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How many agencies do you need on your roster and how do you get there?

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This post is by Nathan HodgesTrinityP3‘s General Manager. Nathan applies his knowledge and creativity to the specific challenges of marketing management, with a particular focus on team dynamics and behavioural change.

This is the second post in the series of TrinityP3 Webinars.

I’m here today to answer perhaps one of the most frequently asked questions we get, that is “how many agencies do you need and what do we do about that?” .

Before the webinar began, I was just listing the actual number of clients that we’ve been working with over the last year alone that have come to us with this problem. The problem is usually phrased as, “I think we’ve got too many agencies”.

Sometimes there’s a solution attached to that problem, but the problem is normally expressed like that and I counted over eleven in the last year alone.  And as I say, often it’s just a problem, sometimes a solution is suggested there as well like, “We’ve got too many agencies.  We need to pitch” which is not necessarily the solution at all or, “We’ve got too many agencies and we’re not sure what they all do”, which is very common.  Or, “We’re sure we’ve got too many agencies but we’re not quite sure about that”, and there’s another one there.

So today, what I’m wanting to do is get those listening to the webinar to understand the dimensions of that question and what that really means in terms of what we should be doing as marketers to remedy this.

Also, how we should be behaving as agency people in order not to make it worse, certainly to try and make it better and perhaps even to be the ones that forge deeper partnerships out of the changes that might need to happen in an over-extended roster.

So how are we going to do that?

I’m going to give you three ways to look at this and first of all, I’m just going to talk about the ever expanding roster and why it is so common and why so many marketers are finding themselves in this position these days.

I’m then going to explain what that extension actually means in terms of marketers’ day jobs and also for agencies as well.  Sometimes we’re all our own worst enemies as well as our best friends in trying to get this sorted.  And then finally, what we should be doing about it as marketers, as agencies, as marketing people, in order to drive the businesses in which we work.

So why is it that we’ve got rosters with too many agencies?

Why is it that marketers these days have all got agency rosters that can number up to 92? We had an agency roster on a spend of around 75 million dollars.  They numbered 92 bona fide agencies for one of our clients around twelve months ago.

We’ve come across another marketer that had a roster of around 70 agencies but instead of a spend of 72 million, they had about 6 to 8 million depending on what the year was.  So there’s no hard or fast here.

And the question is, how the hell have people got here?  How the hell have we all arrived here as an industry?  Well some of these things are the ones that everybody in the industry, in every trade rag, in every seminar, webinar, platform keep talking about.

It’s the old hoary things and you notice they haven’t written the word, the phrase, “big data” there, because it’s past its use-by date and its usefulness as a phrase.  But you’ll see the familiar things; so obviously we have an unprecedented proliferation of channels available to us now which is wonderful news.

It allows us to be a lot more precise and exact in our targeting and gives us far more fun as marketers, far more tools to play with.  So it’s tremendous in many ways and very, very interesting.  But it does mean that we drive the expansion of our agency rosters because there are more and more specialists required to master more and more specialised channels in more and more targeted conversations.

Technology and the rise of specialists

The other hoary old theme here of course that we’re all painfully aware of or delightfully aware of, depending on what hat you want to wear, is that technology these days doesn’t just transform other people’s businesses, it transforms every single aspect of ours including internal aspects of all of our businesses.

So where marketing and communications could be in a box over in a corner or in a separate division, nowadays it’s all changed. Technology works across business silos, across business units, across businesses as well as across marketing and there is the requirement for the integration of paid, owned and earned and the requirement as well that communications also have utility reflected in technology through businesses.

You now need a fair degree of technical, digital, technological, IT based knowledge in order to be an effective practitioner in marketing and communications these days.

Again, it calls for specialists and you can hear people saying, “We don’t quite know how to do that so we’ll need to get someone in”.  So that isn’t changing.  Those two things at the front there, they’re not changing at all.  Yes, we have much more data available to us, but how we handle that data and how we make sense out of that data and actually turn it into insights is of course always the challenge.

