The agency strata that once existed—public relations, marketing, creative, advertising, and SEO—are converging.
Agencies of all types are increasingly offering diverse, integrated marketing services that they previously had not considered. Today, agencies have many opportunities to expand their offerings to the imaginative demands of brand marketers.
What Are Agencies Doing?
Larger agencies were the first to benefit from the integration. Many acquired boutique shops or created new offerings and departments. Edelman is a good example. Its earnings continue to inch toward the $1 billion mark, and the company attributes a chunk of that success to integrated work.
"We're seeing real growth in the combined offering of PR that includes brand and corporate reputation with research and digital," says CEO Richard Edelman.
Moreover, digital media and creative strategies are no longer the bailiwick of large global firms or boutique agencies. Midsize firms are also jockeying for a more competitive position.
Recent reports show that midsize firms are adding new services to retain and attract clients. And integrated services could be the biggest opportunity (and challenge) midsize agencies face today.
Giving Customers What They Want
But how does a midsize agency stay ahead of the curve without overextending itself? How does it provide additional services while working with marketers on the perfect blended formula to ensure success? How do agencies continue to attract and foster the talent required to provide integrated services to clients?
Agencies can start by better understanding how their clients sell to their customers. Agency leaders at midsize firms need to ask their clients questions such as…
- Do you engage in an influencer program?
- Are there plans to deploy an advocacy marketing plan?
- Is this the right time to pull the trigger on a fully integrated communications strategy?
A smart agency works with a client's marketing team to comprehensively understand its target audience and its behavior.
Know Where You're Going
The agency should also investigate the channels that drive and influence their clients' customers, map a creative plan to move customers down the path to purchase, and measure the impact with tangible analytics that point to outcomes and impact. The midsize agency should recommend program activities that may include creative, content (visual to shareable), social, and a variety of media when appropriate.
Are you trying to reach Millennials with a new mobile app? Then promoted tweets with an accompanying visual might be part of the plan. Are you trying to explain a new healthcare policy to retirees? Then a traditional advertising and media relations program with an explanatory graph might make more sense.
Whatever the approach may be, agencies and brands are now working closer than ever to ensure they get it right and align with the customer's behavior.
Brands need to be flexible with their marketing efforts and agencies have to be able to "pivot on the fly" to stay two steps ahead of the client. Smaller firms have historically offered that nimble model. Now, based on the evolution of content and engagement, midsize agencies may even have an advantage over the larger agencies or smaller specialized shops. They must offer personalized attention with a focused strategic approach that can recognize when to add a tactic.
As marketers and brands prefer agencies that address the value of consumable, digital content throughout their communications strategies, midsize agencies must recognize the value of an integrated, multi-channel campaign.
Remember to avoid "content for the sake of content," and ensure that these new services align to their business goals, whether increasing brand visibility, engaging with customers, launching into a new market segments, or establishing a stronger voice.
Five years ago, agencies were hiring social media and digital content specialists to deliver new platforms and find additional ways of engaging with the target audience. Now, social and digital are integrated into almost every facet of account work.
Over the next several years, there will be similar trend with creative integration, and the most adept firms will pull ahead by offering added services as part of the norm.
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