Bad Review: Search Consultants Slam Agencies For Lack Of Differentiation

Almost all agencies obsessively promote how different they are from other shops in efforts to retain clients and win new business. But a new survey from Avidan Strategies shows that most industry search consultants believe agencies don’t do a good job of differentiating their services in competitive reviews.

The survey was conducted online in late November among more than two dozen consultants registered with the 4As, the ad industry trade organization.

When asked what agencies could do to have a better overall approach to new business, the majority of the consultants surveyed -- 82% -- cited the need to create a “differentiated agency brand.”

Writing on his Forbes blog about the results, Avidan president Avi Dan surmised: “Very few agencies actually do have a differentiated brand. Most believe that by being all things to all people they will be able to attract new business, but it seems that the opposite is true. Clearly, the agencies should practice what they preach to their clients, day in and day out, and seek to differentiate.”

Almost unanimously (96%) the consultants in the survey cited agency-client “chemistry” as the key factor to winning pitches. And 61% said that winning shops present a “confident, articulate team.” Nearly 40% stated that “demonstrating passion for the client’s business” is critical to the pitch effort.

Just over 80% said the top catalyst for an agency review was the arrival of a new CMO at the client. When that happens, wrote Dan, agencies should “assume that you are in a new business pitch mode for the next six months, even if one hasn’t actually been called. It’s up to the agency to win the new CMO over … the relationship can’t be taken for granted.”

The other key reasons that lead to a review, per the survey, are “business performance issues” and “relationship problems.”

The majority of consultants believe there will be more creative and digital agency reviews next year than in 2012, while about half indicated that more media agency reviews are likely.

The biggest agency challenges are becoming more accountable, enhancing digital skills and generally having more efficient operations.

“Clients are retrenching, and consumers are becoming more frugal,” Dan wrote. “The pressure to grow by winning new business will intensify. The role of new business directors will be critical to agency success in what is likely to be a more robust environment of agency pitches.”

The survey also quizzed consultants on their choices for top agencies in the business. Those results were reported separately by Avidan.

Tags: accounts, agency
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1 comment about "Bad Review: Search Consultants Slam Agencies For Lack Of Differentiation".
  1. Michael Hubbard from Media Two Interactive , December 14, 2012 at 8:27 a.m.
    So the irony to me on this is my own generalization of Agency Consultants... Every time there's a major review - who do they call? The same handful of agencies who are perceived to be the best, and then they sprinkle in a couple filler agencies who rarely stand a chance unless the CMO wants to roll the dice on a "risky" play and run the risk of already cutting short his/her CMO lifespan. So why in the world would you think that the same agencies you invite to every pitch would be able to differentiate themselves (and why would they want to - they're already the safe selection)?