Before deciding what key differentiators are going to lead to success, we first need to understand what our clients are looking for right now and then position ourselves accordingly. Of course, just offering what clients want isn’t necessarily going to differentiate an agency, as many competitors may be doing the same. So agency owners need to look at ways they can present the same thing slightly differently that will make them stand out. Moreover, differentiators do not need to be products or services; they can be the way a business delivers them.
The relationship differentiator
Perhaps the simplest differentiator, but the most difficult to attain is the relationship an agency has with its client’s marketing team. Technology has profoundly altered the marketing world, and that has, in turn, changed the link between marketers and agencies; This means the relationship needs to evolve to make it more aligned with today’s sophisticated marketing ecosystem. If agencies do not react to this re-alignment, marketers may decide it is better for them to take parts of the outsourced marketing function in-house. Of course, bringing everything in-house is unrealistic and would be unnecessarily expensive, so agency/client relationships need to change, and our BBN partners tell us this is starting to happen.
The specialisation differentiator
According to various reports and recent studies, clients switch or look for new agencies because they want specialists. So it may sound obvious that one way to differentiate an agency is to specialise. This client behaviour change also signals an opportunity for agencies to gain more exciting work with higher-level brands if they can determine a focus and make an ongoing effort to market this expertise. There are various areas in which an agency can specialise: by sector (B2B or B2C), by industry, by service or capability, by the approach and through access to unique information or expertise a client may want or need.
As an example, back in 1987, BBN recognised there was a significant lack of agencies who claimed the B2B sector as their specialist area of marketing expertise, so from day one, they positioned themselves as a B2B specialist group of agencies. Since then, many have joined the B2B ranks, but within the vast competitive red ocean of B2C agency firms, B2B is still a differentiator if a B2B business is looking for a marketing agency that understands their sector along with the longer more complicated buying cycles with which it must deal.
Very early on BBN began developing tools and processes explicitly designed to tackle the unique B2B marketing challenges and our BBN Navigator methodology has become a significant differentiator for our BBN partners.
But what if an agency could offer the best of both worlds? Specialisation together with a consistent delivery mechanism across multiple specialist skills, expertise and services? In the later years of its development, BBN began to see some of its partners start to specialise in specific areas, and it quickly realised that this had the potential to strengthen its position, and so developed a global specialist service matrix which supported the BBN Navigator methodology and offered a flexible service delivery model.
The technology differentiator
There are as many challenges as there are opportunities for agencies navigating the technology landscape. Finding the right skill sets, higher salaries for tech roles, the threat of tech compromising creativity and GDPR. However, despite these hurdles, most agencies are excited by all that technology offers. Meanwhile, marketers are hindered by their organisation’s risk-avoidance to making the substantial tech investments and often feel their agencies are ‘too far ahead of them’.
Nevertheless, marketers still need agencies as much as they ever did, perhaps even more and with their agency being able to provide the marketing technology, know-how and expertise, it can save a brand huge amounts of wasted financial investment.
While the term Marketing Technology (MarTech) is quite broad and encompasses thousands of systems, we define it as any technology that enables marketers to be more efficient or effective in reaching their audiences.
Most marketers need technology to deliver an excellent customer experience as well. All of us are using marketing technologies, regardless if we have a dedicated discipline for it in our agency or business.
We must not forget however that ‘Technology is not a Strategy’. Technology is not the panacea for all the challenges an organisation is facing. A strategic foundation must underpin technology decisions and investments. Until there is an established strategic foundation for understanding the business purpose, the audience, and the goals; it is not possible to make an informed recommendation.
Businesses will need guidance in selecting the right platforms for the right reasons versus the implementation and execution of those technologies; which is what BBN partners do every day.
Agencies with MarTech practices are being challenged with clients not allowing access to any system that contains customer data. Well, we adapt, and can still provide value without having direct access to a client’s customer data.
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If you want to know more about how BBN can help your agency offer what clients want, then please contact us.