When you’re competing against thousands of marketing or advertising agencies that offer similar services to yours, how do you stand out? A recent Agency Edge study revealed many (46%) agency clients prefer agencies that offer specialized marketing expertise. So if you want to attract and retain clients, curate specialized expertise. Then let people know you have it.
The best way to show your prowess is to develop a robust thought leadership program; you have to put your money where your mouth is.
Our Agency Audit study demonstrates a significant gap between those who embrace thought leadership and those who don’t. With only two in five agencies full steam ahead on thought leadership as a business development strategy, most agencies are missing out on this powerful resource for improving client relationships and building resilience.
In this post, we’ll share insights from our Agency Audit research about why thought leadership is the secret sauce to building an unbeatable agency.
The Most Resilient Agency Segments
What do agency owners or leaders want after years of employment fluctuations, a global pandemic, economic downturns, and massive technological changes? As agency owners ourselves, resilience comes to mind. When you’re resilient, the forces that can shake and rattle an agency transform from threats to opportunities.
Thought Leaders and Loyalty Builders, two out of the five segments from our research, are in a league of their own in terms of developing resilience that keeps them successful.
Thought Leaders, in particular, build resilience through sharing their expertise—they prioritize marketing their agency. They have specialized expertise and are not afraid to share it.
In addition to prioritizing thought leadership as well, Loyalty Builders spend time creating client loyalty programs and reporting on results from their work—proving the efficacy of their services.
Together, these two segments harness their expertise and are less likely to feel strongly about various concerns, such as clients understanding the breadth of their work, marketing their agency being a lower priority than client work, and finding qualified employees being harder than ever. They’re also significantly less likely to rate agency marketing efforts, employee salaries, competitive differentiation, reputation among prospects, and the risk of client defection as severe challenges.
The takeaway: One of the best ways to become a more resilient agency is to hone in on your expertise and prove it.
Why Thought Leadership Is Worth Your Time
As we mentioned in previous blogs, agency size or time in business does not determine overall resilience. We see successful owners with anywhere from one to over 30 years of experience, and resilient agencies come in all shapes and sizes. So what then determines whether you sink or swim as an agency? It all comes down to what you do with your expertise.
Thought Leaders and Loyalty Builders prioritize thought leadership to a greater extent than the other three segments—65% and 52%, respectively, say it’s a top or high priority for their agencies. And only 1% of Thought Leaders say competitive advantage or reputation as a thought leader are very challenging for them.
Wouldn’t you like to look at your challenges and say, “No big deal. We’ve got this.”? Thought Leaders and Loyalty Builders are already there. They’re more likely to believe their agencies can weather change and that they’re positioned to succeed. We can look to the Thought Leaders and Loyalty Builders as a guiding light. Both are more likely to believe in thought leadership and actively create it.
What’s Getting in the Way?
So yeah, thought leadership is great, but with what time and resources, right? Agencies excelling at thought leadership are in the minority. For the rest, there’s work to be done. Let’s look at the three other segments to understand what might be getting in the way.
Staffing Strugglers have been knocked off their feet by upheavals in their team. They’ve lost staff, and they’re struggling to find replacements. These agencies worry about affording employees’ salaries and losing out on talent to their competition. If you’re a Staffing Struggler, does your agency know what it does well? Do you clearly understand what skill gaps you need to fill or what expertise to enhance on your team?
Change Seekers are completely overwhelmed by attracting and retaining clients and differentiating from competitors. They know they need to change or be left behind. If you’re a Change Seeker, what if you paused for a minute and repositioned your agency on what you do well? Take the time to workshop what differentiates you from other agencies, and lean into it in your thought leadership.
Do what they might, Cobbler’s Kids cannot prioritize their agency’s marketing efforts, and when they do find the time to work on it, it’s haphazard. If that sounds like your agency, it’s time to reevaluate your priorities. You can get into a vicious cycle of client work coming first, neglecting your marketing, and failing to bring in better-fit clients for your agency. Set aside time to work on your marketing. Schedule it out. It matters.
Become a Thought Leader
If we’ve convinced you to develop a thought leadership program for your agency, great! Identify your unique expertise, and then follow the building blocks of effective thought leadership:
- Agency clients want you to give them novel information.
- Agency clients want you to give them helpful information.
- Agency clients are more likely to seek thought leadership from somebody they trust, relate to, and like.
If you have questions, let us know at email@example.com. In the meantime, check out our executive summary for more information about how Thought Leaders and Loyalty Builders develop resilience and approach client relationships.
Next month, we’ll talk about the one ingredient that’s absolutely essential to effective thought leadership.