You can argue that you actually need fewer cooks in the kitchen spoiling the broth which is indeed often the way roster rationalisation needs to go, but nevertheless, you can also see that having an increase in those data points and the knowledge that we have of our various cohorts and segments of consumer, you’re going to need some fairly hefty technical knowledge in order to plough through that and actually dig down to the insides.

The fourth thing is that we have a set of consumers who are as technically media channel savvy in many unlabelled ways as the market is to address them because of course, we’re all consumers, we all have our own channels, as well as we’re all marketers and we all have our own means of reaching our consumers.

So you’re dealing with a far more sophisticated consumer who wishes to encounter your brand or your company or your message in the way that he or she wants to and that of course requires us to be a lot more agile, a lot more sophisticated, a lot more specialised and a lot less broadcast in nature.

So again, it’s not a surprise to find that all of these things are driving the expansion of rosters.

A complex marketing environment

If we sum it up, it’s about greater marketing complexity.   And as I say, that’s not going to stop, that’s going to continue, it’s going to get faster.  We all know this, we all feel it, we either embrace it or stick our heads in the sand and hope it goes away.

But it does of course require, one would think, more specialism, more deep knowledge of the channels and the opportunities and the technology and the data points and the consumer behaviour and the target markets and the cohorts and the segments that we’re mining down to.  More specialist knowledge in all of those, in all of those facets of the marketing and communications operation.

“More specialism requires more specialists” is often the answer that people give because it requires a lot more of anybody who purports to be any kind of marketing generalist. Anybody who’s going to be taking a broader view across a roster, across a marketing organisation, across business silos, across the marketing requirements, you’ve got to go broad by going deep and you can’t just go deep without being broad.

This is the dilemma and the problem that digital disruption of our own market brings us. So marketing generalists these days, they’re an increasingly rare breed; it’s almost like marketing aligners really.  Alignment people, alignment specialists if you want to really complicate things; these are the roles that we see succeeding rather than the more traditional marketing generalist roles.

It’s no surprise that marketing directors or those kinds of designations, are being replaced in many markets and certainly in America and increasingly so in Europe by consumer based job titles like, ‘consumer director’.  It’s very interesting to watch that because if you’re actually the champion of the consumer or customer at the top levels of an organisation, it can get you a lot further than a marketing designation can in this new environment.

It’s a much more complex marketing environment requiring on the face of it at least, many more specialists and putting far less importance on generalists either on the advertising/communications side, the agency side or on the marketing side.

What is driving roster expansion?

So what are the marketer responses that we’ve seen that are driving this roster or this roster expansion?  Well, the first thing is this kind of, “My god look, we’ve got a new channel.  We’ve got a new way to our consumer here, we’ve got a new competitive threat, we’ve got a new way of doing things, fix it fast.  Get some people in.  Get some guys in who can master this.”

We saw it a few years ago when social media first started to be gripped by the larger end of town, and a number of social media specialists and agencies popped up on all sorts of rosters that we were across.

Fix it fast, get these people in to work alongside our existing agencies and let’s just make it happen quickly.  The other thing is, as rosters expand, people want stuff to be done cheaper.

So as your larger agencies or your previous incumbent traditional agency would have had a financial and a commercial relationship with a client.  As a small agency comes in to look at something on a much narrower focus and a specialist discipline, guess what?  They can do it on a far lower cost base, of course they can.

So the light is shone straight away on the large agencies to say, “Hang on a minute, do we need all of these strategy people, all of these account people, all of these production people, all of these overheads?  Do we need all of that? Can you not do it cheaper, do it leaner, do it better?”

Now the answer is, “Well, it depends what you want to be done”, but often the client’s answer, the marketer’s answer is, “Put more into the secondary agencies, into the new guys”.

The other thing that really drives response here is whether you’re dealing with a centralised marketing department or a decentralised marketing department.  Although there’s no hard and fast rules here, some of the examples I gave you earlier, one of them was centralised and one of them was decentralised.

