Future of Agencies

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Mark Bilfield
Bilfield Marketing Intelligence


  www.bilfield.com

 


Mark Bilfield is an independent marketing consultant (www.bilfield.com) who brings over 30 years experience working with Fortune 1000 companies.

Current clients and partners: Pomegranate, www.storagetreasures.com, US Storage Centers, Kure it, Representation of Dan and Laura Dotson of A&E’s Storage Wars for commercial endorsements, and other confidential branding projects.

Prior experience: Public Storage-Senior Vice President, CMO; Saatchi & Saatchi- Director of Integrated Marketing for Toyota and P&G accounts; TBWA\Chiat\Day- Senior Partner and Group Account Director on Nissan domestic and international.

Additional experience: Canon USA; Suzuki Motorcycles; BMW Auto and Motorcycles; Upper Deck Trading Cards; Toshiba Computers; Mitsubishi Electronics; Fuji Photo Film; Olympus; Nikon; Vivitar; Uniden; Australian Tourist Commission, KSL Resorts, Pizza Hut, Government of Taiwan

Interview With Mark Bilfield

How have the needs of brands and clients changed in the last 3 years?

More than ever before, brands must connect with the customer. With the prominence of social marketing platforms, customers are now fully in control of their purchasing decisions. It is incumbent upon companies to understand the needs of their customers. By building relationships and responding appropriately to all consumer issues will help to build trust and brand loyalty.

The biggest changes, which clients have faced, are the need for effective measurement tools. Without employing effective marketing metrics, budgets will continue to radically fluctuate, thus causing erratic perceptions of the brands instead of growing brand advocacy. Moreover, Chief Marketing Officers will not earn the respect of their “C” Suite peers. Nor will they keep their jobs.

What challenges are agencies/companies facing today in sourcing talent and scaling teams to service client demands?

Talent is a broad term. Finding the right person for the right job has always been a challenge. Commitment to help a team continue to learn and lead their companies is an investment in the future. If the staff feels that they are not growing, the solution is often to leave the company. Clients and agencies are then back to where they started. Conversely, if talent is supported in terms of training, the company will grow as well.

There is no secret that being conversant in the digital arena is critical to the demands of the marketplace. Yet, it is equally important to understand how to balance the digital with the traditional media such as TV in order to leverage the core benefits of each media. Truly integrated marketing campaigns can address the consumer needs as well as fulfill the revenue goals of companies.

How can agencies provide more value to their clients?

Agencies are under a great deal of pressure to have enough staff to fully service the business. Senior level of talent is also at a premium. While that is not a fair scenario, it is a problem. It affects the client-agency relationship. And it affects the bottom line.

Typically agencies will staff the account by allocating percentages of time for each person who works on the business. This actually exacerbates the problem as the staff is then tasked with a commitment in excess of 100% of their time. All the overtime and willingness to work hard will not compensate for the declining quality of the work product.

One solution is to utilize external, core competent resources to fill a temporary need. By doing so solves the client service issue as well as the full time employee staffing and expense issue.

Agencies must also trust their external resources. If agencies are afraid that external people will steal their clients, they have a much bigger problem with which they have to contend.

When do you feel is the best occasion to use freelancers: for existing projects, new business or as an ongoing resource?

Actually, all three opportunities are appropriate. Freelancers appreciate new challenges and look for innovative ways to solve marketing problems in a creative way. For the agencies, this presents them with an opportunity to work with many different people and actually have a SWAT team that has been tested and available for the hot projects.

Working with an outside source that can provide the talent for existing projects, new business or as an ongoing resource is a very smart way for agencies to stay ahead of the curve.

Has the definition and role of an 'agency' changed?

In the traditional sense, the agency was literally an agent working on behalf of a client(s). Now there are so many interpretations of agency that it’s hard to decipher what the term means. Most important is that the group of people a client hires has the capability of meeting the strategic, creative and production expectations. If the agency is not figuring out ways to grow the client’s revenue, the client will find another team regardless of what the group is called, to help solve their marketing and advertising issues.

How can technology be used to improve collaboration?

Beyond the potential benefits to the environment, technology provides us with everything from SKYPE, to WEBEX to Free Conference Calls to chats and platforms to work together simultaneously on the same document. What could possibly be better?

Yet, in my opinion, technology is a somewhat over-used term, just like “state of the art”. Said another way, What resources can be utilized to leverage talents, financial wherewithal and speed to market in order to grow our business?

The answer is simple; whatever it takes to bring people and ideas together to form a well-tuned team is what should happen. If working virtually via electronic means is the best solution, do that. If the solution requires an office environment, do that.

Either way, talent should be empowered to do what you hired them for in the first place; listen to the customer; find out what media they are consuming; strategize; create; understand the new media world; produce…and do it fast within the budget and ahead of the competition.

Who makes the decision to hire digital creative, strategists and social media experts at your agency/company?

Ultimately, at the corporate level, the Chief Marketing Officer is the person responsible for all marketing related hires. Sometimes when it comes to technology, IS gets involved to ensure that the candidate has the tech chops to converse on their terms.

Looking back 10-15 years, what would you have expected to be the same and what would be different at your agency?

Then

  1. Things were always getting bigger and better
  2. Budgets were large
  3. The internet was just beginning to change the way we looked at new marketing opportunities
  4. We were dictating to the customer what we wanted them to believe
  5. We thought we would have our jobs for the rest of our lives

Now

  1. No change is the new "bigger and better"
  2. Budgets are shifting to new media in big way
  3. Smartphones, face-time and Facebook are changing our behavior
  4. The customers are dictating to us

 

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