The Future of Agencies: Agency Leaders Chime In

By | July 19, 2012
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Time MachineIn the 2010 article The Future of Advertising, Fast Company’s Danielle Sacks (@daniellesacks) touched on a wide-range of issues affecting today’s agencies that are still highly relevant. Most particularly:

  • The emergence of digital technology and the affect this has on client services and desired agency competencies.
  • Staffing and the need for personnel with advanced digital skill sets.
  • Inadequate billing models and the need for evolved compensation packages.
  • Inflexible business structures, incapable (or unwilling) to adapt to a changing industry.

With all of these challenges and opportunities, what does the future have in store? We asked the Marketing Agency Insider community for their thoughts on next-generation agencies, and here’s what they had to say.

Collaboration, and More Collaboration

“I think the future of inbound marketing will be one of collaboration. While there will be hybrid agencies that provide all aspects of marketing to an organization, there will be many other players that specialize in one or more aspects of marketing that look to team with partners to fully serve their clients’ needs. This trend will accelerate as technology, crowdsourcing and increasing legal impediments to hiring full-time employees contribute to the rise of the individual as ‘Corporation Me.’

After spending several years in an ultra-competitive management consulting industry, I am inspired by the collaborative nature of the inbound marketing community. It’s like we're part of a club that helps each other out. As a soloist, I look forward to working with many collaborative partners in the coming years.”

John Beveridge (@john_at_rapidan), President, Rapidan Strategies

Demand for Integrated Services

“We're finding that we MUST be a hybrid agency providing a variety of services to deliver on program goals. As Paul Roetzer (@paulroetzer) points out in his book, The Marketing Agency Blueprint, agencies need to develop a hybrid model in order to provide real value to clients today.

For example, we're putting on a series of webcast events for a client. In the past, we've advised on content, recruited speakers, and moderated, but left the promotion to the clients' other providers. The client had to manage multiple agencies and internal people (PR, advertising, email marketing, event management) to pull together the total promotional package. Invariably, we found that the message kept getting lost in translation, making the promotional activities less effective.

When we started providing a turn-key solution including advertising, PR, email marketing and event planning (the content and logistics), the programs are better attended, the audience is better targeted, and the leads we generate are better qualified.”

Candyce Edelen (@CandyceEdelen), President and CEO, PropelGrowth

Increasing Marketing Sophistication

“I see marketing agencies becoming increasingly specialized as marketing becomes increasingly complex. When cellular phones were first introduced to the mass market, they came in just two sizes (large and enormous), and had virtually the same interfaces and functions. Similarly, when digital marketing first began to be practiced (before social media was a household word), it focused primarily on website optimization.

Now, we have a huge number of varieties of social media, and a virtually unlimited range of options for marketing with them. Add to that analytics, data mining and analysis, and everything else; and it gets very difficult to stay competitive in every area.

In addition to all the specialization brought about by new technology, we'll also see increasing specialization due to public response to technology. For example, the public's ability to respond to incidents and allegations broadly and rapidly via social media has given rise to the emerging practice of Digital Crisis Management. So you'll see many marketing companies specialize, while others stay general. Many of those that stay general will do so by bringing specialty agencies and consultants in as suppliers. Even the largest agencies with the broadest range of resources are outsourcing to agencies with proven capabilities in specialty areas.”

Tony Ahn (@_TonyAhn_), Principal, Tony Ahn & Co.

Focus on Strategy & Complete Solutions

“Marketing agencies have a golden opportunity to offer services that companies are demanding. What is most in demand now is guidance and help connecting the dots across all aspects of marketing and sales. 

Executives want an agency that can help them find the most profitable part of their business and help create a full marketing plan around that, and execute a plan to get found by their best prospects. 

Agencies that can deliver a well rounded inbound marketing program that delivers results from the top of the funnel (ToFu) through the middle of the funnel (MoFu) and to the bottom of the funnel (sales) will certainly be the leaders in the industry.”

Mark Mathson (@markmathson), Inbound Marketing Manager, FullQuota

Credibility & Trust Paramount

“I think Gary Vaynerchuk (@garyvee) nailed it right on the head with Crush It. We have all known that putting yourself out there, being transparent and building community will go great lengths for building raving fans.  But, as easy as it was to rank and drive traffic without these things, the message got lost. 

Now, with the rise of inbound marketing on the provider side and the emphasis Google is putting on consumer reviews, social signals, video, etc, we need to be putting ourselves out there and working with our clients to put themselves out there as well.

Credibility and trust have always won the game with consumers and now it looks like credibility and trust, reflected via online reviews, social engagement and community, is going to continue to drive results online.

As a business, if you are not talking about your blogging strategy, reputation monitoring, social engagement (including video) strategies and how all of this ties to your prospects needs and lead-generation efforts, you will be missing the boat in the very near future.”

Jeff Lizik (@peakimseo), Principal, Peak Internet Marketing

Size Doesn’t Matter

“I think the ability to collaborate will be one of the secret sauces of agency success in the future.

The size of an agency is becoming less relevant to clients and prospects. With the explosion of marketing specialties, clients no longer expect all the necessary expertise to be in one place. Frankly, clients no longer care how the work gets done as long as you're growing their businesses.

Agencies in the future will be structured around a cadre of strategic marketing professionals that collaborates effectively with the client and an outer circle of specialists. The outer circle will be drawn from the ever-expanding pool of specialty talent. 

Successful agencies in the future will lead a team of experts and orchestrate the work in a seamless, strategic framework. One of the most important agency attributes on their client report card will be ‘plays well with others.’”

- Douglas Burdett (@artillerymarket), Founder and Principal, ARTILLERY, LLC

Take a Ride in a Time Machine

If you were to time travel into the future 5, 10 or 20 years, what would marketing agencies look like? Share your thoughts below; or check out Paul Roetzer’s take in The Marketing Agency Blueprint.

Image credit: thethreesisters