You can look at proliferation of agencies under a centralised structure. But typically what happens is that under a decentralised marketing structure, so one where either the business units are in charge of most of the 4 Ps of marketing, or the sales department is in charge of the marketing effort primarily and marketing is used as communications or whether it’s spread across silos; what you find is that that proliferation of agencies, that expansion of the roster is incredibly rapid because no one can say, “Stop”.

It becomes a very, very fast developing problem that quickly runs out of control.  This is where you get ridiculous numbers like 80, 90, 100 different agencies all purportedly working for the same organisation.

It’s not all a marketer’s fault of course because agencies are typically protecting their own business here, so there’s two main responses that we see again that start to drive this expansion.

The first is the response that protects the revenue of an incumbent, so let’s take the example of shopper marketing, which was a disruption that kind of went across a lot of retail brands about three or four years ago and it’s still happening.

Their specialist shopper marketing agencies would go to FMCS clients and retail clients, FMCG clients, and say look, “We can help you at the sharp end of your operations and your discussions and your negotiations with the retailers by increasing foothold and increasing conversion”.

Given that the big retailers in this country have generally kind of gone for FMCG marketing budgets with a vengeance as part of the negotiation of price, that was exactly what a lot of those guys wanted to hear and the response from a lot of the traditional agencies that we work across during that time would say, “Ah, shopper marketing, yeah, actually you need a specialist agency, we’re going to hire someone who will do that for you”.

Well in fact, we’ve just hired a bloke that comes from the U.K. and he’s very good at shopper marketing, he can do it. The trouble is, half the time that can’t happen because one person within a traditional agency looking at a particular specialised discipline like that, isn’t going to cut it in the same way as an agency that’s grown up on the shopper marketing side, knows exactly how that discipline works and can produce a far better commercial result for that client.

So it erodes the trust between marketer and traditional agency or incumbent agency and as Darcy says, “In my good opinion what’s lost is lost forever”.  So far be it for me to quote Pride and Prejudice in the seminar, but there we are, I’ve just done that.

It’s very hard to regain that trust afterwards and it’s one of the main drivers of that loss of trust between previous incumbent, you know main incumbent and proliferating roster marketing is a poisonous thing.

The second thing that happens is that agencies will all try to eat each other’s lunch as well and without rules, that’s exactly what people will do, we’re all commercial people.  So the response there is to try and expand revenue.

So if you’re a new entrant onto a roster and you see an opportunity to go and steal some of the digital work or go and steal some of the digital development work or steal a piece of the PR or a piece of the social media, then you just have a go.  “Let us show you, let us show you what we can do with that, Mr. or Mrs. Client”.  Immediately, you’ve got three, four, five, six different agencies working on a brand and a sub-brand, all fighting with each other, work flows from each to each and on it goes.

What’s the problem with roster expansion?

So you can see why we’re in trouble, so what happens once that roster is looking like this, why is this an issue?

Some people say to us, “Look, we know we’ve got a lot of agencies, is this a problem, how many do we need? How many should we have?  And, have we got too many, what should we do?  Is it not okay just to continue like this?”

So the answer is it depends what you’re trying to do and what the objectives are.  But in general, there are some common problems that come up and we’ve labelled this rather dramatically ‘The spiral of roster destruction’, but it can be like this and the trouble with this is it’s a spiral of roster destruction because it can happen almost without marketers noticing and often, even without agencies necessarily noticing what’s going on and they’ve got a role to call it too.

The first thing that happens is that the roster expands or changes, changes population, but nearly always that happens without any pre-agreed, pre-thought out roster model or strategy.  And this is the trouble.

The first kind of expansion of the roster happens because as I said, someone needs to fix something or there’s a cost issue or there’s a response, time, response issue or there’s this agency that isn’t quite getting what digital should feel like or we always get TV ideas all the time.

These first expansions of the roster happen without any roster model being laid down and without any strategy for the roster growth or expansion being agreed and sorted out.  This leads to absolute chaos as we’ll see in a minute because then immediately, everybody is fighting with everybody.

