On Tuesday 5th December, Upfront hosted the first in our breakfast workshop series taking place in the run up to Christmas. Today’s session focused on some of the areas that will be vital to agency success in the period ahead.
We brought together Founders, Managing Directors and Business Developers from a wide range of agencies to make sure everything is covered on senior management ‘To Do’ lists to ensure they get off to a flyer in 2018.
Together, Adam Graham Co-Founder of Kiwi Gray and Jody Osman, MD of Upfront led the discussion, sharing first-hand experience and key elements that need to be addressed and considered when planning a new business strategy. Key topics and insights included:
Coping with Growth
With thousands of agencies across the UK and many competing for the same client base, dealing with growth can be a challenge. There can be a fear that the work you are completing can become commoditised. If an agency moves from production to strategy this can leave a gap between reality and ambition. Adam Graham advises that this is much more that a secular issue – an agency’s entire marketing strategy needs to change if you want to reach a new audience. In order to become more strategic, a CEO/Director needs to be developing a relationship with more senior level in order to get more exposure to budgets – however this covers a wide range – from elevating your content, to the events you attend. Put your work in front of business leaders by switching from The Drum to The Financial times. He stresses that most of the time agencies are sitting back waiting for opportunities when in reality they are right there in front of them. He illustrated this with the recent example of Toy R Us – why was no one talking to them two years ago about a shift to digital?
Jody Osman advises on the importance of investing time when thinking about agency growth. Don’t be too ambitious when planning if high growth targets will ultimately be detrimental to the agency as you have to take on wrong type of work. The targeting needs to be refined and there needs to be commitment from the beginning with the understanding that it does not happen overnight. If you are going to invest time developing a relationship, it’s with the type of client you want to work with. Nothing will happen without commitment to the end goal and the correct attitude to the task.
Building an agency culture
Next we talked about ‘The Power of No’, in order for an agency to shift and grow away from its current state, change needs to come from the top. For example, when a brief comes in of large value – a senior decision maker needs to decide – is this who we are? Is this brand one that will fit within the new agency culture? To do this a stringent checklist should be put in place which keeps the end goals for the agency top of mind. One way to obtain a shift in agency culture is to be transparent and open with the whole team. If the whole business buys into where the business is headed, then there is a sense of purpose and direction. Staff will feel more valued and therefore lead to them being much more committed to the agency.
Be brave and act like a brand
While agencies are helping thousands of brands across the globe engage with consumers by developing clear, meaningful, brand propositions, they’re often guilty of forgetting they too are a brand – an agency should have a clear brand positioning and differentiating story.
It’s vital that your agency has a clear proposition and story, with over 20,000 agencies competing in the UK to win business.
Brands need to understand why you exist, what you can do to help them and why you are different. Knowing who you are and how to communicate that story authentically will help you to retain your existing clients, cut through the noise your competitors are making, build long lasting relationships and ultimately win your dream clients.
As an Agency proposition expert, Adam Graham explained why developing your agency’s proposition is crucial to your business development strategy and why brands (even agency brands) with purpose tend to do better commercially and socially than those that don’t.
Founders must be brave enough to be honest about who they (the agency) really are – ultimately you are communicating and doing business with people – your new clients need to trust you and your team. Tell your story, answer a clients challenges and be authentic. This will make sure they remember you and when they have work, they will come back based on remembering your message. ‘Bore the brand to death with your differentiating story’, by living and breathing what you say is what will make people want to work with you, which ties in again with the importance of company culture.
New Business is everyone’s responsibility
Make it everyone’s responsibility and there will be little room for lack of success. New Business is not someone’s singular responsibility but a culture within the company. Recognise what your staff are good at – where their skillset lies and you will then have a team that can support different divisions. The importance of joining up new business and marketing teams has never been so important.
The role of content
The role of content now places a crucial role in business development. One piece of content can bring to life challenges brands are facing while positioning an agency as an expert on that topic.
The group shared tips and it was recommended that you must be creating 3000 words a month as an agency, however this is where we should be clever and re-use/re-purpose content. If you interview a brand director – video the interview, turn it into a Q&A blog post, a video, a LinkedIn post etc… Maximise the channels you use and when you release these so in your quieter periods you are never short on content.
This is a topic we will be further exploring later this week as we look at how to develop your agency content strategy. Click here if you’d like to join us and be part of the discussion.