The Modern Marketing Agency is Less "Mad Men" and More Hybrid

By | August 26, 2013
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Andrew AngusBelow is a guest post from Andrew Angus, an author, speaker, and founder/CEO of Switch Video, a video animation company that produces simple videos that "explain what you do" in an engaging and compelling format. Andrew is a thought leader in the online video industry, writing and speaking about the brain science behind making your company's story stick. He welcomes people to reach out to him on Twitter or Google+ and can be booked to speak on Speakerfile.

The age of “Mad Men” is long gone, but the advertising industry’s classic sales methodology isn’t. In fact, a lot of creative agencies still generate new business the same way they did 60 years ago. It’s time to develop a more flexible, modern approach to finding new clients who will boost business without sacrificing innovation and creativity.

That’s exactly what hybrid companies do: take the tech-savvy principles of a Silicon Valley startup and apply them to a high-powered agency. This results in new clients with the big payoffs.

Different Schools of Thought

Technology companies and advertising agencies offer two very different kinds of services with two radically different pricing structures. Tech companies “productize” their services, meaning they offer a clear list of services, a set price and an estimated delivery timeline. Meanwhile, once an advertising agency is declared agency of record, it usually means years of service and millions of dollars, but it’s never quite clear until the bill arrives.

These two models stem from two different kinds of deals. Agencies come from a background of personal, one-on-one agreements, whereas tech companies come from a world of metrics, science and demand generation. Their business model focuses on closing lots of deals very quickly. It’s not about one big client; it’s about a lot of little ones. These are two different schools of thought with two very different business outcomes.

A hybrid company is a new breed of agency that cherry-picks the smartest strategies from both worlds, building a creative product and generating business like a tech company.

The Hallmarks of a Hybrid

To see the difference between how advertising agencies and tech companies operate, just compare iconic agencies’ websites with technology service websites.

Tech companies are all about efficiency. That’s why most of their websites have a clear path of action: download a whitepaper, fill out a contact form or watch a demo. Creative agencies’ websites are focused on showcasing work and prestige, but fail to give a potential client a sense of the agency’s pricing or infrastructure. It’s a method that encourages exclusivity. Rather than engage with many different clients, agencies target a select few.

This is one of the hallmarks of a hybrid agency: the website is accessible and offers many ways that potential leads can connect immediately and easily. But that’s not the only way to tell the difference. Here are some clues that you’re dealing with a hybridized company:

  • They have a lot of little clients, rather than just a few large ones. Hybrid companies don’t need one big client to pay the bills. That doesn’t just make for a more diverse company—it also means they’re more resilient in a downturn or during changing circumstances.
  • They use lead scoring. Only 22% of creative agencies use inbound marketing platforms because they’re usually engaging with far fewer potential clients. Inbound marketing platforms—like Marketo or Eloqua—help you score people based on how they interact with your site so you can qualify potential leads based on their interests, budgets and timelines, and pass them on to other parts of your sales force.
  • They generate as many leads as possible for data collection. When more prospects interact with your company, they help you understand your market better so you can adjust your offerings to meet demand. It’s like doing market research every day, which benefits your clients and your bottom line.

How to Hybridize

Agencies and companies in mature industries can learn from the way tech startups morph their strategies, workflow and products to fit a changing market. Here are four ways to create a more flexible, hybrid-like company:

  • Sell your services as a product. Try to make your pricing as transparent as possible. Put that information on your website, where it’s immediately available to people who are interested in your services.
  • Build a content marketing team. Your website should do more than just advertise your name; it should show your customers why they need you. One good way to accomplish that is to develop meaningful, well-written content. Build a team to help you begin creating content and set up an ongoing process of content development.
  • Build an inside sales team. Create a sales team that has both sales development representatives (SDRs) and sales representatives. It’s too expensive to have your high-powered sales representatives nurture your leads; instead, an SDR can build a relationship through the sales process—even when it takes quite a while.

The Best of Both Worlds

A hybrid company is a flexible one. It reacts smoothly and quickly in a changing world.

That’s why tech companies track and run reports, forecast, plan and adjust. They’re making sure they’re holding the right conversations with their product team, and they’re creating a more cohesive, flexible team that knows when the market is shifting so they can react accordingly.

“Mad Men” may inspire creative professionals to create breakthrough work, but 60 years later, it’s time for a business development upgrade. As a hybrid company, you can keep your creative roots without being stuck in 1953. With a sales philosophy that’s built on information, transparency and openness, you’ll be well-equipped to compete with the speed and vision of a tech company in a dynamic, digital world.