Trying to grow an ad agency without first building a strong brand is like whistling in the wind.

ad agency benchmarketing

Don’t be trapped by a lack of creative thinking when it comes to benchmarking!

In this fast evolving world, where you must run just to stay in the same place, a strong brand is essential. Every agency is now able to copy one another, as any new initiative, idea, or any competitive edge quickly fades away. Leading agencies are always looking for a competitive advantage. Understanding and leveraging benchmarking is a great way to help differentiate your firm against other marketing firms. If you can show results, metrics, measurements, where others may not be able to show anything, you will stand out.

In the vast majority of agency-client engagements the client wants more than advice – they want results. And of course they want them fast (now!), and they want you to stay in budget (don’t hurt my career). But most importantly, they want results. If your agency can clearly demonstrate to prospects that you move the needle, make something happen, move a little faster, you will stand out.

If you want to show you know how to get results, you have to be able to provide quantitative numbers. If your client asks how well you are delivering, you can’t tell how many complements you got at the ad-club cocktail hour. This type of information is anecdotal and does not provide the hard facts that clients want.

It’s often been said that it’s impossible to place a value on a good idea. That may be true, but some clients expect you to try, and almost all clients love numbers. Be creative!

You must measure something if you want to prove your effectiveness and value to a prospect or client. And benchmarking is the only way to show how you measure up. You are going to have to put together the metrics that show results and, most importantly, improvements over time. The problem is many client’s never provide you with the information you need to provide the normal strong marketing metrics. Don’t let the lack of information stop you from showing results.

Here is a basic look at how you can implement a benchmarking program that can help prove your success in the marketplace.

Benchmarking For Marketing Firms

First, take a close look at the services you are providing. Work hard to identify some metrics that provide some indication of how you are performing. Think out of the box, be creative.

These metrics are going to come from one of two methods. One method is to collect data on an organizational basis. For instance, you can easily determine how you are managing the work by collecting information about timing and budgets. You can measure throughput time, actual vs. estimate, number of steps, activities, and staff effort to produce something for your clients. If all projects reported a common set of metrics on an ongoing basis, then you can determine whether or not the agency is improving over time. Demonstrating how much more efficient your agency is a great way to stand out in the market.

The second method to benchmarking is to consolidate consistent metrics from the market. For instance, you need to look around and find a way to measure the effectiveness of your marketing programs by reviewing sales and marketing reports, brand awareness, retention, traffic, or counting the number of cars in the parking lot. You can be much more creative here. The key is to find a set of metrics that can be used across multiple clients, over time. For some clients you may have to create a unique metric, just make sure you track the information.

Once you get past the simple metrics, you can develop more sophisticated tracking methods. Even though the metrics may be more sophisticated, they should be easy for the agency to collect and report.

Guidelines for Effective Benchmarking

1. Define a precise and manageable unit/activity/process

    • Industry too broad
    • Website traffic too narrow

2. Decide on scope

    • Best practices, performance measures, growth, etc.
    • Adapt based on industry/brand/client needs

3. Identify and study the subject in depth

    • Superficial analysis gets to the “what”
    • Dig deeper and understand the “why”

4. Create a “causal diagram” for why certain activities contribute to better performance

    • A method of analysis used to develop an understanding of complex systems
    • Identify and visually display intricate processes and root causes

5. Identify a set of metrics that are unique to your agency

    • Make sure your prospects and clients desire this sort of metric
    • Create something you can own

6. Collect and measure the metrics over time

    • Present and own the results
    • Use them to enhance and build your brand

In this cluttered marketplace having simple and clear benchmarking data is a great way to stand out and demonstrate your industry understanding and knowledge. Creating and presenting this knowledge, in the form of simple infographics or white papers and presentations, should support your brand, demonstrate your expertise and help separate your agency from the competition.

Sanders Consulting Group specializes in agency branding, new business, and improving productivity and performance in the marketing communications industry. We’ve worked with creative agencies on projects ranging from a simple redesign of processes for increased productivity to a complete transformation of to create a strategic advantage in the marketplace.

A solid agency brand strategy, implemented throughout your staff and operations will help you achieve dramatic and fundamental improvements in effectiveness and results. 



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