah, we’ve got we’ve got an advantage in that area.

Alex Holliman: So with clients, like you get a lot of inbound leads coming in, how do you guys say no to clients that maybe aren’t aligned with your values? I guess?

Russ Avery: We’re just really honest with them. It hasn’t happened that many times. But it happened very early on after we were about two months old. And we said no, just kind of just flat out and kind of, you know, sorry, but we can’t work with you because and they were a they were an aerospace engineer company that works predominantly with weapons manufacturers so that just that was just a hard move. For us. It didn’t sit well, they came to us after an introduction, which is very nice. And we had a chat with the guy because at that stage, we didn’t really know what the business did. And he could have told us that he was trying to create a new wing for a plane that cut co2 emissions down by half or something. But it wasn’t that it was it was bombs and stuff. So that’s, you know, that’s just a flat No, for us. So yeah, we were just honest with him. And he was totally cool about it. And we and actually, there was a good chance for a little bit of education there because he was interested in things like B corporations, which he’d never heard of before. So there was a good opportunity to kind of talk about sustainable business and business as a force for good with someone who had never heard about it before. So that was interesting.

Alex Holliman: Absolutely. And I think that’s a particular focus of mine. Because in terms of how to say no to people, because I think historically, if you’d have turned up with a, when we first started with a simple five pound note, we’d probably be able to find something that we could do for you. And so now we’ve sort of put in place all of these sort of systems and procedures, and we know who we are and what we’re trying to do as a business. And I think sometimes saying no, to a project. Like, it’s it’s a different sort of muscle memory and is one that you need to practice.

Russ Avery: Absolutely, definitely,I think and it was great, wasn’t it that that happened and came to us so early on? Yeah, in our journey, so that we we had stuck. We have stuck to our guns since since day one.

Tim Brown: Yeah, absolutely.Yeah, we really have.

Alex Holliman: So do you think then that agencies always need to walk the walk when it comes to the services they provide?

Tim Brown: Yes, I think it’s is the short answer. I think we certainly we certainly do. And I think there are a lot of agencies out there that certainly do and some of the larger ones probably need to make slightly better effort of that potentially. But but you know, the the example I guess, is for us. You know, we are we are a sustainable marketing agency, and we are on our own sustainability journey. And one is a regenerative business journey. So we’ve done that from day one. And I was just I had a call with another agency just just just before we came on today, talking about being able to prove that from day one. And I think being able to tell that story is really, really important. And something that Russ drives really, really focused and really hard on being able to tell that story from from the get go.

Russ Avery: So we yeah, we naturally need to be ultra conscious of anything we say. We do. Because we help our clients to tell their story honestly and authentically and avoid greenwash. Yeah, so it’s imperative that we do Yeah. So I’m, I’m happy at this stage that anyone can read any of our LinkedIn posts, go on our website, read read outpost, which is our blog, just having a browse through those titles. And we’ve shared, as Tim said, like, I think I’ve made a good effort of sharing every single step of our sustainability journey, no matter how small that thing has been, whether it was writing a letter to the prime minister or signing a petition to do much bigger things like having a scope 123 emissions calculators. That’s all publicly available online. And we are, we do our absolute utmost to make sure that we walk the walk, but we are only on our own journey. And by no means are we perfect. So it’s really important to say that as well.

Alex Holliman: Yeah, absolutely. And I think that’s something that I’ve always been inspired by both of you about in terms of you very much walk the walk. And I think we’ve been through this process where we’ve come from, we didn’t think about this stuff wasn’t on our radar 5-10 years ago. And so we’ve then had to make a change. And I think so, for me, it’s then rather than just starting to make a misstep, and just like, do something quite vacuous and meaningless and start, like trying to wing it and say how great we’re doing. I think we have we’ve always tried to be quite sort of authentic about, well, actually, this is our starting point. This is what we haven’t done, this is what we’re going to do. And then this is what we’ll get around to in terms of our next steps. Because I think a lot of people in the world need to do that. So hopefully, you know, whether it’s, I sometimes envy you guys from having to be able to start from the position of not perfection, but you’ve just been on point from the off, if that makes sense.

