Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Failure Coach XXXVIII

Ambrosia Offices in St. Louis

Tony Blank was looking comfortable in the conference room of his office downtown. Big windows overlooked the recently completed Ballpark Village complex and what looked like a renaissance of downtown revitalization. He was in the office, even though workers were still doing tenant finishes from case-work to carpeting.  He was happy to have his high profile client in for an unstructured meeting.

“I’ve got to tell you Alan, our folks love working on your account. And I hope you are happy with the results so far. I think we’re making a pretty big splash starting with the mini tour in the Midwest. You got some pretty nice press and it looks like sales of book #2 are brisk.” He said this as he closed his laptop computer and straightened some file folders in order to focus more on his guest.

“Thanks Tony, I’m flattered but I’m reluctant to give you all the credit. You are being paid pretty well or at least fairly, I hope you would agree.” Alan was impressed, maybe a little jealous, of the trappings of the agency offices taking shape. After all, he never really was a corporate type. Even his stints among journalists publishing and corporate communications were confined to modest work environments.  

“Okay, sure I’ll give you a lot of credit for building a pretty strong brand. As I understand, even you were caught somewhat by surprise at the popularity of your first book.  You did a mountain of work promoting it. I won’t lie to you – I’m very impressed with what you accomplished with just local talent with regard to making yourself almost a household name. Book One – It’s not easy being anybody – But nobody is better at being you already sold 100,000 by 1Q and into Q2 you were well on your way to selling another 100,000 in paperback. That’s a great starting point. But you have to understand our challenge was to help you sustain that brand. When we started working with you we helped you launch Book Two – You can’t give 110% - just one year later in a rush. We wanted to capitalize on success of book one and keep the momentum. And you enjoyed another wave of success inside of about 18 months.” Tony had a good command of the business metrics important to Alan Edgewater and wanted him to know it. He was always a pretty good study when it came to such things. The data regarding the first two Alan Edgewater books sales was provided to him as a matter of routine by account managers in New York who had access to Nielson Bookscan. This data, Tony knew, was more comprehensive than an author would have.

“Of course I am grateful for everything that has happened. I just want to make sure we’re being prudent. The first book is now available in paperback while the second book You can’t give 110% looks like it’s going to do pretty darn well too. All that being said, I’m basically a small business that has to watch nickels and dimes. If it wasn’t the seminars and keynote addresses I wouldn’t be able to invest in the marketing. I think I’ve spent close to half a million bucks on marketing stuff. That may not seem much to you but it comes right out of my pocket with precious little help from my publisher.”

“I hear you Alan. Ambrosia has your best interests at heart. We are going to pull back if that is what you want to do. But let’s leave that conversation open until the end of the year. By then we can sit down and really look at where we are relative to the Alan Edgewater brand.” 

“Okay, but I want to do that sooner, rather than later. I’m excited about the next project and looking a production at an even greater pace than the second book. Negative Space, if we can hold to our timetables will hit the market by the end of next year. We’ve got a nifty plan to give Walmart an exclusive product and simultaneously have Negative Space in a unique paperback in time for holiday gift season. So, I can’t bitch too much. I’m gonna need to keep building on the momentum we’ve started.”

“I get it. You like what we’re doing but you don’t want to pay us to do it. I’m kidding. I’m kidding.” Tony was skilled at light hearted jabs like this when it was necessary to mollify clients but he understood this was not a typical corporate CEO type. He caught himself and tried to be more assuring in tone. “I know we have to be a good steward of our client’s money. I think you will be satisfied when we pull together a complete recapitulation by year end. Naturally we will be sensitive to your budgets as well as the reality of marketplace.”

Three hours later, Tony was still camped out in the conference room. Alan got the grand tour of the space, such as it was. He was careful not to elaborate too much on the expense of this premium office space. In reality, it was going to be more like a satellite office for Ambrosia to stake out a presence in Saint Louis. Tony was going to become the managing director, a promotion that carried with it the responsibility for growing the business. There are only two ways to do that: 1. Increasing fees and income from existing clients and 2. Attracting new clients. Tony didn’t mind schmoozing Alan Edgewater but he was convinced that this client was not going to be profitable in the long term. But for now, anyway, the success of Alan Edgewater as an Ambrosia client was helpful in attracting interest. In the context of the agency business plan, he was trying to formulate a way to showcase Alan Edgewater and attract new business prospects. Schmoozing Alan was a cakewalk compared to the razzle-dazzle required to impress the executives at Omnicom in New York.

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