The external agency is undergoing a period of reinvention – hardly a rare occurrence in an industry known for its rapid shifts. The trend precipitating this current need for agency evolution, though, is that more and more brands are using in-house teams to fulfill marketing activities that had previously been the purview of an external agency. The talent and general capabilities of in-house teams has become increasingly competitive with those of external agencies. This means that to really add value, agencies better learn some new tricks. Agencies must double down at becoming experts in doing what in-house teams cannot, and must inspire CMOs with accurate visions of all that is possible with their strategic and creative teams. Thankfully for agencies, those very industry shifts that often push agencies in new directions can also be their salvation. Here’s why.
CMOs know how fast campaign wants and requirements can change. However, an in-house team is a set of individuals with certain skills – it can hardly turn on a dime. On the high, turbulent seas of the marketing world, an in-house team is reliable for its designed functions, but it’s an anchor. Say, for example, that a real estate brand needs to get into virtual reality marketing in a big way to compete – a scenario where proficiency in bleeding edge technology becomes key. The CMO is going to have to go external for that expertise. Now, a powerful way for external agencies to win over CMOs like this is to be Agile agencies. By taking a cue from the trend in how many software development companies now build products, agencies offer precise units of specific marketing work through small iterative sprints.
While the Agile approach is certainly merited, it does bring up an interesting dichotomy in the industry between agencies and clients. CMOs can often struggle to define and explain what exactly they’re looking for in agency work. Maybe you have a real estate brand, and the market is such that you must offer a VR experience to compete – but what exactly do you want your brand's VR experience to be? This is another reason agencies benefit from Agile. They can dive into a project even if it isn’t fully defined, show their work from completed early sprints, learn (and help the client learn) which avenues to continue down, and adjust the work as needed before making a full commitment to a certain end product.
However, Agile processes can make it trickier for the agency to define a project’s endpoint and price their work. Meanwhile, the CMO has a duty to try and lock in a price and keep the process predictable. While CMOs don’t like budgetary uncertainty, they love Agile, because it allows them the flexibility to change course as needed. Maybe the product isn’t a VR home walkthrough anymore, maybe now it’s become an augmented reality experience where you see a vision of the house where it will stand. As CMOs navigate changing markets and face an unknown future, the freedom to adjust their sails quickly is a cherished thing. This is what agencies must provide.
In return, CMOs ought to understand that agencies will reserve the right to adjust their prices as necessary. A CMO calling for a full 180 of an agency’s work should expect a recalculation of their workload and pricing based on the new ask. This is the future of this relationship and the landscape upon which each CMO and Agile agency will have to strike a balance.