What are the learnings when a senior client, an intermediary and a global chief growth officer get together to debate where agencies have created most new value in the last 12 months? 

With client needs evolving at pace during Covid-19, agencies have been forced to innovate. And by pivoting services as well as marketing, selling, and managing relationships in new ways, many agencies now find themselves closer to clients than ever before.

So, with the pandemic passing and confidence returning, the big question for 2021 is how much we’ll return to normal – and which new habits, mindsets, and ways of working we should aim to retain.

This was the topic we explored for BIMA’s recent Innovations for Agency Growth panel, which I was well chuffed to chair.

Joining me were Somo Global’s Rebecca Crook, Alchemists’ Angus Crowther and former eBay, Sky and Virgin marketing director Rebecca McKee.

Two big themes emerged…

Firstly, no excuses – it’s time to get the agency growth basics in place: 

  • Stop saying the same things as every other agency – it’s not ‘just how it is’
  • Create a meaningful proposition – be benefit-led and tell clients stuff they don’t know; standout comes from expertise, not capabilities
  • Define a specific target audience – ‘CMOs with money’ won’t cut it
  • Be more selective – ask clients better questions and say ‘no’ more often; not just when a brief arrives.

Secondly, don’t get left behind – what was seen as progressive is now mainstream: 

  • Make meetings about clients, not creds
  • Develop an ownable point of view – it’s the easiest way to stand out
  • Profit comes from solving a problem – being ‘specialised’ isn’t small / sector based
  • You have to monetise your thinking – you can’t expect to ‘make the money later’ on production
  • The most effective agency leaders are empathetic and commercially savvy
  • Differentiation goes much deeper than straplines and websites
  • There’s a huge opportunity to accelerate ethical change – from D&I and sustainability to flexible working – clients are increasingly demanding better practices, so this is a commercial imperative as well as an ethical one.

Here’s a video of the full session – including a pretty average University Challenge joke that I ran into the ground.

Thanks for organising a great session on agency growth, BIMA – especially Holly, Alise, Anthony, and Rachel!

And if you’re interested in some wider resources and recommendations:

Image: Martin Sanchez