Login or Join

Close this search box.

Do agencies really understand their prospects?

The smart folks at RSW/US recently surveyed agency owners and marketers to understand their outlook for 2021.

Chip and Gini dig into the data — and they don’t like a lot of what they saw. They believe there is a significant disconnect between the agencies and their clients.

The pair look at some of the highlights from the report, but you can download your own copy from the RSW/US website.

Chip and Gini will also be panelists along with Drew McLellan of the Agency Management Institute at the RSW/US Agency New Business Virtual Conference in February. More info here.

The following is a computer-generated transcript. Please listen to the audio to confirm accuracy.

Chip Griffin: You’re listening to the Agency Leadership Podcast on the FIR Podcast Network. Each week we bring you actionable ideas to help PR and marketing agencies grow and thrive.

Hello and welcome to another episode of the agency leadership podcast. I’m Chip Griffin.

And I’m Gini Dietrich.

And we’re here today to throw lots of cold water. I am fired up.

Gini Dietrich: You are fired up. I’m so excited for this.

Chip Griffin: You may want to turn down your volume a little bit on this podcast. I will try to normalize it in post production as much as possible, but I got to tell you, I am, I am really irritated at a lot of you out there.

Many of you listening are doing things apparently that just make no sense, none whatsoever. And so we’re going to talk about that today.

Gini Dietrich: Yeah. And I would just like to forewarn you that he might throw things.

Chip Griffin: I might. I might throw things. The good news is if you’re listening on audio, you won’t even see it if you are watching this on video.

And I do encourage all of you to watch us on video because it’s a whole lot more fun. That way you get to see our shining faces. You’ll get to see lots of facial reaction this week. And you’ll get to see me waving around documents and documents, charts and charts and all that kind of stuff.

Gini Dietrich: He might even share his notes, which you can’t read, but

Chip Griffin: if you’re listening to this and you have time, go to agencyleadershippodcast. com. Click on the episode and you’ll be able to watch the embedded YouTube video. Better yet, go to the Small Agency Growth Alliance YouTube channel and hit subscribe. Then hit the little notification button so that you get notified every time one of these or any of my glorious shows comes out so that you can watch and be entertained at the same time while you learn.

Wow. Hmm. And I have only had two espressos today, Gini. Before 7 a. m. Before 7 a. m., yes. Anyway, so what has me all fired up today is a new, uh, report that came out from our friends at RSW/US. And, uh, by the way, shameless plug, Gini and I will be joining Drew McClellan of the Agency Management Institute on a panel discussion for the RSW/US virtual conference that takes place February 9th? I think it’s the It is See, I had this all ready to go. It is on February 8th. 9, 10, and 11, from 1 to 3. 30 in the afternoon. The three of us will not be on for that entire period of time. It turns out that RSW/US felt that there were some other qualified people that might want to talk to you.

But you can listen to our panel live from 1. 30 to 2. 30, according to my calendar, on Tuesday, February 9th. At least that’s when I will be there. Eastern time.

Gini Dietrich: Also the day before my birthday.

Chip Griffin: Do I even have your birthday on my calendar? I better make sure I do better now. I’m terrible about birthday things, but no.

Yeah. And how old are you going to be? No, I’m not doing that. Yeah. I’m not nearly

Gini Dietrich: that stupid. My kid thinks I’m 36, so I’ll go with that. I’m not. But she thinks that’s how old I am.

Chip Griffin: I thought she guessed much older, though, first. No? No. No?

Gini Dietrich: Okay. She guesses older for her dad, but not me.

Chip Griffin: Wow. The poor, the poor large native.

Anyway. Poor large native. All right. So this is the 2021 RSW/US new year outlook report, turning the page. That is a mouthful folks, but there’s a lot of good stuff in here. It is chock full of survey data of both agencies and marketers who are the agency’s clients. If you’re listening. Your clients are important.

Your potential clients are important. You need to know how they’re thinking and this report that’s free. You just go to the RSW/US website. You can download it for free and they will give you all the details. We’re only going to talk about the tip of the iceberg here today. It’s a really bad iceberg.

It’s going to sink your ship if you are actually thinking the way that the people that RSW/US surveyed. It’s insane how disconnected agencies are apparently from their clients according to this data.

Gini Dietrich: Yes. I would like to however start with the good news. Okay. The good news is marketers are reading agency blogs.

