It’s been a bizarre couple of years. The agency landscape and a client’s ‘marketing mix’ has changed considerably. However, have the rules of attraction between clients and agencies changed to the same extent?
I’m very much entrenched in the mix of agency and brand selection (it’s literally my job). I listen whilst brands divulge their biggest marketing challenges, and then recommend the right agency partners to tackle them. Most interestingly however, I see and hear the bits that agencies don’t when brands are considering whether to engage with them or not.
A comment I often hear, and believe me, this one never gets old, is “...once we get in the room, I know we can win”. And the fact is most can. Agencies are awesome at what they do. They’re brimming with creative ideas and a lot are good enough to make any brand famous or produce better results. However, when it comes to securing that first meeting or impressing a brand before they’ve got a chance to meet them, many struggle.
Not enough agencies work at their own marketing or digital shop window, naturally they’re often busy and, rightfully so, putting their clients first takes priority. However, if you let your shop window slip, no one will come in to buy.
Brands care about agency marketing
Initial touchpoints for brands when on the hunt for a new agency partner are crucial. The way in which you present yourself on your owned channels matters.
Word of mouth is enormously powerful for B2B decision making, we all know that; however, as budget holders switch from boomers to millennials, B2B buying habits have changed a bit.
Marketing professionals looking for an agency will be 75% of the way through their research and decision making before they’ll consider speaking to the agency. You’re missing a world of opportunity if you’re neglecting your digital presence.
It matters even more post pandemic
Advancement-wise, from a marketing discipline & innovation POV, we’ve seen unbelievable gains, leaps and bounds post pandemic. 10 damn years in 2.
The odd bit though, amidst a new world of digital innovation, is a large majority of the agency world were keen to get back to ‘winning new clients’ the way they did pre-covid.
Regardless of this desire to go back to the ‘good old days’ of F2F persuasion and ‘chemistry’ (which I hope never leaves us) the last 20 months have however instilled some buyer habits that are here to stay.
Let’s be old school textbook marketers for a minute and look at your client consideration possibilities from 3 angles – bought, earned and owned (early noughties vibe). What I love about bought and earned is that invariably the buyer ends up at your ‘owned’ channels, which is normally the final consideration tick box. Your ‘owned’ property will inevitably be the deciding factor.
Prospective client consideration tips: paid, earned and owned.
We spoke to 50 brands in January about what attracts them to an agency from the get-go. Here are the findings alongside my recommendations for agencies to get ‘considered’ more in 2022.
1. Glassdoor (earned)
You probably never thought of this as being key to client consideration, did you? It sure is, and it’s increasingly important for marketing decision makers.
In three of the biggest pitches I ran in 2021, a client in each of the decision-making teams brought up the feedback on the agency’s Glassdoor reviews. In one case, it cost the agency a spot in the final stage. Don’t underestimate this. It’s only going one way with employee reviews, and clients are hot onto this.
2. Media Coverage and Hype (earned & paid)
As someone who helps brands select agencies, I hear a lot of clients say ‘’I’ve seen Agency X everywhere, can we involve them in the process?’’. When a client searches your name, seeing your mass of media coverage is a massive confidence/consideration booster.
Invest in your PR and media coverage, whether you’re a new upstart or an established kingpin, you’ve got to stay front of mind. Be that: thought leadership, podcast interviews, vodcasts, award entries (and wins), listicles aka top 10 social agencies, client win news stories, case studies on a publisher platform... it all adds up.
You can be out of fashion so quickly in this industry and being quiet is a quick way to make this happen.
3. Organic Search (earned)
A lot of the established agencies haven’t spent enough time on their SEO. Meanwhile, younger, hungrier agencies are seeing fruitful results from investing time in organic search.
How you rank on google for specific search terms matters. A lot of clients often bring me onboard at a stage where they have a very longlist of potential agencies drawn up. I’ll often ask how they came to the list – “google” is the answer. If it gets you in the mixer then that’s surely a good thing…
Yes, some agencies are smart and apportion some of their marketing budget to clever PPC ads, but brands are lovers of organic rankers. They’re marketers after all and understand the authenticity of organic search.
Driving organic is time consuming but get working on it – it will pay off.
