At Catapult, we believe today’s agencies are creating incredible work and are always looking for ways to ensure that your prospects see it. Awards are a great way for an agency to gain exposure and recognition. Although entering award competitions takes time and money, it’s one of the best ways to showcase your work, energize your team and grow your brand. Winning an award adds prestige, builds the agency’s reputation, and helps you stand out among your competitors.
According to AMI, more than a third of companies are looking for an agency with specialized experience. Awards that highlight specific capabilities – design, social, creative, activation and so forth, are an opportunity to differentiate yourself from the other 25K+ agencies out there. Not to mention it adds third-party credibility behind your work.
Winning awards also helps your agency attract top talent. Britt Fero of Publicis Seattle speaks to the importance of awards in attracting quality employees and energizing an agency:
“Our success at shows has helped us recruit and retain top creative talent from around the country. In addition, creative awards can be energizing for the entire agency. Competing against the best advertising in the world keeps us focused, informed and sharp for our clients.”
In the first of a series, we’ve compiled a list of award shows that have an application deadline in Q2 of 2019. These awards have high standards, are widely recognized by the industry, and if won, are guaranteed to enhance your credibility among clients.
|Award ||Sponsor ||Category ||Application Deadline||Entry Fee
|How's Promotion & Marketing Design Awards||How Magazine||Graphic Design: Self-Promo||April ||$395
|Communicator Awards||Academy of Interactive & Visual Arts||Audio, Video, |
Digital, Mobile, Marketing Effectiveness, Integrated Campaigns, Design & Print
|PR Daily Digital & Social Awards ||Ragan's PR Daily||Digital or Social Media Activity ||April ||$395
|OMNI Intermedia Award ||Media Corp., Inc.||Film, TV, Video, Interactive, Animation, and Web||April/October ||$65
|Content Marketing Awards ||Content Institute||Content||April ||$249
|VM+SD Retail Renovation Competition ||VM+SD||Retail Design||April ||$200
|The Telly Awards ||Telly||TV Commercials, Branded Content, Non-broadcast, Social video, ||April |
|Pro Awards ||Chief Marketer||Promotion, Shopper Marketing, Brand Activation, Regional ||April||$495
|The Cresta Awards ||AdForum ||Interactive; Packaging, Branding, Design||May||$490-$1000
|WEBAWARDS||Web Marketing Association ||Web Design ||May ||$195-$250
|Stevies B2B ||American Business Association||Integrated Campaigns, Public Relations and Communication||May ||$55-$570
|The W3 Awards ||W3||Websites, Advertising & Marketing, Digital, Social, Mobile||May ||$135-$255
|Communication Arts Advertising & Design Annual ||Communication Arts ||Advertising: Print, Posters, Radio, TV||May ||$45-$220
|Design of the Times ||Path to Purchase Institute||P-O-P|
For years there has been an ongoing race to obtain the most recent and advanced technologies among the large agency holdings. However, as technology has become obsolete and less expensive, it is having increasing less of a differentiating impact.
Sometimes the odds of forecasting accurately is about as successful as flipping a coin. Aside from forecasting what your agency will generate in new business for the year, you also need to properly forecast what resources are required to support that growth.
While those resources might be slightly different from one agency to the next, it never hurts to follow or get started with a formula. To help, our team recently built an Agency Growth Calculator to help our clients get a more accurate view of how they can obtain success in the year ahead.
The calculator was built with four primary parts of the new business funnel in mind:
Understand Your Growth Requirements
Here’s where it all starts! Every KPI your agency should be monitoring throughout the year starts with your overall growth requirements.
While I dare to say this should be a no brainer, some agencies do get caught up in the hustle and find themselves struggling to clearly identify what numbers they need to hit in the year ahead of them. Here are some essential questions that you should ask yourself before moving onto any
- What’s your overall revenue goal?
While there are many approaches for setting your revenue goal for the year, make sure it’s nailed down and clearly communicated prior to the new year so all parties can set operational KPIs off of that plan.
- How much have you historically grown organically?
