To stay ahead of changes in the digital world, you must be adroit and quick. You must notice what those around you are doing and be able to replicate—and, indeed, elevate—those strategies when applied to your own cause.

That might sound insurmountable, especially considering the amount of information that already exists on the topic of digital marketing. Luckily, one study has recently surfaced that provides invaluable numbers, facts, and trends, collected from over 300 digital agencies across three continents – the Digital Agencies 2016 Survey, conducted by Millward Brown for Kentico Software.

Let’s examine four ways in which agency leaders are visualising reshaping their digital strategies in the coming year, enabling you to follow suit:

1. Plan to grow

Growing your agency is one way to innovate and continue to bring new ideas to the fore, so it comes as no surprise that the vast majority (81%) of agencies, regardless of size and region, say they plan to hire more people this year. 71% of agencies plan to invest more money in software. Not only that—agencies are also seeking out new CMS and digital marketing platforms, particularly agencies in the UK as well as those in New Zealand and Australia. Continuing to expand and not be afraid of trying new strategies is, in this day and age, something that can only be seen as beneficial.

2. Think outside the traditional solution box

Predictably, many agencies offer the mainstays of traditional services—web development, analytics, email marketing, social media marketing, and content marketing. But just how can agencies differentiate themselves in a competitive marketplace? It may be interesting to note, however, that agencies that consider themselves to perform above average also offer services such as the collation and analysis of customer data as well as gamification. It is far more typical of below-average agencies to offer SEO, marketing automation, search ads, and loyalty programs.
Among all agencies, most (58%) offer web and mobile analytics solutions, as well as web content management platforms. Social media and email marketing complete the list of most popular services. Interestingly, personalisation is the least offered solution, coming in last with only 20% of agencies recommending this. Lead scoring also comes close to the bottom, with a mere 23% of agencies offering this.

While you may be able to offer a tailored solution for many of these aspects, 60% of agencies’ clients preferred an all-in-one solution over a best-of-breed solution, meaning clients are expecting much more out of their platforms, even from services that agencies may not be offering.

3. Step into your clients’ shoes

One of the biggest obstacles facing agencies, according to this survey, is that there is a dearth of communication. While the top complaint amongst agencies is that there is too much competition on the market (80% of agencies cite this as a problem), there isn’t much you, as an agency, can do to limit said competition.

More interestingly, the three issues that follow can all be overcome. Over three-quarters of agencies (78%) believe that clients want to use digital marketing but fear that they don’t understand these tools well enough. Agencies in New Zealand and Australia believe this most strongly. The next issue is that clients expect a lot for an incomparable amount of work. Agencies in the Czech Republic are the strongest proponents of this belief. And a large 73% of agencies think that they give their clients the digital marketing tools they need, but the clients end up not using them.

When asked what could have minimized project losses, the most common answers all dealt with rectifying misunderstandings. Greater success could have been achieved had clients known exactly what they were seeking, been more cooperative, and if employees had understood the tasks at hand. These answers remain the same among above-average and below-average agencies, meaning this is a universal issue in communication.

4. Manage project expectations—and use Agile thinking

In response to open questions about their projects, managers cited that “the reasons for project delays can usually be found on the client’s side—specifically, by them not being sure what they really want, a low awareness and understanding of digital marketing tools, and changing requirements”. Perhaps Agile methodologies could help? Two-thirds of above-average agencies claim to utilise these streamlining practices, versus just 41% of below-average agencies. Agile tactics allow teams to respond to changes made on both sides of a project, whether the client decides they need a new custom feature or if a graphic designer realizes she needs more time. Being able to stay on your toes makes sure you don’t commit to putting all your eggs in one basket.

Project complications aside, managers claim that 76% of projects are profitable—although, this does mean 24% are not profitable. Making use of the above four strategies can help move this number closer to 100%.

Of course, there is much more packed into this survey. If you’re curious to know what the price of a project is across the globe, how many projects agencies are completing annually, how much US agencies are paying their UX designers, or what else other agencies are concerned about, read the full survey.

Duncan Hendy

Duncan Hendy


Duncan Hendy, Content Strategy Manager at Kentico Software.