If I knew then what I know now is a series of bylines from small agency executives about the lessons they learned in building their shops.
When we started N/A Collective five years ago, we made a point to be humble, oftentimes more than we probably should have. We knew we were great at what we did and we knew the overly salesey approach that had bothered us at our previous agency experiences and in our competitors was not what we wanted.
But this time around, we wanted to be the opposite. We wanted to show our worth in our work and in our approach and didn’t want to be the “in your face” agency that everyone else was. We didn’t want our agency and client friends to feel like we were selling them; we wanted to be there when they needed us. However, what I’ve since learned, is that there has to be a balance, and it’s one thing to be humble and another not to present or promote yourself and your work.
I assumed that being humble and promoting our work were mutually exclusive, so I chose not to promote the agency very much, thinking clients didn’t like it and it wouldn’t resonate. What I didn’t realize was that reaching out about N/A Collective was not in conflict with our agency’s humbleness, and it instead turned out to be a helpful reminder to our network about what we’ve been up to.
In order to be successful in anything in life, you have to be confident in your abilities and let the world know you have them. There is a way to share this information with clients in an honest, proud, respectful (and beautifully designed) way, without coming across as cocky. There is a cadence to the frequency of your outreach and the content or tone of that outreach. At the end of the day, you are and have to be your best cheerleader, even if it makes you uncomfortable. You have to share your skills with clients or no one will know that you have them and you won’t be able to make waves in the industry the way you know you can.
We’ve since adjusted our approach (but not our tone), have expanded our new business team, brought on a PR team and have spoken at numerous conferences alongside our clients. This has helped us expand our client roster, the relationship we have with our clients and opened up access to the more robust experiential opportunities we knew we were capable of. We got ourselves a seat at the table and we’re not giving it up anytime soon.
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The article If I knew then what I know now ... I wouldn't have been so humble first appeared on Ad Age.