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Do you have trust issues with your agency?

My business partner and I were pitching a new client to four members of their executive team. Everything seemed to be going well when the conversation took a sudden turn. It started when one of them said, “You guys are saying all the right things. In fact, it sounds very similar to what our last agency told us.” Then another one chimed in, “Only they never delivered what they promised, leaving us very skeptical of every agency we talk to. How do we know that you’re any different than the last agency?” In less than a minute, it felt like our meeting had fallen off the rails. And the sad thing is, it wasn’t the first time this has happened to us. In fact, this is now, without question, the biggest hurdle we have to get over to win a new piece of business. Convincing someone, or in this case, four individuals, that you’re not like their previous marketing partner is no small task. I’ll share how we responded at the end of this blog, but first, to be candid, it wasn’t like their line of questioning blindsided us. The advertising industry has long been one of the least-trusted professions in the workplace. Still, I was taken aback by the disdain for digital agencies expressed so openly in our meeting. Not that people didn’t feel this way earlier in my career, but either they were more polite or perhaps their feelings weren’t as strong as they were in our meeting.

I decided to do a little research and asked Google, “What are the most trusted professions?” To no surprise and for the 19th year in a row, nurses rank highest as the most trusted profession in America. Eighty-four percent of Americans rated the honesty and ethical standards of nurses as high or very high. Medical Doctors also did well, with 77 percent surveyed placing a high level of trust in the profession. The top two did not surprise me, especially now with so many of them putting their lives on the line to care for us through the pandemic. Grade school teachers came in third with 75 percent of US adults rating the industry as high or very high for honesty and ethical standards. I can personally attest to this profession since I’m married to a grade-school teacher and I see how she puts her heart and soul into those kids every day. Yet, despite the high level of trust Americans place in teachers, particularly grade school teachers, the profession remains one of the most underpaid in the country. So to recap, the top three most trusted professions in America are nurses, medical doctors, and grade school teachers. Let’s see who ranks at the bottom. Drum roll, please. Ranking near the bottom of the survey and 13 out of 15 overall for honesty and ethical standards are advertising professionals with a score of 10. That’s right, the advertising profession scored a whopping 10. Not all that surprising when you consider that in 2019, 96% of consumers told Inc. that they find ads to be exaggerated or over the top, implying that those who create these ads are willing to be deceitful in order to sell products. Coming in at 14 and slightly below advertising professionals are car salespeople. Americans tend to view automotive salespeople as dishonest, or at a very minimum, willing to lie to get you to buy. I couldn’t disagree more with this perception. The vehicle buying process has changed dramatically in the last few years. Customers are more informed and educated than ever before, and the buying process is more transparent and often completed online before they ever visit the dealership. At the same time, auto salespeople are smarter and better trained today than at any other time. A dealership won’t last long if it's dishonest or deceitful, much less a salesperson. Ranking last in the poll (#15) among US adults for honesty and ethical standards were members of Congress. It’s no secret that distrust in our elected officials has been increasing over recent years. In 2015, Gallup found that there were three primary reasons Americans cited for not trusting members of Congress: they believed that they were out of touch, focused on special interests rather than the needs of constituents, and plain old corrupt. Unfortunately for politicians, I don’t believe these perceptions have changed much in the last six years. So back to my story and how we were able to overcome their perception that all agencies are alike and not to be trusted. We started by acknowledging that there are definitely some bad apples in our industry, but not all agencies are the same. We then went on to explain that prior to starting Digital Downforce we both worked at agencies that were neither honest nor transparent. So we set out to build a business that would be the opposite of where we came from. Our Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG) was to be considered an essential, trusted business partner by our clients. We wanted our clients to truly believe that we had their best interests at heart and that our long-term success was tied to their success. We also knew that our BHAG was just words unless we backed it up. So here’s what we did:

  • Every client receives a client center dashboard that lets them track the spending, our margin, and the performance of their campaigns in real-time.

  • We built a digital platform utilizing proprietary software and Artificial Intelligence (AI) to drive better quality leads at a lower cost. (We’re very proud to report that many of our clients have seen up to a 50% reduction in their cost per lead.)

  • While we ask every client to sign a one-year contract with us, if they are ever unhappy with our performance or their results, we will let them out of the contract with a 30-days notice.

  • Long story short, the new business prospect we were pitching signed the contract and we’re now in the process of setting up their first campaign. If all goes well as we expect, this will be the start of a beautiful, long-term relationship. :) All kidding aside, not all of our pitches end this way. Sometimes we’re not the best fit. But this time, there was a happy ending to our story.

  • If you’re interested in the article I referenced for this story, check out: Gallup interviewed 1,018 adults, ages 18+, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia, to find out which professions were the most and least trusted, by asking them to rate the various fields on honesty and ethical standards. Stacker ranked the 15 professions by the combined percentage of people who gave the profession a "high" or "very high" rating of honesty and ethical standards, #1 being the most trusted.


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