Okay. That is true. That is pretty much the only

Chip Griffin: good news. As far as I could tell from the report, I mean, around the edges, there are, you know, there are certainly points that are debatable. There’s not, there’s some things in here that aren’t truly terrible, but there’s a lot of stuff in here that just really tells me that, that agencies are either not paying attention or not listening.

And so hopefully If you actually digest this information and you listen to the rant that’s coming up to you for the next 15 minutes or so, you will not be one of those agencies. You will be one of the ones that succeeds because you actually understand what is going on around you and not just dreaming about what you would like to have happening around you, which is mostly what this data to me suggests.

Gini Dietrich: So then, would you like to start with the Retreat from in house agencies, or not. The investment in non marketing activities, or not. Or the expected marketing spend.

Chip Griffin: Um, how about we start with the expected marketing spend, because I mean, at the end of the day, that’s what most of you agencies care about.

You want to know, how much is my client going to spend, and how much of that pie can I get?

This is the most startling chart, I think, ever. It from a numeric standpoint in the whole report and I’m going to hold it up here But you really should download the report because it’s not going to look great even on camera Even if I manage to get it into focus, but this one It just it couldn’t be more stark Gini.

Let’s see. There we go So if you’re watching on video and you’re looking you can see So the question is agencies and marketers the report marketing spend will increase somewhat or significantly You next year. Look at that. Now, and this, it’s great. RSW has historical data on this. Right. I don’t think I’ve ever seen it headed in, I mean, if you look going back all the way, 10 years, 10 years of data they’ve got here from their survey.

Great stuff. But if you look for 2020, the survey that they just did last month, looking at the year ahead, Fifty eight percent of agencies think that marketing spend will increase somewhat or significantly. Forty one percent of clients agree. I got a question for you, Gini. Who do you think is going to be right?

The people who actually have the money to spend, or the people

Gini Dietrich: who want that money? Yeah, I’m pretty sure the marketers will be the ones who are right.

Chip Griffin: It seems to be that that is the more likely scenario. Yes. I mean, maybe your clients just find these giant pots of gold and they suddenly say, Hey, I’d like to spend this with my agency.

I don’t think that’s likely.

Gini Dietrich: No, I don’t think it’s likely either. And it’s, it is kind of astonishing because if you’ve been paying attention just to the world. and news in general, you would know that there isn’t going to be a big investment in marketing this year, or in a marketing discipline this year because of the uncertainties.

There’s still uncertainties.

Chip Griffin: Correct. I, I think we’ve, we’ve certainly seen that clients are being much more cautious in their spending, they’re, they’re making shorter term commitments, they’re putting less dollars at risk. Now that doesn’t mean that it’s an across the board thing and you have to be careful about making gross generalizations because there are areas, and we see this in the report, where they are spending money.

More and they are investing more in digital ad spending. That’s one of the good points in the report. There is an increased focus on digital, obviously, right? Because people aren’t getting together in person. You know, if you’re not driving around buying billboards, probably isn’t going to help you as much as getting Google ads will.

So that makes sense. But you have to be listening to your clients. And unfortunately, on the whole, this data suggests that agencies are not Listening to their clients. Yeah, that’s a

Gini Dietrich: pretty big disparity between the two. And I mean, just looking at the graph where it’s complete opposite directions.

Chip Griffin: Yeah.

Right. And I do like that they picked red and blue for this. So it’s, it’s sort of, I mean, it’s almost like a political graph in the United States in totally different directions, not even bothering to pass in the night, just in their own worlds, their own worlds. But the agencies aren’t going to change marketers thinking overnight, even though they are reading your stuff.

So that is, that was the good news. 73 percent of your clients actually read your blogs and newsletters. So that is fantastic. If only you could pull it together and be giving them what they’re looking for.

Gini Dietrich: And what would that be that they’re looking for?

Chip Griffin: Well, there’s a couple of things, but the big thing is my favorite piece of this. That’s not, that’s not a chart is in near the end of the report. It is the biggest challenges facing marketers in 2021. It was an open ended question. So it’s with word clouds is how we get the answer.

And this question was posed to both agencies and marketers. Let’s take a look at this. Shall we Gini? Let’s see if I can, there we go. We’ve got it in focus here. So let’s start with the marketers. Finding new customers. Right. Yeah. Finding new customers, huh? That’s, that’s logical.

Gini Dietrich: I also like the, I like the notes that you have there.

