Shifting priorities, insourcing, cost-cutting and a drive for disruptive growth are key factors altering today’s relationships between agencies and marketers. And agencies must be nimble, streamlined and responsive to compete in such a landscape, according to guest speaker Jay Pattisall, Forrester principal analyst and former agency executive, during a recent Adweek webinar sponsored by OpenText Hightail.
Forrester research1 has shown that 57% of chief marketing officers consider growing revenue a top business priority vs. 52% focused on growing influence and brand reach and 49% who wish to improve differentiation. “So with over half of the global marketing leaders looking for revenue growth as a top priority, ahead of improving differentiation or brand reach, it really requires a focus from the agency to help the marketer connect all the marketing activity back to business outcomes.” To achieve this, Pattisall said agencies need to (1) assemble agile teams, (2) build more nimble service structures and (3) leverage operating platforms.
1. Assemble agile teams
The way agencies currently operate, it can be difficult to move talent between offices, networks and assignments. Pattisall shared a quote from one agency executive: “I once got a call asking for three-quarters of a data scientist in Turkey for the following Monday.” Pattisall added, “It’s an unreasonable request, but it’s a real need. The task as this conversation went on was to look at how they could create mechanisms to bring that expertise to that marketplace in a more realistic way.” He shared some key factors that can help accomplish that:
– Cultivating leaders with multi-dimensional skillsets
– Developing mechanisms to further train and upskill employees
– Creating structures, including technology and platforms, to quickly assemble teams and swap out talent
2. Build more nimble service structures
Once the agency has created a more flexible and agile team, then they can add structural layers to help integrate the different services and scale and strengthen the contributions of the teams. This can include technology, data, media services, content practices, production, performance marketing capabilities and various levels of strategy, according to Pattisall. He added that the idea behind that is to provide an already nimble and fluid team the right resources for a project at any given time and prepare them for changes over time. “What can start primarily as a communication assignment can quickly turn into a deeper technology or digital assignment. And access to the right talent is necessary to do so,” he said.
3. Leverage operating platforms
Forrester research shows that marketing spending across analytics, ad technology, automation and technology is projected to grow considerably faster than that of services (excluding media costs). Pattisall said the fact that those technology needs are growing on the client side is indicative that both clients and agencies should be leveraging the technology across their businesses—to help with efficiency, collaboration, and tracking time costs and throughputs.
How marketers can work better with agencies too
While those are ways agencies can be better partners, Pattisall added that the clients and marketers also have a role. He pointed out that there are three things CMOs can do to meet agencies halfway:
1. Remove unnecessary conflicts that hamstring expertise, such as exclusivity requirements. Pattisall pointed out that “allowing the agency to build out its capabilities and industry expertise helps marketers grow their business,” which is more valuable than exclusivity and the limits it imposes on an agency. “The agency needs to be able to promise that client data and client information is protected, but have the ability to build out more expertise and then eventually leverage that expertise across the rest of the agency business.”
2. Take responsibility for breaking down corporate silos. “It’s really difficult to try to create a flexible, nimble integrated team structure and process when you’re working with several different client siloes that have different budgets, different decision makers, different agendas and different priorities. So ultimately if clients are asking for more flexibility in the structure of their agencies, then they need to provide more flexibility inside their own structures.”
3. Dismantle compensation practices that deny access to the highest caliber talent. “If marketers are looking for their very best talent to put on their projects, then you have to pay for that talent and you have to pay for that expertise,” Pattisall said.
“Simply put, it’s about creating a more agile or more flexible set of circumstances in which agencies and clients and marketers can partner together.”
For more on this topic, please read “Here’s how to improve agency/client relationships.”
1Forrester’s Global Business Technographics Marketing Survey for 2017