The biggest thing of all, almost like the elephant in the room, is that it also happens without any financial model.

So the agency that has given its all, fought itself and its client into all sorts of commercial opportunities over many years, a deep partnership in terms of building brands and building business opportunities with their client, all of a sudden it finds that the client that it thought was its greatest client is actually looking over its shoulder at other people.

Dilution of trust and focus

There’s no guarantee, hardly ever is there any guarantee or any openness or any straightforward discussion with the incumbent agency that this is not a threat to the incumbent agency’s revenue.

So, of course this becomes the big issue and these three things, the roster model, the actual strategy for what the marketing requirements are and how they should be fulfilled, and what the financial model should be that surrounds that; if you get these three things sorted out, then a lot of the expansion of the roster actually is of less injurious effect, it’s not nearly such a bad thing.

But very rare are the occasions where we come across clients who have either rung us about this or we’ve gotten in touch with them; very rare are the times where we find this has been done.

One of the immediate effects is that in time no single agency has a significant share of that client’s activity or budget or knowledge or data. I could actually add attention or love or trust.  That trust, that attention, that love that focus and all of the other things, the activity, budget, knowledge and data, they suddenly become diluted and fragmented.

That’s really tough.  It’s really tough to get proper focus on your brand.  God knows brands face enough disruption in their markets without disrupting their internal roster market and their internal teams in the way that they do because there’s no roster model, no strategy, no financial model around the expansion of that roster.

So because there is no one agency, they don’t actually have the trust and confidence of the client.  Then what happens, is you suddenly start getting turf wars.  You get clients that say, “Look, off you go you three”, you go to your media agency, your digital agency and your creative agency, “Why don’t you just go off with this brief, sort it out, collaborate with each other and come back and give us a solution”.

No roles. No rules.

But there are no roles or rules or definitions between collaboration, cooperation and coordination in that engagement from that client.  Very typical.  And of course, what happens, even though they may present some kind of creative united front when those three agencies come back, what’s happened in the meantime is that maybe there’s collaboration, maybe there’s proper collaboration, maybe there’s just a quick phone call at the end to make it look like there was or maybe there’s three competing solutions that come back and surprise, surprise.

When those solutions come back, their recommendations are linked to the discipline that the agency is specialised in.

The media agency will come back with a media-led approach, the creative agency will come back with maybe an above the line or traditional broadcast media approach, and the digital agency may come back with a utility or an app or some kind of change to the way the organisation does business and so on and so forth.

There’s no overall custodian there amongst your agency partners of the overall brand’s future because of this insecurity, because of turf wars and you can see how poisonous this is.

We were asked to go into an automotive manufacturer about this time last year and we’re still with them now because they only had about 6-7 million dollars, and they had about 8 to 10 agencies on their roster. But the trouble was, because there was no security of tenure, there was no confidence in any of those agencies that their lunches weren’t about to be eaten immediately by everybody else on the roster.

This and it’s an automotive manufacturer of course, an automotive brand so their marketing team is lean which is typically what happens in automotive, a lot of the marketing is outsourced.

What was happening with the marketing team – lean as they were – was they were running around with their proverbial pants on fire, trying to make the best, make something cohesive out of eight different discipline based recommendations for any given mark or model launch.

Absolutely crazy because there was no roster model, no strategy and critically no financial model around what those agencies should do and how they should behave.

So you end up very quickly with a loss of strategy and focus on strategy. A loss of management focus.  This is critical as well, this is very typical.  So to go back again to that automotive manufacturer, that automotive brand I was just talking about; they spent most of the time doing their day jobs, trying to get apples to mix effectively and convincingly with pears.

Not actually bringing the brand forward or moving sales or security initiatives or all of the great things that that brand was capable of doing, but actually just trying to put together or force together bits of jigsaws. Eight different parts of a jigsaw that didn’t fit that were given to them by eight different agencies in eight different discipline specialties.

So you can see, what an enormous opportunity cost this quickly becomes.

