What It Takes to Win in 'The New Normal'

by Callum Broderick, Deltek

Today’s CMOs and brand leaders around the world are taking on ambitious, transformational programs designed not just to influence, but drive revenues for their firms. Agencies that win the day will make smart use of technology to not only empower clients, but to run their own businesses, while protecting their people and profits.

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In today’s New Normal, Chief Marketing Officers and other senior marketing leaders are being asked to shoulder ever-more ambitious and complex responsibilities as they lead the charge on transformative business strategies and differentiated customer experiences that are designed not just to influence, but drive revenue generation.

In response, the Gartner Group sees “a new type of digital marketing agency” evolving to help CMOs rise to the challenge. In Gartner’s 2016 Magic Quadrant for Global Digital Marketing Agencies, the analysts feature companies that “focus on strategizing, creating, executing and measuring customer-facing digital experiences across the customer journey.” For these agencies, blended offerings in business strategy, creative services, experience design and technology have become the standard order of the day.

To the victors go the spoils

Seen as highly valued business partners by the brands they serve, these leading marketing agencies have facts and figures at their command to prove their worth. They can transform client conversations from gut feel and word of mouth to data-driven results. Those firms that win the day also make smart use of technology to run their own businesses – gaining tremendous insight into financial and operational performance.

This stands in sharp contrast to agencies running on a mishmash of antiquated systems and processes, struggling to eke out ever-shrinking margins while workloads increase faster than revenue.

To win, agencies need new tools, policies & organizational discipline

In Madison Avenue Manslaughter, Michael Farmer raises alarm bells about those agencies that focus on being creative, winning awards, delivering service and generating short-term profits – at the expense of underlying agency operations. He argues that marketing services companies "must begin to document, track and measure their workloads.” By doing so, they’ll be better equipped to successfully negotiate with clients and close the gap between workloads and fees. But to accomplish this goal, agencies will “require new policies, new tools and a new sense of organizational discipline.”

In our work with SoDA on last year’s Report on the State of Agency Workflow Management, we saw digital marketing agencies across the board identify a wide range of issues that impact profitability. In many cases, technology could serve as a possible solution – to address out-of-control scope creep, lack of visibility into over-servicing, timekeeping inefficiencies and billing errors.

The good news: leading agencies are finding ways to make effective use of software to reduce over-servicing, while enhancing utilization rates and accuracy in time and budget tracking. In fact, in the same 2015 Report, 51% of those polled agencies that use some form of project and resource management software reported an overall net profit increase – and more than a third of those firms saw profits rise 11% or more.

Agencies must protect their people & profits

According to Gartner, one traditional weak spot for many agencies has been their investment in people, processes and technology. It’s time for that to change.

While many “new agencies” successfully sell and deliver on the promise of Big Data for their clients, they fail to capitalize on internal data to improve resource management and reduce over-resourcing and manual processes within their own firms. At Deltek, we’ve helped small digital boutiques, large independent agencies and global networks use technology to improve operational processes and take the headache out of capacity planning, project management and financial controls.

These agencies can now:

  • Monitor costs before/as they happen (estimated vs. actual job costs)

  • Balance workload so top resources don’t get burned out while others sit underutilized

  • Scale use of freelancers up and back to protect margins

  • Forecast what work is coming – from which clients – months into the future (to predict client demands and staff teams accordingly)

  • Proactively manage budgets in real time

  • Leverage analytics tools to peel back the onion and look at overall profitability across an entire network of offices or agencies

Prepare to Win

The right, purpose-built agency management tooIs will help deliver on the promise of exceptional service and business results for clients and strengthen an agency’s ongoing client relationships – all while protecting its people and profits.

Callum Broderick, Deltek

Callum Broderick, Deltek

About the Author: In his role at Deltek working with Marketing Services firms, Callum brings more than 10 years of experience in advertising, marketing and agency management to help teams optimize workflow, manage budgets and get the most out of resources.