What matters to small agencies in 2019 and where are the opportunities?

With project-based contracts on the rise, there are more chances to win new business. At the same time, brands are continuing to shift core skills and expertise in-house.

A constant challenge for many small agencies is being recognized. When you’re up against networked agencies that have long-standing reputations; what’s your specialism? What are you known for? What makes you unique?

Standing out is paramount when brand recognition is everything.

An increasing number of independent agencies are busy redefining the way they work, placing more emphasis on data to establish and maintain their competitive edge.

In the end, it’s all about working smarter.

The indies of tomorrow

Independent agencies are future-proofing themselves.

You can’t ignore the facts: people today are harder to reach.

Consumers have higher expectations of brands – and they’re making the rules.

They want more personalization, authenticity and relevance. They’re in control of their own purchase journey and their attention is divided across numerous devices, social platforms and websites at any given time.

Let’s not forget: we live in an era of short attention spans. Communicating in a way that will resonate is a huge challenge.

This can only be met by proving your understanding of consumers is much deeper than that of your competitors.

Many independent agencies may not have the liberty of cherry picking which data and analysis tools to use, and they might not have large teams or surplus funds to ‘experiment’ with.

But this hasn’t stopped the agencies that will see the most success in the future from seeking a time-saving, efficient way of gathering research.

They’ve uncovered a crucial truth: visibility over what people are doing isn’t enough. More than ever, we need to know:

  • Why are they doing it?
  • What’s motivating them?
  • How do they perceive these actions?

Smaller independent agencies in particular have greater ownership over the way they do business. This greater flexibility usually means fewer hoops to jump through when making marketing decisions. This means they can pivot, and be nimble.

These qualities are desirable: clients get excited because they want to work with fast-paced,responsive agencies.

Thinking differently can also translate into business advantage. The London-based indie agency, Creature, describes itself as “weird”, simply because it operates with employees’ best interests at heart. The things the company values are entirely personal, and may be unconventional to some.

“What independence doesn’t provide in terms of, well, loads of money, it more than makes up for in terms of freedom to be what we want to be, not what a network boss thinks we should,” says Dan Shute, Chief Executive and Co-Founder of Creature of London.

“We’ve said no to as many pitches as we’ve said yes to, and we’re still annoyingly principled about what we will and won’t do.”

Thinking differently and being insight-driven is helping indies compete with the world’s top agencies.

When you’re using the right tools, the size of your company doesn’t matter. If you move beyond being data-driven and learn how to distill – and make use of – powerful insights, clients have more reason to trust you.

You can only anticipate the success of a creative proposition when your ideas are 100% backed by research.

The changing role of insight

Turning data into actionable consumer insight is one of the most important skills for agencies today.

Insights provide a holistic view of your clients’ target consumers, enabling you to deliver impactful messages, at the right time, for the best return.

Data and insight are used interchangeably, but they’re not the same. Data forms the building blocks. But when the building blocks are assembled together, what does the structure reveal? Powerful, universal truths that shape brand narratives and creative ideas.

Thankfully, data gathering and analysis has become easier.

In 2019, the focus on consumer-centric data means insights are faster and easier to retrieve. You can use a single source to learn about the behaviors, perceptions and attitudes directly from true representatives of your target audience, rather than keep track of several arms of external research – and pay for them.

With brands under pressure to take back control of their budget and output, the most disruptive agencies are the ones pitching creative, data-driven ideas.

It’s the most convincing way to prove that talented creatives can present their ideas, and be sure about the positive ROI.

Data and fresh ideas: what getting smarter actually looks like

Insight-driven marketing strategies streamline spend because data brings clarity and precision to all aspects of business.

So what happens when granular, deep insight becomes part of your agency’s process?

1.  Master audience segmentation.

With a reliable source of credible data, teams are empowered to segment audiences with confidence and be more granular about who they’re targeting and how.

2. Be of better service.

When agencies can uncover actionable insights their clients might not have, they truly prove their worth and unique offering.

3.  Put consumers first.

Building campaign ideas on human truths from consumers themselves ensures they’re full of purpose and can be relied on.

4. Make more strategic decisions.

Analyzing a consumer’s path to purchase ensures money spent on media planning and buying isn’t wasted. And by knowing exactly how consumers expect to be marketed to by brands, you can become more strategic and waste less spend on unenlightened efforts that go nowhere.

5. Evaluate campaigns efficiently.

When you have a direct line of communication with your target audience, you can measure the true success of campaigns, already confident knowing they’re backed by universal truths.

The quality of insights you gather from customers has a direct influence on the quality of decisions you can make.

The challenge lies in ensuring data sets are truly representative and reliable. After that, it’s about asking: what are the most valuable pieces of the puzzle that can shape the right narrative?

Case study: How Barefoot Proximity is getting smarter, faster

Having the best tools for data analysis puts you in a better position to begin with, but knowing how to make the most of them makes you even more valuable.

Barefoot Proximity is a worldwide agency that harnesses powerful insights and smart targeting “to make people more valuable to brands”.

But despite their successes, they needed a “best in class” consumer data solution – one that would make them smarter, quicker.

A significant amount of time was sacrificed when dedicated teams responded to bespoke research requests every time a new project came in. With this in mind, the new data solution needed to give them a broader insight and save them more time.

Combining all research into a single-source solution meant teams could take a far more efficient approach.

And with this new process in place, Barefoot Proximity was able to reduce turnaround times by 35%, meaning more opportunities could be seized.

“We can do more in less time, with fewer resources,” says Brian MacDonald, SVP of Channel Integration at Barefoot Proximity. “Because we’re quicker and not spread so thin, we can manage a lot more opportunities.”

They also gained visibility over insights they struggled to find elsewhere, such as the why behind their consumers’ behaviors.

“Not having to spin up an entire research team to get smart on an audience and instead just having one or two people do that has been a game-changer for us.”

Read the full case study here.

Using data to go uniquely consumer-centric in 2019

The most inspiring – and successful – independent agencies are using insight to back up their business decisions.

Of eight disruptive UK independent agencies, some are building consumer-centric websites, and some are helping clients become wizards at WordPress.

Others rely on changing consumer expectations as their compass – and have amassed client lists of envying proportions and quality.

It goes to show when looking for ways to work smarter and create earth-shattering campaigns, data is the ultimate precursor for independent agencies to win big.

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