What should agencies be doing right now to be match fit for a resurgent market?

What should agencies be doing right now to be match fit for a resurgent market?

While the long term remains uncertain, there are two things we know about the scenario for new business right now:

  • The market will be more competitive: fewer briefs and tighter budgets.
  • There are more agencies fighting over the opportunities that remain.

In short – it’s Darwinian out there. So, what can you do to ensure you’re in the best shape to retain clients, win business and attract investment or potential buyers, if that’s your strategy?

Miles Welch, Founding Partner at Waypoint Partners and Rose Bentley, Director of Clients and Strategy at Propeller Group offered advice and guidance of rebuilding value back into your agency in an exclusive webinar session.

The session explored how you might handle sales and marketing right now and how the future agency model might evolve. Propeller Group’s Director of Content Branwell Johnson acted as moderator.

What new business tactics are you cultivating?

Rose urged agencies to keep talking to people and learn what they’re thinking. She added: “We’ve found that people are open to conversations. There’s never been more opportunity as people have time to talk – as long as there’s useful conversations and you’re both getting and giving.”

Miles warned you’ll get resistance if you’re not relevant and empathetic, “you’ll get resistance if you’re not solving a specific business issue right now. Relevance is key, but you’re also going to get more traction if there’s a short to medium ROI. Packaged well, low risk solutions are getting traction” 

Rose also added that now’s the time to think of ways you can respond to the market: ask clients what they want and how they want to respond. Many brands are getting traction with customers by packaging up what they offer in a smarter way and they will be receptive to agencies who can make relevant suggestions for this kind of approach.

Should you be chasing the same opportunities as everyone else – or fish elsewhere? 

It’s apparent where there is growth – the DIY, consumer electronics and health & beauty sectors are all enjoying significant growth in demand. But if agencies all target these clients it is going to be extremely competitive. Miles said agencies need to focus efforts on where they stand the best chance of winning and really honing their USP’s that differentiate them from their rivals.

Miles suggested that agencies should look at low hanging fruit and explore what’s within your current capability as part of the new business strategy. See where it’s possible to reframe case studies and lessons from one market as they might apply to another, look at your skill set and where you’ve added the value in the past. 

Rose added that “one of the things that’s special about you might not be a differentiator, it could be that you’re just better than everyone else.” She also explained that it’s possible to look at adjacencies to the market you already serve.

The best approach to rebuilding value and revenue with your clients

Rose stressed that relationships will be strengthened by the added value an agency can provide. “It means focusing and prioritising your to do list and looking at what’s most important to your clients.”

Miles warned that it’s important to find a balance as over-servicing was prevalent at the moment as agencies are worried about losing their clients. But as they are trying to do this with reduced resources it’s impossible to do that properly. Just doing “more of the same” is not the answer – it’s about serving in the right way and the real value an agency can offer is insights, guidance and (relevant and timely) solutions.

Should you move away from your core skill set? Can you be all things to all people? 

Miles sees a lot of agency websites and it can be hard to differentiate businesses on what they say. Many fail to convey their USPs in a way that someone can see as a real differentiator. Everyone claims the same territory e.g. the best people, better data which makes it hard to buy. It comes down to spending enough time on developing your proposition and making sure you’ve really nailed your value, rather than pushing a shopping list of services. This is often one of the first places that Waypoint gets involved with clients.

You can’t be all things to all people, but many end up trying to do just that to spread the net wide. The effect is the opposite of what you want, you’re not known for what you’re good at and you end up trying to deliver things you shouldn’t.

Last words of advice

There can be a positive view of the future if an agency concentrates on developing a strong inbound and outbound sales & marketing capability and now is the time to do this. As Miles points out, the market is going to be very competitive over the next 12- 18 months and you need to be fit for the fight ahead.