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6

December

2013

An Agency Can Change Without Losing Its Culture :

If there is one constant in life it’s change. In life, and in business, change comes whether we plan for it or not, whether we want it to or not, or whether we profit from it or not. Ad agencies, if they are to stay relevant in these times of change, must be ready, willing, and able to adapt. But adapting does not mean sacrificing, nor does it mean changing the culture you have created. Change, if done correctly, can mean “to make better.”

In the 1950s, 60s, and 70s, change at an ad agency could be done in a number of ways. As TV became a budding conduit for advertising, an agency could simply replace staff, change tactics, and offer new services to their existing clients in the form of commercials. They could merge with one another to create a larger agency, one capable of attracting larger clients. In short, they could just change something and be done with it.

Today, it’s different. The major difference in the playing field of advertising is clearly the ever-evolving Internet and social media. Television is still here and important, and, yes, so are radio, print, and outdoor advertising. But simply deciding to merge with another agency, bring on new talent, or start solely focusing on one medium (i.e. TV, online, etc.) isn’t as easy to do in today’s economy.

Today, communication is key. Clients, co-workers, potential clients – everyone wants to be knowledgeable, not only about the end results, but about the process too. Communication may seem like a more difficult task these days, with the “break neck” pace of change itself (again, credit the Internet / social media), but communication is still the most important product that your agency can ever produce. In fact, it should also be free and easy for clients to get. If it isn’t, something is wrong.

One aspect of change, it seems, that nearly every agency desires but is also one of the hardest to adjust to is growth. No matter your staff size, if your client list grows by 25 percent, or you land the largest client to-date, you don’t want your staff to suddenly feel overwhelmed and jump ship. The best way to handle growth is to prepare your agency so growth isn’t even felt (in terms of added stress).

But how is that done? It’s done by networking. If the “burden” of this fast-paced Internet era has a plus side, it’s the ability to connect with current and future team members nearly at a moment’s notice. So even though your agency might be strumming along on a nice path, but hoping new business comes in, it should also be out there pounding the cyber pavement meeting and networking with people you might want to call on when new client calls start coming in.

Another important way to handle change is to understand that if your agency experiences change, so do all your clients. You can’t hide that from them. Of course (and again), this is where communication comes in. But more importantly, change is an opportunity to connect more deeply with clients, figuratively hold their hands, and ride the change together.

Change allows you to use tools that you have already been using in your agency – tracking. You never complete a project and then wipe your hands of it. You’re there tracking its progression, making small changes as needed to boost performance. It’s the same with internal changes; keep track of what’s working and what’s not, talk about what you find with your staff, your fellow leaders, and continue working with what works. Don’t waste your time fixing something you actually broke on purpose.

Tell us, what changes has your agency experienced and what helped you get through them?