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Small agencies should look to international markets in their business development plan

Why UK agencies should look abroad

Agencies! Your competitors are no longer your neighbours in the league tables. In fact, your competitors are no longer limited to agencies in the UK.

Non-UK agencies are increasingly targeting UK brands for new business

Recent years have seen a marked increase in the number of small, non-UK agencies seeking to win new clients and contracts within the UK.

That goes for digital developers in eastern Europe, growing in maturity and experience, now connecting directly with brands to undertake projects (rather than being an off-shore resource for western European agencies), or leading agencies from Europe’s ultra-talented but smaller creative hubs (including Stockholm and Amsterdam) looking for expansion opportunities beyond the limited number of brands headquartered in their own countries. With digital advertising spend in Sweden and the Netherlands just 11% of that in the UK, the most ambitious local agencies can quite rapidly find the need to seek clients further field.

There are equally strong reasons why British agencies should cast their gaze beyond our shores.

Why UK agencies should look abroad

It’s not a new story that many agencies have been lured by the scale of American budgets to set up a US office. But with salary levels to match, there can be a smarter way to engage with US clients.

Business development consultancy The Future Factory are often charged with leading first stage conversations between agencies and brands. It’s represented many agencies seeking new clients outside of the UK, confirm that an agency’s location very rarely appears to be a concern to prospective clients. Marketers in the US are well accustomed to their business dealings being dependent on calls and video conferences and are therefore very comfortable with solicitation by UK agencies, while in Europe face-to-face communication is still a necessary part of winning new clients, as long as the agency is happy to travel. Furthermore, marketers are content to have access to a wider pool of specialist skills.

We’re in a fortunate position to look abroad

UK creative and brand strategy talent is internationally respected. Combined with the fact that English is so readily accepted in business conversations means we are as well placed to export our skills. Be it Skype or EasyJet, both make international business within reach of even the youngest businesses.

Furthermore, the increased sophistication of in-house marketing teams means that in many cases they prefer to depend less on local, physically-present agencies to hold their hands at every step, and instead look to experts for specialist competencies. Increasingly, they’re happy to look globally for the best outcomes, efficiencies and relationships.

Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should

The aim for all small agencies should be to become ‘one of the best in the world’ at something.

If you are indeed an absolute specialist, you are likely to exhaust your home market soon. At that point actively seeking business in other territories can be a smarter move than diversifying your offering within your existing market.

Be mindful however of the distraction that can come with an enlarged focus area. If your agency has limited capacity for new client acquisition activities, identifying where your most likely wins are and which clients are likely to be most interested in your recent case studies should be the predominant steering force. Should those clients be based abroad, research by The Future Factory has found that you needn’t hold back and an introductory conversation may be welcomed.

Alex Sibille, managing director, The Future Factory

Tel: 0207 378 0230



Twitter: @Future_Words

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