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2020 is full of challenges and opportunities for independent agencies.

Project-based contracts are increasing in popularity, giving them the chance to win more pitches, while brands continue to shift core skills and expertise in-house.

In this competitive landscape, it’s crucial to stand out from the crowd.

This means developing a much deeper understanding of the consumers you’re targeting, and shaping a strategy accordingly. Here’s how.

Key challenges facing independent agencies

1. Competing against agency networks.

Competition from large networks is nothing new to the independent sector, but there are more opportunities than ever to stand out and land significant contracts.

The ongoing shift towards project-based contracts is giving them the chance to catch a brand’s eye when looking to finalize their next project.

Flexibility and the ability to make changes in line with fast-moving consumer trends is where independent agencies have an advantage over bigger players.

Richard Exon, Founder of Joint London, says, “15 years ago, your independent agencies were private versions of the publicly-owned or holding company-owned agencies. Today, all our businesses are different in type, specialism and expertise. Huge diversification means we can compete with holding companies for different clients on different briefs.”

2. Having less resource than key competitors.

Since independent agencies often have less resource available to them than their bigger counterparts, it’s crucial to allocate it where it counts.

Today, clients expect you to execute your plans based on reliable data. 

Building creative ideas around accurate research into the consumers you’re targeting will give them more confidence – showing you’re able to gather the returns they’re after.

Knowing how consumers will respond to a campaign before launch is a sure way to streamline spend and improve ROI.

3. Gaining client trust without a big reputation or rich history.

A long-standing challenge for independent agencies has been competing with the sometimes decades-long history and relationships big agency networks can have.

But the attitude towards them may be changing.

Andrew Roberts, Founder of agency Gravity Thinking, says, “There is a growing confidence in independent agencies from a senior level, those who, rather than seeing smaller agencies as a risk, see them as the opposite of that. They see the potential to a business, the benefit of more agility and access to senior expertise.”

How to meet these challenges head-on

The answer for independent agencies looking to become more strategically sound in 2020 lies in placing a renewed focus on consumer-centricity.

A truly consumer-centric strategy doesn’t rely solely on educated assumption or past experience, but looks to the consumers themselves for direction and inspiration.

Insight of this kind comes from access to modern data that goes far beyond traditional measurements, allowing users a full overview of consumers’ motivations along with their behaviors and demographic information.

With this kind of deep data at hand, it’s possible to become truly consumer-centric and reap the benefits.

Here’s how to do it.

Steps to nailing a consumer-centric strategy

1. Look to good quality data.

Agencies of every size know the value of good quality consumer data.

Today, that means data you can trust – research that has been collected using a robust methodology and that goes deep enough to answer your most specific and tailored questions.

Here are just some of the things you can create using deep survey data to support and generate consumer-centric ideas.

  • Tailored consumer insights: Re-contact your target consumers using a single source of extensive survey data to cut to the chase and uncover insights tailored to your brief and objectives.
  • Detailed consumer journey maps: Consumer journey maps provide a detailed overview of the customer experience and the path to purchase. With granular data, you can create highly usable maps that will resonate with clients and strengthen campaigns.
  • Personalized campaigns: Today’s consumers expect personalization – and so do your clients. Use insight that translates a consumer’s behaviors, interests, attitudes and perceptions to tailor your campaigns to the right people, and make your programmatic advertising work as hard as it can.
  • Think local: Tailoring your content to local audiences is one way to make the messaging more relevant, and increase its overall impact on the individual.

2. Go from data to insight.

It’s not enough to simply have access to the best data available – you have to know what to do with it.

A good insight reveals something unique about your audience that you can tap into, be it a behavior, motivation or attitude. It can then be used throughout your strategy to not only confirm the validity of ideas, but generate them.

3. Pin down the most lucrative channels and messaging.

With this knowledge at hand, you can move to mapping out your target audience’s actions and the reasons behind them. Knowing their motivations means you can determine how to approach them and where, ensuring your client is always in front of the right eyes at every stage of the purchase journey.

4. Measure your success.

Determining the return on your efforts is crucial for anyone, especially agencies working under tight budget constraints and deadlines under constant pressure to justify their decisions and recommendations.

