The changing agency landscape: 5 ways to turn pains into gains by industry leaders

Reflecting on Performance Firestarters ‘Secrets of Driving Growth’ session earlier this year – six agency leaders share the challenges they’re facing in search marketing, and how to turn those pains into gains.

The changing agency landscape: 5 ways to turn pains into gains by industry leaders

1. Dismantle silos

Learning where and how to focus collaboratively is vital. Clients often position their teams and metrics in silos, making growth difficult. “They end up with different channels that are competing with each other for budgets and performance,” observed Matt Boland from ForwardPMX.

Helping to dismantle silos means taking time, building trust, and really understanding the clients’ business and its goals, said Brainlabs’ Richard Clifton.

In an age where the volume of data available is increasing, a holistic approach to the data is essential for marketing strategies. Agencies are uniquely positioned to drive that conversation forward, but they need to live and breathe that ethos within their own teams.

For Claire Burgess at NMPi, tackling the silo dilemma is about leading by example. “When I first started, we only ran one channel for each of our clients, it was hard for us to influence what any other channel did, whereas now we rarely run only one channel. We usually run at least three as well as analytics, so we’re starting to have more influence. They’re the clients seeing growth, versus those seeing paid search in a single-channel view.”

2. Educate your clients on PPC

Businesses that achieve visibility into the entire cycle – from creating a lead to finalising a sale – are the ones driving growth, said Agustin Montes at WM Select. “I think the more knowledgeable clients are about PPC, the more they’ll connect business results to PPC.”

How can you educate clients more? Share examples and prove the power of a holistic approach. “We’re measuring way more now,” Richard affirmed. “With one retail client, we’ve embarked on a massive project to get 98% of all conversions tracked online and offline, from a base level of 15% a couple of years ago. So when we’re at that point, there’s so much more scope to push some things or pull back on what’s not working.”

3. Debate what makes meaningful metrics

“One thing that we always ask when a client gives us a metric to work towards is: ‘That’s what you want, but what does your boss want? What do your other teams want?’ As agencies, we need to challenge more,” Claire said. “More clients are now asking us for that training element to explain how digital works and how it actually fits into the bigger picture. Without that, businesses are going to struggle massively to continue growing and hit their 2020 numbers.”

Oliver Gillies from Merkle | Periscopix said: “Most senior decision-makers mostly care about simple metrics. When we get into PPC jargon, they glaze over. We know our subject matter well, so there’s a temptation to speak in abstraction. But people want concrete examples of what’s happening and the impact on their business. Consultancies have obviously started moving into our space, and they’re really good at explaining everything in simple concepts. In terms of educating senior stakeholders, I’ve seen an evolution where agencies are starting to do this as well.”

4. Offer services beyond automation. Get creative

“We’re finding within our remit for search we’re maxing out all the things we can do within our budget,” Matt said. “So in our agency we need to figure out: ‘How else can we help you?’. Our aim is to ensure we’re able to have an influence across branding, display, or prospecting.”

Richard pointed out that the ability to expand the remit to focus more on strategic tasks is one of the benefits agencies can get from automation. “In recent years things have become more automated, so we’re able to use technologies to take care of the day-to-day stuff. Whereas before, you’d be wrapped up in just reporting for hours a day. It’s getting people thinking more strategically and creatively – it requires a couple of hours of clear headspace.”

5. Testing, testing… and more testing

Testing isn’t a separate, one-off task but a core way of thinking. “Sometimes you see clients who want to do testing, but they only want to test what’s going to work – and testing doesn’t always work like that,” Matt laughed.

For Agustin, testing is a direct enabler of growth. “The secret is constantly A/B testing everything I can – from landing pages to ad copy. At the end, the results tell you the truth. And from there, you have a new benchmark to start improving against.”

To get the most out of testing, clients and agencies need an open mind. “It’s important that you frame it as lost opportunity,” Oliver explained. “I had an old boss who used to say to clients, ‘If we don’t test this, there’s a huge amount of growth you could be losing out on.’” Don’t let that happen to you.

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