Recap: The Drum’s Agency Acceleration Day.
The last week in May was an especially busy one for those in the creative industries.
In Liverpool we had two days of workshops and keynotes from thinkers across disciplines at the Binary Festival (read our round-up of that here). Then on Thursday, the Drum held their annual Agency Acceleration Day in London.
The last week in May was an especially busy one for those in the creative industries. In Liverpool we had two days of workshops and keynotes from thinkers across disciplines at the Binary Festival (read our round-up of that here). Then on Thursday, the Drum held their annual Agency Acceleration Day in London. We went along to plug into what agency leaders from around the country had to share about the trends in the industry and what growth acceleration really looks like.
Things began with over 200 delegates settling in to listen to Michael Hayman from SevenHills – who turned out one of the best presentations of the day. For half an hour Michael (pictured) covered a lot of ground in an entertaining way sharing great stats, stories and insights around how “conscious businesses” will be those that win in disrupting markets and growing both quickly and sustainably – in particular he used Whole Foods as a bit of a case study.
There was a lot of gold to be mined amongst the content Michael shared but our main take-away was this… in the midst of unprecedented change – the agencies that will thrive will be those who are not only 100% crystal clear on their own mission… but have the confidence and the tools to readily assist their clients in getting clear on theirs! In addition to his content, we learned a lot from Michael in how to layer different presentational devices (video, imagery, stories, stats, tone and phrasing) to grab and move an audience. His new book, Mission will be worth picking up.
A couple of panel discussions yielded some challenging insights, particularly around the ongoing tension that creative agencies feel between being a “full-service” creative agency and “specialist / niche” provider to a particular industry or segment. Matt Law from Analog Folk and Francesca Brosnan from Omobono agreed that there is no right or wrong answer. Some clients want one partner with broad capability to handle all aspects of a challenge / brief. Some clients really want someone with specialist understanding of a market or service. Sometimes different people within the same client want different things! The key is to pick who you are and confidently move forwards without wasting time and energy on endless back and forth and second-guessing yourself.
Talent frequently came up as a topic. And contrary to a narrative that is sometimes spun, hiring great talent is just as much a problem for London-based firms as it is for those outside the capital. The keys shared by those doing well in the battle for the best people seem to be around having a thought-through and compelling employer proposition, building a culture of energy, excellence and fun with the employees you ALREADY have and finally, being bold in sharing the great work you do in changing your clients’ businesses. Great people will always want to work at firms that deliver meaningful and exciting projects, and have a culture of growth (both personal and corporate) at their core.
When it came to selling or preparing to sell, we heard a lot of common sense from both Nigel Vaz at Sapient and Charles Fallon at SI Partners and – without breaking Chatham House rules – it was great to feel reaffirmed in the advice we often find ourselves giving to clients… That is “the best way to ‘prepare to sell’ is ironically not to give all your focus to selling your business but by delivering stellar work and running a great company! It sounds like a no-brainer but we can attest to having been around many scenarios where it’s obvious that a founder desperate to sell takes their eye off the ball with business basics, whilst also succeeding in gaining the lower hand in negotiations because of that desperation.
There were masses of great ideas shared by great speakers who we’ve not been able to mention for the sake of space. However, one final callout needs to go to Simon Martin, CEO of Oliver who was both hugely generous and very compelling in sharing three really practical ways for agency owners to grow their firms. The whole talk would be deserving of an article in its own right, however for what it’s worth, his three headlines were:
- Adopt a “market oriented” approach – focusing equally on operational capability, competitor differentiation and sustainable client benefits.
- Be perfectionists who learn to become pragmatists and
- Find a scalable sales & marketing approach that is uniquely yours.
On that last point I’m sure many owners were comforted to hear that it took the team at Oliver three years to figure out what an authentic and effective S&M approach looked like for them, illustrating the point that there’s no magic bullet marketing strategy which is guaranteed to double your sales – it’s hard graft to figure out what fits your business and what resonates with your target client base.
When asked to offer one tip for doubling in size answers from different speakers predictably varied. Some of the most interesting quotes were “Go for what you can become famous for”, “Pay over the odds for a superb head of new business”, “Map out your customers’ needs and deliver THEIR growth strategy”, “Figure out what the smallest industry is that your company can dominate”.
All in all the day was a worthwhile investment of time. That said, Richard Draycott, the Drum Networks MD and MC for the day, nailed it at the very beginning of the session by stating that those attending “will not see acceleration happen from simply being at these masterclasses, but from taking time to figure out how those insights need to land back in your business and make real change happen on the ground.” We agree!
To find out more and register interest for next years event, why not visit the Drum’s page by clicking here.
* Images credit – The Drum