Agency owners and professionals have been pushed to their limits in 2020. In the past nine months alone, agencies have had to lean into remote work, shifting client priorities and current events that were far from predictable.
But agencies also learned plenty about themselves and their clients, and are taking those lessons with them into 2021. From doubling down on client satisfaction to creating flexible packages to championing social as a service, agencies that embrace change are poised for growth in the year to come.
In The Agency Pricing and Packaging Report, we examine how agencies think about their service offerings and how they are packaging and pricing client proposals. We also look at how agencies have responded to the challenges of 2020 and what they can do to further demonstrate social’s value to their clients. Here are six stats to help agencies improve their processes, keep clients happy and win more business in 2021.
Adaptability is the key to success
We all know there’s no such thing as one size fits all in #AgencyLife but in a time of unpredictability and change, agencies need to be more adaptable if they want to be successful. From how they build their packages to contract lengths and beyond, customization and flexibility are essential in providing clients with exactly what they need, when they need it. This renewed focus on aligning agency services to client needs isn’t just for the client’s benefit. Gaining a deeper understanding of client needs creates a sense of teamwork and allows agencies to fully step into their role as a trusted advisor.
1. 83% of agencies create custom packages or proposals per client.
Customization might seem like more work upfront, but the ability to curate packages with clients specific needs in mind is worth the effort. With brands feeling empowered to take certain services in house, agencies are tasked with filling the skills gap, offering expertise and strategy to help their clients achieve their goals.
Since the start of COVID-19, 28% of agencies are offering more service package customization than in previous years. For example, eight in 10 agencies provide customized packages per client and 35% of agencies offering customizable standard pricing. An additional 35% of agencies now offer a la carte pricing, allowing clients to choose exactly what they need within their budget.
Take action: Be open and willing to explore flexible pricing options for clients and prioritize packages that complement a client’s own efforts. Agencies should use the discovery phase to understand exactly what work clients are doing in house and where they need support from agencies to reach their business goals. This is an opportunity for agencies to position themselves as a true partner to clients, rather than someone who does everything for the clients themselves.
2. 28% of agencies have seen an increase in project work during COVID-19.
We’ve been hearing for a while that lengthy retainers are being replaced with shorter, project work, and it’s no surprise that COVID-19 has thrown this trend into overdrive. While it’s understandable at first to balk at the idea of taking on more “risky” project work, many agencies are thriving under this structure. Project work empowers agencies to focus on what they do well, ensuring they deliver great work which goes a long way to build trust with clients.
In marketing, when one campaign finishes, the next begins. Playing a key role in project work and driving results can, in fact, be just as stable, and potentially more lucrative, than the old-school retainers.
Take action: To get started, agencies need to identify the capabilities they do best and drive the highest margins. This is the service they should test on project work. By doubling down on what they do best, agencies are setting themselves up for success by delivering on their client’s expectations. Solid results = happy clients.
Social is more valuable than ever
Recent data shows that many of the online habits picked up during quarantine are here to stay, key among them consumers’ increased use of social media. Sprout research that examined social media activity from November 1-23 in 2019 compared to 2020 revealed a staggering 1301.7% YoY increase in comments. It goes without saying that social media has solidified its role as a key player in communication, brand awareness, lead generation, revenue stream, customer care and beyond. And brands of all shapes and sizes are taking notice.
For agencies, social media can no longer be a nice to have or an afterthought. Agency’s social media services offerings need to be a defined, integral part of any package or proposal moving forward.
3. Refine and define social media services
As social media becomes more integrated into digital marketing strategy, agencies are getting more specific about the social media services they offer, what the service entails and how it can impact the client’s business. We found that the top social media services offered by agencies are social media management (98%) followed by social media strategy, content development and social media analytics.
Offering new services, like social listening, can help agencies uncover actionable insights for their clients previously available through costly focus groups and lengthy surveys. B3 Media Solutions, a social data and analytics agency, succinctly outlines how listening can help brands strengthen their social marketing strategies.
