Change is essential to accelerate sustainable, post-pandemic growth, but agency CEOs need to shortcut the soul-searching and act fast. 

As Elvis Presley once famously asked, “who doesn’t love a misattributed quote?”. And in business, no-one’s words get mis-deployed more than the patron saint of consultants, Peter Drucker. So it’s no surprise that he never said ‘what gets measured gets managed’. 

Worse still for those who live by that maxim, the full quote (by academic V. F. Ridgeway) actually warns against it – “What gets measured gets managed – even when it’s pointless to measure and manage it, and even if it harms the purpose of the organisation to do so.”

So now that the pandemic has made change a priority for agencies, how can you create a roadmap for growth, without getting bogged down in options, numbers and initiative fatigue? 

The accelerating revolution

Step one is to recognise the scale of the challenge. While a tough market is nothing new, the pressure and urgency you face is growing by the day – especially in larger agencies. 

With many CMOs looking to build their brands from the bottom up, their vast demand for content is increasingly being met by in-housing

At the same time, global production specialists are winning blue-chip clients with a compelling promise of cost efficiency and speed. And independent agencies have Network agencies in their sights

Then there’s COVID-19 – disrupting client spend, accelerating societal change, and redefining the workplace and talent market. 

And as if that wasn’t enough, these tectonic shifts also enable the press to maintain a polarised narrative, with smaller agencies cast as ‘agile’ and those they see as traditional labelled as ‘embattled’ or ‘beleaguered’.

Rising internal pressures 

It’s similarly tricky inside the agency. For Network shops in particular, whether you’re still hitting your numbers or not, delivering more of the same is no longer enough.

Unfortunately, despite the opportunities created by clients facing ever more complex problems, you’re under-resourced, organic growth is maxed out and new-business is a bloodbath of agencies cutting their own throats. 

So giving ideas away and making your money back later is now a non-starter. And there’s only so far you can manage costs downwards. 

All this makes further agency consolidation inevitable. And even where the strategic rationale makes sense, let’s not forget that a merged entity can only have one chief. 

Without a distinctive three-year growth plan, your destiny will be out of your hands. 

So what’s stopping you? 

Get out of your own way 

For too long, agencies have maintained habits, beliefs and cultures that are at best outdated and at worse actively hamper growth.

For example, many so-called propositions are no more than straplines that offer clients no meaningful differentiation. And beyond listing their non-conflicted sectors, many agencies can’t even name a discrete target audience. 

The age-old obsession with pitching is also self-limiting. There’s plenty of talk about agencies becoming more consultative to get ‘upstream’, but few make the necessary changes to their decision making and commercial model, not to mention their mindset, skills and process. 

Similarly, for all the woolly talk of being ‘partners’ to clients, not enough is done to cultivate the conditions required. No wonder the classic ‘land and expand’ approach to new business often leaves you in a tactical pigeonhole that makes account and agency growth harder. 

Ultimately, failing to change these ingrained habits – like chasing any CMO with a budget – makes you complicit in your own commoditisation. 

Define your roadmap to growth

In this context, there’s never been a greater need to reinvent differentiation. But this is about far more than just packaging – it’s about agency strategy, leadership, and company-wide change.

Ultimately, clients are now demanding that agencies demonstrate deeper expertise, so building a differentiated Customer Experience (CX) is essential. 

Whether that requires full reinvention or more nuanced optimisation, you need to define priority improvements across what you do, not just what you say

That’s why Co:definery partners with creative leadership specialists Curve to deliver the Agency Transformation Roadmap – a clear plan for holistic adaptation. 

Through a short series of immersive workshops, we assess your strengths and weaknesses, identify blind spots and agree prioritised actions, owners, and timelines. 

By addressing your agency’s unique psychological, operational, and cultural hurdles to change, you create a virtuous circle of commercial gains and demonstrably effective leadership. 

Your window of opportunity

The pandemic has heightened the need to address fundamental issues that have been looming for years. But to thrive as the market recovers, you must be decisive. 

Transformation can no longer languish in the ‘too hard’ pile and an ‘initiative’ or two won’t cut it. You need to set the right course and bring people with you. 

Thankfully, turning the tanker doesn’t mean boiling the ocean. Instead, fast-paced change prospers through targeted intervention.

And because every agency is unique, there is no ‘average’, ‘best practice’ sets the bar too low and ‘ASAP’ is too slow. So your roadmap needs to be bespoke – and you need it now. 

Our Agency Transformation Roadmap defines your shortest course to sustainable growth and empowers you and your people to deliver lasting change. 

As Elvis sang, ‘a little less conversation, a little more action’. He definitely had agency transformation in mind.

Image: Alejo Storni