Yesterday I was driving and saw a sign that told me that the lane I was driving in was ending soon. It was a valuable sign. It warned me that I was going to have to make plans for a future that didn’t involve that lane. And soon.
I quickly began making plans to exit my current lane. I had to. It offered no long term prospects. I soon found a perfectly good lane next to the one I was in. I turned on my left blinker, checked for cars, and finding none I merged onto the adjacent lane. And all was good again.
The thing about lanes.
All lanes end eventually. Just ask the leadership team at Blockbuster, or Chuck E Cheese’s. Or Lemmings. The key is knowing when it is time to find a new option.
We don’t always get a clear sign that our lane is coming to an end. But tastes and technologies change. Jobs end. School ends. And bad habits run out of runway at some point. When they do you are forced to choose something new.
Lanes offer us a path for now. But not forever. Throughout your life and career, you will have to make choices and changes. You can plan, and make changes proactively. Or you can wait until the lane is gone, you are stopped on the shoulder, and the 18-wheelers won’t move over to let you in.
COVID-19 brought lanes to an end.
The racism lane is coming to an end.
Drugs and alcohol abuse lanes are bumpy and popular. But short.
Change is constant. Get used to it. Prepare for it. Get good at it. And you’ll find that new and better lanes are easier to find.
Advertising agencies talk a lot about change. And with good reason. Over the past 19 years I have seen the flavor of the moment hop from Full Service to Media to Interactive to Digital to CRM to Experiential to Social to Mobile to Data to Omnichannel to Dynamic Messaging. I’m probably missing something. Wasn’t there a Nano-Wow moment?
So how does the perfect advertising agency avoid getting caught flat-footed? In Ken Blanchard’s book, Customer Mania he shares a story that provides a potential blueprint. Ken visited the DMV in San Diego, and to his surprise, the experience was quick, efficient and pleasant. Which prompted Ken to approach the director and ask how he had transformed this typically unpleasant environment into one that offered outstanding customer service.
The director replied, ‘My job is to reorganize the department on a moment to moment basis depending on citizen need.’ To accomplish this he cross trained the staff so that everyone was flexible enough to absorb customer demand at any given moment.
I love this thinking. Because it puts the client need-of-the-moment in the spotlight. No one is focused on what they used to do. Or what they would like to do. Rather, they are focused on a very dynamic reality.
With the DMV example in mind the perfect agency must do three things to handle the constant shifts on the marketing landscape.
- Train employees to have a wide variety of skills. This means teaching brand-focused team members digital skills. Teaching digitally focused team members CRM skills. And teaching content-focused team members design skills. That way we can swarm to the demand, whether it lasts for the day or the decade.
- Morph daily. Stay flexible, pliable and stretchy. Move people around. Explore new technologies. Encourage team members to work on a wide variety of clients. Experiment. Don’t create ruts. The stretching stimulates the brain. Which leads to creativity and innovation. In short, create motion to keep the agency in motion.
- Poll your clients. Ask them what kind of expertise they expect to add to the mix next. Find out what current efforts they expect to swell. This gives you a weather forecast. And if you can get in front of it the wind will fill your sails.
So let’s be like the San Diego DMV. Let’s stay on our toes. Keep our ears, eyes and minds open. And let’s be the resource our clients want us to be.