In a radical re-think of the client-agency relationship, Splendid Group is adding clients to the creative content team. Executive Creative Director Barrie Seppings explains how it works.
I grew up in an agency business model built on reassuring our clients that we’re the only ones who can make quality marketing assets. I’m a Creative Director who’s actively encouraging, recruiting, onboarding, training and supporting my clients to produce creative marketing content. Here’s why.
The average B2B purchasing decision now involves 8 to 10 decision makers.
Each one of these individuals consumes almost 30* pieces of content as they research, educate, eliminate and advocate their way to a major B2B technology purchase. Even if half these content pieces are shared amongst the entire buying cohort, we could be looking at dozens, maybe scores of original content. Every one of them has to be on brand, well-written, nicely art-directed and formatted correctly (at a minimum). If you’re a B2B marketer relying on an agency to make all of this, that’s starting to sound expensive.
Agencies say they want to be a partner rather than a vendor. But we rarely act like it.
Vendors sell, partners help. That’s the ‘pub test’ for client-agency relationships. Yes, you can (and should) charge a fee for helping your clients, but you’ve got to be genuine about helping them first, rather than gatekeeping skills & knowledge in order to preserve revenue. The eureka moment for us at Splendid Group came when we took a step back from re-designing our agency model and decided to think about our agency as part of our clients’ business model. What would we look like if we genuinely wanted to help them create better content? We’d treat them like part of the creative team and teach them to use content creation tools. But that’s crazy, right? Well, it used to be.
Here’s what’s different this time:
The technology is so much better. Actually, that’s only half the story. This better tech is also much easier to use. The compromise between usability and power is no longer the brutal, binary choice between learning complex software or settling for simplistic (and often awful) output.
I’d like to take a moment to congratulate Powerpoint* for prompting this revolution. While very few capital D Designers consider it a design tool, PPT has been quietly riding that boundary between power & usability for years, although confined largely to the corporate and education worlds. For consumers, iMovie was probably the original ‘great equaliser’. Then Wix and Squarespace did it for web design. Canva is the obvious, and most recent, giant-killer for layouts, prompting Adobe to re-think its entire entry-level toolset while also prompting a raft of innovative new web-based video production toolsets, including Riverside, Welder, Vouch and Australia’s own StudioBucket.
The ‘secret sauce’ for these tools are their template ecosystems – 3rd party plug-ins, add-ons, libraries and building blocks that remove the burden of ‘origination’ and put the focus on adaptation & customisation. The most successful of these ecosystems are the ones that help you look good, through education, assistance and feedback.
Here’s why it’s working for clients:
Technology aside, there are several other factors at play that give me optimism for this collaborative client-agency creative model.
- Cost efficiency – by harnessing the ‘democratisation power’ of these tools for our clients, they can quickly reach the break-even point for content creation each quarter, after which the bulk of their content becomes effectively ‘free’.
- Brand safety – when set up correctly, these tools provide safety guardrails for brands and an ‘approved environment’ for talent to create within. You can’t break anything and it’s hard to make work that’s legitimately damaging for a brand.
- Talent development – any workplace that offers this kind of safety automatically builds confidence and trust. Those are the vital ingredients to encourage client-side talent to thrive.
Here’s why it’s working for agencies:
Why on would an agency teach their clients to do the jobs that they traditionally gatekeep and charge for? It sounds counter-intuitive, but we’re already seeing the benefits, both in terms of dollars and talent.
- Our clients preserve ‘working dollars’ for more important campaigns – the constant (and growing) body of ‘content’ a brand needs for successful B2B sales has to be created, one way or another. The reality is that more marketing dollars and resources are being spent this way every quarter to support that activity – but it’s neither efficient nor sustainable. When we help our clients put their day-to-day content through a more cost-effective model, they can focus their marketing dollars on more strategic, creative and effective campaign effective work.
- We can focus our pro-level creative talent on those important campaigns Splendid Group is a pure-play B2B technology ad agency. All of our people are senior, skilled and experienced, which make them the perfect partners for high-value strategic campaigns. The hybrid model offered by Splendid Studio ensures your most important marketing challenges are assigned to the most appropriate agency talent.
- It extends our re-think of the relationship between client and agency – at Splendid Group, we’ve already been using the idea of ‘adaptive swim lanes’ with our clients for some time, stepping in as project managers, marketing managers or even as fractional CMOs when they need us to. The rise of remote and distributed work has also made it easier to think through these more fluid structures. If we’re reaching across the aisle to do more marketing manager work, it makes sense to have them reach back and assist with creative production where appropriate.
Under this new ‘Hybrid Content Creation’ model, we are recruiting, onboarding, training and encouraging a cohort of new talent for the creative department. This talent just happens to work for our clients’ organisation. The difference is that we’re working together to put better-looking, more polished and effective creative work in market.
We’ve dubbed this new model the Splendid Studio, but we don’t think of it like a traditional production studio – more like a yoga studio or fitness studio. A place where client teams come to select the appropriate equipment, learn new skills, train to improve and get encouraging feedback. Our studio doesn’t create more content. We develop better content creators.
Clients are looking for change to their marketing model, not necessarily new agency models.
New skills, new attitudes, new business models and – crucially – a raft of new and evolving ‘creator’ toolsets are making this look the template for sustainable commercial creative collaboration.
We’ve already got clients using Splendid Studio to create videos, tiles, social posts, banners and graphics to support thought leadership, product overviews
SME interviews, panel discussions, podcasts, new staff introductions, weekly team updates and more.
If more quality content is in your future (and if you’re a B2B Tech Marketer, it absolutely is), it makes sense to invest in a more sustainable production platform. Book in a session with us to see how Splendid Studio can help you build a hybrid content creation model for your brand. Talk to us now.