This will give you a good idea of the outbound effort you will need after organic growth.
- What is your typical churn rate (loss of clients)?
You can only put so much on top of the funnel if you’re losing it all at the bottom. It’s important to clearly understand how much revenue is falling out each month.
- How big is this goal in comparison to new business amounts you’ve produced in years past?
Knowing how much you’re planning to grow new business Y/Y is important, particularly so you can understand the resources required to achieve that growth.
- What’s your overall pitch win percentage and what’s the win percentage when they are inbound warm leads vs. cold opportunities you have generated?
Be honest when answering this question; the higher pitch win percentage you have, the less outbound effort will be required. Keep in mind that warm opportunities close at a higher rate than cold opportunities.
- Have you ever generated a cold pitch opportunity before?
Many agencies rely on referrals for 100% of their pitch opportunities and while those are warm and close at a higher rate, they are not reliable or sustainable. Evaluating this can give you a better understanding for how long it can take to produce cold opportunities in the future.
Warm New Business Opportunities
Next, it’s important to understand the amount of warm new business opportunities your agency brings in.
Warm new business opportunities typically come in the form of referrals, networking, and word of mouth. And let’s be honest, who doesn’t absolutely love these types of leads? These are seen by most agency principals as the most attractive type of lead as it’s free business that came directly to you.
To help generate more of these we recommend activating your core 100 network. We define this as the core network of decision-makers with budget or marketing decision power that you have a 1st-degree relationship with. By connecting with this group at least once per month, whether a simple hello or providing them with relevant thought leadership, the likelihood of getting more referral leads increases significantly.
Lastly, while warm opportunities are nice it’s important to not solely rely on them, and here’s why:
- They are unpredictable and you never know when your next project will be coming in
- You have no control of how your portfolio expands
- Losing one major client could drastically hurt your agency’s revenue
The next section will discuss how to couple with cold prospecting for ultimate success!
Cold Prospecting For New Opportunities
Since you can’t solely rely on warm opportunities, you must find a way to incorporate cold prospecting into your mix. Often new business directors will wonder how much outreach is enough? How many phone calls and emails will result in a qualified meeting?
We recommend tracking your success rate at each touchpoint. This will allow you to know if you are consistently reaching out to enough prospects in your outreach cadence.
Proper measurements typically include:
- How many people typically reply to a cold email or call?
- Of those replies, how many of them turn into a meeting?
- How many people move from the first meeting to a pitch opportunity?
- How many cold pitches your agency typically wins (win percentage)?
If you’ve never kept track of these numbers before, don’t worry! Just understand that for someone starting out, these numbers are typically a bit lower and grow with time.
Keep in mind that many agencies underestimate how many prospects they actually need in their pool and keeping that pipeline full is a full-time job in itself. Make sure you have the resources and bandwidth necessary to fuel the fire.
Estimating Your Costs: Time and Money
If you’re an agency CEO who is responsible for driving new business in addition to running the entire agency, be aware of what that double duty is costing you.
If you’re juggling too many tasks it’s likely that things are getting completed, but most of it is probably not being done exceptionally well. As an agency head, your time is best served strategically looking at ways to grow the overall business, not just through the lens of new business. If you’re worried about the time and investment it would take to hire someone in-house, there are alternatives like Catapult who can manage this function for you. There is huge potential in having someone solely focused on bringing in both cold and warm opportunities for your agency.
Now that you have a better understanding of what goes into forecasting your new business goals, and the resources required to hit them…check out our Agency Growth Calculator to see how the numbers line up for your business!
Live Webinar | Register Now
Hosted by Matt Chollet & Betsi Nelson
When it comes to agency new business knowing when key marketing decision-makers are rotating up or out of their roles is critical. We’ve found that incoming CMOs are most likely to shakeup their agency roster 3-18 months after they take their post, which should signal a bright flashing light of opportunity to agencies.
Leveraging Winmo’s recent CMO Tenure Analysis Report, our February 21st Webinar will empower agencies to strike while the iron is hot and drive more business with key advertisers throughout 2019.