Chip Griffin: I did. I did do some doodling on here. Yeah. So, cause I was not able to hold it up to camera. But for those of you

Gini Dietrich: that are just listening, it’s a bunch of question marks. I also told him to do, to hold it up to the camera because when we were talking about it pre show, he was throwing it at the camera. And I was like, this is amazing.

I’m sorry, we’re not recording this right

Chip Griffin: now. Well, that, that, plus it takes my face off the screen for a little bit. So I’m sure you’re, you’re happy about that.

Gini Dietrich: All right. Finding new customers from an agent, from a marketing

Chip Griffin: experience. And so what are the agencies say are the single biggest challenge in their word cloud marketing needs budgets.

Yeah. Okay, so what you’re saying is, um, you want more budget from your clients. I mean, yeah. How if I looked at this data, how might I do that, Gini?

Gini Dietrich: Well, I think that you probably cannot, or you could help them find new customers.

Chip Griffin: Oh, well there’s an idea. You mean an agency actually? has the obligation to help the client improve their business.

They do. Yes. And that’s, and that’s how you make money in the agency space? That is. So it’s not just trying to get more budget.

Gini Dietrich: No, but that is an ancillary benefit. If you help them get more clients, you will get more budget.

Chip Griffin: Exactly. So that’s, and, and I think one of the biggest challenges that agencies have, and this, this is even at the micro, so we’re talking macro level here, right?

But if you, if you look at it, um, I know when I’m working with clients, a lot of times they find that, uh, clients, you know, a few months into an engagement will be questioning, um, you know, some of the results and where they’re going and that kind of stuff. And, and usually what I find is that’s because there’s not alignment because they haven’t dug in and figured out that what the client is trying to do is find new customers.

Or, or something. I mean, not every client is doing that, but you know, if you wanted to grossly oversimplify a marketer’s job, at least in a commercial space, not the not for profit education, blah, blah, it’s finding new customers. And usually, the agency is just listening to what the client initially says, which is, I need a new website.

I want to have a press release out. I want to have a news conference. I want to have an event. And the agency says, sure, I can do that. And they don’t take the time to dig in and figure out what’s the client really trying to accomplish with that. And I get it because you don’t want to rock the boat, you know, if someone says I want a website and you build websites, you kind of want to give them a website because it’s a good way to make money in the short term.

The problem is if you don’t have that alignment, that relationship is eventually going to go sour or they’re going to reflect back. poorly on it over time. So don’t let that happen. Really listen to your clients and understand what they’re looking for, whether you’re talking at the macro level, like in this report or at the more micro level of an individual engagement.

Gini Dietrich: Yeah. And I think, I mean, obviously that’s really good advice. And I, I would even say just based on experience in the last year, the amount of reporting that we have to do directly to Growth of an, of an organization and helping them find new clients is, has been incredible. It’s been, it’s, it’s, it has exploded 12 months.

Um, but the report also shows you things that you can do to, to do that as well. And one of those things is, um, providing marketing data and analytics. And what that does is it allows you to prove, okay, if I have the marketing data and analytics capability nailed down the way I should, It’s going to prove that we are helping you create marketing leads, marketing and qualified leads and sales qualified leads.

It’s helping us prove that. So if there’s one thing that you focus on on 20 in 2021, it’s nailing down your capability on providing the data and analytics that you need. to be able to prove

Chip Griffin: that right. And look, if you get data and analytics, right, it will help you with that immediate client engagement by improving retention, it will improve the results that you’re delivering for them.

It will give you data that you can use to apply to other client engagements. So you can be better for all your clients. It gives you the case studies that you can use to sell new business. So, so data analytics as a hub of a lot of your thinking. Can be really helpful. Obviously, it’s very challenging.

We’ve talked in the show before about how challenging it is to get the metrics and data that you need from your clients to deliver truly meaningful stuff. It’s it’s it’s why I lost all my hair over the last 20 years when I was in the media monitoring and measurement space because you just you had to provide the data that was publicly accessible, which is not always the best.

But the more that you can dig in and some of you who are marketers who are able to work more directly with your client systems and can tie in Um, Uh, to some sales data or lead data or any of that kind of stuff. That’s going to help you immensely. And this report does identify that as a real growth area for potential, uh, uh, agency improvement in 2021.

