The economy is pushing agencies into vendor roles

Earlier this week, we kicked off a conversation about why agencies find themselves relegated to vendor status.  If you remember, we identified 3 causes.

  1. The economy — workforce reductions, budget cuts and overall fear (out of your control)
  2. Agencies willingness to behave like a vendor just to get the project (within your control)
  3. Agencies hiring “nice” account executives who are order takers rather than smart business people (within your control)

In this post, we’re going to look at what you can do to work around the economy issue.

In the current economic climate, ad and marketing managers on the client side are trying to keep their jobs and cut costs. They’re seeing fellow employees being downsized are doing everything they can to make themselves look more indispensable to their bosses.

One obvious way for them to do this is to bring a lot of the work they normally farmed out to agencies back  in house. Some marketing managers even go so far as to set up an in-house agency, not knowing or not heeding the fact that no in house agency has ever been proven to save money in the long run. (Don’t waste your time or your breath trying to argue them out of this dumb idea. It’s one of those “you have to live it to believe it” deals.)

It’s tough to deal with someone who is operating from a place of fear but that’s where a lot of our clients are right now.  They kept waiting for the economy to go back to normal and now they’re realizing that this is the new normal.  Now, every dollar they spend is scrutinized and performance expectations are huge.  Human nature drives them to clutch to each and every dollar.  Even though we know they need to get and stay out in the market place.

Now, you need to remind him/her that your agency works hard to help expedite sales and reduce the cost of acquiring those sales your expertise not only in marketing and advertising but also in business management and operations.  You’re not just their marketing partner — you are capable of being their business partner.

Here’s the rub — you can’t remind them of this through words.  You need to actually walk this walk.

This is where the rubber meets the road.  You can say it…but can you deliver it? Does your team measure up?  If so… then you need to blink first.  Prove it.  Behave like an advisor, even if they’re treating you like a vendor.  You need to invest in getting to know their business, their customers and their operations.  And when you bring them solutions — bring business solutions.

If you are willing to give a little and offer more than what they appear to be buying — you will earn a seat at the strategy table and pretty soon, the procurement department won’t even know who you are.

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