Solutions like GWIQ Analytics couple extensive panel data with real-time analytics, offering a more holistic portrayal of audience behaviors across time, location, devices and platforms.

Incorporating this type of tracking into your strategy is the most accurate way to measure success and know what you’re doing works. It’s the final puzzle piece you need to succeed at profiling your audience, using reliable data that reflects real people.

To showcase how to put the above into practice, here are two independent agencies that put insights front and centre of their strategies to successfully win new business.

Case Study: Winning a pitch with consumer insight

The ask

First & First Consulting was partnering with an agency who was pitching a CPG company to help them launch a new personal care brand. They were tasked with providing a recommendation on who their target consumers should be and what they care about.

The approach

The CPG company in question was looking to release a new personal care brand. 

Beyond the three core pillars the company was built on, there was very little information from which to build out a targeted strategy. These were: 

  • Eco-friendly ingredients
  • Promoting healthy lifestyles 
  • Social-first distribution

Using this as a basis for their research, they leveraged GlobalWebIndex to collect as much information on consumers who would identify with these pillars as possible.

The action 

With the consumer interests segmented, they then undertook an analysis of their demographics to shape the target profile.

With their findings, they then constructed a target audience that balanced scalability with precision, centered on four key traits:

Graphic showing the audience profile.

With the audiences profiled effectively, they needed insights into that audience that could shape their messaging and delivery. Here’s what they found:

  • They’re 85% more likely than the general population to strongly agree that they’re interested in other cultures and countries.
  • They’re 192% more likely to describe their sexual orientation as “other” and 108% more likely to describe their ethnicity as “other”.
  • They’re 35% more likely to advocate for brands that they have a one-to-one relationship with.
  • They’re 41% more likely to strongly agree that they always strive to achieve more in life, but 32% more likely to disagree that money is the best measure of success.

Using insights to guide strategy

 By connecting with consumers at their core, First & First needed to:

Graphic showing the four ways to connect with this demographic.

The outcome

The agency won the pitch and as part of the kick off,. They were hired to conduct a segmentation study, which heavily leveraged GlobalWebIndex data.

First & First took a three-pronged approach to the segmentation:

  1. Leveraging social listening data to define its four key segments.
  2. Using social audience analysis to identify the demographics of each segment.
  3. Leveraging GlobalWebIndex to create mirrors of each of these audiences, diving deeper into their attitudes and perceptions.

View the full case study here.

Agency spotlight: Brilliant Noise

The challenge

Getting to the revealing insight.

For every agency, the ability to profile a client’s target audiences effectively is essential in acquiring valuable insights. But for David Preece and Nick Siantonas, both Senior Strategists at Brilliant Noise, consumer profiling plays a much more important role across their business.

“This data plays an integral part in our customer planning work”, says David.

“We chose GlobalWebIndex as it provides the attitudinal and behavioral data we need to backup our ideas. We can then combine it with live social data, conversational data and website analytics.”

The action

Backing creative ideas with behavioral data.

This capability gives the agency the quantitative proof behind their work and allows them to make the case for strategic and creative solutions for prospective clients.

“We’ve used this data in several pitches – one recently, for example, where GlobalWebIndex acted as the proof point and core of the pitch,” says Nick.

The result

Winning new business with data-driven solutions.

Using consumer data that went beyond what they were used to, Brilliant Noise:

  • Won new business with unique insight they couldn’t find elsewhere.
  • Saved time and resource with ready access to robust research.
  • Improved targeting with revealing consumer data.

Having instant access to unique insight that made them stand out from the crowd meant they could improve their confidence and show off their individuality.

“I would definitely recommend GlobalWebIndex to other professionals, it’s really powerful and easy to use”, says David.

View the full case study here.

Key takeaway

Data is the foundation of an impactful and efficient strategy. 

For independent agencies this is especially true because clients need constant validation that their spend will get the best returns. 

Being able to show clients how and why you know where their budget should be spent is the best way to assure them you’re the authority on their audience, and their strategy is in safe hands.

This post has been updated. It was originally published in January 2019.

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