‘Successful agencies take responsibility’ (Bristol Media ‘Masterclass’ July 2015)

Thanks to Bristol Media‘s marvellous day of ‘masterclasses’ for creative and digital agencies, here’s my top ten nuggets of wisdom gleaned from the various sessions I attended – take from this what you will.

  • Get out more. 
    A common underlying message from the day suggested that agency folk don’t spend long enough in front of their clients putting in the hard yards necessary to develop deep and lasting relationships in which the client feels valued, heard and understood. Remote communications via email, telephone and social channels is not enough – certainly not from the client’s perspective. This backs up a post I wrote some time ago, see ‘Get out more‘.
  • Clients don’t love you as much as you might think!
    Research from studies undertaken by UWE’s Mario Vafeas and Tim Hughes, and Robert Craven suggested that there’s a big gaping hole between how much agencies think that their client’s love them and what client’s really think! I suspect you’d find similar results in any given industry but this doesn’t hide the fact that there’s a communications breakdown going on and an immediate need to rectify it, starting with a need to better understand ‘the brief’.
  • Use a standard brief document 
    Considering the gap between agency and client perceptions, Ben Hollom (M2 Bespoke) suggested that a standard brief document might be a rather simple and useful tool that all agencies would do well to adopt to help bridge the communications chasm and get everyone on the same page. And in my experience of working with agencies I’d be inclined to agree, as most don’t tend to use one and instead just assume they know the detail or trust that the client has got it all covered instead!
  • Think about the needs of your audience, not what you want to tell them
    This was a really useful insight from Ben Hollom‘s talk on ‘storytelling’ – something we’re all guilty of overlooking and the key difference in understanding how to create compelling content as opposed to creating a compelling brochure or website.
  • Successful agencies take responsibility
    According to Robert Craven, successful agencies not only obsess about strategy, marketing, teams and finance, they take it upon themselves to resolve them, seeing themselves as the barrier to success rather than seeking refuge in blaming external factors. They also typically seek external finance to boost cash flow and inject some energy into their growth initiative, plus often seek external advice for objective insights and support.
  • Successful agencies spend less money on marketing and more on delivery of service
    Another revealing insight from Robert Craven‘s session on how to ‘grow your digital agency’ was the fact that successful agencies spend approximately half the amount of money on marketing than those seeking to be successful! Instead, they focus their energies on delivering a better service than generates a better outcome, let the results speak for themselves and work harder to leverage referrals.
  • Mubaloo don’t employ business development people
    ‘So what?’ I hear you say? Well, Mubaloo were ranked 3rd in Deloitte’s UK Technology Fast 50, recognising the company as one of the top fastest growing tech companies in the UK – so they’re achieving the kind of success most agencies crave. And part of that success they clearly attribute to involving a team of strategists as early in the sales process as possible to help add as much value as possible, instead of entrusting the sales process entirely to a team of business development folk. Interesting…
  • The future is bonkers… the future lies in youth
    According to the report by IPA and Future Foundation exploring the ‘future of marketing & agencies 2025‘, wearables will be in and consumers will demand more control over how they interact with brands. Ok, I’m dumbing it down just a tad, but the point being, we’re headed to a place unbeknown to the common creative and digital agency where the knowledge required to stay one step ahead of the client and provide truly consultative services might actually blow our little brains to a billion pieces! The future therefore, lies in employing a younger generation, who already think, act and do what is set to become the future of things.
  • ‘The onus is on agencies to develop a mutually beneficial business model’
    With the creative and digital landscape changing so rapidly, and the old hourly rate model so scarily out-of-date, Chris Thurling (Bristol Media) suggested that the onus is very much on agencies to develop a business model that better suits the needs of clients, possibly one where value delivered is better rewarded than simply a transactional model in which agencies get paid regardless of output and results? Who knows, but the onus is very much on agencies to pave the way.
  • Speed is the essence
    I rounded off my day of masterclasses with a highly energetic and engaging session from the effervescent Richard Norton (Indicia) who passionately encouraged us to embrace this new world of mobile communications and championed news hijacking as one of the shining examples of how us mere mortals could stand up and get noticed in a crowded market place. But speed of thought, swift action and a fast sign-off process are all critical to success, as is the necessity to think like an active and roving news team!

So there you have it. An action packed, whistle-stop tour of Bristol Media’s masterclass held on Monday 6th July 2015.
I’m sure there were plenty of other things I overlooked and apologies to all those speakers I didn’t get to see or include.

Were you there?
What were your take-aways?

What do you make of my own assessment?