Gini Dietrich: Yeah. So I think the big takeaway from this is other than getting you fired up, which has been amazing for me. Is that you really have to listen. And in some cases, you’re not going to be able to do the things that you’ve always done. You know, one of the things you and I have talked about, as long as we’ve been doing this podcast is having how important it is for agencies to have a process and create that ongoing, you know, process that allows you to service your clients in the best way.

But I think if we’ve learned anything. Since last March, it’s that the process sometimes has to be a little more flexible. So that you can listen to their needs, figure out what they want, and serve them in the moment at, at the very best, the very best way you can.

Chip Griffin: Yeah, absolutely. And I think, you know, there are, um, you know, there are a couple of other things in the report that will also help folks to improve apart from just, you know, You know, listening and paying attention and those kinds of things, um, and, and using data and analytics, you know, one of the things that jumped out at me was, uh, that 60 percent are more likely to hire specialist agencies today, five years ago.

So, so clients are looking for people who are experts. So those of you who are on the fence about, you know, whether you want to, you know, Present yourself as a full service agency for every industry, um, versus specializing, um, either by service or industry or both. I, I think that should convince you to, you know, to, to, uh, shelve those doubts and, and come up with some sort of real focus for your agency because that’s clearly the direction that the clients are heading in.

And, and if you don’t believe what we’ve said on this show before, now you can look at some actual data that proves it. Yeah.

Gini Dietrich: It’s a really good report. Um, and like you said, it’s free, so go get it. Yeah. You can, it does not have Chip’s fancy comments or It does not. irate smiley faces, not smiley faces, mad faces on there, um, or question marks or arrows or anything like that, but You’ll still get the

Chip Griffin: same effect.

Yeah. And then you can use the word cloud that you had as an agency For the things that you’re looking for Clients and new business look at that because that’s the biggest challenge facing right? So it’s very clear What you as an agency? Want and just not doing what you need to do to get it and thus concludes My rant I will now go lower my blood pressure since I have gotten this out of my system I have to

Gini Dietrich: say it wasn’t as bad as We really should have recorded the pre show.

Chip Griffin: Probably not. Oh, no, it was great. There may have been some profanity in there, though. I don’t think there was. I tried to keep profanity out of the show. I don’t think there was. I think, you know, maybe your virgin ears tuned it out. Maybe. Yeah. I just, this report has got me fired up. Yeah. It, it can be

Gini Dietrich: fired up.

It’s a really good, I think you’re right. A really good macro look at the way, at, at the things that we should be paying attention to as agency owners

Chip Griffin: for 2021. Yeah. And, and if you take nothing else away, just listen. Just listen, listen to what your clients and prospects are saying. Yes, it, it makes a world of difference.

And if you do that, regardless of whether you digest everything else that’s in this report, or listen to all of the great advice that we give you on this show and elsewhere. That will improve your business immeasurably. 100%. So, with that, we thank you for listening to us. And if you’d like to share your feedback, we’d be happy to listen to you as well.

The more fired up the better. So feel free to email all of your really annoyed thoughts to Gini and all your happy thoughts to me. That’s nice. Thank you. You’re welcome. You’re welcome. I, you know, I’ve got enough hate mail over the course of my career that, um, it, you know, I’m happy to let you take that.

And I will. I appreciate that. That’s really nice of you. I will take all the adulation.

Okay. On that note, we’ll draw this episode to a close. I’m Chip Griffin.

And I’m Gini Dietrich.

And it depends. You’ve been listening to the Agency Leadership Podcast. For more information or past episodes, just visit agencyleadershippodcast.com.

New Episodes by Email

Get the latest Agency Leadership Podcast episodes delivered straight to your inbox!

MORE OPTIONS:   Apple Podcasts    |    Google Podcasts    |    Stitcher    |    Spotify    |    RSS

Like this episode? Share it!

The Hosts

Chip Griffin is the founder of the Small Agency Growth Alliance (SAGA) where he helps PR & marketing agency owners build the businesses that they want to own. He brings more than two decades of experience as an agency executive and entrepreneur to share the wisdom of his success and lessons of his failures. Follow him on Twitter at @ChipGriffin.


Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, the lead blogger at Spin Sucks, and the host of Spin Sucks the podcast. She also is co-author of Marketing in the Round and co-host of Inside PR. Follow her on Twitter at @GiniDietrich.

Recent Episodes

Never miss an article, episode, or event

Subscribe to the weekly SAGA Newsletter

Subscription Form