Russ Avery: Yeah, definitely. It’s nice to not Yeah, it is much harder for companies. The bigger they get, the harder it is to turn that ship around and start doing things the right way. So yeah, we’re, it’s good to be doing it from day one.

Alex Holliman: I was gonna say it’s a bit like refitting a 737 as it’s in flight, but I think to call us on week seven would be overwritten. It is maybe like a small, Cessna or something. But anyway, I think so coming. The next thing I want to talk to you, Russ, and Tim was about being regenerative business, because you were the first people that I had heard used that term. So there was stuff about because there’s so many sort of the language in sustainability is quite confusing. You’ve got like net zero carbon neutral, is zero by 2030, by 2050, or whatever it is. And you were the first ones that I heard use this term about becoming a regenerative, regenerative business, which is easy for me to say, Why do you think that’s important for agencies?

Russ Avery: So, for agencies, in particular, I’m not sure, specifically, because it’s more for me, it’s more just for every business. So if we back up a bit, so the private sector has a massive role to play in, in decreasing emissions, and like tackling the climate crisis and playing its part in creating a better world, where, you know, we’re repeatedly let down by governments and global leaders, and there is just a massive, massive role for businesses to step up. Now, the jump from being a sustainable business to a regenerative one is, you know, that’s the language thing. So sustainable, just implies that you are operating in a way that enables you to carry on basically, right. And obviously, in the context of business, that means that you’re minimising your negative impact on the planet as much as possible. In my mind, a regenerative business is one which asks itself, actually, can the world be a better place Because our business exists? So do we give back more to society and the planet than what we take from it? And like, can you imagine how quickly things would turn around if every business started thinking like that in terms of the positive benefits that they give back to society and the planet and the environment, so not just more sustainable, ie reducing your harm on these things, but actually trying to positively impact them, so that the world is quite literally a better place Because climbing trees exists because Avery & Brown exists. That for me, is when things get really interesting. And I know people can’t, I know people can’t see this, Alex, because it’s audio only. But dropping very soon is an absolute monumental regenerative business mindmap that we’re creating, which will hopefully be super useful, not just for any business that’s at the start of their journey, wondering what actions to take to take that first step, but also for businesses that are one year, three years into it, who are thinking about what to do next and thinking of all the different areas that you can be a good business. Hopefully, there’ll be something in there for everyone to take a little bit of inspiration from. So yeah, really looking forward to publishing that next week. Hopefully.

Alex Holliman: Awesome And because there is this insanity that like almost psychotic insanity with business as usual, that sort of if you think about it from stemming from 1950s, American capitalism, whereby it’s all about profit, it’s all about growth. And that then got dialled up in the Reagan era to where we are today where we’re sort of on on the precipice. And so, I know that in the UK, you know, a lot of stuff about the Better Business act?

Russ Avery: Yeah, so we’re supporters of the Better Business Act, we jumped on that very quickly. It’s like, again, on our whole journey, it’s a very natural thing for us today. And we’re, you know, we’re hopefully going to be doing going through our B Corp certification later this year, as well. And there’s a direct link between B Corp and the Better Business Act, anything we can do to support any movement out there, which is trying to make better business business as usual, we are we’re fully behind.

Alex Holliman: And I think that that the B Corp movement, and then the Better Business Act, I tried to change the company’s acts in the UK to place equal priority on planet and people as you do profit, really large business C suite level business decision makers to actually make longer term decisions that might affect that quarter or that year’s revenue that actually have a positive effect on their people the planet over the longer term

Russ Avery: 100 person like that’s, that’s, you know, real change will inevitably happen if we, if we can get to that stage. I mean, it already is. But it’s about that snowballing effect, actually, which we can create.

Alex Holliman: So for clients, then when they’re looking at agencies, what can they do to check up on an agency’s reputation

Russ Avery: Case studies.

Tim Brown: Case studies, testimonials. I mean, you know, we’ve always offered our new potential our new clients the opportunity to talk to our old clients, or our current clients, about how we may have worked with them and what we may have delivered and how their relationship was. So we can use that as a bit of a signal as well. But yeah, I think it’s just about I mean, you can hide a lot on the internet can’t you, in terms of what you show, and what you don’t show from a case study point of view and things like that. So I think it’s about talking to talking to people that you’ve worked with, will certainly get that, that that element across.

