Make Sure You (or Your Agency) Become the Must-Go-to Resource for Clients or Colleagues

By Scott Halford 

From Advertising Age;  January 13, 2009

It’s harsh, but true: If you’re not a shortcut to something or someone in business, you’re taking up too much space and you will be replaced.

But frame yourself (or your agency) as a “shortcut” and customers will use your services without hesitation. Shortcuts are those individuals and entities that are surviving in this Darwinian-like economy in which only the fittest survive. They’re the ones who are most efficient, have the deepest new insights into their particular subject matter, and are able to broker new deals when people are stressed and overworked.

Money today is being spent more frugally, but money is still being spent, mostly on the things that can make spenders feel financially safe again, the things that can lead to growth, the things that can quickly and effectively enable them to achieve their goals. They’re looking for the shortcut who can get them there pronto.

Your stock in trade in advertising is intellect, creativity and how you make a client or colleague feel. To be a better shortcut in your agency, it means keeping well-read on a variety of current issues as well as history. It means being more curious than your competitors, so that you can make unprecedented connections with new insights you get by asking all the interesting questions.

So how do you become a shortcut? Consider the shortcuts you leverage yourself. Think of the person in your office to whom you go for a particular task — the one who delivers results without deliberation. That’s a shortcut. They get what you need faster, smarter, more creatively and with more positive energy than you could do on your own. Does that describe how your clients or colleagues think of you or your services? If not, here is how you can become a shortcut and increase your influence and value:

First, assess need. If clients and colleagues need something, they use shortcuts for particular tasks when they have a lack of time, talent or desire for the task.

They’ll come to you (like you go to your shortcuts) because you’re the “category killer” in your particular area, and when someone thinks about that category, they think of you.

Next, be an efficient and creative resource. Shortcuts frame what they have to offer in terms of how it will make clients or colleagues lives easier, in terms of less legwork; better, in terms of an idea that makes the client or colleague look good to those they wish to impress; more lucrative, in terms of an idea that goes to the bottom line and generates revenue or saves money.

Finally, you need an appropriate attitude. The world is filled with subject-matter experts (SMEs) who do what you do as well and sometimes better. The difference will be how you make the client/colleague feel when he or she receives your service or product. It’s the emotional-intelligence part of the shortcut equation. Think about an SME who makes you feel stupid or who rolls his eyes at you when you ask them to do something. Then bring to mind the SME who makes you feel important, coddled — even smart. That SME becomes your shortcut.

You can be that shortcut.

Five Quick Tips for Becoming a Shortcut

  • Find your area of expertise. It should give you a good deal of passion. Study it. Read at least an article or chapter a day in that area. In 12 months, you’ll be smarter than most about that topic.
  • Ask co-workers what they think you’re best at. It may surprise you. Your natural talents may not be apparent to you.
  • Find a mentor in your area of expertise and learn as much from him or her as possible.
  • Learn about emotional intelligence (EI). Get your EI measured and then work on getting better at it.
  • Daily, do something that makes someone else successful. You will become magnetic and more successful.

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