During this 30-minute session, expect to walk away with:
- Key takeaways from the 2,400 tenures examined in the report and a deep examination of how gender also affects CMO Tenure
- How to prioritize CMO outreach across industries including CPG, Finance, Retail and more
- How to build an effective outreach cadence that will capture the attention of top CMOs at the perfect time
* A recording will also be sent to you via email
The employment rate is currently sitting at 3.7%, the lowest it has been since the ’60s. At this point, the number of jobs available greatly surpasses the 19% of marketers actively searching for new jobs. As an agency executive, it’s time to step it up if you seek to hire, and more importantly, retain top talent because your employees can quite literally go anywhere else.
So, how do you get your agency in a position where all your employees are asking themselves, “why would I ever want to work somewhere else?” The answer- empower your staff to have satisfaction out of the work that they produce at work while also supporting their personal goals and ambitions.
If your agency wasn’t listed on this year’s Ad Age Best Places to Work 2019, there is always hope for next year, but you’ve got to start making changes now. Here is what the recipients of this award are doing differently:
1. Culture That Puts Employees First
Having ping-pong tables, beer taps and gaming consoles certainly won’t hinder your agency’s culture, but there is more to it than “free stuff.” When it comes to attracting talent, these awards prove that employees care more about benefits, fair pay, health insurance, and PTO.
For example, several of the agencies listed allow their employees to work remotely while also providing unlimited vacation days. Zach Morrison, president of Elite SEM, explains it perfectly as he quotes, “Most agencies are client-first. We believe in being people-first; they deliver for clients, which delivers the overall success of an organization.”
2. A Workplace That Stands for Something
Many of the agencies who made this list are incredibly passionate about something outside of their business. More importantly, they actually incorporate the importance of their beliefs deep into the roots of their culture.
The media agency, UM, is a perfect example as they passionately strive for diversity among their hallways. A personal goal of theirs is to have an employee diversity mix in 2020 that reflects what the US population is projected to look like in 2040. Whether that be gender-based, ethnicity-based, or LGBTQ-based, the goal for the organization is to have the company directly represent every diverse population in which they serve.
3. Leadership That Builds More Leaders
People want to feel important; it’s really as simple as that. It’s vital for your agencies leadership to let entry-level and mid-tier employees feel heard while also teaching them how to grow within the company.
Two agencies on the list do a really great job at achieving this. The digital agency, Again Interactive, has never had an employee leave within 26 months. “We always enjoyed being at places that weren’t these huge agencies where you lose your name, become a number,” said CEO, Glenn Whiting. He explains it all starts with how leadership trusts and empower their staff. When someone has a great idea, they should be encouraged to speak up.
Cogent Entertainment Marketing does a great job at this as every employee is set up with a mentor inside or outside of the company. The owner of the agency found that his employees care more about achieving success than receiving free gym-memberships and several lunches, things he refers to as “wasteful” perks.
So what can you learn as an agency executive from these awards?
According to Ad Age, six things that matter most to employees today are benefits, company culture, employee development, company environment, employee engagement, and employee perks. Having toys around the office and numerous perks will not solely win the loyalty of your employees. Instead focus on building a culture full of transparency, trust, and growth. Also, rising generations are more successful when they feel their employers care about their contributions both inside and outside of work. Invest the time to know what makes your team tick.
Building a better culture today will lead to a better agency tomorrow – and who knows, maybe you’ll see your agency’s name on this list next year. Good luck!
New Business Directors have an ever-growing list of responsibilities and time continually serves as a limited resource. As a result, new business executives are always on the hunt for the best insights, tips and tricks that will make them more efficient and all around more successful at their jobs. And who better to provide the inside scoop than an agency search consultant?
Sitting in on every pitch their brand is presented and hearing all of the brand’s feedback from what they liked and what turned them off, search consultants see a side of this business no one else has access too. Today, I had the pleasure of sitting down with the author of @AARLisa: New Biz in 140 Characters (or Less) and renowned agency search consultant, Lisa Colantuono.
