The marketing communications industry is experiencing change on a colossal scale.

Tap into high performance!

Tap into high performance!

Not since the introduction of television have so many profound currents converged to change the course of the ‘traditional’ agency. Whether it’s digital, the continuing wave of consolidation, the real prospect of integrated marketing communications, or the possibilities of social, agencies must look forward to make certain they don’t become merely a footnote in history. Standard measures of performance do little to help agencies prepare for this brave new world. Comfort in the status quo is a bygone luxury.

What Makes a High Performing Ad Agency?

In our work with thousands of agencies, we’ve discovered several common characteristics that separate the highest performers from those who are treading water. These high performing agencies are the ones that will survive, prosper, and redefine the industry for years to come.

Fortunately, bigness (or smallness), reputation, and strong income statements are not barometers of high performance or long term success. Any agency, in any market can set itself apart and emerge from the pack. What counts is doing the “right” things well. In fact, we have found that the traditional measures of financial health and creative awards, while a good barometer of recent success, can undermine an agency’s ability to flourish in the future.

High Performing Agency Context:

  1. Vision: The best agencies in the business have a strong point-of-view of success and how to achieve it. Their people understand it, are motivated by it and work towards the same goals. Every asset in the agency is focused on the same definition of success. Decisions are made at every level and are judged in the context of achieving the agency’s definition of success.
  2. Culture: High performing agencies create an environment that fosters success. Staff and management find it easy to be creative and productive in this environment. There is an energy and sense of common purpose that creates a buzz throughout the organization. Outsiders sense it immediately and want to be a part of it.
  3. Operations: The agency thrives in a state of disciplined chaos. While creativity, spontaneity and irreverence may be the style, understand that the agency’s backbone is “business first” rules the day. Time reports are completed, purchase orders issued, technology is used effectively and excuses are not tolerated. The trains run on time – for everyone.
  4. Creative: Plain and simple, the work must be great. All is for naught if the ultimate product produced by the agency is second rate. The work consists of more than the creative product. It also includes the strategy, the thinking, and the ability of the agency to help its clients achieve their business goals – whatever they might be.
  5. Growth: Growth is critical to thrive. Growth is not an accident. The best agencies grow on purpose, in ways that make sense. They take advantage of all of their capabilities to grow organically first, and through new clients, second. Resources are not squandered in the name of growth; revenue is not left on the table for someone else to capture. High performing agencies know how to grow.

Take a Hard Look Inside

I recommend every agency owner take a day to really study each of these five metrics. Give yourself a score. Even better, break out each metric into small nuggets for more in-depth measurement. This will bring focus and clarity to the attributes that are most critical to your long term success. Clearly identify what you are doing well, and where you must improve. Concentrate your energy on the doing the right things better. This will set your agency on a course towards high performance.

What This Means to You

Success stems from doing the right things well, not necessarily by remaining small. We’ve helped firms evaluate how well they are doing against these critical measures, against past performance (to make sure that progress is being made) and looked at their agencies through the eyes of staff, clients, peers, and industry experts. With, or without, outside help, you need to do the same. What should emerge is a view that is unfettered that has clarity and purpose.

Being small does not mean you will be nimble or be able to stay close to your client. Being a self-aware agency that constantly strives to always do the right thing and do it well does translate into growth.  Don’t be scared to grow, only be scared to do nothing. Give us a call at 412.897.9329 or email us at [email protected] and see if we can’t help transform your agency.


Photo by piercey