Todd Sebastian is the passionate leader of LINK Training & Consulting. LINK creates stronger connections between marketing agencies, marketers and the audiences they target, by providing practical expertise in business development and branding. Todd also is the best-selling author of the book “Tell Your Clients Where to Go! A Practical Guide to Providing Passionate Client Leadership,” which is endorsed by John E. Pepper, chairman of the board, The Walt Disney Company (retired chairman and CEO of Procter & Gamble).
Todd has a 20-year track record of improving agency-marketer relationships and building brands. And he loves showing others how they can, too! His fun and successful career in marketing spans brand management, advertising, influencer marketing, brand strategy and design, and shopper and consumer insights. He has worked for some of the industry’s most prestigious companies, including Procter & Gamble and Omnicom’s Interbrand. Todd was featured numerous times in leading business and trade publications, and he is a sought-after speaker on subjects related to client relationships and branding.
What are you working on right now?
Pursuing my two primary passions: 1) raising money for charities dedicated to blessing children in need; and 2) helping client-facing folks in marketing agencies manage clients with more success. For whatever reason, I have been blessed with the ability to develop profitable agency-marketer relationships — from both sides of the fence — by being passionate and proactive. And I love helping other people do the same. I absolutely love coaching and training. It has always been, by far, the most fulfilling part of my job. Though I never saw myself as an author (and still don’t), I had the idea about three years ago to write a book aimed at helping young client-facing professionals get off to a good start in their demanding careers. The book was titled “Tell Your Clients Where to Go! A Practical Guide to Providing Passionate Client Leadership.” I also decided to use the book as a philanthropic platform, by donating all proceeds. I was fortunate enough to have the book published two years ago — and further blessed by its initial and continued success as a perpetual best-seller in its category. I continue to expend a tremendous amount of energy into promoting the book, in order to generate an increasing amount of charitable donations to help bless children in need. Based on the success of the book — and the personal fulfillment I derived from writing and talking about it via a host of unsolicited speaking engagements — I had the idea about a year-and-a-half ago to turn my passion into a personal business. This came to fruition just over a year ago, when I left a lucrative position, with a great company, in the midst of a recession, to start LINK Training & Consulting.
We offer many practical ways to help marketing agencies and clients connect with one another, as well as with the audiences they target. One way, in particular, is our unique, book-inspired TELL YOUR CLIENTS WHERE TO GO! TRAINING. I have been blessed with the ability to bring this training to Siegel+Gale (brand strategy and design agency in New York), WONGDOODY (marketing ideas agency in Los Angeles), along with many other impressive marketing agencies. While LINK offers many services, this training session continues to be my primary passion area and focus.
3 trends that excite you?
1. The defrosting of the spending freeze. Large companies are spending again, thereby creating opportunities for service providers with good ideas. Most companies in virtually all industries took a bit of a hit over the past 2-plus years. And they are more than ready to start growing the top line again. But as the old adage goes, “you need to spend money to make money.” So aggressive companies are selectively but surely open to hearing how outside service providers can help them grow their business — including training and consulting. Opportunity is ripe for entrepreneurial individuals and small businesses to proactively show larger companies how they think they can help generate revenue.
2. The new normal for service resourcing. During the depths of the recession, the companies that were able to maintain some semblance of spending did so with an unprecedented sense of care and discretion. Instead of engaging with the biggest and “best” suppliers, without really comparing costs, companies started to look at smaller, more cost-efficient options. Large CPG companies no longer stuck solely with the large-network ad agencies, branding firms, and other marketing partners. They started casting a wider net that included smaller, less known but highly capable service providers. And, as it turns out, they realized they were getting the same quality — if not higher — at a better price. Since value is defined as what you get for what you pay, this move toward smaller service providers dramatically bolstered the value equation for large companies. As the economy continues to improve, these companies are sticking with their new value-oriented approach to sourcing various services. If you have something of value to offer, do so with confidence. Don’t be deterred by the “big guys.” Example: Nielsen and Catalina Marketing recently formed a 50-50 joint venture. To bring the new multi-million dollar company to life, they sent out an RFP for developing a comprehensive brand strategy & identity platform. The usual suspects of larger agencies (most with well over 75 staff members) were targeted. I partnered with a freelance graphic designer and wrestled our way into the RFP process, which included more than 10 agencies. In the end, we won the massive assignment. We did so by proving we can do the same quality work as the big guys, but at a much better price (because we don’t have the same overhead).
3. The migration to digital business methods. Thanks to digital devices such as the iPhone and the iPad, it is becoming increasingly easier and cheaper to run a small business, while looking like a large one. Only a few short years ago, I would need to bring laminated sell sheets to breakfast and lunch meetings with prospective clients. Or I would have to lug my laptop, wait for it to power on, and find a spot on the table to set it. Now I bring my iPad, which is much smaller and easier to transport. I can visualize all of my services by running through the host of PDF presentations in my iBooks library.
