So, you want to grow your marketing agency…

Posted by John Glover

12-Oct-2012 15:38:00

How to give your agency the edge in tough times

Competitive advantageIf you’re in a marketing agency, you may well be experiencing the toughest trading conditions you’ve seen for a long time.

Since the downturn kicked in in 2008, many companies have cut back or even eliminated their marketing spend. The ones that remain often demand lower prices — and usually insist on much more bang for their remaining bucks.

That means many marketing agencies have lost clients, and now have make do with smaller margins for the work they continue to do.

Agency and freelance competition. Then there’s the competition.

First of all, you’re up against a steadily growing number of competing agencies. The number of advertising enterprises alone rose from 13,930 to 16,010 between 2009 and 2011. Sometimes it seems that hardly a week goes past without some new marketing agency moving into our area — both geographically and in terms of the services we offer.

Secondly, as current agencies have shed staff to stay competitive, the number of freelancers in the market has swelled. That has seen many clients switch their marketing spend from full-service agencies to a hotch-potch of freelance talent, taking advantage of the lower prices that individual creative with few overheads can offer.

In a nutshell, it’s a buyer’s market out there. You need to offer something better and different if those buyers are to choose you.

Keeping clients and attracting new ones

Despite growing competition, agencies are ideally placed to weather the current economic storm — and even to grow their businesses in difficult conditions.

That’s because agencies have the resources and the range of talent to provide a consistent and highly personalised level of service to their clients. This is essential for one major reason.

Without it, you’re in danger of clients leaving you.

What marketing agency clients really want

Recent research by Reardon Smith Whittaker found that there were three factors that tipped clients into searching for a new marketing agency. They were: 

  • Dissatisfaction with their current agency’s approach 
  • Unhappiness with creative work 
  • Lack of proactivity

As someone with an experienced agency background, you’ll know there’s a thread that connects these three elements — communication.

  • It’s communication that helps clients understand your approach, and keeps them on board with your ideas and plans as a project progresses. 
  • It’s communication that helps them appreciate your creative direction, and gives them a hand in shaping it. 
  • And it’s communication that allows you to be proactive, understanding your clients’ needs — before another agency does.

What clients value

If you doubt that clients want better communication, there’s a sobering finding that emerged from recent research by a US company specialising in collaboration.

It found that 38% of clients have decided not to give business to an agency because it lacked good enough tools for managing the account’s work and communications.

If you want to grow your marketing agency, you need to make sure that doesn’t happen to you. 

To help you, our next post will look in detail at how you can improve your communications to retain your current clients — and attract new ones. You’ll be surprised by how a few, straightforward changes can make a significant and profitable different to your marketing agency’s business model. 

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Topics: workplace innovation, collaboration tools