The new rules for post-pandemic growth
Whether your agency is thriving or rebuilding, the pandemic has created new playing conditions and accelerated the need for a more progressive business model. ‘Necessity’, we’re taught,...
Whether your agency is thriving or rebuilding, the pandemic has created new playing conditions and accelerated the need for a more progressive business model. ‘Necessity’, we’re taught, ‘is the mother of invention’. This evolved from Plato’s belief that “our need will be the real creator”. And whether you’re a Socratic scholar or, like me, were today years old when you learnt that, we can all agree that Covid-19 has proved him right. No wonder, then, that six years of transformation occurred in the first six months of the pandemic. For agencies in particular, change wasn’t just constant - it was full-on and mission-critical. As clients scrambled to react to lockdown, you ploughed through tough questions in double-quick time under unique working conditions. So what now? How are you feeling? And whether your agency has thrived or faltered, how can the year’s learnings accelerate your progress?
Back to the hamster wheelWith forethought, strong leadership and no little luck, many agencies have prospered under the pandemic. They’re feeling the ‘Covid bounce’ (in the UK at least) and optimism is high. But with the client demands, relentless pace and daily compromises between work and home, many agency leaders also admit to asking ‘is this all there is?’. Buying into the default lifestyle and version of success is no longer a given. For network agencies, the constraints feel more constraining and there’s a growing sense of jeopardy within the endless pressure to hit your numbers. And for independents, the traditional dream of selling to the highest bidder feels more distant, so founders are interrogating their aspirations in search of a more bespoke and controllable course. So even if you’ve continued to prosper, existential questions still hang heavy in the air.
Can you even do this anymore?If you’re running an agency that’s really suffered under Covid-19 - many of whom were simply too far from a chair when the music stopped - then you’re probably even more exhausted. As well as the heightened everyday pressures and profound responsibility to protect jobs, you’ve also had to watch this thing you built - your baby - regress to a stage you powered past years ago. If you’re questioning your motivation to rebuild, then please know that many others feel the same. To lose, say, six years’ progress in six months is hard enough. But it’s nigh on impossible to feel energised at the prospect of another six years’ toil, just to recreate the same fragility. There has to be a faster route to a better business.
Old world or new?Changes in the agency marketplace have been accelerated. So whether your agency is rebuilding or capitalising on a new wave of demand, you’re standing at a fork in the road. You can stick to the familiar practices - those that served you well in the past - or you can retool your agency to reflect changes in how clients buy. From Tokyo to Glasgow, New York to Newbury and Munich to Manchester*, Co:definery has spent the last year helping agency leaders challenge conventions, embrace their opportunity and adopt lasting change. These are the prevailing shifts to make:
- Be brave. Strongly attract the right clients and don’t be afraid to repel the rest. Say ‘no’ daily. Have a point of view. Be liberated by the reality that ‘specialising’ isn’t small or limiting.
- Be decisive. Get serious about differentiation - have a strategy, not just a strapline. Define the problem you solve, use clear language and avoid the pitfalls of repositioning.
- Be holistic. Live and breathe your proposition every day. De-commoditize your entire agency Customer Experience so that everything you say and do demonstrates your unique expertise.