Through our conversation, Lisa shared her insiders perspective on how agencies can improve their new business with these 10 new business tips:
Relationships Will Always Win Against Tools
Lisa explains, “We are selling relationships and team extensions, not tools. Agencies think they can win the pitch by showing off the technologies they use, but the truth is, if the team can’t truly work together, those tools are inconsequential.” People want to work with people they like. Credibility + Trust + Relationship Building = New Business Success.
Have a Position and Stick To It
When it comes to your agency’s new business program, differentiated positioning is the foundation. Brands are coming to your agency for expertise in which they do not have in-house. That means your agency needs to be an expert in something. H Lisa explains “Being an expert in something trumps being a jack of all trades; it’s much richer. Client’s don’t need an agency that follows a one size fits all policy.” Of course, standing out can be difficult when you have 66K+ competitors in the US market alone. It’s critical that your agency identifies where you stand out and focuses on those specific markets in which your expertise will deliver uncontested value.
Pitch With Passion
We all want more clients and more revenue, but you’ve got to stop chasing anything and everything. Be truly focused on the brands you want to work with and more importantly, have the expertise to help (your “right to win” business.) It makes all the difference to a client when you’re truly interested in building their brand for authentic reasons starting with sheer passion. “When you really love something, it shines through and it’s contagious. Truly be interested in that prospective client’s brand and the rest will happen more naturally.”
Protect Your Intellectual Property
“Do not do full-blown creative spec work for nothing,” Lisa says. Of course, clients need to get a sense of your creative expertise. And you can give them a taste through creative explorations but do not fall into the trap of producing creative spec work as part of the pitch process. These brands are paying you for your expertise for a reason, so don’t hand over your knowledge and hard work for free.
Be Proactive, Not Reactive
Stay ahead of the curve. So many agencies are still trying to sell instead of offering value. You want to teach, not sell. By teaching, you are being proactive. In our interview, Lisa claims, “This works for both new business and stewardship. You want to make sure that you know what’s going on in the industry, what’s news, and what’s new. Then bring that info to your prospects and current clients.” It’s crucial that you are sharing information that they can think about and possibly integrate for their brands. Whatever you do, don’t make them come to you and ask about some new trend they found on their own. You are so much more than a salesman; you are an educator.
Know When To Say No
Growing your skills and portfolio are always a plus, but your agency isn’t going to be a great fit for every brand, and that’s okay. The worst thing you can do is take on a client in which you don’t have the proper expertise. As Lisa explains, “Don’t chase new business that you end up saying yes to anything and everything. No is a very powerful word and it should be used appropriately and strategically to be fair and benefit both parties.” In fact, use these opportunities to recommend other agencies and build those strong referral relationships that are sure to lead to better fitting opportunities in the future.
Use The Element of Surprise
There is a time and place for pitch theater, but you definitely don’t want to overwhelm or overpower your knowledge, insights or expertise with glitz and glam. As Lisa puts it, “Why are fireworks so engaging? It’s the element of surprise.” The element of surprise is very powerful because it helps people to stay engaged and remember. Don’t confuse it with pitch theater, which the glitz and glam can overpower the actually content, that is much more important.
Don’t Text and Talk
It might seem like a no brainer to not text while meeting with a potential client, but apparently, this happens way more often then it should. Give your undivided attention to your prospects and clients when meeting with them. Put all interruptive devices away. Lisa said, “ I have seen new business professionals lose the pitch for something as simple as texting their assistant to bring more coffee into the meeting.” The prospect or client doesn’t know who you are texting or what it’s about. All they know is that you feel that text is more important than listening to what they are saying. Word to the wise, put down the phone.
Use Public Relations to Your Full Advantage
This is an ongoing effort, but start by building relationships with the media. Pitching to journalists is no easy task without having first established some kind of relationship with them. PR will benefit your agency by putting a magnifying glass on your story. It will help project your knowledge and expertise. Lisa adds, “The best way to pitch media a compelling story is to stand for something or stand against something. Let your opinion be heard.”
There are many agencies who do a great job but one agency who stands out is The Richards Group. They have a news section on their website full of published press releases about company updates and news, client awards, the agencies awards, and campaigns on which the agency is working.
