Let’s acknowledge the ‘fresh’ start bestowed upon agencies this year. It’s 2021. COVID-19 hasn’t gone away, and the benchmark’s been set: ROI or bust

In 2020, everything we thought we knew went out the window. Unsurprisingly, client confidence took a catastrophic beating (bye budgets, bye work). 

Kudos to agencies who had to adapt, pivot, and change their course of action on the daily. 

This year, there’s a chance to do it all again – but better. 

Just because we’re living through an uncertain time doesn’t mean you can’t stay informed. In fact, it means you need to. 

To keep revenue from drying up in a pandemic, you need to be able to gauge where things are going so you can act confidently when others fall short.  

Here are three solid principles to help keep your agency on course, agile, and profitable – even when the inevitable challenges and roadblocks crop up to say hi. 

1. Wise up on your audience, faster.

If you only do one thing this year: up your research game, and do it now. 

Traditional research methods became less viable during the crisis – meaning those relying on these couldn’t take the pulse of their consumers at scale when they needed to most. 

When the credibility of your agency and the success of your strategy depends on it, use the right tool.

The alternative – online survey data – allows you to identify, understand and act on continually changing trends in heartbeat. 

it’s one of the few things that hasn’t been impacted by the pandemic. Once you dig into global, local, and even the most niche consumer trends – and realise how granular you can go in an instant – there’s no looking back.

Agency top tip: You’re at risk of being left behind (and focusing on the wrong things) if you don’t read the room before others have, (and that applies to agencies of any size). While the world battles the virus, don’t ignore what’s happening. These winning campaigns of 2020 are testament that empathetic approaches – launched at the right time – are a sure way cut through, once they’re tailored to the right audience. So listen up , and don’t let it be an afterthought.  

2. Grow the relationship during a pitch.

Getting buy-in during pitches is harder than ever. These are weird times – and it may feel like more work – but you can still score big by framing and delivering your pitch in a more personal way

What’s tough right now

You need to connect with the stakeholders and guide them through your proposal with conviction. But without meeting face-to-face, ensuring your presentation is as slick as can be in the virtual sphere presents a different kind of challenge. Plus, you’re left to judge their reaction to your insights, reasoning and ideas from behind a screen – arguably harder if you’re not used to it.

What’s in your control

  • Own the small talk. It’s as important as all the behind-the-scenes work you’ve just done. Exchanges you have pre, during, and post-pitch are opportunities to build trust. Make light of yours and the stakeholders’ shared experiences during the pandemic so you can weave anecdotes from conversation into your presentation as you go. Being receptive and attentive helps them feel confident in you, your work, and, importantly, your data.
  • Take them on a journey – the right one. You’re the expert, so act like one. Do show off data your client might be lacking; don’t present a string of facts if they don’t amount to something bigger – the insight. Lead with the story always, and back it up with consumer insight and quotes to show how you arrived at that point in a way that sounds natural.
  • Be bold. Don’t circumvent consumer needs because they’ve changed; help address and solve them. The key to winning over customers (and prospective clients) is to stand with them – by recognising what’s important to them, and showing up to make a positive difference. 

Agency top tip: Pitch mindfully – knowing it’s a balance between empathizing with the audience’s mindset and circumstances as much as the client’s, who are taking a risk and have to shoulder the responsibility. If negotiations stall, it’s most likely a sign of the times. With so many economies on shaky ground, clients may be hesitant to move forward quickly for at least the foreseeable future. 

3. Scope out new opportunities – like project work.

As we all know by now, adaptation is key. Maybe you’re getting the most from a few strategic accounts, spreading your net wide, or have a different plan of attack – the key is to stay open to opportunities.

As the wait for a “post-COVID” world keeps stretching out, holding in the hopes of securing long-term contracts can send your ROI in the opposite direction. Many are embracing the thing that’s taken the place of these strategies: short-term project work.

Outsourcing projects is a low-risk way for brands to work with an agency before they make that bigger commitment. Knowing this, you can make it work for you.

Project work is an opportunity, like anything else. The difference is what you make of it. 

If your work really stands out, leaning into the smaller projects until brands’ confidence comes back is an early foot in the door. They’ll remember the stellar work you’ve already done – and you may be saying yes to lucrative repeat business. 

Be thorough, and don’t cut corners. To get the level of detail at the speed you need it, a combination of research can hit the spot. 

Steps for developing a data-first project

  1. Gather relevant data on the GWI platform.
  2. To get even more granular or niche, carry out custom research with GWI.
  3. Share key data points with the creative department.
  4. Identify the strategic insight to work on.
  5. Develop the creative concept.
  6. Apply the right touchpoints.
  7. Profit.

Agency top tip: With project work, you have to begin with the end in mind. Small gains are good gains, so do every brief justice. Set the bar high, because you never know what opportunities could come after.

Turning projects around quickly: KIWI

As far as pitching goes, tailored, data-driven insight can be the difference between winning and losing. But you don’t get paid for the time you spend preparing for a pitch, so if your conversion rate isn’t good, the hours and hours you’ve put in feel wasted. 

Creative powerhouse agency, KIWI, knows the value of not only providing great data, but getting it fast. A global pandemic wasn’t going to stop them.

The challenge

When it became clear they needed better data to support the creative team in meeting briefs faster, they knew exactly where to turn.

The team had access to data sources, but turnaround time was normally 4-5 days – far too long to be as efficient as they had the potential to be.

The agency saw the benefits of a data source that offers up research on not only who an audience is, but what makes them tick.In a bid to meet a tricky brief, the team took to the GWI platform to find the insight and inspiration they needed.

The action

A global household-name brand was looking to roll out a large campaign celebrating its health-focused drink offering. 

KIWI created a 360-degree view of the brand’s target consumer, focusing on demographics mixed with attitudes, lifestyles, media consumption, and many more attributes.

“We used GWI to build a real idea of our consumer, and then to understand the emotional behind the behavior, self-interests, and purchasing actions,” says Arya Alfieri, Creative Strategist at KIWI.

The portrait gave them all they needed to pinpoint the idea that would hit the mark – an interactive campaign spanning Facebook, Instagram and TikTok,. 

The result

Briefs are now a different ball game for the team.

Their first project based on GWI research created something unique and memorable for the client – and got the team from a 5-day turnaround to delivering research down to an impressive 2 days.

“GWI has totally changed our strategy – we’re now totally oriented towards our target audiences,” says Arya. “The data gives us the tools we need to map our consumers’ lives.”

It’s about leading with insight in 2021

We’re all getting used to changed circumstances, and as long as the curveballs keep coming, brands are going to proceed with caution. 

The trick is to keep mastering and honing your approach, so wading through these muddy waters is less futile. Setting yourself up for success this year is about having a solid foundation to work from; a robust data source is integral to good outcomes, and it will help you thrive, not survive. 

Keeping an open mind is also crucial – towards consumers, clients and the type of work that lands on your desk. 

Who knows – the path might (miraculously) be cleared before we expect. In the meantime, you’ll never knowingly undervalue the ‘researching’ part of your day again. 

Click to access our connecting the dots 2021 report

You’ve read our blog, now see our platform

Every business has questions about its audiences, GWI has answers. Powered by consistent, global research, our platform is an on-demand window into their world.