Within the current economic climate, budgets are creating havoc among marketing agencies, often causing them to lose focus, writes Simon Guest, business strategy director, Maverick.
As companies battle it out to retain and acquire as much business as possible, the tendency to offer anything and everything to make money has become commonplace. We need to emerge from this climate with a better offering for clients, as agencies which can support their clients in a truly consultative way across all aspects of commercial development and brand engagement, will be the ones who add tangible value to their clients, helping to facilitate business growth from the inside out.
For the last couple of years, the annual Bellwether report has delivered news of a fall in marketing spending and budgets reduced across the board, with the unsurprising exception of digital.
However, it must be argued that for the majority of campaigns put out by brands, the standard and quality hasn’t fallen. The loyal marketing advocate in me will say that this is because effort, diligence and a great idea always wins out despite economic constraints.
The cynic in me would probably confess that this is actually because agencies are still offering the same levels of service, if not more, but being paid less for the privilege. What’s worse, the tendency to offer anything and everything to secure the business is plaguing the industry with competitors being priced out and, in some cases, low grade campaigns appearing that fail to resonate with audiences.
Surely now’s the time for agencies to take at look at how they’re working to ensure they are doing the best, not only for their business, but for the credibility of the industry as a whole.
For agencies, the way to do this is to guide brands towards a smarter, more profitable way of working that will benefit clients and agencies alike, increasing profits and widening margins. As companies reduce their marketing budgets many are looking at alternative ways to facilitate business growth from within their organisation.
CEOs and business leaders are switching their attention on to how they can drive operational effectiveness by engaging their workforce and aligning their stakeholders around an easily understood commercial strategy and brand proposition.
This tactic often leads to an increase in the spend allocated on internal communications and employee brand engagement. There certainly seems to be a growing trend of organisations seeking out suppliers that can help brands to redefine their proposition, differentiate their offering and open up new commercial opportunities in the global market.
What agencies can do is help brands understand the connection and, indeed, the inextricable link between the tactics employed to engage audiences internally and those aimed at external customer audiences.
For too long we been fed the idea that internal communications is the poorer, boring cousin of the exciting advertising campaigns aimed at ‘the public’. Brands need to realise that both employees and customers are buying into their business and what it stands for, and that although a difference between external and internal messaging will exist, the core values they reflect need to be the same.
Once a brand has looked at itself from the inside out, establishing what it stands for, what it believes in and what it wants to say about itself, this can then be fed out and communicated, both internally and externally, to ensure that all stakeholders and audiences are aware of and understand their proposition.
It’s just as important for employees to believe in the purpose of the business and be excited by the offerings of a company as the customers buying its products and services. After all, how can employees be expected to represent and sell a brand if they are not on board with the brand values?
To survive the markets in 2013, agencies will need to have courage to challenge their clients to take a long hard look at themselves and to work with them to achieve positive, profitable results through meaningful organisational change. Addressing employee and customer engagement and forgetting the barriers between the two may only be one small part of the marketing puzzle this year, but I am certain that if this is on the agenda, the year will look brighter for both brands and agencies alike.