New Research: What Clients Expect from Agencies

At CMD, we learn a lot when we listen to the various target audiences of our clients, so we decided to use that philosophy to better understand our clients’ mindsets. We partnered with Riley Research to hear from Portland-area marketers about their challenges, and how they are utilizing agencies, to ensure we can be the best agency partner — one that can help marketers rest a bit easier.

The marketer’s role has evolved, thanks to new technology and channels — which is exciting, but also brings new pressures and stress. While some of marketers’ challenges remain the same over the years — such as limited budgets — some newer ones are taking hold, thanks to the ever-changing martech and channel landscapes. Many PDX marketers told us ROI is one of their top challenges. Marketing teams are being asked to prove their value to the business, bringing new challenges, like finding the right metrics and getting buy-in on short-term desires vs. long-term outcomes. Another challenge listed by many was how to stay ahead of the changing societal demographics, trends and the multichannel environment while juggling the internal sell-through of budget and performance.

We were curious if PDX marketers were turning to an agency partner or multiple agencies to help them achieve success, but what we found is that many marketers are combining multiple agencies and internal teams. While 30 percent of those surveyed rely on internal resources, some 39 percent utilize at least one external agency, and another 30 percent use two or more external agencies. The larger the internal marketing team, the more likely they are to use multiple external agencies. Marketers have very diverse attitudes regarding whether they are buying outcomes or specific services. Those with the smallest budgets tend to buy services, but those with the largest budgets are buying outcomes.

We discovered the potential of the client-agency partnership isn’t fully realized. Marketers believe the extremely valuable aspects of an agency include knowing marketing trends and strategies (65 percent), providing key insights (60 percent), professionalism (57 percent), industry knowledge (55 percent) and return on investment (52 percent). However, when asked about their satisfaction with their agency partners, the reviews are mixed, with just 14 percent very satisfied, 59 percent satisfied and 28 percent neutral, with no significant variations by budget size or company sales. We found there’s plenty of room for improvement, as few marketers said they were “very satisfied” with their agency partners. Low satisfaction rates include the quality of the work (28 percent), responsiveness (24 percent), creative solutions (17 percent), addressing marketing trends and strategic solutions (10 percent) and, lastly, ROI (3 percent).

More marketers tend to look to agencies for specific capabilities and individual services than for an integrated set of marketing services, and perhaps that is leading to some of the satisfaction rates. Now more than ever, understanding the markets, audiences and channel integration is essential to a successful marketing plan that can positively impact revenue. Yet, when all is siloed, handled by various agencies and internal teams, we sense this may be taking more of the marketers’ time and perhaps adding to their challenges in the plan orchestration and sell- through.

At CMD, we’re taking this information to heart. We are organizing to be that valued agency partner to help clients stay head of the rapid pace of change in our industry. Our strategy, technology, analytics and media teams are tasked to have a finger on the pulse of the marketing landscape as well as our clients’ industries. We’re utilizing a variety of tools to listen and understand the conversations and evolving media channels to better inform our teams’ thinking and stay on top of our clients’ business while working with the creative teams to look for the white space in the market, the place where new ideas can break through. We’re striving to be that proactive partner who works the ROI models to help marketers with the plan sell-through and ROI reporting. We’re aiming to be the best agency partner as well as the best part of our clients’ day, because, as we heard, it’s not easy being client-side these days.

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