WRITTEN BY LISA CALHOUN
In the two seconds it takes you to read this sentence, 1,000 photos have been uploaded to Instagram. Its 300 million users, as I write this, share 70 million moments every day.
As we move into 2015, agencies are in a new position.
We no longer own “the most creative content.” Actually, creative content is a commodity now. So how can agencies stand out and grow in 2015?
Traditionally, we’ve let our clients do the talking and refer us -- that will stay the same. Traditionally, we’ve also let our amazing creative work do the talking -- that will no longer stand. Faster technology and better access to global creative talent has so far driven down the barrier to “getting great creative” that it is in reach for almost anyone.
What isn’t so easy is the knowledge to tune that creative product quickly. Tuning marketing is an arena we’ll own more than ever in 2015. Companies will rely on agencies more for our combined speed, experience, and excellence in execution than for the idea that we create smarter stuff. It won’t be seen as smarter, I hate to say. It will be seen as safer -- as in a safer bet than building out your own team. When did you last hear that hiring an agency is a risk-reduction strategy? In 2015, it will be.
Thus, I’m confident the fast-growth, breakout agencies in 2015 will focus on two to three of the following 10 marketing predictions in the year ahead.
My perspective is not only informed by my own firm’s marketing stances -- we are the publicity arm for half a dozen non-competitive agencies in several states. With that wealth of experience, I’d like to share a few predictions on the year ahead for us.
1) Content is a commodity, so don’t focus on the content.
Focus on the distribution of great content. If your client struggles with content, finding ways to help them win in the content commodity market is a major victory. Do you have a client services path for that that works for several types of content, from written to video?
2) Content emerges as a proxy and pathway for culture and social proof.
Great agencies will help their clients find ways to showcase their culture and build meaningful social proof for their cultural position in their industry. Are they the innovator? The market leader? Content marketing done right will help your client with top employee retention and recruitment in an increasingly part-time, crowdsourced workplace.
3) Distribution strategy will define dominance for content marketing strategies.
This doesn't only apply to our clients. Does your agency have a thoughtful distribution pipeline for its amazing creative material? Get a handle on this in 2015.
4) Search marketing returns to the center -- but in a new way.
Long-tail searches have always been valuable, but in a world where clients know how to search expertly and locally, refreshing our slightly stale case studies or project pages with a niche SEO strategy will pay off in having them actually found in 2015.
5) App universes influence buying decisions more than ever.
This demands new types of calls-to-action and new marketing approaches. Develop an outbound or lead generation best practice in an app universe you may already design or develop for. Can you imagine how much fun you’d have launching a new consumer product into viral adoption using YikYak or Secret?
6) Authority moves further from trade associations to leading companies who support -- and sometimes own or create -- trade associations.
To share an easy example of this I have to look no further than the coffee table on my front porch here in Atlanta. There’s a copy of Heritage Gardener magazine. I read it because I like it. It’s full of how-to articles, such as how to grow your own backyard shiitakes and how to force bloom tulips over the holidays. It is also 100% owned and produced by RareSeeds. It exists entirely to get customers to buy more seeds from the catalog. That’s distribution and platform -- just like old-school Sears used to do. Agencies in 2015 will realize even niche markets are as big as national markets used to be 50 years ago because of population growth and pervasive internet.
7) Analysts are further marginalized as insight providers and find their real value in introductions.
Leading agencies are the new insight providers because we can blend insights and experience across several companies, platforms, and technologies while it’s still a relevant perspective. That means we can iterate faster and better for companies than they can for themselves. We are among the solutions to the “innovation versus the enterprise” dilemma, you could say.
If time is money, agencies are the fastest path to realizing new products and services that actually sell. Make sure your 2015 marketing plan gets your own thought leadership out there in the verticals you like to work in.