The traditional ad agency model is dead. Truth is, it was already drawing its last breaths back in the early 2000s in the heyday of flip phones and dial-up-internet.
Flash-forward to 2018 and we’ve evolved from ad makers to content producers, from media buyers to creators of owned media. The industry has completely transformed into a sophisticated and rapidly changing digital marketing model where success is completely dependent on the ability to visualize, learn and adapt.
Eighteen years ago, I founded STIR, LLC, to leverage this digital revolution. The team had a diverse skill set that could provide clients with higher levels of integration. To this day, we live by our descriptor, “Advertising & Integrated Messaging,” and thrive on the convergence of multiple marketing platforms such as streaming media and inbound marketing. Messaging across platforms is our point of difference and it positions us for tomorrow because of our ability to forecast the winds of marketing change.
What has our team learned along the way? The ground rules for marketing success have changed completely. Today, there are seven key ways to prospering professionally in this ever-evolving digital marketing world.
- Evaluate and study your industry. During the early 2000s, I saw agencies and clients struggling to align and optimize strategies across multiple marketing platforms. But advertising “creatives” didn’t have the training required to originate the kind of holistic content required for brands going to market. In today’s multi-channel environment, companies must be constantly aware of how the customer journey in specific industries is shifting to determine the most effective way to create real-time, impactful “micro-moments” that resonate.
- Identify emerging macro trends. Marketing success is determined by your ability to build today what will be required for success tomorrow. While no one can predict the future, companies must identify emerging macro trends and base business and professional development on what the future holds. For example, STIR observed the continued fragmentation of media and the need for new models of integration that utilized multiple marketing platforms. There was a demand for an agency structure that was not siloed into inefficient profit centers – one that quickly adapted to digital, which at that time was still being referring to as the “super information highway.” Our industry is evolving so quickly that by the time a skill set is refined to meet today’s needs, it may be obsolete by the next iteration of marketing technology and methodology. Strategic marketers must consider what training and development is required for their team, whether it’s becoming HubSpot-certified or PPC proficient.
- Understand prospect and client pain points. Our prospects, who are marketing professionals, need to manage a variety of specialists and agencies that provide consulting, research, packaging, promotion, public relations, design, advertising and more. The process of juggling all these different disciplines was difficult and inefficient, and results were not great. These prospects needed help and our integrated process provides a solution to ease the pain. Companies need to take time to pinpoint potential issues your clients and prospects are facing. What are they talking about on social media? What kind of issues are being covered in their industry trades? What keywords are they searching online? Those challenges are the driving force behind the need for your product or services.
- Assess your capabilities and assets. I chose to launch STIR to address client pain points and planned to take the company where our team’s skill set would best lead – the integration of multiple disciplines against a creative campaign. This means leveraging strengths and hiring the best talent to fill in any gaps. It’s very important for any company to regularly assess their organizational capabilities which simply means the collective skills and expertise of the people on your team. These assets matter the most when executing strategy, but often leaders don’t plan for this as much as they do with other physical or financial assets. Leaders must dedicate time, honest assessments and lively debate about capabilities that set them apart and ultimately, provide customer satisfaction.
- Develop a long-term value proposition. Most companies spend time developing a strong vision statement that clearly articulates their mission, but fewer leaders spend time developing a value proposition that defines why a customer would buy their particular products or services over a competitor. For example, STIR’s value proposition is to be the agency that helps marketers, brands and companies evolve and compete in this changing environment and, in the process, providing stimulating careers for ourselves. We summed it up as, “As masters of messaging, we change the fortune of businesses.” The best value propositions are clear, concise and free from jargon.
- Make investments to grow. We have created an agency model and system designed specifically to deliver progressive service. Maintaining this model requires a vision, a plan, tremendous effort and a lot of entrepreneurial risk. Over time, this has required the infusion of new people and new systems. For example, we’ve tried things that have been wildly successful such as our adoption of Hubspot for our own and our clients’ benefit. But we’ve also experimented with a project management system that seemed promising in theory but in practice didn’t fit our culture. Companies with an eye towards growth shouldn’t be afraid to invest in new software, an updated website or training that will move your business forward.
- Continually assess and refine your plan. We have had success at STIR because we are continually looking forward, learning and adapting. We experiment and succeed at onboarding new systems and adopting and integrating new disciplines as they have emerged: social media, influencer marketing, inbound marketing and account-based marketing.
Our model works because the value proposition has not changed. As we evolved, so did our clients. We must all adapt and evolve. The journey of successful companies, brands and professionals in the marketing space continues. By doing so we will not become victims of the next revolution in marketing. Quite the opposite, we will survive and thrive.