Evolving Your Agency for Online Marketing – Part 1

Through the 80s and 90s, when I worked in traditional advertising agencies – first as a copywriter, then creative director and occasional producer/director – I didn’t think of what I was doing as “traditional.” You probably didn’t either, because there was nothing to compare to, nothing to be more “traditional” than.

Then the Internet came rocketing into our lives, and suddenly (excuse the hyperbole, but in hindsight, it sure seems like it was sudden) we and everyone we knew were on the Internet 24/7.

Not quite as suddenly, but fast enough to knock us off our balance, all of the work that most of us had produced prior to the year 2000 or so (TV, radio, print, outdoor, direct mail, public relations) was being lumped into the category of “traditional” advertising. And for an industry built on a heaping helping of creativity, being labeled “traditional” carries a sting.

So, first, let me encourage you to unclench your teeth and take a deep breath. “Traditional” isn’t bad. It’s not a putdown. Prior to 2000, it’s where the eyeballs were. And a lot of eyeballs still are on TV, and print, and outdoor, so those traditional media are still plenty relevant. Traditional is simply a convenient way of labeling stuff that happens OFF the Internet, to distinguish it from stuff that happens ON the Internet. Some people use the term “offline,” but I think that sounds awkward and unconnected, which is worse. So for me, traditional advertising works just fine.

Nevertheless, I’ll assume you’re reading this because you recognize two critical business opportunities: A lot of consumers (your customers’ customers) are spending a lot of time on the Internet, and your customers are looking for help reaching them there. So you’re getting those calls more and more frequently: “Can you help us sort out this social media thing?”and “We want our website to do more for our business” and “Do we need a blog or a Facebook page?”

And you’re freaking out
I know you are. I talk to agency owners and creative directors and account managers every week who say the same thing: “We need to get our head around this online thing. There’s so much to learn, we don’t know where to start. And our clients aren’t going to wait around for us.” They have panic in their eyes. And I sympathize, because just a few years ago I was a traditional agency creative director who, together with the owner of the agency, decided we should get our heads around this online thing. I’ve been where you are. I can help.

In this series, I’m going to lead you, logical step by step, through evolving your traditional agency toward better serving your customers and toward taking full advantage of the opportunities that online marketing presents, both in expanded marketing presence for your customers and in revenue for your agency. By the end of this series, you’ll have a roadmap for navigating your way through the unfamiliar territory of online marketing. Here’s a peek at where we’re going to go:

What’s Out There? What’s happening in online marketing? Where are the opportunities? I’ll point out the key components, and I’ll share approaches and resources for keeping up on the ever-evolving landscape of online media.

What Do You Want To Be? Is your goal to add full-service online marketing capabilities? Or would the smarter tactic be to add niche services? We’ll work through a planning exercise.

What Do You Need To Get There? What knowledge and resources do you have now? What do you lack? This installment will help you create a “shopping list” of ingredients for your agency evolution.

Where Can You Get What You Need? I’ll share resources for bolstering your knowledge, finding good mentors and advisors, and shoring up your team with key players.

In Part 2, I give you some homework to start getting yourself acclimated to the online world.

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