The world is changing at lightning speed, so agency partners must be adaptable and nimble, yet stable and consistent at the same time.
The world is changing at lightning speed, so agency partners must be adaptable and nimble, yet stable and consistent at the same time. I’ve written this to highlight our views on some important factors that will enable agencies to better support clients both now and in an exciting and unpredictable future.
I hope you enjoy the read and would love to hear your thoughts.
Agency Adaptation and Evolution
Science, I love it. Not just because I find it interesting or the fact that it never ceases to amaze me, but also because it often provides me with a range of parallels to draw upon across all facets of modern life; including business.
Throughout our ongoing endeavour of building a boutique marketing agency (Mind Methods), my partners and I have often reflected on various notions of science and nature that are also applicable to the growth of the non-physical entity that is a small business. Notions like momentum, nurture and organic growth come to mind immediately.
Recently, I have been thinking about adaptation and evolution and specifically, how these notions apply to agencies in their ongoing struggle to keep up with the increasingly dynamic environment within which they operate.
5 Key Factors for Agency Partners
I've provided a summary of five extremely important factors that will be critical for agencies to master in order to continue to "evolve and adapt" in a way that best serves their number one priority; their lifeblood... their clients:
1. Stable Adaptability
“Be stable in strategy & process, but flexible in tactics and techniques”
Change is both constant and inevitable in life, business, technology and subsequently, in marketing. What is not constant is the "rate of change" and innovation; and this is the key message here.
With innovation and change occurring so rapidly today (and only looking like speeding up in future) it is critical for agency partners to remain flexible enough to keep up with the shifting environment and technologies. At the same time it is also important to balance this flexibility with stable internal processes and structures to ensure that high quality services and outcomes can replicate success for clients.
For these reasons, our client strategies must remain relatively stable to keep us focused on hitting their longer-term organisational objectives. On the other hand, our tactics are the facilitators to get them there and these need to remain dynamic and flexible, shift with opportunities that were previously unforeseen.
2. Cross-Channel Evolution
“Stay on top of the increasingly complicated consumer journey”
This sounds like a "me too" comment, but here's my take. People just aren't linear when it comes to when, where and how they want to interact with brands. They don't tell us what they're doing and they have something between selective hearing and an attention deficit when we analyse their behaviours and interactions spanning a range of content and media.
Brands are getting confused with all of the options available to them and are losing control quickly. For this reason, it's important for agency partners to have clear methodologies that assist clients with encouraging quality engagement that maintains continuity and quality of content across evolving channels.
Strategically, a clear and customised methodology for channel execution will help to keep brands focused (and can be adjusted with new research and insights). Tactically however, campaigns could vary their approach, from cherry-picking channel execution to developing specific campaigns to quickly respond to a market threat or opportunity.
3. Fundamental Underpinning
“The tactics will change. Remain primarily strategy-focussed”
I'll be blunt. The days of the one-trick-digital-pony are quickly coming to an end. Marketers and business leaders will not be fooled any longer, as they are now understanding the important symbiotic relationship between marketing/sales and technology.
At their core, agencies need to have a strong grasp of marketing strategy and fundamentals, understanding the entire marketing function and how it supports overall business objectives. The unique nature of the strategy devised for clients will be the key. The technical implementation of these strategies (across whatever the trending tools are) will be expected as "given prerequisite knowledge" across all channels and capabilities.
My advice: Don't bamboozle clients with your one 'special capability trick' or you will fall as quickly as you rose. Devise your strategy (based in research, analysis and insights), articulate how your approach intends to solve the problem (or capitalise on the opportunity)...and then show them how you're going to support them tactically to make it happen and improve it over time.
4. Natural Selection
“Keep measuring, but focus on insights that drive future actions”
This isn't new, but it is becoming increasingly complex and a true differentiator in the market. Agency partners need to keep meticulously measuring results and setting out expectations right up front.
What we can measure these days is phenomenal and will only keep getting better with technology. The key is to know ‘what’ you are measuring, to ask ‘why’ you are measuring it and to reflect upon and/or question the metrics in order to understand what insights can be drawn.
Analysing metrics thoroughly and drawing insights will drive your clients' own version of "marketing natural selection". Keep what is working, learn from what isn't working and have the structures and processes in place to use these metrics actively when continuing to refine and evolve your marketing effectiveness…(otherwise you are probably going to be chasing your own tail and will inevitably become extinct).
5. Collaborative Relationships
“Disrupting a ‘them & us’ mentality through honest collaboration”
The symbiotic relationship between client organisation and agency partner needs to reflect a partnership of understanding, collaboration and equally important needs.
Client organisations should seek ‘best-fit’ agency partners and view agency retention in a similar way to how they view staff retention. They should nurture conversations about what is valued by each party and what could be improved over time.
Similarly, agency partners should remove the attitude of being a mere supplier and operate in a manner that offers clients an extension to their teams and capabilities. Agencies need to understand that in order to deliver true value, they must recognise that they are part-owners of the client’s journey and specifically, their business objectives.
Marketing is evolving faster than ever before and there is an immediate need for agencies and organisations to adapt in order to maintain their relevance.
Agencies need to remain solid in strategy and flexible in execution, taking ownership of the increasingly complex consumer journey across all channels and actively managing the process of measuring, defining and communicating success (and failure).
Like any relationship, mutual respect is essential between agencies and client organisations, otherwise it simply will not work. We have all witnessed the darker sides of the industry around us, watching agencies acquire business by pulling the wool over client’s eyes with technical knowledge and “jargon”. We can also see clients working from a base of "agency distrust", constantly using the carrot and stick approach and squeezing each agency transaction.
Keeping open communications and outlining clear and concise agreements always prevails. Our deepest intention is to create genuine long-term relationships with clients, not transactional interactions. We work with people, not companies. We make sure that clients work directly with and have access to the partners and owners of our business. The agreement is to work together, we become an extension of their team and they gain access to our support, expertise and capabilities.
Neither party claims to be perfect, but with the right attitude we aim to grow, learn and succeed... Together. I will leave you with a quote: