The pandemic has accelerated the need for fundamental change – this is achieved through nuanced adaptation not wholesale reinvention.

Having made tough decisions, supported your team and stayed close to evolving client needs, you’ve emerged into this worryingly open-ended ‘new normal’. 

Now the big question is what kind of agency you want to be when all this is over. Or more specifically, how to maximise competitive advantage by quickly adapting to the emerging market conditions. 

But in amongst a dizzying array of options, constraints and pressures, where should you start and how can you move quickly? 

The overdue evolution

Even before the pandemic, it wasn’t an easy market – brands were demanding more for less, margin pressure was growing and agencies were competing hard for talent. In addition, in-housing was growing fast, new competitors were gaining traction and clients were getting more risk-averse

Then along came COVID-19 – disrupting committed spend, accelerating societal change and redefining the workplace.

So whether you’re rebuilding or ready to capitalise, there’s never been a greater need to respond to these challenges by upgrading your business model and strengthening your agency brand. 

In short, it’s time to reinvent differentiation. But far more than just packaging, this is a fundamental question of strategy, leadership and company-wide adaptation.

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For too long, agencies have maintained habits, beliefs and cultures that are at best outdated and at worse actively hamper growth.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. 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 becoming more consultative to get ‘upstream’, but few agencies make the necessary changes to leadership, commercials and process, not to mention provenance, skills and confidence. 

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 growth harder. 

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

Define your roadmap to growth

To help you address these challenges, Co:definery works in partnership with creative leadership specialists Curve to deliver the Expertise-Led Agency Customer Experience (ELACE) Audit. 

A fast-paced, qualitative assessment of your readiness for sustainable growth, we take your senior team through a short series of immersive workshops to validate strengths, agree weaknesses and uncover blind spots. 

The output is a prioritised roadmap towards your own definition of growth – including clarity on your agency’s unique psychological, operational and cultural hurdles.

This enables you to embed your most differentiating expertise into everything you say and do – accelerating progress through a virtuous circle of commercial gains and demonstrably effective leadership. 

The 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 need to be decisive. 

So whether your agency needs a little course correction or more profound transformation, change can’t languish in the ‘too hard’ pile. 

Instead, fast-paced evolution prospers through targeted intervention.

And because every solution is unique, there is no ‘average’, ‘ASAP’ is too slow and ‘best practice’ sets the bar too low. So your roadmap must be bespoke. 

Ask yourself – if not now, then when? Your competitors will be using this time wisely.

Image: Cindy Tang
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