Agency overview - how Synergist MD Keith White sees the marketing agency landscape
As the commercial creative services sector begins to witness an acceleration in work once again, agencies are becoming a busier place to manage and work. The Drum spoke to Keith White, managing director and founder of Synergist the agency job costing and project management system company, to find out what he is witnessing and hearing from his clients in the current climate. What are agencies asking you for at the moment? Of course you’d expect me to say that agencies making enquiries to us want all the benefits we list on the Synergist website. I should probably list the fifteen top benefits to you just now. Hah! But in reality, it’s never quite as simple as all that, is it? For example just now agencies seem to be asking for information on how to improve their scheduling and resource planning as much as any other topic. Why scheduling, and why now? We don’t really know. It’s an interesting trend. I think if you had asked me this question a year or two ago it might not have been so high up their agenda. Perhaps awareness of what scheduling systems can deliver has now reached a tipping point. Scheduling is a particularly good application to glance at in a brief demo because you can immediately see how much pain it’s going to remove from your life. Another trend we’ve noticed is that agencies seem to be saying they are pretty busy right now but struggling to generate profits that reflect the time and effort they are putting in. When they start trying to identify where the problems actually lie, they realise they just don’t have the visibility to know this with any accuracy. At that point it’s common for them to ask industry contacts and new staff how other agencies solve it. This is where they usually get our name from. How does Synergist help inform agencies’ decision making? We were chatting to the founder and executive creative director of Dinosaur, Mark Beaumont, the other day. They are an agency in Manchester. They use Synergist but Mark would be the first to say he’s not a hands-on user of the system very much himself. So you might wonder how Synergist helps him make decisions? The answer is that he knows his reports inside out. In fact we did an infographic on which reports he looks at and when. Clients tell us that there are five key reports, by the way, and it turns out that you can pretty much run an agency with those. What are you picking up about the overall mood from agencies just now? More and more agencies seem to be thinking about preparing for growth again, which is a nice sign. Nobody can predict the timing of an economy, but everyone can think about whether they have the basics in place to make it easy to grow when the opportunities surface. The other day we were chatting to the London managing director of Mubaloo, Sarah Weller. They’re one of the UK’s leading business app developers now. How did they do it? They came up with a seven-point plan to attack the market, well before the business app sector took off. It’s all to do with building credibility, having a detailed process and building in scalability so you can grow without disruption when the time is right. Everyone can build scalability into their agency. Truth is, you don’t want to grow out of a system at the very time you’re taking off. That’s a high-speed train wreck. By the way we did another infographic, on Mubaloo’s seven points. It’s on the same downloads page I mentioned. We rather like infographics. Nobody has time to read pages of words any more... so I’d better stop talking here. Hah. Four out of 10 of The Drum's design 100 financial top 10 were customers of Synergist. What does Synergist provide that helped those companies? Well, they’re clearly doing pretty much everything right, so I’m not trying to take too much of the credit personally... hah. We often ask Synergist users, large and small, what the main benefits are for them. They give a wide range of responses, probably reflecting their own role there. But if there’s one that comes consistently out on top, it’s that Synergist makes everything visible. The entire team sees the same information in real time, so everyone’s always up to date. That affects everything, from the quality of client service to the speed of decision-making and being alerted to sudden issues while there’s time to fix them. So, in one word? I’d say Visibility. Synergist is headline sponsor of this year's Dadi Awards which will be announced at a ceremony to be held at the Marriott Grosvenor Square, in London, next month.