We’re halfway through 2019. Far enough into the year to reflect on what clients have been looking for in agency partners. Early enough to incorporate these insights into your agency’s new business approach and enter the latter half of the year strong.
Based on what we’re hearing in our agency searches, agencies should ask three questions:
Are we missing the new business boat? In our work with agency search clients, marquee creative reviews are no longer the only game in town. Discipline-specific searches have been the order of the year (and last year, frankly). Clients are asking—What do we outsource? What do we keep in-house? As a result, we’re seeing more clients pursue external agencies for media, digital, project-based, or idea-generating engagements.
Specialization is becoming a significant piece of the new business pie. Make sure your agency knows how to effectively and efficiently communicate all that you do. And while creative reviews are still among the most prevalent, don’t assume traditional creative accounts are the only ones to win.
Are we bringing strategic chops? “We need more strategy. We need new ideas.” Strategy is one of the top reasons the clients we work with look for a new agency partner. Unfortunately, “strategy” can feel nebulous when left undefined. From our experience, when an agency’s data and analytics prowess match the sophistication of a client-side marketing team, the partnership works.
When a client says they need strategy, they often mean they need a partner that brings business-driving expertise equal to, if not better than, their own. That said, if you’re unclear as to what type of strategy a client is looking for—creative, business, communication—it’s in your agency’s best interest to ask.
Are we focused on talent? Agencies can make the mistake of underestimating how important their people are. Clients want every assurance that when they select an agency, they are hiring the people in the pitch. Once the business is won, make a point of letting clients know what you do to retain the talent working on their business, and more importantly, the plans you have in place if key people leave.
If change does occur, whether it’s the newly-appointed President of your 300-person agency or the retirement of the Creative Director on your 20-person team, be the first to communicate the news to your client and reassure them that the only impact a change in personnel will have on their business is for the better.
While these are by no means the only questions to ask and answer to win new clients, specialization, strategy and talent are the areas we’re seeing our clients prioritize in our 2019 searches, and often mean the difference between winning a piece of business and coming in second.