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Why Agencies Should Race to the 'Middle'

By Published on .

Ready, Set, Go!
Ready, Set, Go! Credit: iStock/photojournalis

Agencies all over the planet are in training mode for one of the biggest competitions they will enter. They are stretching, bulking up and enlisting high-performing people around them to help push the limits.

Agencies are essentially in a race to the middle.

Middle of what, you ask? To where they need to be in order to strike the right balance of services and purpose to meet client needs. Traditional shops are shifting the kinds of hires they make, in an effort to be digitally relevant. Digital shops, on the other hand, are scrambling to figure out how out how to build brands and create effective advertising.

I believe clients want their agencies to be able to solve problems, grow market share and execute on any important platform where their customers' eyeballs are in a seamless manner. They need their agencies to be fluent in understanding audience behaviors and translating them into meaningful forms of marketing communications -- agnostic of where they will be delivered.

Here are four moves the smartest shops should make to remain -- or become -- invaluable to clients:

1. Do inventory regularly

Who is on your team? If it's too traditional, set a plan to figure out the missing pieces you need: digital strategists; digital designers and writers who know how to write for online consumption; social media experts proven in creating digestible content that wants to be shared; talent that knows how to create sticky user experiences; draft analytics pros to analyze and report results; and even make sure your account and project management teams are digitally fluent. If your shop is a digital native, reverse the above advice.

2. Cross-train your team

Is your bench deep in traditional thinkers and creatives? If so, offer to re-train them and help them learn new skill sets. But only do this if you truly believe you have the right people with the right values who want to learn. If your agency is mostly digital, your challenge will not only be in recruiting, but in knowing how to manage the 'brand' creators you've just brought on. I recommend hiring a senior traditional leader first, who can help balance the roster, and speak both languages.

3. Peek over the horizon often

A smart agency will never stop looking ahead and embracing new ways of doing things. Change occurs so often in our business that if you take your eyes off the ball for a few months, you'll find yourself behind. Read about what's next; attend industry conferences; remain steadfastly curious about where marketing is going. Do this and you'll stay relevant.

4. Play to win

Agencies that maintain a competitive mindset and are relentless in their preparation, are shops that will win. In this case, it means becoming something you're currently not, and that is risky. It's also imperative for your success. You will stumble and not every recruit will stay; after all, it's a culture shock for some. Stay with the game plan and you'll start racking up wins.

I spend a lot of time talking to CMOs, and I am confidant the above is what they want -- an agency that is modern, can create branded content, and execute it across whatever platform is necessary. Those that have found the middle are likely already thriving. Where are you going in 2017?

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