In the face of continued shifts, we’re seeing a lot of marketers that are searching for the “new normal” in their agency reviews and agency searches.

The reality is that we’re in very different times than we were a few months ago, and the qualities you look for in an agency need to change along with it.

The circumstances we’re in won’t last forever, but many of the changes we’re seeing in and out of the workplace will remain long after we’re back to bars, concerts, and sporting events.

Likewise, many of the new qualities you’ll need in an agency will change forever as a result of the pandemic – while others have cemented themselves as evergreen fundamentals.

The end of “Location, Location, Location”

As I’m typing this from my home office, it’s never been more apparent that remote work is entirely viable at worst, and the future of work at best.

While some marketers will continue to lean toward agencies with which they can build an in-person rapport – and others long ago abandoned the idea of “the agency down the road” – we expect to see location tumble quite a way down the list of priorities for brands of all sizes.

The larger search range will immediately expand your candidate list, making for a tougher search to manage initially as you start to narrow the field, but ultimately gives you the range of options needed to find the perfect match for your business.

Digitizing your experience

For years, marketers couldn’t hear the word “Millennials” without it being quickly followed or preceded by “experiential marketing”.

This was the generation of doing, rather than having, and combined with the rise of social media influencers, nothing was more valuable for a brand than a one-of-a-kind, shareable experience. Even for smaller brands, details like store layouts and dining experiences made for an in-person marketing touchpoint.

It goes without saying that these experiences will need to change dramatically, and your agency needs to play a part.

This is obvious in some respects: we’ve talked about the move to digital media, for example. But challenges in replicating the in-store experience online is something on which many marketers have found themselves behind the curve.

In our dealings with the agency side of our business, we’ve seen entire businesses that were dedicated to experiential marketing, now shifting to “digitize” these experiences to create unique solutions that combine the ease of e-commerce with the sensation and immersion of wandering the store and exploring new styles in person.

It’s yet another trend that’s been thrown into overdrive, and a key factor to consider in finding an agency to keep you ahead of the game.

Change your line of questions
This one will largely depend on your situation, but don’t be afraid to ask upfront questions about the challenges you’re facing.

This is good advice in any search, but as the landscape changes, so too should your questions. And because COVID has affected each industry (and each company) in vastly different ways, it’s even more crucial that you’re drilling down to the questions that you’ll need answered to move forward with an agency.

Whether it’s streamlining a digital customer journey, finding the new normal in your stores, or getting a message of comfort and safety to your customers, now is certainly not the time for a “one-size-fits-all” approach from your agency.

Ensure that you’re avoiding that with smart, customized questions from the first phase of the search, all the way through final pitches.

Innovation continues to stand tall

While the marketing world changes around us, the truth is that some agency qualities have only proven to be more valuable than before.

As an example, I’m not sure a marketer would have ever disagreed that innovation is a good quality to find in an agency, but these months have only reinforced the value of a proactive shop that’s able to take lemons and serve your customers lemonade.

COVID-19 may be the largest curveball in a generation, but it won’t be the last. There will always be bumps in the road; it’s up to your agencies to step up as a partner to find the right messaging and, when appropriate, get creative in repositioning your brand for success.

The marketing world has changed, the agency world has changed, and yes, that means that the process you use to find agencies needs to adapt along with it. We’ve seen these changes first hand, and we’ve seen the kind of agencies that are effectively weathering the storm, and will continue to do so through the challenges still to come.

If you’d like to find one of these agencies, and do so in a customized search process at no cost to you, give us a call at 513-559-3101, or shoot me an email at msneider@rswagencysearch.com. We’re happy to help.