In working with a few of our agency clients, I’m sometimes asked whether I’m bearish or bullish on the future of the marketing agency world.
The answer I’ve given lately is that I’m neither.
The agency world will remain strong for years to come, so long as agencies are able to play it right.
During my time on both sides of the agency-marketer equation, I’ve seen what it takes for agencies to pass the test of time and withstand the shifts of an ever-changing landscape.
The firms that are best equipped to survive demonstrate a few shared traits: they are very much on top of what’s current from a technology standpoint, they add value through smart strategic partnerships, they know how to not only analyze a client’s business, but know how to make the analytics actionable for the client’s business. In addition, they look at relationships as business relationships instead of just another creative assignment.
It’s those agencies that fail to do these things that find themselves on the receiving end of marketers looking for a new firm.
It feels like virtually every agency search we run is driven by the fact that the marketer isn’t satisfied with one or many of the things mentioned above.
Too often, a marketer’s desire to look for a new firm is primarily driven by the agency’s inability to stay current with technologies in the MarTech and AdTech space.
Recent searches for a major national sports nutrition brand and a retailer were initiated for these very reasons. The sports brand needed an agency that could bring smarter, more proactive digital and social thinking into the relationship. The retailer was looking for an agency that could also more systematically deliver better (and strategically smarter) media planning and buying to help further their business.
The agencies that keep themselves current have flourished through highs and lows, because these qualities work in service of being the connection between you and your audience, rather than simply “checking the boxes” and doing the bare minimum to meet requirements.
Even those that display the previously described traits can face a tough road ahead thanks to their lack of another key element: agility.
As you seek out an agency partner, place a high value on those that show the adaptability to work in a project-based capacity, nimbleness to navigate the work, and yes, to some degree, the ability to mitigate your cost.
These agency traits are proving to be more desirable as the landscape evolves, and big networked agencies are fighting an uphill battle in managing around them and being the best choice for a partner.
You’ll see a lot of doomsayers predicting the end of agencies as we know them – they’ve been doing it for years.
In my view, however, a strong market will always exist for agencies that are intelligent enough to bring strong analytics, creative enough to drive unique solutions, and savvy enough to add value to the partnership.
The cream rises to the top, and your next search should center on agencies that are built for the long haul.
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