Marketing Week ran an article discussing the battle between big and small agencies and it raised the debate once again. Its slightly more prevalent at the moment due to the economic conditions pushing the bigger agencies into chasing smaller clients with smaller spends, not just in media but across the marketing services sector.
The battle for spend has never been greater. We live in a time of mass competition across all business sectors and industries and naturally ours is no different. The growth of digital agencies has also meant that the fight for a client pound has become more disparate.
The sad truth is that the bigger agencies are not chasing clients because they fit their business model. They’re not sustaining billings through strategic account wins. They’re sustaining billings through chasing anything and everything because billings are their raison d’etre. The reality is that agencies with billings over £50m are in a fight for pride, a fight to retain their market position and to feed group deals that ultimately serve the agency.
Of course, I am a cynic. We’re an agency focused on client services. Billings are irrelevant and that is our reality. We target businesses that we can service appropriately and that we think we can add value too.
The main issue that big agencies suffer from is their client service levels. Naturally the bigger agencies have much greater staff churn. This creates a lack of consistency in service levels and importantly it means agencies never keep on top of clients targets. They struggle to understand the complexities of a client and they never fully get under the skin.
Big agencies are structured to serve big clients with big resource demands. The problem is, smaller spending clients need the same attention and dedication but the big agencies can’t afford it….understandably so! They’re busy working on the big clients, with big billings that are vital to the agency.
Our experience (we have all worked in the big national and international agencies) is that our clients depend on our ability to collaborate with their other marketing suppliers; PR agencies, creative’s, digital agencies etc. We’re good at this because we do it a lot. We understand the importance of working together and ensure everyone is pulling in the right direction for the client. Again, our experience is that big agencies fall short on this as they have tunnel vision towards their objectives, not the client’s bigger picture.
Collaboration also feeds creativity, a vital aspect to a growth business. Working on bigger accounts means churning campaigns, bookings and schedule management. Those individuals at the heart of the clients campaigns are not inputting into the creative direction and those who are will rarely touch the client account….that isn’t going to create in depth understanding!
Don’t get me wrong, agencies with large billings are in that position for a reason. I loved working in a large international operation. The resources & results focused approach was something we have taken with us. If you have a marketing team of 10 and a media spend over £5m then maybe you would be best served with one of the larger London agencies.
However, a client’s agency selection should not be on the myth of billings. It should be on people, creativity, relationships, experience. Pick an agency that fits in terms of size, culture and people. The ‘billings’ is not a real point of difference, service is.
We were the proud sponsors of the inaugural Yorkshire Mafia Golf Day at Oulton Hall on 13th September.
Despite the high winds it was a great day and it will come as no surprise to friends and colleagues to discover that out of 78 golfers Steve and Dave finished in the bottom 2 positions! Steve bagging an amazing (ly low) 7 points (4 of which came on one hole when he chipped in) whilst Dave fell just short of double figures with 9 points.