2018 has not been the best year for advertising agencies. To expand on that fact, agencies did not deserve the best year in 2018. There hasn’t been a significant shakeup in agencies’ MO since the 1950’s and that leads to complacency. What happened in 2018 was client pushback against a system that didn’t work for them.
The landscape of marketing is changing more rapidly than ever before. Digital is a huge part of that. So, how do you learn from the mistakes of the past and become a successful digital marketing agency in 2019?
1. Be nice.
I almost called this tip something else, but it wouldn’t have fit the theme. When I say be nice, I mean you can’t treat your clients like dirt. Don’t be elitist. You can’t be hard to reach, you can’t be inattentive, and you can’t be rude. The fact is, this is how agencies have come to be perceived over time. Clients aren’t going to tolerate that anymore. They’re going to turn to internal marketing teams, for better or worse, and your agency will lose that business.
You need to be honest, first and foremost. As radical as it may seem, you need to do everything you can to actually help your clients. Do away with the stereotype of the sleazy marketing executive. Clients won’t pay for him anymore, assuming that kind of interaction is just part of the deal. Which leads me to my next point….
2. Be transparent.
If a client asks you why they’re being charged for a service, you should be able to tell them exactly what that service is and why it costs what it does. Some people reading this might be thinking, “Well, yeah, obviously.” But as crazy as it sounds, there are a LOT of agencies – and other businesses for that matter – that can’t or won’t do this.
In 2019, itemizing the costs of your services, and being able to back them up with data, is going to be a major point in your favor. Luckily, that data is available. When you build a site, you can track conversion rates, you can make sure your client sees how much of a difference your services make. That’s not something to shy away from; it’s a major advantage.
At Brain Bytes, we make it a point to use all the data we have at our disposal, and share it with our clients. Not everyone may understand what a benefit having a good agency in their corner can be, but everyone’s heard of of agencies swindling huge fees out of clients for nothing in particular.
Build trust with your clients and let them know what you bring to the table. Honesty will be rewarded.
Do your research.
Remember all that data I mentioned? You should be using all the tools at your disposal to do your job better. Stay up late and read books. Read articles, and learn more about the business of digital marketing and branding. You should be a thought leader in the space. Not only will Google rank you higher in search, but you’ll be more equipped to help your clients.
Good ideas don’t come from nothing. They take work.
For example, you can learn the 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing. Bea marketer. That’s what Google wants, and it’s clear that winning search means great things for your agency and your clients. Supply reports and plans that have strong KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) and track them. Measure everything. Use analytics tools. These are things that a digital marketing agency can provide that an internal marketing team can’t.
Living in 2019 means you have an absurd amount of scientific information available to you. You’re doing a disservice to yourself and your clients by failing to make use of it.
4. Be proactive, not reactive.
The lessons of 2018 are out there for anyone. There are already agencies that are doing things right, and there will be more. Don’t wait and learn the hard way that the status quo is shifting. Be proactive and start making the changes.
However, being proactive refers to much more than changing the way you engage clients. Trends come and go overnight, and you need to know what’s popular, what’s relatable. You need to know what content has the best chance of being successful.
Content is a moving target. At the same time, it’s deeply ingrained in our society. Whatever your clients are trying to sell, you need to push them towards being thought leaders in their space, because that will drive the most relevant and useful content. To do that, you need to be a thought leader in your own space.
You need to be the one with the answers, and that means doing your best to know the questions. You can’t perfectly predict what the next hit will be, but you give yourself the best chance when you monitor keywords, stay on top of social media trends, and pounce on opportunities when they show themselves.
I should note you need a great team of people working tirelessly to make this happen. Work hard, be bold, and be topical.
5. Build long-term relationships.
Agency employee turnover rates are really high, around 30% in recent years.
The average person stays at their job for five years. There’s no way agencies are close to that, since agency turnover rates are second only to the tourism industry. This creates a major problem for both agencies and clients. Not only are agencies working to get used to new people every few months, but clients aren’t sure who they’re talking to. They used to talk to Patti? Too bad, Patti’s at a different agency now. Here’s Kevin.
It’s a bad look, and it reinforces this notion that agencies are faceless, soulless organizations worth avoiding. You should want your clients to feel like you have a relationship, and you should want to have a relationship with your employees. A positive work environment makes people want to work harder.
When I look to hire people, I want people who are willing to go the extra mile. They want to do it because they want to be here. Not for six months, or a year and a half, but for five years or more. It’s about fostering an environment where everyone’s pushing each other to be better all the time because they enjoy their work and they like their coworkers.
I look for shared goals with my employees because we all work better when we’re all working towards the same thing. I don’t just ask them where they want to be in five years, I tell them where I want to be. The best results come when we have common ground, because we know that when one of us pushes in a certain direction, we’re doing it because we really believe it’s getting us closer to our goals.
That team mentality is so key for building relationships with clients, too. All these tips point towards the idea that a client should feel like their agency is working for them. When we go really hard for our clients – and have the numbers to back it up – they appreciate what we’re doing.
Essentially, we want everyone to be happy because that leads to long-term partnerships. Don’t look for a one-year deal, look to be in business with your clients and your team for ten, or twenty years. Those are the really prosperous relationships.
The upside for agencies
I believe companies can really only have these types of relationships with independent agencies. Relying on an internal marketing department means relying on people who have no extra incentives to do great work. They have the same vacations, work the same hours, and only really need to work hard enough to keep their jobs.
When a company hires a digital marketing agency, they should do it knowing that agency is invested in the success of their clients. They can find people at the right agency, who are striving to be great because they a) love what they do, and b) are invested in their own success too.
As agencies, working with clients to the best of our ability should be mutually beneficial. 2018 showed that companies are tired of agencies that don’t care about them, that won’t be open with them, that shroud their activities in mystery.
Clients want expertise with simplicity and openness, and agencies can find the most success by providing those things. It’s weird they weren’t doing that all along.