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An Open Letter to Traditional Agencies: Why Your Clients are Leaving You

Dear Traditional Agencies,

It’s a hard truth to hear, but it may save your business. With Amazon fast-approaching and dwindling sales a reality for many global brands, your clients need you more than ever.

You’ve got to change.

The Perils of Outmoded Specialisation

Traditional agencies have long been under threat. They’ve been at the forefront of creativity for decades, but the sheen of Mad Men is finally wearing off, prompting many brands to review their current agency relationships and look elsewhere.

The fact of the matter is that brands require more from their agencies than ever before, and the words “adapt or die” are ringing in every agency director’s ears.

Think of traditional advertising as one egg in a brand’s basket waiting to hatch. Online experience is another. Then there’s customer service, management processes, product offering and so on.

It’s no longer enough for an agency to produce a clever TV ad. Brands need an entire ecosystem of content and commerce that offers the best consumer experience at every interaction. This is a necessity in an increasingly competitive market.

The problem is that most agencies are unable to deliver on more than one egg, and when they try, they leave their clients with nothing but yolk.

How Brands Choose Agencies

From my experience, clients look for three things in an agency: vision, people, and process.

An agency’s vision guides everything they do. If you have a clear future-focus, it should be glaringly present in all your work and communications.

These are the kinds of questions brands ask themselves about you:

Is their work best in class? Are they investing in powerful emerging technologies, ones that aren’t all hype? Are they constantly evolving and staying ahead of the competition? Make sure you can tick all these boxes.

Then there’s people.

Your agency is only as strong as your team. Are you in investing in them? That includes training and culture. Both are important indicators of successful client-agency relationships, and brands look at these closely when undertaking agency reviews. Clients want to work with people they respect and can have fun with – be good to work with internally and externally.

Finally, the process.

What is your agency’s methodology and how will it offer them value they can’t get from other agencies? Clients need to have confidence that you can lead them through the difficult times and into the future. For this, you need a clear process like service design.

New Expectations of Excellence

Not all agencies are playing catchup.

It all stems from the methodology. Most agencies don’t have one apart from “do great work.” In this market, that’s just not enough.

Brands need guidance and leadership. The most successful agencies are solving this problem by using a service design approach.

Service design is the method of analysing a brand’s entire product, service and processes from the ground up, in order to create a blueprint for maturity and growth.

It’s essentially a roadmap for success. If done properly, brands sit in the driver’s seat and their agencies help navigate at every turn.

I know this approach works because we use it with our clients. And we’re both experiencing growth like never before. For more information, get in contact with the eWave team today.


Fatima Said
Founder and Managing Director of eWave, Fatima is a leading technologist in the commerce space. Backed by a history of brand transformations and business results, Fatima is known industry-wide for technical ability and future-focused entrepreneurship. Follow her work here or connect with her on LinkedIn.

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Fatima Said
Managing Director

Nov 02, 2017