Agency life can be a whirlwind – it’s fast-paced, demanding and ever-changing. The focus will always be on delivering amazing work for what is likely to be highly demanding clients – and quite rightly so. However, in my experience, this inevitably means that despite having an office full of marketing experts, they are so busy and focused on making the client happy that they neglect to market themselves.
I’ve been working on this issue for a majority of my career – from my first in-house marketing role for a small web development agency – to my current role marketing a global marketing company. Despite working at agencies of different sizes, I’ve noticed a considerable theme developing – they rarely practice what they preach.
In light of this, after a couple of glasses of prosecco at a previous Brighton Digital Women meet-up, I mentioned to my ex-colleague (who also happens to be a founder of BDW) that maybe I have a few nuggets of wisdom to share on this topic. Fast forward a month, I found myself standing in front of a bunch of friendly and welcoming digital women and talking about my experiences. The BDW team asked me to write up my tips, so here you go!
1) Allocate time and resource for your agency’s marketing
Probably sounds obvious, right? However, as I mentioned above, every agency I have worked in has neglected to treat their own brand as they would do for a client.
The most success I have had in getting round this problem is to find out how much capacity your team has for internal marketing and then input your agency through your project management system – exactly as you would do for a client.
This way, internal marketing tasks will appear in your colleague’s task lists alongside their client work which means they will (hopefully) stay top of mind and stand a better chance of being completed on time.
Obviously, things do get busy and agency work will always be the first to be pushed back on. By having internal tasks in people’s task lists will mean that they will be aware of what they need to do and communicate any delays with you. Work to ensure your colleagues feel just as responsible for taking your agency’s brand and marketing to the next level, just as they do for their billable client work.
2) Create a culture of marketing
My second tip is to aim to get your whole agency involved in your internal marketing to ensure buy-in and shared responsibility.
You could run content workshops and brainstorms with your team, present competitor analysis and host weekly stand-up meetings to share industry developments that you can use to create reactive content and social posts.
3) Have at least one person to ‘own’ the marketing function
Although you want to aim to involve your entire team in your internal marketing, I would also recommend that you have at least one person who ‘owns’ your marketing function. This will help ensure all your marketing always remains on brand and consistent across your platforms. This person should also be the one to galvanise the team and ensure people stick to their deadlines and also communicate results and key achievements back to the wider agency.
4) Be memorable
As you’re no doubt aware, competition within agencies is fierce. Take some time to work out what your USP focus on this within your marketing. What can you do that is better than other agencies?
Following on from this point, there is a cognitive bias which I recently learnt about called the ‘Von Restorff Effect’. This bias refers to how studies have shown that items that stand out from their peers are more memorable. Therefore, work to ensure you stand out in all of your communications with existing and new clients – and be creative! In one of my agencies, we used to frequently pitch to premium retailers and would package our proposals like a high-end delivery to create a memorable experience for our prospects.
5) Outline your goals first, strategy second, and the tactics third
Again sounds obvious, but it in my experience – it doesn’t always happen. Just like you would for a client, you want to determine who your audience is, what their challenges are and what your agency can do to help. Once you have done this you’ll be able to strategically define what your goals are and what tactics you can use to reach them.
6) Sharing is caring
With 75% of B2B buyers using social media to make purchasing decisions, you’ll want to ensure all the great content you create is being shared as much as possible. Utilising your colleague’s professional networks is a great way to do this.
However, you’ll need to make it as easy as possible for your time-poor team. I have found the simplest way to do this is to send round an email with ‘click to share’ links to ensure it takes people as little time as possible to share your content. Aim to ensure that everyone in your agency is an advocate for your brand.
7) Try to gain visibility of your where your leads come from
This can be challenging for B2B marketers, as the sales cycle can range from anything from less than a month to a couple of years. Work closely with your sales team to identify where your leads have come from and encourage them to ask any prospects where they found you and what prompted them to get in touch.
Also keep a record of any touch-points with prospects have with your agency and develop an ethos of continual data collection and analysis in what is driving your leads. For example, did they download a piece of content or attend an event you spoke at? Keeping track of all this data is a great way to see your clients’ buying journey and identify what elements of your marketing are working.
Given that the buying journey is so long, you’ll also want to report on marketing KPIs to understand what’s working and what’s not. Build a reporting dashboard that pulls in the most important metrics that align with your marketing strategy and contribute to the overall success of your agency.
8) Stop using generic stock photos (please!)
This is a real bugbear of mine. B2B marketing can be hard to visualise (have you ever searched for images to represent SEO on Google?) Coupled with the fact you’ll need to find copyright-free images – you’ll most probably be using the same images of millennials on mobiles as all your competitors. These photos pretty meaningless and rarely add any value to your content. Referring back to my fourth point – you’ll just look like any other agency.
Be creative and think beyond stock photos. Use screenshots to illustrate specific points, your own photographs or a design tool such as Canva which can help you create your own imagery and infographics to go alongside your content. Your images should always add something to a piece of content that words can’t achieve alone.
9) Don’t be scared to go ‘offline’
Working within digital you’ll no doubt be inundated with digital content and for your prospects, it will be no different. Don’t underestimated the power of Direct Mail and sending your prospects useful content and something quirky to create a talking point. In the past, we’ve sent ‘Christmas survival kits’ for prospects knowing that Christmas is their busiest time of year which links into how our services could help them.
10) Be human
As you’re essentially selling your services, the people behind your services should be brought to the forefront of your marketing. Sending your email newsletters from key people within your agency, building team page with photographs and creating authored content on your blog are just some of the ways you can do this. I’d also recommend taking some good quality of your working environment and team and weaving these into to your proposals and marketing collateral.
Nothing here is rocket science and all very much within the basic fundamentals of marketing. However, in my experience, prioritising your own marketing over the needs of clients is never easy and often means the basics are missed. These ideas only just scratch the surface of agency marketing, but hopefully will give you some food for thought and encourage you to take your agency marketing to the next level.
Anna Taylor is Marketing Manager-Affiliate at Rakuten Marketing. Anna has worked predominately in B2B marketing for digital agencies for five years and her work has spanned marketing, content marketing, PR and business development. Follow Anna on Twitter- @annaftaylor.