4. Your website (owned)
The most important asset you have in your consideration armoury.
Just to prove my point, we asked 50 brands what they would consider to be the most important ‘go to’ or focal point when considering an agency for a project. A landslide majority answered website. 45 in fact - that’s 90%.
An agencies website is the end destination routing from all other channels – even recommendation.
It’s all about mindset with a website. You think that just because an intermediary or another client has recommended you, the prospective client is sold – it's not the case. Millennial budget holders want to do their own research and make their own opinion. They’ll google you straight away and decide, based on how good your website is, whether they should get in touch.
A few things brands care about when it comes to an agency website...
Wow factor on arrival
The one thing I’ve seen drastically increase since lockdown is the speed at which brands pass judgement from landing on an agency website. I’m convinced this is a hangover from the boost in online purchasing decisions post-pandemic - books are being judged by their cover more than ever in the agency/client world.
Make it look amazing. Get to the point. Use client centric language & explain what you do clearly. Show-off your people & work. Make it easy to get in touch. That’s it.
Personalisation is powerful
Try and make sure the content strategy that you create takes a prospective brand down a route that makes sense. If for example you spend time cultivating a story that portrays you as a ‘social expert’, make sure the final URL that a prospective brand clicks on, takes them to a destination that reflects this (not your home page that talks about ‘CX’ or ‘Integrated services’).
The destination on your website must marry the entry source. Send clients to areas that you know they’re already interested in based on the content that led them there.
You can also look at Microsites and building bespoke landing pages to ensure immediate relevance dependent on the entry point.
Celebrate your diverse workforce
In the last year I have seen DE&I rapidly increasing (rightly so) in the initial selection criteria for brands when looking at new agency partners. Your website is a brilliant opportunity to display this, it’s also an opportunity to balls it up. Need I say more.
5. LinkedIn (owned)
You can do a lot with your LinkedIn. LinkedIn is a key place to install belief, subliminal brand awareness of your agency, a place to show your energy. It’s also a place to look like a plonker so be humble with your approach.
Some tricks to help here.
- Utilising the add follower’s function – this will boost your following and instil a spike of interest.
- So many posts I see don’t tag people or businesses. This will boost your reach considerably.
- Good creative shines through on LinkedIn – so put the effort in. Just like your clients expect you to do on their social channels.
- Create likeable profiles for your senior leadership team. Make the content that they share personable.
- Give your best insights away for free. The greatest B2B marketing trick of them all.
- Have search alerts set up for key words in posts (‘please recommend agency’) for example. It’s a lead fest!
Whilst all these recommendations seem basic, so many forget to do them...
Keep. It. Simple.
6. Instagram (owned)
I debated whether to include this here as it isn’t a brand facing channel that you should rely on for cultivating new business. Brands want to see commercially minded content and sales stories on other owned and earned channels, some which I’ve listed above. We know because we asked them.
Your Instagram strategy is crucial however when it comes to attracting talent. It should show the real and authentic, playful and less serious side of your agency and its culture to build talent that will, ultimately, impress your clients through the work that they do.
Create content contextual to the platform and the audience it serves. Instagram is NOT the platform to convince brands of your products or services. It IS the platform to build the teams to impress them.
Last thoughts on what brands want from your agency shop window
I want to leave you with this: first and initial impressions make a hell of a difference - it separates the good with the great. There’s also an unbelievable amount of choice in the agency/brand world, so much so it’s easy to mentally say no to a potential agency partner based on a first judgement hunch. Think about it like this, on a dating app you put your best foot forward if you want to find your match right?
A strong channel matrix and content strategy is what's needed to get your agency into the consideration set in 2022. Be that Glassdoor, PR & Profile, via organic search, or LinkedIn. Every brand we spoke to agreed that the agency digital shop window matters now more than ever. Don’t neglect yours.
Agency marketing matters beyond showreels and case studies, which is why we’ve seen such an influx of agencies requesting PR, content marketing and consultative workshops. Ingenuity helps hundreds of agencies across the UK with business development and marketing. Strapped for time or under resourced? Get in touch with our Head of new Business email@example.com to see how we can help.
Subscribe to Ingenuity’s content hub
Receive the latest interviews, insights and trends straight to your mailbox.