Although many businesses are bringing agency work in-house, talent gaps have led some businesses to rely on outsourcing. A new report [download page] from Ascend2 explores agency trends, finding that 59% of marketers intend to use agencies for online advertising and retargeting, while another 56% say they will be used for personalization.
Marketers also say that agencies will be used for other martech trends such as data/content visualization (41%), automation (38%) and AI (28%).
With the more than 250 marketers surveyed working alongside agencies in numerous areas, there are bound to be areas of friction.
When marketers were asked what the most challenging barriers were to the success of a client/agency relationship, almost half (48%) cited delivering innovative ideas as one of the top challenges. Indeed, businesses are looking to agencies for strategy more than creative this year, with 45% saying that overall marketing strategy is one of the capabilities they require most from an agency (compared to 33% who said that content creation is required most).
The desire for agencies to help with strategy is not new. Research from several years ago identified strategic insights as one of the top criteria marketers used when choosing an agency, while more recent research from Agency Spotter found that digital strategy was one of the top 5 services searched for on their public agency search platform.
Yet other barriers exist that threaten the success of client/agency relationships. These include attributing revenue to marketing (45%), delivering on established metrics (35%), maintaining effective project management (33%) and completely understanding the brand (30%). Despite the challenges, close to all the marketers surveyed said that agencies were able to overcome these barriers either somewhat successfully (57%) or very successfully (42%).
Other Capabilities and Attributes Required
While being able to provide marketing strategy is the capability required by the largest number of respondents, content creation (33%), lead generation (32%), social media management (31%), advertising/retargeting/PPC (29%) and branding (26%) are also skills that marketers feel are often required from an agency. To a lesser extent, marketers also look to agencies for more technology-based capabilities such as overall technology strategy (18%) and marketing and sales automation (17%).
So, what agency attributes are most in-demand in the eyes of marketers? It should come as no surprise that creativity (55%) tops the list. For some businesses, smaller agencies may fulfill this attribute best, as Globality and the CMO Club found that about two-fifths of CMOs believe the small to mid-size agencies offer more creativity than larger agencies.
Marketers also say they desire agencies to be responsive (54%), be able to execute (46%) and to be innovative (41%).
Finally, the report reveals that when it comes to finding an agency, client referrals (35% share) and word-of-mouth (32% share) were the most common sources, followed by internet search (27% share). Only 6% of marketers reported using a search consultant when looking for an agency.
To read more, the full report can be downloaded here.
About the Data: Findings are based on a global survey of 257 marketing professionals targeting B2B (39%), B2C (41%) and B2B and B2C equally (20%).