Agency Evolution: 5 Ways to Keep from Going the Way of the Dodo

Most of my professional life has been spent at agencies – some great, some not-so-great. Through the good (and the bad) there are always lessons to be learned. Here, for your consideration, are a couple of those lessons.

As digital and social media pushes continue to eat away at, and sometimes trump, traditional marketing budgets, it can seem like throwing a sentence on your website about how you “do social media” can be an easy way to keep (and gain) business. The weird thing is, the changing agency climate of the times isn’t solved by a quick-change offering set – it’s a combination of a number of factors that are making (and breaking) agencies of today… big and small alike.

The thing about the market is that it’s like the honey badger, it simply doesn’t give a shit. The market and your opportunities will move on with or without your agency (PR, Marketing, Advertising, whatever). It doesn’t matter if you’re in the front office or a cube next to the bathrooms, there are things you can do to keep your agency at the top (of minds and RFI lists).

Adapt. Improvise. Overcome.

The times they are a-changing and there’s no going back. Agencies that are still operating as if it’s 2000 are sadly more outdated than their Windows XP systems. Markets and clients change and if your business model and offerings are as stale as the yellowed paper they’re printed on, you’re looking at some disappointment in your near future. Look to market leaders and hiring trends to see how to align your business for success.

Competitive Compensation

While economies around the world are rising and falling like a roller coaster, the agency world continues to thrive while many other businesses falter. Oftentimes agencies are asking a lot of their employees and if they’re not willing to compensate fairly for their time, efforts, and talents, those talented employees will find somewhere they feel appreciated. Taking the time to keep on top of salaries in your area is a great way to keep talent and attract new talent. Gone are the days of the “wait until your annual review” and today’s workforce expects to see changes in compensation as duties, contributions, and influence change. Remember, base salaries are only the beginning as employees are looking for healthcare, vacation packages, and company perks when determining their level of compensation.

Partner Up

You can’t always be the big shop on the block. In many cases partnering with a complimentary agency can be a boon for both businesses as you’re able to fulfill on client needs and bounce referrals back and forth. Always be careful to guard your best-kept secrets and talent, though as partnerships can turn ugly when there’s a lot of money on the table. However, when done right, partnerships can definitely build and grow both businesses involved.

Do Less

When the market changes faster than you can keep up with, sometimes the best thing to do is cut your service offerings, not try to expand to fit the market. When you look at the possibilities of meeting new service offerings, you have the choice of trying to make do with what you’ve got in-house or hiring from the outside – both have their benefits and drawbacks. Making do can often mean falling behind and failing to meet expectations Hiring from outside can definitely mean more $ and that doesn’t sit well in today’s business landscape. Look at your offerings and do a serious SWOT to see where you can throw resources and make the biggest impact for your clients and employees. In the end you’ll be loking at more business as you hone your skills and set about making a name for your business rather than trying to be a one agency band.

Fail Harder

It’s on the wall (in pushpins) at Wieden + Kennedy, so I definitely can’t take credit for this one, but I think it’s incredibly important – not just in agency life, but in real people life as well. If you’re able to throw everything you’ve got behind your vision and capabilities, then you have nothing to regret at the end of the day. If you go down in flames, but you know you did so with conviction, determination, and the buy-in of talented employees, you can’t really ask for anything more.