Top 3 Communications Agency Issues for 2015

123As the year turns it’s a good time to reflect on some key issues facing communications agencies. I recently read a well written article called 5 things we learned about ad agencies in 2014. It was interesting, though I didn’t necessarily agree with all their findings or their importance.

But it the article got me thinking about the issues communications agencies face. I thought about these as both a former agency owner as well as a consultant to many agencies over the years. There are in fact a few themes that apply now and have always applied, and others that have more recent roots.

Here are my top 3 agency issues as I see them:

1. Talent

This was, is, and will always be the #1 issue for any agency. There is nothing more important. Great talent attracts clients. Great talent is the ultimate differentiator between agencies. Great talent creates opportunities for their agency and their clients. Weak talent alas are unwitting “arsonists”, setting fires and creating problems, or at minimum not solving problems.

As in sports, the best teams win. Great teams start with great talent. If you believe this, then there’s nothing more opportunity (other than serving your clients well) for senior management at any agency than recruiting and retaining top talent.

2. Measurement

In today’s world we live with a data tsunami and therefore it’s critical to be able to navigate one’s way through the reams of data and truly measure the impact of marketing programs. This was always directionally true, but the soft measures of yesteryear—awareness, consideration etc. are merely leading indicators. Specific analytical tools are far more available today than ever from which direct sales correlations can be drawn. Obviously digital marketing changed the landscape, and those with the tools and wisdom to truly measure marketing effectiveness are invaluable. Analytics rule.

3. Role of the agency

This is a biggee. The best agencies are smart thinkers and consultative. Again this was always the case, but there were plenty of agencies which existed on their ability to execute, to produce “stuff”. In today’s world, production oriented agencies are marginalized and commoditized, with a very slim reason for being and equally slim margins.

There are many players in the “consultative space” however. Marketing consultants (me included), larger consulting organizations, agencies, and even internal staffs at companies all vying for strategic leadership. And agencies are caught in the dilemma of what services to offer. Specialization is always key, however smart agencies do not want to cede leadership on any dimension so they are seeking a deeper relationships in areas outside of the core expertise. But whatever you do, do it well.

What do you think the key issues for agencies are?

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