Increased marketing head hours become necessary

They were subtlety needing to find more marketing head hours in order to do their jobs. So working ridiculous hours. After different head counts and additional head count there was a real loss of cost control across that agency roster that existed at that time.

So when we went then to look at the actual value that was being received for the inputs that were being given, the outputs rather that were being given to the client at that point; there was a real loss of value because the client team just didn’t have the time to be on the ball.

A very, very difficult situation and a lot of bad blood in that as well after a while because the clients kind of knew that they were being, or felt that they were being charged more than they should be charged, but couldn’t ever prove it and didn’t have enough time. Sometimes it was true, sometimes they were actually getting conspicuous value as is always the case.

Increased marketing head hours, let’s go back to that.  This is the hidden one.  Often, especially in a decentralised organisation, with the marketing silos there, the marketing, the heads of the marketing for each of the business units for instance, will say, “Well you know what, we’re not going to centralise here, we’re not going to centralise this roster and save money because we get a really great deal from this agency which is owned by my mate that is three or four people that does lots of design, a bit of media buying and a bit of SEM for us.

“They live just down the road and they give us amazing deals”.  But the trouble is, what’s never, ever captured in ascribing that amazing deal to this agency, is the increase marketing head hours in briefing that agency, managing that agency, shaping the recommendations of that agency to fit the brand, to fit the strategy, to fit the other recommendations within the roster and then to turn that into something, into something cohesive at the end of it.

It also doesn’t ever take advantage or take account of the overheads that are being paid to that agency as well and it hardly ever takes account of the opportunity costs where actually you could amalgamate what could often be quite a small spend, sometimes it can be a very large spend, put it in the right roster structure and then leverage the economies of scale that immediately come out of that.

So typically, what happens once this problem isn’t solved, this expansion is embarked upon without those three key tools in your tool bag there, the roster model, the strategy and the financial model, is that the marketing team comes under significant results pressure and significant cost pressure.  And typically, what they do is they expand the roster to other smaller specialist providers in order to solve the problem that they never solved in the first place.

And so it goes on.

So far, so depressing, huh?  Let’s have a look at what can be done.  What the hell do we do? Well it’s actually disarmingly simple and I would say that because it’s what we spend all our time, or I’d say about 60%, 70% of our time doing at the moment.

Ah, back to the focus, so what are we going to do about it?  Right, let’s get practical here. So as I say, this is something that we do, this is our day job so it may seem simple to us and quick to us because we do it all the time.  If you’ve got any questions, then do store them up and get ready to poke those out there.

How do we fix or avoid the problem?

The first and most critical thing to do, before you go pitching, before you go putting red lines through agencies, before you get brutal about this, is a very quick but logical and penetrating exercise which is to define and articulate what exactly the current marketing requirements are of the organisation and what the future ones are.

Even if they’re not sure. If the marketing organisation is not sure what the likely future ones are. Now we help clients do this, it’s a really instructive exercise as I say, it doesn’t have to take long and it’s a fairly brutal thing to do.  But what it allows is for a really tight focus on what actually the important priorities are.

Nine times out of ten, we found that a lot of what is being done in the name of any given marketing organisation, particularly when it’s decentralised, particularly when the outputs of that marketing organisation are divorced from any ROI measurement or any results focus and typically in a decentralised organisation and in many centralised ones. It is very hard to trace that link from the actual effects of the activity back to the input into the strategy of the next time that activity comes up.

It actually rationalises and sharpens exactly what is important and therefore by definition, what is not important in what the marketing requirements are.  A lot of organisations spend a lot of their time doing a lot of things that are small and don’t really matter as much as the big things.

Those small things as any agency will know, and particularly in a fragmented roster, can take up nearly as much time as the big things.  Who was it who said, “The biggest thing in business is making sure the biggest things stay the biggest things”, it might’ve been my uncle.  So that’s the first stage; just get very, very clear about what those marketing requirements are.