Listen more than you speak
Your clients have a lot to stress about. Losing talent is something they worry about, they need agility, they require quick thinking, and they do expect different innovative creative solutions. On top of all of that, they want bold thinking, but none of that happens without listening first. Lisa quotes, ”Clients get agitated when agencies think they know more about their brand then they do especially during the pitch process.” By being a proactive listener, you are listen “between the lines” and truly analyze what keeps the marketer up at night, what’s pressuring them from the top, and what they actually need to accomplish. Some of the best relationships and outcomes are based on truly listening to understand, not merely respond.
Become friends with the client team! As Lisa mentioned, “Friends care about each other and do things to help each other without thinking ‘what’s in it for me.’ When you do things that are selfless, everybody benefits from that.”
Overall, Lisa’s advice is to focus on building relationships in all aspects of your profession. Building relationships require you to care, be honest and establish trust. The truth of the matter is, people do business with people they like (it’s worth mentioning again). And if you can make a prospect like you before they do business with you, you’ve already won!
As the business development lead at your agency, you may already have a solid understanding that the CMO has more turnover than any other c-level position. What you may not know, however, is why and how it directly affects your prospecting efforts.
In December 2018, our sister company, Winmo, released the annual CMO Lifecycle Tenure Analysis report and it’s full of new business opportunities that you can bank on. The report analyzed over 2,400 CMO tenures across a variety of industries and also by gender.
So before you kick off the new year by pounding the phone with cold calls and shooting out emails to every CMO in the US, here are a few items that will help you build a strategic plan and reach CMOs more efficiently:
Who’s Coming In, Who’s On Their Way Out
When a CEO hires a CMO, they expect a complete brand transformation…and fast. We’ve found that CMOs typically rotate up or out of their positions around the 43 month mark. Six to 18 months later is usually when the new CMO will shake up their AOR. What does this mean for you? Start paying attention to this ‘new biz sweetspot.’ Not only do you have a possible win with the incoming CMO, but potentially with the outgoing CMO…if you know where he/she lands.
Not Every Industry Is Created Equal
According to Winmo’s report, more traditional industries such as financial services, education, associations, and travel average longer tenures. Other sectors such as consumer goods, digital business providers, restaurants and retail, however, show higher turnover rates. When prospecting, prioritize those top turnover categories to fuel your prospecting lists with new potential opportunities.
Prioritize Your Right To Win Categories
After analyzing the tenure report take a look and see if there are particular industries in which you specialize. These right to win clients will be low hanging fruit for prospecting. If you are experts in retail and consumer goods, prioritize your prospecting and spend time crafting your messaging to appeal to the CMOs and decision makers in those spaces. Your credible portfolio in these spaces will make them much more inclined to have the initial conversation.
Unfortunately, no crystal ball can tell you exactly when to contact a CMO, but this Winmo report is pretty close! Keep an eye on those brands you’ve been hoping to work with and use this resource to your full advantage! If it’s creeping up on their 3 year anniversary, get your messaging ready. Tailor your outreach strategy by prioritizing your right to win categories. Now you’re ready to go out there and win over those dream clients! Happy prospecting!
With the rise of in-house agencies and management consultancies, your prospects have more options as an agency, and you have to work harder than ever to prove your value proposition. Without a process in place that is solely focused on developing new client relationships, how can you best forecast a positive revenue trajectory? Sure, you may get that occasional referral here and there, but other than that, you are just blending in with the crowd.
In 2019, your agency needs to get aggressive with winning the clients you were made to work with! So if you are ready to start going after those clients, the first thing you need to do, after you hire a dedicated person to manage the workload, is identify your agency’s right to win business.
What Is “Right To Win” Business?
Right-to-win business refers to prospects that should have been clients yesterday. They check every box in your list of an ideal client and your agency can confidently say “We are the best at solving your particular problem”. RTWB Is an extrapolation of the client successes that you’ve had within unique segments. These are segments that you can explicitly convey a measure of impact through the SOW and deliverable for your client.