Russ Avery: I think another interesting one that’s increasing these days is maybe like the personal brands of the of the founders. Yeah. And people are really like, beginning to maybe almost expect that, like, you know, expecting to see visibility from the leaders, the founders, CEO, etc. By checking them out on LinkedIn, personally, not just the company, say like, looking at their LinkedIn profile, seeing if they put themselves out there on video and stuff like that. And that can have a great, great impact on the reputation of the business as a whole.

Alex Holliman: Absolutely. And then how important do you guys feel it is for a client to be introduced to the team that’s actually going to work on the project for them?

Russ Avery: Really important? Yeah, we need to we need to get better at that. I know, they’re only three of us. But we we’ve got work to do in our handover, from the point that they leave me from the sales, bringing them in to being introduced to Tim and Beth, who actually going to be doing a lot of the work, don’t we?

Tim Brown: Yeah, absolutely. And I think then you want to build that relationship. And that rapport between, potentially the person who’s delivering and managing to the client said that there’s a direct relationship between those two so that they understand who’s responsible for what and how things will be delivered and things like that. So, you know, that’s always been the case. In my agency experiences, I’ve always been, you know, as a junior back in back in the day, some have a long it was 18 years ago. Oh, God. It, it was it was always important for the client to meet the full team when I was at my previous agencies, because it meant that you were building up that, that that level of that relationship, and most of the correspondence went through the senior designers or the account handlers. But it didn’t, it didn’t mean that the client got to understand who was going to be working on the on the actual output.

Russ Avery: Yeah. And you know, you’ve got to set expectations as they disappointment further down the line or anything. So if they know who will be working on their projects up front, then you’re just doing yourself a favour.

Alex Holliman: It then we always find that it helps with the chemistry. So if you can get that before sign off. Yeah, yeah, that jarring experience post sign off of, Oh, who am I dealing with now? And the client has to reorient themselves with and build up that chemistry all over again. Yeah. So you and so something something you mentioned, Tim was about that you encourage new clients to speak to existing clients.

Tim Brown: Yeah, we’ve had we’ve done that a couple of times where we’ve offered you know fits. It’s not necessary about Getting them over the line, or if we haven’t actually sold, you know, finalised and sold to them. But if they weren’t there, the opportunity is there for them to talk to Doug from mesh energy, who’s one of our clients, to talk to him about the work that we’ve done with him and the relationship that we’ve had with him over the last I him and his business over the last 18 months, two years. He’s one of our first ever clients, he lives above us in the office, which is, which is great. So we have a really good relationship with him and the team. And we’ve actually been on a call with a prospect. And Doug was also asked to join that call by the prospects. And that prospect, then bombard bombarded Doug with loads of questions about so how good are these two guys then? And what do they do for you? And how much do they charge you and things like that, and he was a bit of a rabbit in the headlights, but he, he sang our praises and got a lunch out of it. So it was, it was

Alex Holliman: What sort of lunch Tim?

Tim Brown: Oh, it was just him. And I actually we enjoyed a nice lunch together. We had a burger, he had a chicken burger.

Russ Avery: And yeah, he did it on a day when I wasn’t there.

Tim Brown: Tell me, we plan that. But no, I mean, it’s and I’ve been in that situation before previous agency do you know we had you have the opportunity to talk to some of our current clients, if you want to, they will always be happy to sing our praises. You know, and they can be as honest as they like, and and hopefully they are and they they tell the truth. And they say that we’re amazing. So it works works in our favour. For sure.

Russ Avery: As it turns out, Alex, that prospects hasn’t been in touch since one didn’t work out so much. So if you’re listening, you know who you are. You are ghosting us. And we haven’t forgotten. Yeah, yeah.

Alex Holliman: So what do you guys think about awards for agencies? Do you think a client should select award winning agencies? Or how did you feel about some?