Look at the actual marketing structure

So there’s a great section here which is around, looking at the actual marketing structure behind the roster.  Looking at the actual marketing structure of the organisation itself. This is a subject for another webinar I have no doubts, but there, you’ve got some choices and they’re pretty clear choices and they depend on what that business is about and what kind of culture that business has.

Whether it’s a sales culture, a product culture, an innovation culture, a financial culture, a marketing culture.  And that’s okay and sometimes there’s a mix there.  But you’ve got the opportunity to build your marketing structure and processes around either your channel, either your segment, or your product or your business units and there’s various levels of courage involved in making any of those changes and sometimes you can set those changes as a destination and so on and so forth.

Again, a subject for another webinar, but a very important part.

So once you’ve actually got your marketing requirements, you then look at your marketing structure and your marketing process and go, “Is that fit for purpose?  Is that fit for the changes that are happening in the market that we’ve already identified? Have the marketing job descriptions and roles kept pace with channel changes, technology changes, customer changes, specialism proliferation, all of the things that we’ve touched on already?” And in most cases of course, guess what?  They haven’t.  And they require some adjustment.

So there’s certainly lots of value to be identified in terms of just making sure that your marketing structure is fit for delivering the requirements.  But it is possible in this process to do these two things quite quickly.

We tend to move quite fast because once these opportunities open up for change, you need to move fast so that people don’t realise that you’re changing things.  As soon as people realise you’re trying to change things, often it can be kind of mired, it can be kicked into the long grass and mired in reaction and procrastination.

So we tend to get in and get out as fast as we can and help you guys out.  But once you’ve got the marketing requirements and you’ve looked at what the structure could be or should be or what that needs to be in a typical one to three-year horizon, what kind of structure are we aiming for in the marketing side?

Developing the roster model

You then develop the roster model with those two things in mind.  Because a roster model is far easier to change and far easier to change quickly than a marketing structure and a marketing process and marketing culture.  So the trick here, the smart trick – and we’ve just been involved in doing this for a big financial services client – is to use the roster structure, the roster model, to drive structural and process change within the marketing organisation, to focus on the marketing requirements.

So the third box there actually drives the second box which is based on the first box. Goodness me, this could be another webinar here.  We’ll keep going.

So that’s the trick, you’re developing a roster model that reflects that structure or how that structure needs to be, in order  to deliver those marketing requirements more and more effectively.  That means matching skill sets of agencies to marketing requirements and doing it brutally and doing it cleanly and logically and we’ll come onto that in a second.

And the second thing to do here, and you know, this is just basic politeness, just basic good business; develop a proper, robust, fair, transparent remuneration model for those agencies that are going to be working under that roster model.

Don’t play guess the budget!  It doesn’t need to be a retained relationship, it doesn’t need to be a project based relationship.  Typically, these days, hybrid is the way that we find things are going and it works best for both agencies and clients.

When you’ve got a lean way of working, it’s essential.  You’ve got to get the remuneration right.  It’s got to be benchmarked and fair and it’s got to be transparent, it’s got to be predictable so the agencies can see what’s coming up and the client knows that they’re getting value for the price that they’re paying.

Populate the roster model

So those two things and then as I was saying earlier, once you’ve got the roster model, then you need to populate it.  So what you’re doing then is you’re populating the agency slots.

An example of a marketing portfolio for an organisation we worked with; they’ve got around ten to twelve digital agencies and around twenty creative agencies and there’s some interplay and interchange between those, there’s about eight brands.

We looked at their spend and the level and nature of activity in both of those particular channels; so on the creative side there’s a lot of strategy and then a lot of concept development and on the digital side, there’s a lot of concept production and there’s also some build and then some business driving as well and some utility building too.

So it’s kind of yin and yang thing there.  But twenty agencies on the creative side and about eight on the digital side.

We looked at the level of the activity and the nature of their activity and the spend.  We benchmarked against what we see elsewhere for category and we’ve actually said to them, “You probably need to be getting down to six or seven creative agencies at the most on a reduced scope; so paying them for what they’re good at and not just being jacks of all trades necessarily and we’re recommending at the moment they run with around two digital agencies.