If we can say that we have a “right to win” to your business, then we need to be able to prove it through case studies and past work that is directly applicable to those right to win prospects.
Naturally, there are challenges of accessing the information needed to develop a case study or show success metrics. But this is an essential part of the process and should be built into the program and agreed upon by all controllers of information before the assignment is started. Your ability to prove success is imperative to retaining the client you’re engaged with as well as proving to new prospects that you’re able to deliver.
How You Identify Your Agency’s RTWB
RTWB may be based on a specific industry, like adult beverages, or it could be tied to a niche audience, like moms. The important consideration is to be as specific as possible and thoroughly evaluate how and why your team has expertise and impact with your RTW target. At Catapult, we often concentrate on a specific problem that we solve for our clients better than anyone else, which in turn can be applied across verticals. Understanding your clients’ and prospects’ problems shows that you understand more about them than just what vertical they operate in.
Many agencies believe they know their key categories, but as they begin to do the work, they are unable to clearly convey how or why their smattering of clients fit the definition of RTWB. This is often due to the nature of network-related business or assignments that fall in their lap, dismissing the agency from establishing and investing in a specific expertise, like category.
Yes, there are exceptions, but the majority of marketers want to understand and see evidence of your ability to “be successful” in their category. For a CMO, whose job is on the line based on the partners they select, they need to feel fully confident that you can understand and deliver on their objectives. However, success is a very subjective idea, and you need to make sure it is clearly defined by your prospect, so you and your team can understand and appropriately set expectations.
Need Help Getting Started?
As you begin identifying your RTWB, find answers to these three questions:
- Who have I had the most success with in the past?
- Who do I want to work within the future?
- Where can I honestly say that our agency is superior to other agencies?
If you need a second set of eyes on your agency to help establish your right to win business, contact Catapult. Identifying RTWB for our clients has helped our firm generate over $1B in new business opportunities. We would happy to provide you with any additional value that will make your agency more successful.
Ah yes, it’s the most wonderful time of the year, and I don’t mean the holidays. Now is the time when all the top industry conferences begin releasing details about this year’s must-attend events.
2018 was brutal on marketers at every level, in every industry, and of every discipline. Decreasing consumer attention spans, newer, more advanced technologies, and higher pressures to drive real business value have put challenges on everyone. But no one is feeling the vicious influence of these demands like marketing agencies are.
As we plunge into 2019, it will be crucial that agencies continue to pave a path that enhances culture, retains top talent, and builds incredible value and trust with clients. These are six events that will keep agency executives in the know and ahead of the competition throughout the new year:
April 9th-10th | Long Island City, NY
This two-day event is invitation only, though you can request an invite here. The event strives to help agency leaders balance their dual roles as marketers and managers by aligning attendees with best-fit SoDA faculty leads that will provide the most value depending on their interests and needs, whether those be peer-to-peer learning, knowledge sharing, best practices or accelerating professional growth.
May 14th-15th | New York, NY
Mirren Live is a two-day conference that gathers 400+ agency professionals to learn from the industries most forward-thinking new business professionals. Attendees can expect to solely learn about driving agency growth through business model and new business innovation.
September 3rd-6th | Boston, MA
Inbound celebrates a community of people who are passionate about marketing, selling and providing amazing customer experience through inbound practices. With 24,000+ attendees, speakers such as Michelle Obama, Issa Rae, and Gary Vaynerchuk, educational breakout sessions led by top marketing, sales and customer success leaders, and awesome entertainment, you can’t miss this event.
Dates TBD (Typically held in July) | New Orleans, LA
Not only is this a great opportunity for your agency to get on the map (should you enter the awards), but its also the place to be if you are looking for loads of inspiration and practical agency advice. The 300+ attendees include agency professionals from around the globe. Additionally, this conference is a great place to learn about how to implement a successful new business strategy that will get your small agency in front of huge brands. Did you miss this event last year? No sweat, here is a quick recap!