Russ Avery: No, I don’t think the client should be, shouldn’t be too concerned with with that. And if the agency has won a lot of awards, they should maybe look into what those awards are. A lot of awards out there are great, don’t get me wrong, and a lot of them out there are paid to play, which means that if you don’t buy a big table of 20 for the awards, ceremony dinner, you won’t even be on the shortlist, not a chance. And it’s all just a bit a bit for Shame and a bit of a vanity project. You know, we are just to clarify, we are 100% going to be entering a couple of awards this year that we’ve identified. But yeah, the ones that we’re that we look for, that we will enter are very specific. And we look at them for exactly things like that, see if they’re, if we think they’re legit and stuff and it’s absolutely not the be all and lie to us, is it?

Tim Brown: No, no, I totally agree and won some awards in previous agencies, mainly local stuff, smaller stuff, you know, does it really matter to the clients? I’m not sure if you’re in a massive London agency with 300 staff, and you’ve won, you know, big awards and DNA D pencils and all sorts of stuff. You know, do they look at that and go well, they must have really good talent? I don’t know. Again, it’s, it’s, it’s it’s a tricky one to answer. But I think for us, you know, being a planet Mark certified, we’ve as we go through that being a B Corp, and really, you know, working hard towards getting that certification, becoming part of the Better Business Act and and, you know, doing, doing all that sort of great work. Yeah, sorry.

Russ Avery: Sorry, that’s a big American muscle car outside the window or something. Yeah, I think Tim’s write those. For us. It’s, it’s actually our rain sustainability and regenerative business credentials that we hope will be more impressive to the prospect or the client than any actual awards. We’ve won for the actual marketing and creative side of things. So yeah.

Alex Holliman: And I think for myself, because I’ve always been an award cynic. There are, I think we’re I’ve got to with is there are categories of awards. So you’ve almost got like, but like you say, then that was it. They they pencilled in ID Yeah, hands line. So like top two really credible awards. And then you’ve got, I got emailed a few months ago, where I could pay a couple 1000 pounds of gold award for the best, top 10 search agency in the UK. And I’ve done nothing for that. And so it’s totally valueless. And I think it’s that sort of narrative about being an award winning agency that I’ve sort of, because if you Google award winning agency, there’s like 1000s and 1000s of people everyone says it, and so it’s a bit of a one dimensional approach to try and to stand out. However, I think as a supporting piece, I think it can support an agency’s work really well, what I’ve cut what, what I’ve learned from a couple of people is that there’s agencies that enter their work into awards and win awards. There’s something psychologically that happens where the work actually improves, and the agency’s growth is faster, versus those that don’t. And so I don’t think there’s actual, like statistics that quantify that. But I can sort of understand the psychological impact of pushing yourself to deliver that work, then pushing this to enter to the award than winning the award. What that then does on the sort of psychology of the agency almost.

Russ Avery: Yeah, I can see that. And but you know, coming back to my answer, if I put myself in the shoes of the person selecting an agency, which I’ve had to do, whether like for selecting a marketing agency, when I was in house roles, or choosing a video production agency to work on with the video, it’s never one of the things I look at, I look at their their show reel, I look at their case studies, I’m not looking in the footer or through their blogs to see what awards they’ve won. Yeah. So

Alex Holliman: Talking about the footers of websites and that kind of thing. So how important that like accreditations from industries bodies, or like certifications from guys like Google, or Microsoft, or HubSpot, or whoever it is, what do you think about those things? Yeah,

Russ Avery: I think, again, on a, on a case by case basis, depending on what services the agency provides, I think some probably going to be more important than others. An interesting one, for example, might be might be see I am trying to shoot marketing. So I’m not. I’m a completely self taught marketer. So I learned a lot by doing everything. And there will be lots that I don’t know about proper marketing theory and stuff that you would learn if you’ve got it CRM, I imagine, you know, there’ll be loads. I’m not because I think it’s obviously, you know, it’s a very high standard. But, again, I don’t think it’s, I think it’s the be all and end all and I think you might be looking for something like, I don’t know, well enough, but you know, Google certified, or a Google partner or something, if you do that kind of thing. I mean, that, in my mind might give them a bit more, a bit more weights.