Take action: Agencies should consider unbundling their services to deliver on their specific client needs without undervaluing their agency services. Allowing clients to pick from an extensive list of well-defined social media services to create their customized package will promote transparency, increase alignment and offer flexibility for their clients. Listing out social media services individually also allows agencies to clearly define the goal, scope and strategies included with each service.
4. 70% of agencies state social is integral to their packages.
When asked how agencies position social media services within their packages, a whopping 70% said that social media was an integral part of their whole package. Based on the current environment, we only anticipate this number to grow. In fact, when asked how COVID-19 has affected agencies, over one third of all agencies said social is more integral to their client packages now than pre-pandemic. On the other hand, only 4% stated that social is an afterthought.
From PR to Creative to Digital marketing agencies and beyond, social media clearly has a role to play in marketing strategy, data analysis, brand awareness, audience engagement and more. JumpStartNOW, a boutique marketing agency, understands the value of using data to power their strategies and offers social media marketing as one of its core services.
Take action: As agencies look ahead to the new year, positioning social as a core service offering should be a top priority. For a social-first agency, this may mean unbundling services and charging for specific offerings; for digital agencies, this could be using social to obtain valuable voice of customer insights. Agencies that fail to include some aspect of social media services in their client packages risk leaving money on the table and an opportunity to strengthen their client relationships.
Retain and win new business by empowering clients
For most agencies, client satisfaction is more than a buzzword— it’s mission critical to an agency’s success. But achieving client satisfaction isn’t a one-and-done item agencies check off their to do list. It requires ongoing collaboration, education and transparency to create happy clients and convert them into advocates.
5. 93% of agencies count on referrals to drive new business.
Growing the agency business is consistently a priority for agency leaders, with 55% of agencies saying growing their business is a top agency pain point. With over 90% of agencies relying on word-of-mouth or referrals to drive new business, it is essential for agencies to not only keep clients happy but convert them into advocates. This can only be done by consistently delivering exceptional work and world-class customer services.
Highlighting great client work goes a long way in supporting a referral program, especially when prospects can see what an agency has done for a brand that is similar to their own. Idea Grove, a PR and marketing agency specializing in B2B tech, gives their clients regular shout outs on their social media profiles.
Take action: Agencies that rely heavily on referrals to drive new business efforts need to prioritize client satisfaction. Setting clear expectations from the start, streamlining communication channels and aligning on business goals will ensure agencies and clients are in lockstep. One action all agencies should implement at the start of any project is to establish regular check-ins with their clients. During that time, agencies should come with updates on campaigns and goals, and encourage clients to ask questions about things like timelines and overall expectations.
6. Agencies have an opportunity to educate clients on social’s true value
Of all the challenges agency leaders face, 54% of agencies struggle to educate their clients on the value of social media. Some clients may not see the value in their brand being on social while others fail to see how social directly impacts revenue. And when clients don’t see the return on their investment in social, they’re less likely to invest in social in the first place.
To address this issue, agencies should treat every interaction with their clients as a teaching opportunity. Proposals, one off emails, weekly syncs and end of month reporting all offer agencies a chance to educate clients on how social impacts key metrics across the business. Appleyard Agency, for example, uses their LinkedIn profile to share educational articles with their audience and content that illustrates why it’s important for brands to maintain their social presence.
Take action: Agencies shouldn’t assume clients will automatically connect the dots between social marketing and its impact on client business metrics. One way to remedy this situation is to identify what specifically clients don’t understand about social media and why they think social isn’t the right investment for their brand. Once agencies know where their clients’ knowledge gaps are, then they can take the steps to educate their stakeholders and demonstrate social’s true value.
Control what you can control
While we’re collectively living through a time unlike any other, the agencies that are thriving are those that have been willing to ebb and flow with their client’s needs. By prioritizing flexibility and customization, agencies can further strengthen their client relationships while also closing new deals.
Looking ahead to 2021, while agencies can’t predict what their clients will need, they can reevaluate how they price and package their services now so they can meet their clients where they are at.
These are just a few of our findings in our Agency Pricing and Packaging Report. Download the rest of the data to read our full insights on agencies’ pain points, what services are included in social media packages and their approach to pitching their services.