If you've followed us for any time at all, you'll know we're not fond of the hoard of alleged "consultants & agencies" that have been coming over the hill the last few years in the marketing industry. A new article from Roger Parry, The Consultants Cometh has raised quite a few eyebrows when he suggested that most aren't the results business. Preaching to the choir Roger!
Not only do most agencies focus on craft over outcomes, but very few are meaningfully positioned at all. Look at any 10 agency websites. They’ll all have some big claim up in lights. But at least seven of these so-called propositions will be just a pithy re-articulation of advertising, rather than an offer of unique expertise.
This then alludes to a pendulum swing by agencies towards branding rather than REAL ROI. We would argue that this lack of focus on results has been led by an increased availability of the technology and internet to work online by just about anyone; leading to a move from a pretentious group of "creatives" to a flood of individuals attempting to replicate this attitude in their bedrooms. As for promising "ROI" - could the opposite ever be true?
If you think any of this creates standout, I have bad news: the 70s called and it wants its new-business strategy back. As Roger rightly suggests, in a complex world, clients want problem-solvers. They need specialist surgeons, not a swarm of GPs. Unilever’s Keith Weed is culling 1,500 agencies that don’t "offer any differentiation".
The New Type of Agency: The Problem-Solvers
Despite all these new channels, tech and platforms that we can all now distribute content through, agency's which standout and provide something different to their clients (Marketing 101!) has actually declined. And this is what we continuously see from our clients who have experienced 'flashy reports' & 'great talkers' yet 6 months down the line haven't seen any increase in inquiries.
So, what to do if you're an agency or freelancer? Well, to paraphrase The A-Team, "when clients have a problem and no-one else can help, you can get back on the front foot" – in new-business and beyond.
Being in demand means the client is no longer the prize - it's you that's the prize! When "experts" push back, they gain concessions. Overly long shortlists, no decision-maker access or onerous payment terms can all be negotiated. Essentially, if you're bringing your clients results, whether that's leads, brand awareness, sales ...there's only one answer you'll receive...DEAL!
This is why, as you might have noticed, we've focused on "Income Generation" right from our inception. We're not interested in the usual bullshit that comes along with marketing - as brilliantly articulated by the late Bill Hicks. At the end of the day the goal for us to bring value for every penny spent not just to you the B2B company, but also your customers. And if you can’t stand up and provide value, then you ARE easily replaced. The term "adapt OR die" should come to mind.
At the end of the day, we're in an insanely over-populated market. Standing out takes more than a snappy rewording of your discipline. Not solving a specific problem makes you nigh on invisible.
So pick one thing, be the expert and deepen your knowledge. Seek out clients who need it and ignore the rest. Ever see brain surgeons doing boob jobs? Exactly. Ultimately, it’s hard out there and only going to get harder. Boundaries are blurry, everyone claims to do everything and phrases are hackneyed five minutes after they’re coined. The good news is that all agencies have it in them to find a unique proposition. It’s not even that hard; it just takes a bit more thought than it used to.
Don’t think too long. Seriously.