There’s gold in your current agency roster
There may be a host of new business agency pitches running in 2023 but for most clients the real opportunity lies in cutting back their marketing agency rosters. Stuart Pocock, co-founder of The Observatory International, explains.
Much has been said recently about the explosion in agency new business, particularly in the retail and financial services sectors. But is this a new dawn for pitch activity? My answer would be no.
Reading between the lines, what we see is a mix of new client leaders and a desire to change up relationships (twas ever thus). Given the number of agencies not re-pitching, there have clearly been some issues/red flags in some of these relationships already.
Why fixing is better than pitching
Changing agencies, when there are a myriad of other business problems at hand, can be an immense distraction unless there are unsolvable issues in play. For most businesses fix should always be the preferred solution, and in 2023 there’s a big opportunity in current rosters.
During the pandemic many agencies had to up their game in terms of capabilities, giving clients the opportunity to access multiple services from within a single portfolio rather than having to work with a range of agencies.
For clients under budget and performance pressure this is an opportunity for greater efficiencies from their agencies, combined with improved ways of working and greater levels of efficiency – allowing them to maximise their stretched budgets.
Rationalising your agency rosters
The smartest win in 2023 may be rationalising your agency roster because by doing so, clients can benefit from significant savings brought about by the reduction in the duplication of roles, effort and back-office support, along with all the inherent costs that brings, This approach means they don’t lose the institutional knowledge that their agencies have. New alignments and ways of working can be achieved pretty much with business as usual rather than a new agency having to start feeling their way up the learning ladder.
For many, the temptation is to put this approach in the ‘too difficult’ pile. Sadly, many clients often don’t fully understand how their roster is constructed, how it originated, who is on it and the amount of potential duplication of resource that exists.
Your agency capabilities and ways of working
Add to that the issues of genuinely understanding what a specific agency’s range of capabilities really are and how they could be used in a complementary manner with others, is not simple.
That’s not surprising. Prevailing agency optimism will suggest that all are capable of doing everything to the highest possible standard – which is simply not case. There are a host of disappointed and frustrated clients who have taken agencies at their word and regretted it.
Nevertheless, we have significant evidence from clients we’ve worked with that getting a genuine understanding of capabilities across their agency portfolio, has significant advantages, with most finding themselves able to lose quite a bit of fat from their rosters.
To make this process work, however, clients also need to focus hard on the re-alignment of roles and ways of working. Leaving agencies to fathom that out for themselves will inevitably be counter-productive.
Clients need to make sure ground rules are laid down and that their people are equipped with the tools to police them effectively. The good news is, that with fewer agencies to attend to, they will have more time available for the day job rather than having to hold all their agencies’ hands on a day-to-day basis.
Of course, nothing is more exciting for agencies than a buoyant new business market, and over the years we have run hundreds of pitches across our network that have genuinely transformed our clients’ businesses.
But, for pressured clients, rethinking what tools they already have in their locker and setting up a process to review how best to use them, rather than simply de-faulting to a pitch, can have equally significant benefits.
The outcomes can be more affordable and of higher quality than was previously the case. And the process is considerably less distracting and time-consuming than a pitch.