The why’s and hows of building an insource agency.
A particular client of mine was balancing insource vs. outsource. I was of course the outsource, and I wanted to keep the account. But I knew she should build this herself. Her budgets are getting tighter, my teams ability to perform was shrinking,
It’s hard to make a blanket statement, I mean each scenario is different. However with this situation it was patently clear. They had a growing need to focus on a new product launch, developing customer acquisition to reinforce sales along with supporting talent acquisition efforts in HR. While on top of this the more traditional brand and communications work they were originally engineered to support.
The budget on the otherhand was getting trimmed back continuously. Which meant a bigger lean in on digital, something they should have been doing more effectively internally anyway but were deferring to outsourced resources like mys
Agency side / Business side
I help both sides of the coin
Whether you’re leading a marketing agency that needs to evolve, or you’re driving sales goals for a business by creatively optimizing a limited marketing budget.
How it works
I’m an on-demand COO + CXO + CSO + CMO
I structure a customized coaching and consulting model that suits your unique scenario. This can take the form of simple advisory sessions, or more comprehensive due diligence and assessment leading to sandbox strategic planning.
I’ve helped Sequoia with due diligence, product and leadership assessments. I’ve had ten years of management and business consulting. Eight years of P&L responsibility.
IMC – Assess current operational structure and workstreams, make recommendations to iteratively work toward delivery unification.
Sales optimization – Review lost opportunities. Evaluate lead qualification, sales enablement. Improve cost to close, win/loss rates.
Hiring planning – Review hiring plans, align to strategic planning and go to market, integrate with IMC.
Strategic planning – Provide outside perspective on short and long term plans for vision, service offerings, expansion.
Executive advisory services – Provide exec level insight, advice, collaboration on key issues that need a fresh perspective.
Leadership assessment – Assess leadership team alignment, find opportunities to improve alignment of vision, operations and delivery.
Brand assessment – Review messaging, value prop, positioning, web site – provide recommendations to increase brand equity and differentiate.
ABM planning – Help identify a more strategic approach to generating revenue – through account based marketing
Adding ‘digital’ might not mean what you think it means.
Most mid market creative agencies find that the answer to evolution is simply adding Digital. In most cases, this usually takes the form of digital media – video, social, etc. But your clients are looking for growth, generating demand, leads, adapting core go-to-market strategies that can thrive in a new era of consumer behavior.
This is not about telling a story. This is about segmenting audiences and engaging them systematically with content that draws them into a buyer’s journey. It’s delivering insights that can tie back to core business metrics, then iterating and adapting.
The content and media, frankly – becomes a commodity. Digital – or really Growth and Performance – becomes the driving force.
Great talent leaves. Mediocre talent stays.
Another pandemic for creative and consulting agencies to deal with. Now that work from home is becoming a norm, the connection to the office, studio, team and even clients begins to wane. At the same time, digital talent has considerably escalated in demand as organizations are rebounding from the post-COVID seismic shift in their go-to-market strategies.
This is particularly true in b2b, where trade shows and referrals have been time-honored cornerstones for any marketing strategy. Digital insourcing is rampant at the Fortune 5000 level, which means the talent pool begins to taper off down market. There are ways to creatively adapt and react to this trend, and it’s certainly not unlimited PTO.
IMC (Integrated Marketing Communications)
As marketing agencies work to keep ahead of the demand curve by adding services like digital, CX or analytics, they may begin to see more established service lines get frustrated and deteriorate. While the intention may be to lift the entire agency into the next generation, it often creates silos and division – which ultimately becomes visible to the client base. There are iterative approaches to helping stem this tide of evolve > erode, getting this moving in a truly unified direction and accepting change more readily across the organization.
I can help make observations, prioritize key initiatives and outcomes, and roadmap a path to a more unified, adaptable agency.
Elevating sales performance for creative agencies
Mid to large market marketing and creative agencies often struggle to compete with insourcing and larger up-market agencies. Their sales teams are typically composed of a cross-section of account managers, team leads and executives – who rarely are fully committed to business development. In order to differentiate they often invest in spec work, research, and highly curated responses that dramatically elevate their cost-to-close and decrease close rates.
Instead, by simply learning a more disciplined and structured approach to sales that embraces the data, and better resonates with the buyer’s journey, agencies can stop the trend of chasing to replace lost accounts and having to meet next quarter’s numbers by being well ahead of the game.
Delivering growth for your clients, not just buzz
Clients struggle to find consultants that can advise on actual growth. You would think that comes from marketing – where business goals and vision meets sales. While demand generation offerings get them partially there, it’s not entirely enough. So much more connects here, which is largely a disjointed space right now.
There are many opportunities, especially for large-market agencies looking to differentiate and entrench on accounts, by creatively addressing Growth instead of just simply ringing the Digital bell.
Focus on projects & retainers + margin will come
Making the shift from account-based to project-based creative agency is a massive undertaking. But the bigger point is why? Why focus on shorter revenue streams that lead to lower margins, specialized staff, and the increased burden of heavier expectation management with clients?
The market is shifting – marketing budgets are less reliable, and in response your clients are deciding to compartmentalize more and more. But most of all, projects teach agencies to go lean, to deliver with discipline and efficiency. They also set the stage for integration, as new project management workflows help to tie and blend discrete services together fluidly in a new delivery model.
Projects are like paid sales – if you do it well, clients will retain you. This means you’re always developing new business, growing, and helping mitigate risk.
Internal marketing teams are rapidly learning how to get in the driver’s seat.
A common hurdle with internal marketing is the need to play catchup with sales. As new products are launched, goals are established, marketing is often tasked with a support role to simply generate awareness and help to increase the velocity and quality of leads.
In reality, they should take control of the situation by getting on the other side of growth lanes. Brand, insights, analytics, positioning, CX – these all should be systematically conquered in advance, giving Marketing the wheel, budgets and leverage to create meaningful impact.
I spent six months as a consultant to the CEO then 3 years as President of Airfoil Digital – a high growth venture for the firm. I initially created an entirely new Strategic Plan – recreating all functional groups, reporting structure, service lines and delivery models. This transitioned the agency from a highly matrixed account-based org into a domain / project model, creating coalesced units that could be integrated through process. I recommended establishing a new executive team, sales organization, and championed the entire rebrand. I recruited, hired key staff, architected and drove nearly 50% of agency revenue on a 200% YoY growth trajectory.
I spent three years as Managing Director, helping the organization grow out of its code-shop roots and transition into a consultancy. I was responsible for overseeing delivery, service and sales, while shifting to help lead core practice areas that needed leadership at key moments of rapid growth and evolution. I Provided leadership and expansion for cornerstone accounts like Microsoft, and coordinated driving spinoffs into IP development and outside investment.
I invested two years here as an EVP to help the CEO and leadership team through a pivot and growth strategy much like Vectorform. They were facing virtually the same challenges, struggling to move from a code shop to a consultancy. While I was able to help advise and guide the team, this group in particular had substantial change and turnover at an executive level, which meant much of the momentum was redirected into other initiatives. However their growth trajectory continues, albeit as an innovative development agency.
I spent ten years here helping to develop a blossoming technology consulting and solutions practice. Plante Moran is a mid market Tax, Audit and Management Consulting agency – not unlike a small market PWC. They have grown exponentially, have built on their stellar reputation, and continue to entrench and evolve. I learned more than I offered, and I’m proud to say that this is a cornerstone of the consultant and business advisor I’ve become. I’m glad this is a part of my pedigree, and can offer it to my clients.