How agencies can take client collaboration to the next level

Victoria Bickle, UK Managing Director at mSix&Partners, reveals the ways to maximise the relationship
Victoria Bickle
Victoria Bickle

In-house is a hot topic right now, with 91% of brands moving or planning to move part of their digital marketing operations closer to home. This figure should ring some alarm bells for agencies who have not evolved their approach and operating models to suit clients today.

To remain relevant, as the media landscape and client priorities change, agencies must keep demonstrating why they matter and how they’re evolving to meet this changing demand. That comes down to building genuine, collaborative partnerships - where the lines between client and agency are blurred for the better - and making sure what you bring to the table is making life easier for the client in the short and long term. Easily said, but how best can that be achieved?

Building embedded teams

It’s important to ask why brands are considering taking core activities in-house. A big motivator is being able to deliver at speed, as well as tap into a level of brand knowledge that comes with being a part of it. But why can’t agencies follow brands in-house to offer these same advantages while leveraging their skills and industry know-how?

Embedded teams – when agency employees are fully integrated within client departments and literally work alongside clients on a daily basis – can turn agencies into a natural extension of their client and foster better collaboration. This approach can improve efficient communication between client and agency. We’re talking about swapping long email chains for a quick chat at someone’s desk or sitting in on a meeting rather than hearing it second hand. It also helps agencies deliver more tailored and effective solutions because they are immersed in the wider client business and its culture. There are cost and flexibility benefits too, as clients can gain instant access to specialist skills without having to hire or train new staff – especially valuable for those businesses at the early stages of their growth journey.

At mSix&Partners, we’ve been embedding teams with clients since 2017 and they are increasingly common throughout the industry across everything from data, commerce, media, creative, and content automation.

Leverage the latest tech and innovations

The number of new technologies and tools around these days can be overwhelming. It can be hard for businesses of any size to keep up. From start-ups to long-established brands. Agencies are often the gatekeepers to the latest and greatest of these tools thanks to their knowledge of the marketing landscape and relationships with networks and media partners.

They can add value for clients by delivering tailored training sessions on the solutions that matter – from the metaverse to AI. And inspire fresh ways of thinking by bringing experienced execs into the client world through bespoke workshops and training sessions. Walking clients through the latest technologies and innovations can inspire fresh ways of thinking that generate great work. It also proves to clients that you see them as a true partner.

Developing digital talent

Our industry has more than its fair share of talent producing great work. But agencies cannot ignore that the pool has been shrinking recently - there was 14% fewer people working in advertising and marketing in 2022 than in 2019.

Agencies must take action to address a shortage of talent. If they don’t it can have a knock-on effect on their clients. At mSix&Partners, for example, we launched The&Academy in Birmingham – a training-based apprenticeship scheme specifically designed to unearth and develop the future leaders of the industry, while encouraging us to look outside the London bubble to find exciting new talent.

Not only does this type of proactive approach ensure agencies can provide the right expertise for years to come, but it means clients can easily tap into talent when needed. Agencies can take this same energy into supporting clients with their own recruitment strategies, sharing L&D knowledge and training opportunities that can help clients bring in and develop their own talent as they grow.

Collaboration is king

Taking things in-house has become an attractive choice for businesses because of fears over transparency and efficiency. By treating clients as true partners, agencies can not only win back trust but deliver results.

Working more closely with clients on a day-to-day basis, taking knowledge sharing to new levels, and making sure you and your clients have the staff to thrive in the years ahead are the foundations of a collaborative approach that will allow agencies to thrive in a time of rapid change for media and creative industries.

Written by
Victoria Bickle
Written by
October 16, 2023