December 4, 2020

The Power of Validation

The Power of Validation: Four tips to succeeding in today’s disruptive business landscape

By Sheenah Rogers-Pfeiffer, Founder, CEOFull-service, fully-integrated, bigger agency. That was the Anstice dream. Two years ago, I started to question it. Like the advice I give my clients, I had to set out to validate my plan before investing any further capital. I learned very quickly that this was not the right path to take. I saw my clients’ problems and needs changing; I saw a major rise of a demographic who wanted to work differently; I saw my peers, for whom I had profound respect in the agency industry, starting to separate themselves from the agency environment. I was able to see and pin-point risk mitigation and problem-solving as the biggest challenges the world was about to face. So, I pivoted the agency towards a more agile model. My team was confused (rightly so) and I had to get my clients used to a new process. COVID hit shortly thereafter. Why is this story relevant? Well, I’ve had a number of large agency MPs and CEOs reach out to me and others in my circle to ask: “How did you do that? How can we create an agile agency?” The answer to the question lies in the mindset of how to be successful during what can arguably be noted as the most disruptive times in recent years. I took what my own agency offers to clients and applied the methodology to my own business. Decision-making is no longer black and white. Predicting anything in the future is almost impossible. Sounds dreary, I know, but it’s actually opportune. Disruption and change are inevitable, thus the faster you and your team accept this, the faster you can adapt. The proven formula to success in today’s landscape, no matter what the industry, is:

  • Stay close to your customer/stakeholder: This is a no-brainer but one that even the most prominent C-Suite executives are still gun shy about investing in. If you don’t know what to do, who better to listen to than those you are aiming to affect or influence. The boots-on-the-ground, always-on investment in listening and having two-way conversation with real human beings, will mitigate risk, manage conflict and foster trust. During these times, no one wants to hear you shouting your facts and stats from the rooftops. None of that will get you any closer to really understanding what’s going on or where things are headed.
  • Focus on Triggers: During distruptive times you can’t create a 12-month plan that is going to be relevant. Stick to quarterly plans that involve a “trigger assessment” - look for what’s going on in the world at that exact moment and build stories and messaging around it. I saw a great campaign for a dental office that said: “Now has never been a better time for braces” with a photo of a woman in a mask.
  • Don’t try to solve everything yourself: Build custom teams around your problems and find a partner (like an Anstice) to sit with you at the table and help find resources, collect the data you need to make decisions and manage the projects you need to get momentum on while handling all of the reactive issues you face day-to-day in your own organization. The “new” agency (with fresh eyes?) is one that can play this role. Rather than “we can do it all,” shift to “we are going to help you figure out how to do what’s right.”
  • Validate, Validate (should I say it again?) Validate: Right now within every company people are sitting around a boardroom table debating the decision to make. Each person is trying to make their case, sometimes linked to some kind of personal benefit or bias. Step away from the boardroom! Get out and test your ideas on those who matter. There are so many tools to use now to do this cost-effectively and without any direct human contact.

My team at Anstice demonstrates agility every day. The transformation of the team before and during COVID were not easy, but I can see the strength that they have built throughout these times, and their leadership with clients that is even more inspiring than before. We are serving our existing clients and new clients with even more experience, and can speak to transformation, pivoting, insights and digital first even more effectively now.