Shoeing the Cobbler’s ChildrenOr how to help marketing services agencies develop adifferentiated proposition and compelling narrative Martin Thomas @crowdsurfing
The Cobbler’s Children’s Shoes AreNever MendedMarketing services agencies are very adept at helping clients developdifferentiated and relevant propositions and at devising coherent andcompelling brand narratives, but they are consistently poor at applyingthese skills to their own businesses.As a result the marketing services industry features a huge number ofill-differentiated agencies, failing to stand-out in a highly clutteredmarketplace. They all claim that they are different but to the ears ofmost clients they all sound the same.Over the past few years - working with a large number of advertising,media, PR, sponsorship and digital agencies - I have developed a simple,six-stage planning methodology that can help agency leaders developpropositions and narratives that cut through the market clutter.
Planning Methodology for Agencies 1. Align 2. Audit o Six logical stages, that can be completed in a matter of 3. Analyse weeks o Engaging both internal & 4. Articulate external stakeholders 5. Amplify 6. Action
1. Align o Objective Internal alignment* on: • Agency’s strategic vision • What agency stands for – values, desired reputation • Commercial objectives (short & longer-term) • Perceived client needs & market opportunity o Best way to achieve this objective Workshops & one-one briefings with multi-level agency team. Issues or disagreements need to be resolved before beginning any further work* This is often the biggest stumbling block. All too often the agency leaders do not agree onvision, values & objectives
2. Audit o Objective Understand external perceptions of the agency (strengths & weaknesses) Identify current & future client needs Review market opportunities o Best way to achieve this objective One-to-one stakeholder interviews, ideally conducted by someone independent of the agency** Clients and other stakeholders are more likely to give an honest appraisal of the agency toan independent/external interviewer than to an agency employee.
3. Analyseo Objective Merging internal & external inputs to develop a credible, relevant and differentiating proposition that: • Aligns different parts of the business • Has potential to inspire team, interest market & open up new revenue streamso Best way to achieve this objective Strategic planning session for small group of internal & external experts • Test that needs to be applied to proposition … Is it credible for this agency? Is it differentiating within market (or simply a category generic)? Is it relevant to our people & clients? Does it excite us with its possibilities?
4. Articulate o Objective Creation of an agency narrative/story that can be used across all internal and external channels o Best way to achieve this objective Recruit an external copywriter/journalist** Even agencies that you would assume employ people with good writing skills struggle toarticulate what they do. This is where an external perspective and focus can be useful.
5. Amplifyo Objective Review the implications of adhering to the proposition for all aspects of the agency’s business • E.g. What does it mean for … • … the way we work? • … training • … the way we are structured? • … future recruitment • … the way the offices look & feel? • … commercial strategy? • … marketing? • … the type of partnerships we establish • … credentials? • … NPD?o Best way to achieve this objective Agency workshops & internal creative sessions
6. Actiono Objective Putting the initiatives developed during the Amplify stage into practiceo Best way to achieve this objective Assign different tasks/workstreams to key individuals Track progress formally (management meeting agenda item) Review progress after 6 & 12 months
Martin Thomasmartin@crowdsurfing.net@ crowdsurfing