The interesting point there was that on the digital side their roster was structured around what would’ve been a reasonable stab at fulfilling those requirements about eighteen months ago, two years ago.

Digital agency changes

The digital agency market has changed fundamentally in that time and will continue to change and a lot of the discipline silos that we used to see in digital where people would come from a creative side or a technical side or a build side or a search side of the discipline.

Those things are now increasingly being handled by single agencies and done very, very effectively indeed.  And often, you find that media as well bleeds into that too and you find that a lot of the media agencies are able to handle data search and quite a bit of the digital content as well.  So, on we go again, probably the subject for another webinar.

But this is the task at this stage.  And also to make sure that where there is no case for breaking up the agency contribution to that business by silo or by brand or by product unit, where in fact there is a case for having enterprise wide agency responsibility, then you build that back in.

It’s very hard to justify, ridiculous to justify a different sponsorship agency for say a client with six to eight brands, than it is to say, “Look, let’s have one sponsorship agency across the whole organisation that does the proper deals with the proper leverage, gets the portfolio view, an enterprise wide view across sponsorship for the entire organisation.

It helps out with the sales department as well and makes sure that the entire company is getting the leverage and the economy of spend that it needs.

Similarly, with digital, similarly with media and when you’re channel planning.  Similarly, with search.  So much fewer and further between these days are the agency disciplines that really genuinely do require an individual brand level or product level or business unit level focus.  Arguably they are perhaps just a strategy and maybe initial creative idea and sometimes not even that.

Once you’ve got that roster model, you then go and negotiate it and implement it and so you go and see which agencies are actually up for taking on those responsibilities.

Who wants to expand?  Who’s not up for that?  Where are the skill sets in the agency roster that’s there?  Is there a requirement to go to market or is there not?

Sometimes there is, certainly for our clients where they’ve got 90 or 70 or 40 different agencies, it just seems a bit perverse to say, “Well, of the 40 that we’ve got, none of them are any good and we’ve got to go and pitch everything”.  It’s just crazy, it won’t be true.

Become a better marketer first

You will be asking the wrong agencies the right questions or the right agencies the wrong questions.  That’s what will happen.  So you need to become a better marketer before you work out whether you actually deserve what you see as better agencies.

We often find this is the case.  Rare are the occasions where we say to clients, “Great, let’s run a pitch for digital, a pitching sponsorship and a pitch in shopper marketing and a pitch in strategy”, it’s just a waste of time.

It’s much better to get the marketing structure, the marketing requirements and the roster model right and then look at your existing roster and work out who is best placed to take that on.  Remember, there’s a lot of change involved here so if you’ve got people who are already familiar with your business, then you’re not going to take a bath while you’re making that change or at least the bath won’t be quite as big.

And then critically you maintain, monitor and govern that.  So you make sure that collaboration, cooperation and coordination are measured with any of the tools.  So we’ve got one called evaluating, there are others in the market like appraise and navigare. Plenty of others that help out there.

It’s important to make sure that everyone in that roster then is playing nicely and is aligned to the business requirements of the marketing organisation as opposed to the business requirements of their individual agencies or agency group.

So goodness me, there’s that ladder and I’ve taken a while to get up to the top of that ladder.  It doesn’t take that long.  We can probably get from the bottom to the top here in around six weeks with a bit of cooperation.  Sometimes faster.  Sometimes we find marketing organisations can’t go as fast as that and that’s okay.  But you can make a big difference in a short time, as long as you’ve got the appetite to do that.

What do you do if you’re an agency caught in a roster like this?

Well there’s four things.  If you’re an agency that’s finding yourself in an expanding roster without any rules or any roles and responsibilities, here are four things you can do, four golden rules if you like.

The first is to play nicely and don’t engage in the turf wars, however insecure you might feel.  However much you feel like other people are having a go or taking your lunch or taking your roles, it’s much better if you can possibly avoid it, not to turn into Harry Gold here.