Tim Brown: And if you’re shopping around for that sort of agency, and they don’t have that, then, you know, it might I don’t really know what it means to be a Google Ads certified agency or have the logo at the bottom. My understanding is it’s about spend, right? It’s all budgets, right? That might be completely false. I don’t know, Alex, you’ll be able to correct me a bit on

Alex Holliman: The Google side of things. There are there’s two tiers, premier partners have a lot of high spending very big clients, and that differentiates them from regular partners, who perhaps don’t, but there’s still like a minimum spend threshold. Yeah. And then totally, what is supposed to prove is that you’ve got a set number of like technical PPC, people that are trained to a specific standard. However, increasingly, I don’t know whether I’m just getting more cynical. But it seems to me that if you let Google Suggest things that favour Google and not the clients, like on automatic approval bases, recommendations that they algorithmically come up with in the Google Ad suite, you’ll get a higher performance score, and so become a Google partner. And so yeah, I don’t that could just be like, tinfoil hat wearing paranoia. As a Google Ads agency owner, but it doesn’t seem to be altruistic view, I think you can always look at some of the recommendations. They were actually never has that worked before the client in this example, it’s not going to work. Why would Google Suggest it up there, but we’ve got some unsold inventory. They want to actually monetize and make money.

Russ Avery: Yeah. So yeah. I just think that case studies and testimonials from your existing clients, and the work you’ve done are so important, because they’re the best people look at. Yeah, and they don’t go. Oh, well, Russ hasn’t got CIM and Tim hasn’t got the gold medal for colouring in when he was eight. So we’re not going to choose them as are you did? Yeah. We got that same day. We Yeah. So I don’t know there might be might be people out there. And we’ll never know they exist because obviously they’ve never ended up getting in touch with us. But anyone else who’s wondering well, we’ll look at our the results that we’ve done for our clients and read the testimonials we’ve gotten look at our case studies and use that as the social proof that they need to give us a call.

Alex Holliman: Awesome. So for clients, are there any red flags that they can look out for when looking at agencies?

Tim Brown: We did actually talk about this when we were looking at the question. And I think it’s, you know, if you’re going to engage with, say, a social media agency and their social is terrible, then that might be a red flag. And there and there are plenty out there, there are plenty out there that are close to our borders, that are local to us that are exactly that. They’re they’re a full rounded marketing agency. But they both have good socialists and social is really not very good at all. And so that would potentially be a red flag, or if you’re a packaging company, and you want to work with a packaging design agency, for example, you know, you will look at what sort of stuff that they’ve you know, and I think it’s going to be all about the work and how well the work is demonstrated across the website. Now, you know, our website, at the time of this recording is sort of woefully underpopulated from a proof point of view and a case studies point of view. So people will only see two pieces of work on the website. Now that’s currently being worked on. And so people might look at that as as an issue, I don’t know. But we tend don’t tend to get work through our website anyway. I intend to get it all through other channels, networking or LinkedIn. So we then have the opportunity to almost bypass the website and the proof on our website at that particular time. So I think it’s all about work and experience and demonstrating capability is probably if they can’t do that, then that may very well be a red flag. And I may have just talked us into a bit of a corner there, but no. Shovel dig us out.

Alex Holliman: I think a website is a touch point that people are looking I don’t think it’s the only one increasingly important, like you say, there’ll be your personal social media profiles to company, look at the website, look at some reviews, and then get in touch there is there’s a process, isn’t it?

Russ Avery: LinkedIn is a much bigger touch point for us. Yeah. And our website? Definitely, yeah. And I think Tim’s example of the social media one is good. And you can go even narrower on that. And, you know, there are a lot of LinkedIn coaches and trainers out there. I mean, there are literally hundreds, and some of them have got terrible LinkedIn profiles, right, terrible posts. And I’m just wondering how anyone would ever use them or give them any business ever. But apparently there are they’re out there. They’re out there. And then there are other LinkedIn coaches who have got awesome LinkedIn profiles published consistently awesome content. And it’s just like, well, I know which one I choose every day of the week. So yeah, definitely something to be said for the walking the walk side of things and red flags.

Alex Holliman: So what is one of the coolest things that you guys have done on a pitch to a client

Tim Brown: As Avery Brown? Nothing.

