Agencies and companies have seen a fair share of challenges in 2020. This has pushed agencies to think outside the box, to remain flexible and innovative as the economy and consumer landscape have steadily subsided.
In the final months of the year, retention and new business generation will be the agencies’ top priorities for 2021. Sprout’s agency partners have worked hard to keep the curve going so that they and their clients are in the best position to succeed in the New Year.
There’s no one solution that works for everyone, but we asked six leading agencies to share their best advice on how to effectively grow their business, build stronger client-agency relationships, and increase client loyalty throughout the year and through 2021 . Read on and write down how your agency may use the same approaches for your company.
1. Balance between flexibility and stability
Giraffe Social Media, a UK social media management agency, has recognized the impact of the pandemic on its customers and their industries. In addition to realigning their social strategies for the 2020 climate, they have redefined their loyalty strategies and introduced more contract flexibility to ease the burden some of their customers felt.
“Retaining and growing within existing customer bases will always be easier than capturing new deals. Therefore, agencies need to balance flexibility and stability in terms of contract terms. We offered breaks in the service provision as well as temporary contract reductions. The same flexibility is required for potential customers as well. We have offered contracts that reflect and take into account the uncertainty many companies are currently feeling.
Many companies have had to adapt to new restrictions and guidelines, so agencies have to invest in and offer services that meet current demand. For us this meant getting creative about how to work with a company by offering special training, webinars or consulting contracts.
Other successful approaches to opening up new business areas in difficult times are offering a referral program to our existing customers and strengthening relationships with our partner agencies, which have been invaluable in opening up new business areas. “
– Kate Istead, Operations Manager, Giraffe Social Media
2. Innovation in relation to customer needs
RyTech offers digital marketing solutions that help their customers keep up with the ever-changing digital landscape. This landscape was particularly rocky in 2020, but innovation and creativity have helped us maintain and strengthen our client-agency relationships.
“2020 taught us how to be innovative. Customers are spending more time online and on social media than ever before. Our agency has grown and retained clients by being flexible, offering extended monitoring hours, creating more visual content, advising clients on their comments on current events, and more.
We used the Sprout Smart Inbox to organize and support the customer service of medical customers in the social area, so that we can renew the monthly contract. Other new customers also look forward to maximizing their social media presence, knowing how important it is. “
– Beth Ryan, CMO, RyTech LLC
3. Deepen your connection with customers and be a real partner
The team at So Interactive, an independent digital agency based in South Africa, knows that building meaningful customer relationships gives them a deep understanding of their customers’ branding needs and goals. In 2020 that focus became even more important.
“Customer relationships are the heartbeat of our agency’s success, especially in a COVID-19 climate where companies are very vulnerable. I think if you don’t know how the gears move in the machine, it is difficult to see why they aren’t moving.
We have focused much of our time on connecting more personally with our customers and working with them to move the needle in their business. This involved realigning strategy, creative and media to get better results. We have also expanded our customer service team to better serve our customers and provide more strategic advice. By maintaining consistency and quality in the delivery of our services, we keep our promise to build a partnership. “
– Darren Mansour, Digital Director, So Interactive
4th Stay agile and try new strategies
Ingredient, a food marketing company, helps brands big and small share their stories and connect with customers. Although many of their customers faced new challenges and uncertainties in 2020, Ingredient has the recipe for success.
“Ingredient has worked with our customers who are trying to adapt to the new normal. By proactively exchanging ideas and helping them develop new messaging strategies, we were able to connect our customers with their customers in a timely and relevant manner. The result? All but one of our customers placed new orders with us in the last quarter.
It might seem counterintuitive, but now is the time to try something new. We use B2B social media platforms like LinkedIn to reach new customers. We also stay in contact with partners and find ways to help each other. When people already know your company and trust your work, it often shortens the sales cycle.
After all, it’s especially important to be nimble. Customers may currently be hesitant to sign large contracts or take on a large project. We’re looking for ways to improve our business model by starting small or taking on quick tasks that can pave the way for larger engagements. “
– Catherine Gillis, Chief Growth Officer, Ingredient
5. Offer something completely new
Alpha | BRAVO helps customers take control of their social media presence and “#BrandLikeYouMeanIt”. Knowing that their existing and potential customers were facing major challenges in 2020, they created an entirely new program to support their evolving needs.
“Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) were hardest hit this year. With lower sales volume and fewer staff, marketing budgets have shrunk. Customers need to see results quickly, which is a tough question when it comes to social networking.
However, it is known that economic downturns cause massive change and growth! That’s why we’ve developed a new program that allows SMEs to take control of their social media activities, backed by our expertise. The aB Op.ti.mate program gives SMBs full access to our Sprout Social Dashboard, allowing them to upload images to the asset folder, write and schedule posts, monitor reviews and mentions, and much more. Our team offers strategy, advisory, correction, and editing services to ensure efforts are brand and strategy related. Plus, they’ll get priority access to our team of designers, content writers, and strategists for additional needs. The Op.ti.mate program not only benefits SMEs, it also helps us win new customers in an economic downturn. “
– Beth Newton, Co-Founder, Content + Social, alpha | BRAVO
6. Provide the right support with the right technology
Branding Bear is a boutique marketing firm specializing in branding solutions for small and medium-sized businesses and nonprofits. Working remotely was an added complication to the existing challenges that all agencies face: winning new business, building customer relationships, and growing their business.
However, by revising the way they work and using technology, they have been able to stay efficient and attract new customers.
“There is no playbook for what is happening. As agencies, we need to be ahead of the curve in order to support our clients in quickly managing and shifting their marketing efforts. Regardless of their industry, the right tech stack is the most important time-to-value factor for our customers’ survival. We have adapted by setting up these platforms really well for businesses, using this technology alongside them as agency partners, and teaching them to use it. This is how we acquire coaching and consulting clients as we all navigate through this epic change.
This is the secret formula:
1) Sprout Social. Customers need a revised strategic plan and digital marketing strategy with updated OKRs to directly address the current crisis. To do this, we harness the power of Sprout to listen to the audience, expand the scope, and interact with the tribe using keyword targeting and empathy.
2) Asana. Companies need to switch to digital first as soon as possible. Asana’s cross-collaboration platform enables seamless remote working and keeps goals, projects, teams and tasks on schedule while everyone involved stays up to date.
3) flabby. Prohibit teams from using their email address only for customer communications (if they do). Slack is a collaboration center that your team and any external partner or customer can use to communicate face-to-face, but it also integrates with Asana.
The beauty of this makeover is that it’s relatively inexpensive, and both Asana and Slack are built into the technology our customers are already using. This means no more chain emails, lost communications or a lack of accountability. We all work smarter, with fewer people and from all over the world.
This is the future of work and we are ready for it. “
– Jacque McHugh, Branding Bear CEO
Become an agency partner
When universal challenges arise in the agency world, a support network is like a port in a storm. Sprout’s Agency Partner Program is a connecting point for agencies around the world looking for resources, sales support to grow their network, and a community of unmatched social and marketing expertise.
Come on, grow with us! Find out more here.