Who’d have thought that a single event could, within months, so change the world we live and work in?
Sure, some things will return to normal (if, that is, normal is term we can safely use ever again), but it is becoming clear that this pandemic will leave its mark in many ways, with much about our lives changed forever.
A controversial view, maybe, but in a business sense, such forced change may be no bad thing. In fact, it could be the wake-up call many agencies working in the marketing sector need.
Naturally this unprecedented period will have had a less than positive impact on creative agencies financially, but then again this is no different from other areas of the economy.
The less fortunate agencies are those with clients in the sectors worst hit. Who could have forecast such an event and such consequences? For the others, it will probably mean the year’s targets have taken a hit, but that client spends will come back eventually. Indeed this has already started to happen with agencies getting busy again.
They key thing, however, is what this may have taught the creative agency sector about what the future may look like. The complacent ones will assume shaping for the future may include more ‘zoom meetings’ or ‘more flexible remote working policies remaining in place for their teams’ or if they are really adventurous, ‘both’.
In my view, that’d be missing the point of this whole situation; this whole opportunity to shape our futures and our prospects by learning from the C-word. No, it’s not covid I’m referring to (although it has a lot to answer for) but the ‘Client’.
Let’s remember, if we are going to be successful everything we do should be geared around understanding the needs of our client, our customer. Isn’t that the very thing we are in marketing agencies to do?
So rather than lick wounds and carry on regardless, agencies should be thinking long and hard about developing their offering around the now-changed circumstances of their clients.
Which is exactly what we have been doing here at Naked. Let me explain...
At Naked we work with predominantly small and medium sized clients, with just a smattering of bigger organisations who have thankfully come to us having heard the good things we are up to. But in the main we know who we want to focus on and we’ve been able to monitor and assess what this pandemic has meant to them – and in particular their marketing functions. Surely only by doing this could we shape our offering to meet their changed needs and priorities, and deliver them more smartly than anyone else fishing in our pond. A little ‘future-proofing’ if you like.
A few of our learnings, then.
First and foremost, client resource
The brands we work with who have in-house marketing teams have furloughed team members. Many of these will return, some sadly may not. How can we help such clients to fill the gap?
Where we have clients with just a single in-house marketing person, Covid has made their working lives more unpredictable than ever before. How can we help, hold their hands, reassure and react to help them to move forward?
A few of our clients have no marketing staff at all, so how can we take the weight off the already-stressed owner/manager who has so many other things on their mind? Is there a new solution we can bring to the table?
The second key area is responsiveness
Agencies have always been criticised by their clients for the time things take from brief to launch.
Now the expectation, or should I say the ‘hope’, will be even greater. Strategic plans have had to go out of the window. Projects have been stop start to say the least.
When a project finally gets the green light, it inevitably needs fast turnround. There’s no place for weeks or months in planning or production. Project management needs to be clearer and smoother than ever before. Yes, a real headache of a challenge, but one which will separate the nimble and hungry from the regimented and bloated.
Allied to this is the ‘right first time’ mentality in all of this
None of the above will mean anything if you are not providing the level of attention to detail every job deserves. More than ever this will be vital. Get it wrong and the profitability of the job goes out of the window, the client walks out the door.
Agility and care, both production-wise – and creatively – will be key. Yes, clients will still expect fresh ideas to give them the edge. How can we make both possible?
Which brings me on to a final consideration.
What if the result of 2020 will see greater change than any of us are currently anticipating? What then?
What if client marketing undergoes more holistic change in a post-Covid world? What if some of our clients decide that moving forward they’d rather not have marketing teams and expertise in-house at all? Could there be a new agency model that can appeal to this view – and prove it can work?
There is much to think about. Indeed, these are all things we have been evaluating when refining the future shape of Naked in recent months.
Being a smaller agency with longstanding clients to share ideas with makes it easier for us to move swiftly and put such plans in place. The result, we believe, puts us in a really good place for building the agency’s roster of small and medium sized brands.
Changes we are making will make Naked, more than ever, able to bring about high quality creative brand, design and digital work to those who don’t necessarily have large agency budgets.
We are already starting to work with clients as their ‘on demand’ agency, the agency they know they can trust, to rely on for fast turnround projects and campaigns where a ‘right first time’ delivery is paramount.
We are more than ready to step in with proactive initiatives where clients may have those post-furlough gaps. Taking that thought a stage further, we can shape our processes to work as a client’s own external ‘marketing department’. Scenario planning that none of us ever dreamed possible (let alone sensible), less than a year ago.
In short, Naked has based its post-Covid future not by simply looking inwards – although we have made a few changes in that regard too. Much greater, however, is the time we have taken concentrating looking ‘outwards’, on the other C-word, the Client. Making sure everything we are doing is geared around how we can add even more value to them in future has been - and remains - top of our list.
There’s no rocket science in all this. Marketing, after all, is supposed to be about exactly that - understanding and communicating with your customers! No more,. No less.
But I’m just not sure that’s where everyone’s eye is focused at the moment – and just maybe it should be?