Dates TBD (Typically held in October) | Orlando, FL
The Masters of Marketing is a five-day event where 2500+ attendees come to hear CMOs and industry disruptors share their incredible stories of mastering brands, driving growth in innovative ways and discussing what they are needing from their agency partners. This event brings together all the top CEOs of major brands making it prime for agencies interested in prospecting and networking opportunities.
November 2019 | Chicago, IL
Mirren CEO Summit is an event you will want to register for quickly, as it only has 130 seats. A more intimate event, the summit addresses the most important issues regarding agency growth. The summit is broken into four pillars- business model, operations, marketing, and leadership, where top agency leaders share their insights and personal challenges with agency growth.
Catapult will be at these events. Which can we expect to see you at in 2019? If we left any out, please leave them in the comments below!
2018 has kept marketers at every level on their toes. We’ve created timely, culturally relevant content and compelling stories that allow us to better connect and engage with consumers. We’ve integrated and adapted significant amounts of technologies into our strategy to prove marketings ROI. And, we have A/B tested numerous campaigns to ensure we are keeping up with the increasing and almost impossible demands of our customers.
Whether you are a CMO at a global company or an account manager at an agency, each of us are feeling the pressures brought on by increased industry complexities. These include the heavy focus placed on customer experience, the impacts of data and technology, the heightened demand to drive brand and sales growth, and the need for a higher level of speed and agility.
Due to the environment that has been created by these coinciding and intensifying pressures, marketers have put a heavy focus on establishing agency partnerships that optimize their specific needs. This has forced agencies to change up everything from their pricing models down to their service offerings.
After reading a recent publication by AAR Group in the UK, they mentioned 8 areas in which marketers are demanding change from their partners that will inevitably continue to transform and evolve the modern agency ecosystem:
1. A Move Towards Simplification
One of the overarching trends shaping this year’s agency ecosystem is the strong need for simplification. With a significant focus on reducing duplication and cost, marketers seek to generate greater efficiency in time and management.
Though many marketers are drastically decreasing the number of agencies on their rosters, this does not mean that the era of specialist, single discipline agency is over. Specialism, in particular areas such as performance marketing, conversion rate optimization and other outcome-related disciplines, is still required. Additionally, the wave of new technologies such as AI, Blockchain, and Voice are bringing further complexity that marketers will need help navigating. While integrated agencies are expanding their service offerings in this direction, specialist agencies are also winning their way onto the agency roster of larger brands.
The overlap between claimed skillsets between multi-disciplined, communications agencies and specialist digital communication agencies is another area in which marketers are seeking simplification. The need for multi-disciplined and single discipline agencies comes down to marketers determining how the different agencies can bring various kinds of expertise together in a way that reflects the brand’s unique needs.
2. Integrated Strategy
Marketers have begun showing a strong need for greater strategic integration, especially concerning creative and media strategy. What we are seeing is leading brands demanding their own “custom shops” which has resulted in the rise of cross-holding company single-client teams.
As Wendy Clark, Global CEO of DDB Worldwide mentioned in a recent Ad Age article, “With the macro marketplace demands for growth, efficiency, and speed, it makes sense that brand marketers are looking for partners that are specifically set up around the way their business works.”
We’ve seen this trend become more prevalent among major agencies. For example, WPP’s demonstrated their plans to move toward more integrated workings with the Walgreens and Boots alliance and IAG and Publicis ‘Power of One’, which attempts to put clients at the center and facilitate access to all its services in a fluid, modular way.
As more and more brands ask that their agencies form multiple holding companies to collaborate as their specialist agency team, the more we can confirm the need for integrated strategy, simplicity, and efficiency from the progressive agency model.
3. Taking Creativity To The Next Level
We live in a highly competitive and rapidly changing world, and with such, marketers are expressing a strong need for external creative input and demanding big, transformative ideas. While in-house content creation is on the rise, there is considerable value that external creatives bring to the table; they’re constantly exposed to inputs and challenges outside of those internal teams are experiencing. This allows outside talent to challenge the norm and give solutions to problems the clients may have overlooked otherwise.