How do you bring ideas to life?
More often than not, you can’t bring an idea to life completely on your own. You need the help of other people. So you need to enroll those people in the power of your idea. They have to understand it, believe in it, and be moved by it. In other words, you have to sell it. I have found that the best way to make the sale simple is to make the idea — and the sharing thereof — simple. Start by stripping away any superfluous information and boil your idea down to its strategic core. WHAT is the idea? WHY is it a good idea? HOW will the idea be implemented? WHAT does success look like? You should be able to articulate the answers to these questions in a few minutes, if not seconds. After you make the idea simple, make it memorable. Sum up the idea in one simple sentence — or POV statement — then sum up this simple sentence with a defining visual. If engaging, people will remember the defining visual, recall the POV statement that it represents, and remember the idea that the POV statement summarizes. A simple idea, shared in a simple way, makes the sale simple.
What inspires you?
People who are truly passionate about what they do, whatever it may be. But being passionate is one thing. Exhibiting it is another. When it is immediately evident through words and/or actions that someone loves what they do, and they truly believe in it, that inspires me. That’s why I love this site so much. It’s not industry specific. The diversity of passionate people, and their ideas, is amazing. And truly inspiring.
What is one mistake you’ve made that our readers can learn from?
Becoming impatient, then frustrated, when I did not feel that others were as passionate about my idea as I was. Then, as a result, I started thinking that maybe my idea wasn’t as good as I originally thought. Consequently, I nearly gave up on it. In the end, it turned out that my idea was, in fact, very good — and it led to a significant success story. Ultimately, I had to remind myself that it is natural to be more obviously passionate about your own ideas. Other people have their own ideas — and opportunities, problems, etc. — that command their focus and attention. Just because they are not overtly telling you how great your idea is, as often as you would like to hear it, doesn’t mean it’s not a great idea. You have to have personal conviction in, and passion for, your ideas.
What is one book and one tool that help you bring ideas to life?
Book: “Change the Way You See Everything through Asset-Based Thinking.” Diversity of perspective drives great ideas. This book helps me see things through different perspectives, to develop more, better ideas.
Tool: IdeaMensch. The unparalleled, diverse perspective provided on this site is inspirational, practical and actionable.
What is one idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Go “old-school” from time to time. Due to the evolution of technology, virtually all communications are electronic. No one uses snail mail anymore. Everything is sent via e-mail. It is so much more efficient. But, it is less personal. And less impactful. Try sending a client a handwritten thank you note. It takes a lot more effort than one delivered via e-mail, but you’ll be amazed at how much more it is appreciated. Why? Because no one does it anymore. I recently sent handwritten notes to everyone who participated in a training session, as well as the two individuals who approved the proposal to conduct the training. A few days later I received an e-mail from one of those individuals. The subject line simply read: “Unbelievable.” The e-mail stated, “I can’t believe you sent handwritten thank you notes to everyone who attended the training session. You don’t overlook anything — so impressive.” A simple gesture, if sincere, can have such a significant impact. I also solicit top prospects with dimensional snail mail packets. They are expensive (versus free e-mails). And they take much more effort to execute. But the impact is tremendous. Most people receive very little snail mail nowadays. So it is noticed — especially if it is dimensional in nature, and thus has a “gift” quality to it.
Who is the one person you’d love to see interviewed on IdeaMensch?
Rachel Ray (Food Network chef). She has a very innovative approach to cooking, creating new dishes, and naming them. I would love to hear how she comes up with her ideas.
Why do you donate all the proceeds from your best-selling book to charity?
I believe we are all on Earth to help one another. And we are all blessed with unique gifts for doing so. For whatever reason, I have been blessed with the ability to foster strong agency-marketer relationships. So, I felt that any profits derived from the book I wrote on this topic should be passed on to others who could benefit more from them.
What hobby are you most passionate about?
Food. I love shopping for, cooking, eating and talking about food. Cooking is probably my most creative outlet. I never follow a recipe. I just open the fridge and the pantry and see what I have. Then I envision ways to pull it together into something new and delicious, based on combinations of ingredients that worked — or didn’t work — in the past. This is how I channel my passion and approach ideation in all pursuits.
E-mail Todd Sebastian: [email protected]
Todd Sebastian’s Book: www.amazon.com/Clients-Practical-Providing-Passionate-Leadership/dp/074144903X
Mario Schulzke is the Founder of ideamensch, which he started a decade ago to learn from entrepreneurs and give them a platform for their ideas.