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Powerful innovation for agencies – Do it, or die!

Powerful innovation for agencies - Do it, or die!

Anyone who says life isn’t tough in the marketing communications industry is either deluded, drunk, or has a magic wand to guide them through the tsunami of change confronting everything we do.

It’s a time when clients are turning  their gaze upon the agency world with only one thing in mind – ‘deliver me GROWTH.’

The client mandate is clear: help us sell more, do it now, or get out of the way. What clients want most from us is effectiveness in solving their most critical business problems. Effectiveness trumps effort, and sales trump everything else.

There is genuinely nowhere to hide.

We have to make sure our businesses are evolving, innovating, and are constantly one step ahead of change, thereby remaining vibrantly relevant for the new worlds of tomorrow.

Here’s the rub – when the rate of change inside a company becomes slower than the rate of change outside, the end is in sight. The secret is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new.

Many in our industry are only being disrupted to the extent that their most disruptive client is disrupting them. We have to change faster than our most demanding clients.

Innovation drives disruption. For STW, innovation is  all about the creation of viable new offerings.

At one level, innovation is absolutely about new product offerings and pricing. To tackle pressure on margins, our businesses need to continually develop new, harder to find, and in demand services. Some of our businesses operate primarily in over-developed service areas, where client needs are being well serviced and satisfied. Margins here are low and under pressure. We need to find dissatisfied client needs in under-developed markets. Here there are fewer providers. But innovation needs to go beyond product change – rivals can in time copy those.

It’s about knowing what your customer wants, and then changing in meaningful ways.

Product delivery is a great example of that. A major way businesses can differentiate and innovate is through outstanding customer service.

Agencies can innovate by reviewing their own structures in the way they deliver their product. Hierarchies of old need to be replaced by new models of nimble, flexible, agile structures, that cut through red tape and connect brands with people faster, smarter, better. How we organise our assets to deliver the work to our clients is critical to this innovation. We need to find better ways to structure teams, with a greater network of talent that can be leveraged for projects and then disbanded.

We also have to constantly add new specialist services to deliver to clients as technology evolves, and client needs change.

And that’s the point of much of our product innovation effort. If we’re not cannibalising our core offering, someone else will be.

One definition of partnering is to collaborate with one’s enemy. For years, the different specialisations within ‘communications’ nervously eyed the others as indeed, the enemy. That has changed. We have to collaborate to deliver what our clients need, innovating through the unique and powerful partnerships we can bring to their business.

Clients are no longer prepared to pay what they consider to be above the odds for ‘production’ or process services from communications agencies. We have to get much smarter in driving down the cost of the execution of what we do, but still ensure we do it really, really well.

And here’s the most critical rub of all: clients want solutions. They want ideas. The real opportunity is for us to be so close to their business that we can proactively identify and develop solutions for their most pressing business challenges. We need to take relevant ideas proactively to our clients – ideas that will solve problems and deliver growth.

Make 2014 the year of innovation for your company. Innovate in EVERYTHING you do, not just in your product offering. And underpin all you do with a unrelenting drive to deliver relevant proactivity to clients. Do this and we’ll all be in business by next year. Promise!

More reading: 

The 3 critical ingredients to succeeding in marketing & communications
How to get ‘change’ front and centre in your business

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