Alex Holliman: If you asked me, if you asked us this question in mind with a ball, you want us to produce a really snazzy looking spreadsheet and with the books. I think that’s, you know,

Russ Avery: I really, you’ve made us feel so much better that you just said that. So that’s cool. So as Avery Brown, nothing that we could think of, you know, lucky or fortunate to have one of the ones done but we have got an example from Tim’s old role.

Tim Brown: Yeah, so in my in my in my previous previous agency, we did a lot of work for a large engineering and m&e contracting business and we worked with them in their tender process place so we actually helped them pitch so the credit the cool credit stuff that we were doing for them was really, really cool. So we would help them pitch and we they they pitched for DHL and we built a DHL crate and DHL to the crate to DHL with the pitch document in which was really cool. We did another one for Gate Gourmet, which are an airline food manufacturer for your for your in flight meals. And we created the document printed it perfect bound looks really lovely. And we made and got vacuum formed a food tray and put the pitch deck in there with a bun and an orange juice with a foil lids and cutlery and all that sort of stuff. So we’ve done quite a lot. I’ve done quite a lot of fun creative stuff from a pitch point of view. But we’ve not done anything like that just yet. For Avery and brown. That’s the thing yet. Yeah, yeah. And I was talking to a previous agency before this call. And he was saying how he’s how they’re planning on reaching out to new prospects in quite a creative way. And I think we could definitely do something very, very similar in that they send them a gift with a personalised video. And the gift then grows into something into a plant or something and then and then they give you tips on how to keep that plant alive in the right environment and then talking about how you’re Relationship with with a client and all that sort of stuff. You know very, you know, very touchy feely, but, and could be really good. So I think we haven’t done it yet. But there are a few big brands we would like to go after. So we would probably think of some creative ways to get in front of them.

Alex Holliman: Absolutely. We’re the same way the same is the idea and coming up with that concept that makes an impact. Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. Perfect. So we’re coming towards the end. So to finish on them. Which agencies do you guys really, really admire?

Tim Brown: Was it called Clark? Climbing trees? We really like.

Alex Holliman: Leave it out. Leave it out.

Tim Brown: Everyone says that. Which agencies do we really admire?

Russ Avery: The reason I’m looking at him, Alex is because he knows so many more than I do.

Tim Brown: Yeah. I mean, I think so. We’ve, we’ve got, we’ve got few. We know a few people from Kyan, who are based in Guilford. And we’ve never we’ve never done any work with them. We’re very unlikely to ever do any work with them, or partnerships or anything like that. But we really liked their culture. We’ve been to a few of their networking thing.

Russ Avery: Yeah. So we have actually been there a lot into the environment. And it’s very cool office, cool team and stuff.

Tim Brown: And we know some of the senior leadership guys, Gavin, specifically. He’s a really great guy and believe that they’re doing really great things. And they offer a really great service.

Russ Avery: The one in Winchester who our studio Republic Yeah, studio Republic. Yeah, they were great. Fantastic. Yeah. Shout for those guys. We met them at W XG in Guilford. Yes, Jack and yeah, and Chris. And they do some great stuff and their purpose driven and they do stuff for charities, pro bono and stuff like that. And I think they’re of equal. And yeah, like those guys. They do cool stuff.

Tim Brown: Yeah, absolutely. And any others off top my head?

Russ Avery: I’m sure they’re just like, massive design agencies that you’ve followed for for years. Yeah.

Tim Brown: Absolutely. Yeah.

Alex Holliman: So, guys, this has been great. Where can people find out more about you online?

Russ Avery: Yeah, so website is Avery and brown.com. When on social media, we’re most active on LinkedIn, and Instagram on LinkedIn, you can just find us at Avery and brown if you type that in. And it’s @ Avery brown on Instagram as well. So nice and easy for everyone. We’re more active as Russ and Tim than we are on the company page on LinkedIn. Because that’s where the magic happens. Yeah, so it’s probably like 80-20. So like 80% publishing to our personal profiles. 20% from the from the company page, maybe even more. Yeah. Yeah, that’s about it. We’re on Twitter, but we hardly use that

Alex Holliman: Excellent I follow you both on Twitter, so I know this to be true. So thanks, guys. It’s been great.

Russ Avery: Thanks so much. Bye now.

Listen to it now on https://www.alexholliman.com/ or your usual podcast streaming platform.