Concerned? Close? Or committed?
Amidst the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, supply chain issues and continued marketplace uncertainty, the attitudes of marketing agency clients are diverging into three distinct categories, according to the recent 2021 Agency Edge Research conducted by the Agency Management Institute and Audience Audit.
In the study, some 1,247 agency clients in the United States were surveyed about their attitudes toward marketing, business and the agencies they choose.
And while the survey is conducted each year to help agency owners to better understand clients, their preferences and their motivations, we think it can also be helpful for clients to use in identifying their drivers and needs in the agency selection process.
Here’s a quick summary of what we found interesting among the results of this study.
Some 42 percent fell into the Concerned category, where the main driver is worry about economic conditions, shifts in customer behavior and changes in the expectations of employees.
They say that finding new customers and new employees is more difficult, and though they want to execute good marketing programs, their worries always seem to be in the way.
They also say that finding agency partners that are true experts is getting more difficult and they seem reluctant to pull the trigger on hiring an agency and implementing programs.
Clients categorized as Close, with 33 percent of respondents, are pretty happy with their in-house marketing, advertising, PR and digital capabilities.
They tend to do most of the major programs themselves, and typically use agencies in very limited roles or for special projects. They often work with multiple marcom agencies on a project basis, but seem to have difficulty in finding the experts they want in the niches serving their areas of interest.
They also want, much more than the other two groups, to meet with their agency partners in-person; and it’s more important that the agency be headquartered nearby rather than be an expert in an industry sector, niche or type of deliverable.
The defining characteristics of the 25 percent of respondents categorized as Committed are that marketing is a top priority for their company and they are willing pay for expertise.
They are considering new marketing activities they haven’t used before; they have big plans, and they want to move quickly. They really value specialized agency expertise in an industry, audience or deliverable, and are actually happy to pay a premium to get the right agency’s help and insight.
They not only want big and bold ideas, but they want an agency that listens, is responsive, knows the issues and trends in their space, has a reputation as a thought leader in their market, and that can help them get to market faster.
They don’t care as much about an agency’s awards, office location or accoutrements, or prices. They are also more likely to have an agency of record (or two) and seek longer term relationships with the agency.
So, what kind of client are you?
It’s been said there are no bad clients. And no bad agencies. There are just bad fits between the two.
Knowing what category, you, as a client, fit into can help you in identifying and selecting the right agency partners.
A PR firm that fits the Close-type client might not be the best fit for a Committed-type client. And vice versa.
For example, as great as I think our PR firm is, I’ll be the first to admit that we are not a good fit for every client. We’re not a good fit for a client in the financial sector … or luxury goods, video games, entertainment, tourism and hospitality, or senior living sectors … though we could probably do the work.
Heck, we are not even a good fit for every client in the B2B automotive / mobility supplier sector that we concentrate on.
We tend to be a better fit for Committed clients who need and value our expertise, who don’t care where our headquarters is, who appreciate our staff’s deep experience, who prefer an agency that listens, is responsive and understands the trends, issues and strategies of the automotive sector.
And ultimately, the few clients who are the best match for us share our belief:
We believe in helping innovators to make mobility, and the world, better. Smarter. Safer. Cleaner. More efficient. More reliable. More comfortable. More fun.
So, if you’d like to see the detailed (and interactive!) results from the Agency Edge Research study, or look at the results from previous years, visit: https://agencymanagementinstitute.com/agency-tools/agency-edge-research-series/.
Tip of the hat to Drew McLellan of Agency Management Institute and Susan Baier of Audience Audit for the research, this podcast, and the inspiration for this post.
Author: Jim Bianchi
Jim is president at Bianchi PR with 40+ years of B2B PR experience in corporate and agency settings across multiple industries.
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