Agencies Must Lead, Not Follow

Bob Wiesner | October 23, 2018

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Consumer behavior is changing. Brands recognize this by making their own changes. HBR has written about it.

Brands follow consumers. This is good.

Client behavior is changing. Agencies recognize this by making their own changes.

Agencies follow clients. This isn’t so good.

Tell you truth: I’m getting sick and tired of agencies that are making changes in response to client changes. Here’s what I’d rather see: Agencies that lead their clients.

For too many agencies, the sprint to keep up with their clients has been necessary. But it’s also been costly and exhausting. It’s led to constant upheaval of culture. Unclear agency branding. Poor margins. A host of problems.

Order Taker? Or Source of Inspiration?

I’ve written about this many times before. When it comes to client relationships, too many agencies settle for being order takers. The muscle that drives proactive thinking has weakened. I no longer care why. Agencies: You just gotta fix it.

Stop taking orders (or do nothing else but taking orders) and start giving inspiration. Devote yourself to the proactive search for insights. Present them to your clients whenever and as often as you can. Inspire them to invest in new ways to build their business.

And innovate. Like crazy. Before you need to.

Your clients will find new ways to reduce your revenue and margins. They’ll call a jump ball between two roster agencies anytime they need new content. Great (maybe….) for them. Lousy for you.

With new ideas, new tech, new ways of working, new revenue streams, you can lead your clients with great vision, great ideas, great opportunities before you’ve been asked. Become more valuable. Carve out a solid brand for yourself. Don’t settle, don’t follow.


Photo by The Vantage Point on Unsplash



To lead your clients, you need to bring them something of value. Do it often. Make sure it represents your brand.

In other words, you need the right content.

Of all the content clients can see coming from their agencies, one collection that might be most important to growing the relationship is insight. Bring your clients insights, and you can inspire them to believe that their brands can accomplish more than they thought was possible, with you – their agency – leading the way.

If you’re wrestling with the idea of insights, consider The Insight Sale workshop. You’ll gather your top thinkers and those who know the clients best. We’ll take you through a process that helps you identify the insights you already have (and may not know you have), and those areas you’ll need to develop. We’ll then develop plans for marketing these insights and using them in compelling, even inspiring, meetings with your clients.

Armed with the right insights, you’ll find it easier to excite your clients and lead them in new directions.

Photo by Felix Russell-Saw on Unsplash

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