Why soft skills should be every agency’s key focus

We are continuing a series of interview articles in which we ask agency owners, business leaders, and marketers, their views and opinions of the future of agencies with the fundamental changes we are observing during what we call The Great Agency [R]Evolution. Our second guest, Aaron Crewe told us why he thinks developing soft skills, should be one of the key focus for agencies.

Meet Aaron Crewe

Since founding the company Novi.Digital in 2009, Aaron has managed the business into teams of certified and experienced professionals. Bringing with him a total of over 15 years of digital marketing experience, he has worked for some of the UK’s largest digital agencies prior to starting Novi.Digital. Aaron began Novi.Digital with an aim to provide all of our clients with the high-caliber of SEO and digital marketing expertise that he felt was missing from the digital marketing industry, and Novi.Digital is a testimony to that success. Aaron has personally managed over £6m in Google Ads spend and invested over £750,000 of Novi.Digital marketing spend for a profitable return, as well as spearheading international campaigns for a number of Universities and FTSE250 organizations.

What changes in the agency market are you observing in the last few years?

There’s a real change happening in the market at present, we are seeing companies become more specialist and niche. It is likely that this is happening due to the subject matter becoming far more complex than it ever has been. You see this growth in software companies and websites also for which specialist products that fit a specific problem are seeing high growth. As a specialist company ourselves, we anticipated the push toward this requirement a number of years ago, however, it seems that the industry is catching up. As a result, we are seeing an increase in higher quality opportunities approach us and stay with us due to them being an ideal client fit. 

How will these changes transform the agency market in your opinion?

It is likely that we’ll see a reduction in the full-service style agency model in favor of more specialist agencies being used. Whilst this is harder for Marketing Directors and Marketing Managers to manage, we are seeing Marketing Managers becoming managers of agency relationships rather than implementers of the marketing campaigns. We prefer this model as it encourages stronger relationships enabling marketing managers to be the generalists and the agencies to be the experts. 

We are also seeing automation, data, AI and machine learning play a part in changing the industry. The difficulty with this is that there are many specialist software programs and apps that fulfill ‘micro-problems’. As such this is proving difficult for marketing experts to manage as there are too many tools to keep control off. As a result, we are seeing larger app companies purchase and amalgamate the smaller ones. Whilst this is positive, this could end up in a situation of using a smaller proportion of the app/software functionality as happened previously when the apps were a catch-all platform. 

Do you think that in near future clients will book agencies for cooperation similar to how people book hotels, taxis, take away food nowadays? If yes, when this will happen?

Most certainly and we are building a new platform in anticipation of this. The platform will help businesses choose an agency based on their particular criteria. As we are still in development we aren’t able to say anymore, but do visit our blog on www.novi.digital/blog for more information. 

What would the agency of the future look like?

It is my belief that the agency of the future will be a hybridized company of software and people. There will be a lot more automation than there is now, data will play a big part and campaigns will manage themselves based on the outcome of the data. The people within agencies will focus again on creative techniques and ideas much like the agencies of old.

Everything will be connected so you’ll start to see a full picture of the purchase journey.

What the agency market will look like in 10 years? 

The market will be much more segmented, fewer large agencies and many more specialists. Procurement will likely be more difficult at first as there will be many companies to choose from, however, it is likely that procurement managers will start to ask more specific questions to enable them to find agencies that fit their brief. Something that hasn’t changed all too much is that decisions are still be made in person, with a higher success rate from face-to-face meetings than those purely over email. 

What are the biggest threats for agencies nowadays? 

In-housing and automation are our biggest threats, but we have already started to enact services to help prevent this being an issue for our company.

What is your opinion about the condition of the agency market in scale 0-10?

It is quite the best that I can ever remember it being. Clients are more educated and you are seeing an improvement in the quality of agency existing in the market place. The thing clients still need to look out for is companies owned by directors that start up a new company and then shut it down shortly followed by starting up another company. This doesn’t seem to be happening as often these days, but it still something to watch out for. 

What is the most attractive agency specialization now? 

If an agency understands the clients’ aims, objectives and goals this is greatly appealing to the client. When the agency can then translate this into KPIs, mapping this to a strategy, reporting on progressing regularly using the metrics that the client measures their success by, then this is attractive to clients. All of these aspects are fundamental to the way that we operate. Soft skills are the biggest growth area at present.

So many people have tech knowledge now that it’s the people skills that are really vital.

What kind of competences your agency is going to develop in the near future (if any)?

Whilst our own IP in the form of software is crucial to future-proofing, it’s actually developing processes to continually work on improving soft-skills that is really helping us to succeed. We are working on psychometric measurements to ensure that the most suitable Account manager gets allocated to the right client. These tests are also helping us to ensure that the right potential opportunities convert into clients. 

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