4 Things agencies need to focus on.

Working in the world I do, I am surrounded by clients who are eager, excited and passionate about growing their businesses. We’ve had the privilege of working with some great companies with brilliant ideas.

I can be a cynical grump sometimes, but because the nature of our work is on the edge of dreams and fluff, I always get nervous when a client is too excited. Because a growth plan whilst exciting is a sobering, challenging and process (not an event).

My success is not built on sales but on the sales of our customers. Having worked in the agency world, this concept is frightening. Frightening because whilst we all expect marketing, creative and business development to deliver results. There is a fear of being measured by your results.

In order to transition from an agency into a strategy and business development company, we have made tangible outcomes a key element of what we offer to our clients.

Growth is the primary agenda of sales and marketing. All the creative words, video, websites, social media… all of that ‘stuff’ is a medium to facilitate growth. We can our break all our efforts down into lots of different categories but it all nestles under growth.

In a recent survey, it was indicated that the average agency has a client churn between 40 and 50% on retained services.

Why is this?

Outcomes Vs Outputs

Often clients sign up based an eagerness to get to an outcome but sign up for outputs. There is a HUGE difference between outcomes and outputs. They sign up for creative not what the creative can do for them.

There is an expectation gap between “if I do this, we could get that…” and the agency who is contracting “to do that” not “achieve that”

In a recent article for Campaign, some key figures in the marketing and advertising world are calling on media companies to be more transparent and agencies to take more ownership of outcomes.

No client, no company does market for the sake of it, no client commissions work just to look cool. They commission work to advance their business. Every creative element, innovation and campaign is about the advancement of the business.

A client signs up with expectations, you deliver outputs…. You are heading for disaster. That’s why agency churn is so high.

This highlights that marketing must become integrated and tie into the success of the client’s business.

ROI vs Brand Awareness

Views, clicks and impressions – Wonderful. I often joke that when people sell brand awareness for a project to clients it’s a cover for an unaccountable campaign.

Now of course, brand awareness is something you need. Brand awareness builds trust and understanding but it is only one part of the process. We all need brand awareness but if you don’t have other steps in the process, it won’t delivery any ROI.

Brand awareness must fit in the growth plan alongside the efforts to close new business. It is a step in the process.

But if you are working on brand awareness as a standalone piece, you are on a hiding to nothing. Lots of awareness and no new revenue or sales is no good. So, brand awareness should have a place in the mix.

Success vs Service

I’ve learned this the hard way. The failure of a client or agency relationship comes down to how the client is managed. Customer service doesn’t cut it. Of course, we have to care for clients, but the real focus must be of success. Getting the outcome right for the client.

Let me give you an example.

Client A wants a TV commercial produced to promote the business.

My first challenge for the client is what do you want to achieve through the commercial. Where does this fit into your process for developing new business? In other words, does the client’s expectation of outcome match what will result. In other words, do you really want to do a TV commercial?

My second challenge, now knowing the outcome the client wants, how do we produce it to deliver the results that are expected. In the past, I have seen clients take total control of the creative process and then be left wondering why it didn’t work out.

If we are truly the experts, we should be guiding the client and learning not to blindly do what the client instructs and give them challenge and feedback.

If we care about our clients, we will challenge them and show them why there is a better way. This is the difference between success and service. One focuses on the happiness of the client the other on the outcomes for the client.

Partnership vs Process

I’ve seen this all too often, because of the turbulent and subjective nature of marketing and advertising, everyone is covering their ass. At all levels, this happens. It’s because at the end of the day everyone wants their invoice paid.

A process driven relationship is a bit like driving a car. You are moving along fine, then you feel that almighty thud.

You’ve hit something, or did something hit you?


If you hadn’t done this, it would not have happened.

No, you were driving the car, it’s your fault.

This kind of relationship doesn’t work. Revolving doors waste money and never deliver ROI. If you are committed to finding an external partner to help you deliver growth in your business, you need a partnership, where the agency isn’t covering their ass and you aren’t looking to penalise them.

Growth is a funny thing. It involves science and creativity. It involves trial and error, research and creative. I believe you need external partners for growth simply because external eyes can bring a perspective and know-how which you don’t have as an internal resource.

But it is about outcomes, success and partnership.