It’s much better to play nicely, to collaborate, to do the right thing by the brand and the business and not to keep defending your turf.  That’s hard, it’s easy to say, hard to do, I know and I speak as someone who in my agency days was involved on a very big piece of business in Sydney and Melbourne in a four-way agency turf war for pretty much the whole thing.

It was bloody and horrible and awful at times and we ended up with the whole thing bizarrely, but we did it by playing nicely and we did it by not engaging in turf wars. But you know, if I’m honest, it was a fair bit of luck as well as a degree of judgement there.

Australia is a small marketing town and there’s plenty of people who will meet you again coming around the traps; it’s best that you do the things that are right and do as you would be done by here.

The other thing is; be brilliant at what you are brilliant at.  Make sure that you maintain the rage and maintain the effort, even in the face of people undercutting you or standing in front of you and taking limelight and all of those things.

Be brilliant at what you do brilliantly and I’ll add to that; don’t try to pretend you can do things that you can’t do.

Don’t say, “Ah, you know, we can get a social media guy in, we’ll get him in tomorrow, he’ll be great. Yeah, he’s worked in the States.  We’ll get him in and I’m sure he can sort out your social media for you.”  Well, this ain’t going to work.

So it’s much better to play nicely with the others who are doing that, form that alliance, become that interagency team and become indispensable that way.   But you know, allow for other people’s expertise.

Here’s the biggest one; ask your client for clear guidance.  It’s just not good enough when clients say, “You guys go off and play, work it all out and come back to me”.  It’s just not good enough. If your clients are doing that, you need to ask them for clear guidance on what the roles are, what the responsibilities are and what their expectations are for whether you are about to collaborate, cooperate or coordinate with the other roster agencies.

So, I’ve talked to you about what is driving this expansion of rosters and the complexity of rosters that we see everywhere now, why clients are ringing us up.  I’ve talked about how that is just so destructive for marketing in Australia and for agency life in Australia.  We’ve talked about, pretty briefly although maybe you don’t think it was brief, it was brief for us, we talked about how you get out of this, what you do.

Practically what you need to do in order to remedy this stuff and then how you might act if you’re an agency person listening to this webinar in order to survive this.  So, hopefully you’ve now got at least a better idea of the dimensions of this problem, why it’s a problem and what can be done and how as participants as marketers and as agencies, how we need to act in order to get a better result.

The result here is better business for everybody.

It’s not about cost cutting, it really isn’t.  It’s about marketers getting better value from fewer agencies who have got more of their business and are more committed to moving things on and up.

It’s making sure that enterprise wide expertise is used wherever enterprise wide expertise is appropriate.  It’s not about throwing the baby out with the bath water, it is about getting very smart and open and straight and logical and robust about how we all engage each other as business partners and how we engage our marketing colleagues within a marketing organisation in order to further the commercial fortunes of the business in which we work.

Good on you all, thank you very much for attending.  It’s an absolute pleasure to do these things and if you ever find yourselves in these roster difficulties marketers, clients, agency guys, then hey, give us a call and we’ll come down in the Batmobile and see if there’s any way we can help you.  Thanks so much guys, cheers now.

***

There are more webinars in this series to come.  Look out for webinars on the latest trends in agency remuneration, creating transparency and trust in media, transforming and production for the 21st century, so all about your roster management.  Aligning your digital marketing to marketing is next then supercharge your agency with incentive based remuneration.  And the challenges for marketers in the carbon constrained future so all about sustainability.

TrinityP3’s Strategic Supplier Alignment service helps you to untangle your supplier roster, understand its strengths and weaknesses, and develop an optimal structure to improve your performance. Learn more here

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As TrinityP3′s General Manager, Nathan applies his knowledge and creativity to the specific challenges of marketing management, with a particular focus on team dynamics and behavioural change. He is an HBDI Practitioner and an experienced facilitator and coach. Read Nathan's bio here or email nathan@trinityp3.com

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