Brands have noticed that stand out talent is attracted to the environment and culture that modern agencies provide. Additionally, agencies are aware of the changes that marketers are demanding and their account management teams find new ways to be creative by knowing their clients and their client’s industries inside and one. So while in-house marketing continues to grow, agencies are not only working harder than ever re-establishing their credibility and expertise but providing an extraordinary amount of value and creative opportunity to clients.
4. Improving Speed and Agility
While many brand marketers are struggling to adopt an agile methodology into their internal processes, they have challenged their agency partners to work in more agile ways to improve responsiveness, speed, and maneuverability.
Of course, this model takes two to Tango, but both clients and agencies are working together to make an agile system work. For example, some client marketing teams are working closely with their agency partners concurrently in sprints to benefit from greater agility. Co-location is also being adapted, with client and agency team members having increased face-to-face interaction and collaboration.
Marketers have been keen to the development of more agile ways of working but are often left frustrated by slow internal processes and decision-making, even when their agency team has the capability to move more quickly.
5. Proving Business Value
While marketers have always employed agencies to drive sales performance, data and analytics have brought an entirely different level of focus on attribution of value and ROI. Today, presenting your open and click through rate is simply not enough. Marketers now expect agencies to demonstrate real business value, not just communications or brand impact.
The challenges in attribution, however, arise when evaluating the complexity of many customer journeys and the fragmentations of touchpoints. We see a higher number of agencies investing heavily in more sophisticated attribution techniques and modeling by proactively working with clients to drive not only sales but cost savings that can be re-invested in new projects.
6. Improving Transparency And Rebuilding Trust
Transparency issues and ad fraud were two substantial controversies discussed by the media this year. We have seen challenges that are in danger of dissolving client/agency mostly trust through digital media and programmatic ad buying. These problems have taken place around ad placement, viewability, and measurement combined with blurry media supply chains involving multiple platforms each looking to have their piece of the ad budget.
When asking marketers about how agencies can fix these broken relationships, many responded with:
- The demonstration and application of knowledge, and skill of the service the client needs, performance and results
- Consistency, dependability, and appreciation of the client’s needs
- No more suprises, if there is a problem, it needs to be brought up at the appropriate time
- Regular updates, frequent communication, and full transparency
- Respect for key priorities and senior level involvement
- The development of a more intimate, close-working relationship with the client over time.
Advertising and media are still very much a people business, meaning, individuals can have a massive impact on the working relationship between the client and the agency. Client’s are supportive of their agency’s making a decent margin, but ties are diminishing when there is a lack of communication that leaves the client feeling the agency is putting their personal interests first.
7. Maintaining Credibility
Many agencies are expanding their service offerings significantly to adapt to the rapidly changing needs of their clients. As agencies begin expanding into new areas of expertise, some are losing their overall credibility by moving too quickly and neglecting to adapt the shape of their talent as they evolve.
Agencies that have diverse capabilities can benefit from a more comprehensive approach for clients, but marketers have become leery of agencies putting a digital band-aid on old practices or unnecessary solutions. An example of this is the lack of mobile-first solutions or the risk of agencies pitching a creative platform for an ad campaign when there is so much more that is needed. Agencies have to be flexible with how they present themselves to clients as needs change just as clients have to be sure that agencies are not stretching themselves into areas in which they lack the required expertise.
8. Keeping up with the changes
As marketers are operating in more complex environments than ever before, there is now a heightened need for clarity in key decisions around investment, strategy, and technology. Additionally, there is an increasing need to continue learning new capabilities to adapt to the rapidly changing consumer needs and fast-growing competitive landscapes. Marketers are looking to their agency partners to help them make sense of complicated, uncertain environments and to help them continuously improve.
Marketers have recognized that in a digitally-led, technologically advanced world, there is no longer a need for complex agency structures. Instead, it is crucial to have an agile team that can quickly develop strategies based on the changing needs of the client. Client/agency relationships have been tested to their limits this year, but as we’ve seen in the recent months and will continue to see in 2019, agencies are working harder than ever to perfect these eight areas and deliver results that add extensive value to their client’s businesses.