By Bridget Graf, product marketing manager, agency partner program at CallRail
A full year has passed since the agency world was turned upside down, but many agency leaders are still catching their breath.
The impact COVID-19 had on business rendered agencies’ strategic plans obsolete and disrupted their clients’ pre-existing marketing and branding roadmaps. After spending the past year scrambling for new business and adjusting to remote work, agencies finally have a little breathing room.
But getting past the chaos was only the beginning — now, agencies must begin the process of strategically realigning operations to the altered business landscape. What hidden expertise does the agency have that might attract a new set of clients in 2021? What tools and technology will work for you, and what do clients really need? What role do strategic partnerships play, especially as more and more clients work within SaaS environments?
You don’t need a definitive answer to all of those questions, but you should be thinking about them. Now is not the time for agencies to be complacent. Agencies that find themselves in the same place they were in March 2020 are idling. With the benefit of lessons learned over the past year, it’s time to step back and strategically re-tool.
2021: The year of future-proofing
The disruption of the past year made many agency clients realize they can’t count on the same consistent revenue from marketing activities as they did in previous years. Now, the responsibility is on agencies to innovate and pivot — to show current and prospective clients that their services and expertise are geared toward the future.
Staying idle during 2021 while other agencies adapt their business to change is a sure way to lose customers and get left behind by competitors. To future-proof your agency and attract new clients, consider the following strategies:
- Embrace agency niches and expertise. The pandemic cast a spotlight on agency differentiators, and expertise and niches emerged as indicators of success. Agencies must lean into the verticals and subject matter they have unique expertise in and market themselves as such. Additionally, in a more remote world, clients will likely be less concerned with the location of their agency and instead focus on finding a partner with exactly the right expertise. Do you have a small team extremely experienced with organic pet products? Industrial ventilation systems? Microplastics? These niches may seem narrow, but consider this hidden expertise as an untapped resource. Take action: Develop marketing materials and social media campaigns around your expert focus areas. Take extra time this year to create case studies of your most successful niche engagements, track results closely and aim to quantify the ROI of all your activities across all channels.
- Make sure existing tech works for clients: 2021 is a great time to look under the hood of the technology you use to support clients. When was the last time you took a serious look at the platform you use for ad tracking and attribution? Do you have a system in place to consistently monitor feedback from clients? Technology can sometimes make or break a relationship with customers, so keeping broken or flawed tools around is a bad strategy. Take action: Do some spring cleaning with your technology. Ensure all platforms you use to track client metrics can be tied to real dollars. In 2021, you need to be able to drill down and report success in tangible ways for clients. Additionally, consider proactively asking clients for feedback on the technology you’re using and how you deliver metrics. Their thoughts can help inform future technology purchases and strategies.
- Partner with SaaS platforms. Some agencies have historically avoided touting partnerships with one SaaS or marketing analytics platform. However, the partnership programs offered by companies like Microsoft, Google, Salesforce and other software providers have become too valuable to ignore. Many offer valuable courses for your employees, as well as revenue sharing opportunities and exclusive access to their vendors. Take action: This year, create and market new partnerships or take bigger advantage of existing ones. Come to the table with these partnerships and lean into your decision — by having an official partner, you show you’ve made a purposeful decision and have determined they are the best tool.
2020 was the year of uncertainty, but 2021 doesn’t have to be. Make this year about realigning your agency’s strategies toward a new reality, and leave the scramble of last year behind. Clients will ultimately gravitate toward agencies that have a clear, confident view of the future for them in mind. The clearest way to communicate that is to make sure you have the same coherent vision for your own future.