Less is more – the new agency model.

Professor Marvell, the mysterious traveling fortuneteller that consults Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, gazed into his crystal ball (and her hand basket) to give her guidance. If you don’t recall the movie, take a moment to watch Judy Garland in this timeless piece. Anyhow, based on many conversations with entrepreneurs, business owners, as well as various consultants and “other” agencies, here are some predictions to consider as you plan for the next era of reaching your customers.

1.) Niche: Get specialized or die on the vine

The big fat agencies are done. Why? For one thing: tons of overhead. Big buildings, swanky corner offices, unproductive employee overhead, meetings about the meetings, whatever you want to call it. Forget it.

An agency model that drives up expenses instead of creating measurable ROI, behooves an environment that isn’t cutting edge. More like a snail on a turtle’s back – seems fast for the snail, but is VERY SLOW. Decisions are slow. Action is slow. Adoption of new technology … ahem … so slow that the “new technology” is NOT new anymore.

Sure “everyone under one roof” is fine, just open your wallet or open up a tab. Have you heard of the “world wide interweb?” An internal team with “core competencies” can lead a group of collaborators to an amazing end product – that’s what we do – call it what you will. It’s all about results.

2.) Content is king

If you had budget “back in the day” you could just hand over all of your marketing, advertising or PR to the “agency” and sit back and watch it all happen. The problem with this, and where we are leading the trend, is that smarter, faster, better promotion and advertising requires participation from the client. This means you.

Smarter, faster, better is all about the client becoming a trusted resource as opposed to a product pusher. The go-to person. Online and off. New marketing isn’t about banner ads or us “tweeting and interacting for you”, it is about content. There is a huge value to help clients with this and a new media agency like Elev8 is poised for the future. Hop on the glass elevator and let’s blow the roof off!

3.) You are an educator

Teaching is THE model that continues as the crucial aspect of good messaging. More specifically, teaching clients, companies and consumers. Not “selling” them on a product, but “teaching them” how and why. This creates honest “relationships” rather than “hype”.

Perhaps it is monthly events in your home town where you invite out business owners and marketers. Share with them what you do. What has been successful, what has not. These are not “trade secrets” but locker room talk that can create bonds that last. And in many ways, this content can be monetized directly via a good plan and a content marketing strategy.

4.) Outsourcing relationships? No way!

Let’s talk about social media for a second. A lot of agencies and consultants are offering social media services for their clients. Hey, great idea! But, what is being offered, what should be offered and who’s doing the talking?

Can an agency assist with content creation? Can an agency find relevant articles/other content in your niche to share on Twitter, Facebook, etc.? Can an agency suggest people to follow? Can an agency set up a Facebook page and Twitter account for you? Can an agency suggest tweeting topics? Can an agency post content to your Twitter and Facebook accounts? Suggest blogs and forums you should be participating in/on?

The answer is “yes” to all of the above but with some degree of caution. We cannot “be you” and act like you online. We can coach you to be the best you can be, but you gotta be you. You will form relationships with real people and for the long haul. You will engage in small talk and as if it’s coming from the head honcho. This cannot be outsourced to be authentic in today’s smart consumer market.

To build relationships and trust, you absolutely cannot outsource it. You must be an active participant in the relationship, otherwise you’re just “eye candy.” So, this doesn’t mean sitting behind the computer all day, because you can “engage” from anywhere, anytime. Unless you’re still using a flip phone.

5.) Respect gets respect

Traditional media is not dead. Traditional advertising is not dead. However, there are some incredible opportunities online to generate buzz, leads, sales, trust, success stories and relationships. Respect the bloggers and new media sources as they have real sponsorship, followings and advertising opportunities that go well-beyond 30-second spots and the totally dead banner ad. Banner ads are noise. You want signal. Blogs and social media outlets are respectable media outlets especially if you are looking for ROI.

Pitching the local paper is ok, but why not start building relationships with respected bloggers and popular social media fan pages in your niche market? Traditional media in many cases is like “chatting at the pub” – at the end of the evening you hardly recall what you talked about. Sometimes, there is a memorable conversation, but they are 1 in 100 usually.

Your take-aways

All in all, these are extremely exciting (and volatile) times for agencies, brands, businesses and entrepreneurs all hopefully looking to evolve and maximize the present era of doing business. Some will die on the vine. Pick the fruit when it’s ripe.