Marketing marketers: The techniques to help your agency stand out

The marketing sector can be a complicated place as new marketing tools and techniques are launched, almost on a weekly basis. Powered by The Drum Network, this regular column invites The Drum Network's members to demystify the marketing trade and offer expert insight and opinion on what is happening in the marketing industry today that can help your business tomorrow.

We’re all marketers here, right?

We’re all keenly tuned into the demands of those who ultimately want to give us their hard-earned cash, right?

Well, actually – in a classic case of irony – many agencies in our wonderful industry often forget how to market themselves to the decision-makers at brands they’re desperate to work for.

The Future Factory recently spoke to senior figures in the brand world, in search of answers to how agencies can best influence the purchasing decisions of brands. It turns out agency marketing was one of the most talked about topics.

Make yourself familiar with consumers

Agency-folk, put on your consumer hat for a second: you’re sat at home in your dressing gown, midway through a vintage episode of Homes Under The Hammer, when a man knocks on your door. He’s from Koala Cola and he wants to speak to you about the new diet version of their product. You’ve never heard of his brand before, so would you be interested in learning about his product or will you shut the door and get back to Martin Roberts and the Berkshire cottage?

Now, imagine that had been a rep from Coca-Cola. Despite the approach being unsolicited, there’s a sense of familiarity and an understanding of the brand. Would you be interested now?

It is this sense of general, if fleeting, awareness among your target clients that your agency marketing should be aiming to achieve as a minimum. The director of creative excellence at Bacardi Global Brands recently spoke to us about a sense of serendipity when engaging with a new agency. He often finds that it’s luck; he'll "have something on [his] mind” when an agency gets on his radar and he recognizes their work.

In which case, I’d say that it’s very possible to make your own luck, and in an industry that has experienced 47% growth in competition over the past five years, it’s down to you to make sure that your agency is on a client’s radar before you make that first tentative approach. While some marketing exercises are expensive, remember that marketers want to be kept aware of what’s out there. As Diageo’s design leader says: “I wouldn’t be doing my job if I wasn’t looking”.

Equally, you might already be an agency on Diageo’s roster (lucky you), so it’s just as important that your marketing demonstrates your presence and value to current clients, warding off any thoughts of a re-pitch, as well as giving you the chance to sell in extra services.

So, what can you give them to look at?

Select appropriate awards

Well, a classic lynchpin of an agency marketing strategy is aiming to get a clutch of awards. “Award-winning” always sounds good, but only if it’s a widely recognised award that validates that piece of work you’re so proud of. Don’t just enter anything and everything. It’s important to target awards that reflect your culture and client base. BrewDog’s marketing lead told us that certain awards are won by a “boy’s club” and that while a Cannes Lion is amazing, it’s just “too big”, with a recipient of a Drum Award being much more their cup of tea.

So while a Cannes Lion or a D&AD might be an essential doorstop for the likes of AMV BBDO or Havas, it might be a little intimidating for smaller brands who are looking for a creative agency that can grow with them; if that’s your target client base, maybe swap the golden sands of Cannes for a cava at the Hilton Olympia.

And this work doesn’t stop after you’ve won. Get your shiny, sexy win into your email signatures, website and LinkedIn. Get Instagramming and Tweeting and shouting from the rooftops.

Have personality on social media

This brings me neatly (gosh, it’s as if I’ve planned this!) onto another crucial aspect of a strong marketing plan: all things social. This encompasses Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and even Snapchat if you’re really cool. These tools are incredibly powerful for conveying your agency’s culture, which several of our interviewees highlighted as a factor they consider when choosing an agency: “This industry is about people,” after all. So yes, post photos of your latest work, but if your account managers teamed up for a group trip to Alicante, or your all-agency sports day was a particular success, drop a Lark filter on them and upload away.

And if you really want to show off your cohort of amazingly talented people, then an agency event might just be right for you. Be sure to create a unique experience that is credible and relevant to your business, and appeals to the people that you want to be working with. If you’re inviting brands you have no previous contact with, then make sure you’re providing crucial insights, opportunities for networking, and a good time alongside quirkily flavoured crisps and an Aperol-based drink. A successful event can build new relationships, maintain current ones, and reinvigorate those that have died out. So plan carefully.

Be creative with meetings

One reason why events can be so successful is that prospects often prefer meeting agencies outside of the constraints of a classic ‘new business meeting’ setting. The head of communications at Bookatable.com told us that she often meets people at conferences, and our interviewee at Diageo also prefers a “face-to-face”. Therefore, another aspect of your marketing should be ensuring your agency’s presence at conferences and events throughout the year, whether it’s via speaking opportunities or merely gracing them with your presence.

As Rightmove.co.uk’s CMO told us, it’s vital he “stays abreast of who is out there, and who’s doing what”. So use your talent and get blowing your own trumpet, because no one else will do it for you.

Katie Mulligan is senior account manager at The Future Factory.

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