Where Do Advertising Agency Clients Search? Could Be Agency Spotter


Where do advertising agency clients go to search for new agencies?

To answer this critical question, you have to think like a client. However, putting yourself in the shoes of a client looking for that new shiny advertising, digital, etc. agency is not easy. Some client prospects are sophisticated buyers, more are not. Some have selected agencies before. Most have not.

I’ve written at length about how prospective clients find advertising, digital and PR agencies. You can read a bit here… “Ten Ways To Advertise Your Advertising Agency”.

But let’s keep it simple. There are essentially two primary methods of being found that you can manage…

  1. You work to let prospective clients know that your agency exists (direct account-based marketing; advertising; press; awards shows, ah, yes, actively managing referrals, etc.)
  2. You are visible where and when the client is looking (Google position; inbound-directed content marketing; agency and agency key employee LinkedIn profiles; agency directories; ad club lists, etc..)

Sure, there is a bit of a Homer Simpson ‘doi’ factor here. But, believe me, many agencies do not take advantage of every awareness opportunity that avails. A side story. When I moved back from Saatchi London to run North American business development I asked a competitive NYC agency principle, his name was on the door, what worked. He said’ “I have no clue what is the most effective business development strategy, so we do everything.”

More history. Fifteen years ago, I found out that my Portland agency’s previous owner had placed ads for us in the Yellow Pages (!) by the agency getting a Yellow Pages driven-lead from the USA’s largest saltwater boat company – we won the account. Who could have predicted that the boat company’s CEO used the Yellow Pages to search for an agency? Learning  = be everywhere that makes sense. OK, I’d pass on today’s Yellow Pages (I think).

Agency Spotter

The agency search website Agency Spotter is a very active agency awareness resource.

Agency Spotter was launched in 2013 to help marketers find the right marketing communications agency. Believe me, in my role as an ad agency client, 1995 to 2002, finding the right agency and making this critical engagement decision was not easy. I had run business development at the world’s largest agency but even with that personal experience, it was a tough process for me to find and select the right agency.

Here’s Agency Spotter’s mantra.

Agency Spotter is reinventing how brands find and work with creative agencies, design firms and marketing service providers.

For every business, finding marketing agencies takes significant time and is full of risk. Agency Spotter’s aim is to help change that. Our digital platform makes it much faster and free to find great agencies and design firms that fit the needs of brands and provides more information to help them make confident decisions.

Whether you are a subject matter expert looking for a small niche agency to inject some innovation in a specific area of your business or you’re a marketing leader searching for a digital agency of record, Agency Spotter makes it easy for agencies and brands to find one another and work smarter together.

I recently had the opportunity to interview Agency Spotter’s founder and leader Brian Regienczuk about the service and its 2019 Marketing Trends Report. A survey of marketers.

The 2019 Marketing Trends Report

You can download the 2019 Marketing Trends Report here. There is some very good news.

  • 57% of CEO’s and 63% of CMO’s expect to increase their 2019 marketing budgets.
  • Marketers still dig advertising. “Advertising” is Agency Spotter’s most searched service.
  • Today’s pool of decision makers is much more diverse. I find it interesting that 42.2% are 25 to 34 in age. Clearly, a high concentration of digital natives.
  • If you are a woman-owned agency, you are in good shape. There were 74% more searches for ‘woman-owned’ agencies year over year.

OK, got to go here. There is some bad news for your advertising, digital and PR agency on Agency Spotter. You are in a highly competitive environment.

A search of the agencies listed on Agency Spotter turned up 2,302 advertising; 660 PR; 1,124 digital strategy and 696 social media agencies. And, there are even more sub-categories. This is bad news if your agency is not listed (a basic listing is free). As you might expect, if you pay more and you get more awareness goodies.

I am not shilling for Agency Spotter. Just suggesting that you better outshine your competitors’ awareness marketing and be where clients search.

The Interview – Brian Regienczuk

As a brand marketer, Brian saw the need for a better system for generating agency awareness and selection. ….. A bit of bio:

Former Group Director of Global Design at The Coca-Cola Company, he has overseen multi-million dollar budgets and worked with top brands for more than 20 years including Bacardi, Minute Maid, Philips, Sprite, GM, The Home Depot, WebMD and many more. Brian has tackled this space before, refining agency management and global rosters at Coca-Cola.

This interview was edited for clarity and length.

PL: Tell me a little bit about Agency Spotter.


Agency Spotter helps make sense of the marketing and advertising industry landscape. On the public side, we’re kind of like Match.com or Yelp connecting marketers and agencies. On the private side, we help the world’s largest brands better manage their internal roster of agency suppliers and freelancers.

We’ve been around for over six years now, and have been growing every single year. I founded the company coming from Coca-Cola because I saw how much time marketers and other decision makers at these companies were spending trying to figure out who they should work with.

This was especially true in the marketing, advertising, and design branding spaces. We built Agency Spotter from the ground up to really solve those hard problems and to service agencies in ways that they had never thought of being found before. Everything from industry expertise to budget ranges, and really leveling the playing field at the end of the day for the small and medium-sized agencies that marketers were and continued to look for.

PL: Is your primary customer the agency or advertising agency clients that are looking for an agency?

Brian: On AgencySpotter.com, the public side, we spend most of our time talking to decision-makers at the brand that are hiring agencies. It’s free for marketers to use and agencies are listed for free. Revenues are primarily driven through agencies upgrading so that they can get more targeted exposure for the search results that make the most sense for the business. And, we’re kind of like LinkedIn, where an upgraded agency can actually see who’s viewed them.

PL: I am curious about something, I’ve got an agency client right now that I’m working with and one of the things I’m talking to him about, you know this better than I do, is the idea that… I find the agency hard to find on the web. I do a search on their city and they come up on page three. I look them up on your website and they’re not there. You have to be where people look, right?

Brian: Yes, exactly.

PL: So why would an agency not go for the free listing on Agency Spotter? Is it just a failure on their part to choose to be everywhere??

Brian: Yes, in many cases. Marketing communications agencies are very busy, so time is a factor. If they are getting business from three channels, and maybe one channel gets you most of your business, but the other two are still producing business for you, do you turn one off? Why would you turn one off? It doesn’t make sense to me. To me, we’re a channel for agencies to get new business. Every agency should be on Agency Spotter if they are looking for new clients or looking to expand within existing client accounts.

PL: When agencies upgrade they get a live link to their website. What else?

Brian: An agency also gets to show their portfolio work to decision makers.  When I was a Group Director of Global Design at Coke and I wanted to be able to quickly look at different design firms or different branding firms, I didn’t want to have to hunt through their websites. Every agency website is designed so differently, it’s a pain.

At the end of the day, we make it really easy for somebody to quickly get a sense of what you’re about and decide whether they want to take the next step, whether they want to go to your website and navigate that and look deeper into a case study. We designed the platform to help decision-maker but also to help agencies filter out the riff-raff using filters like budget range.

PL: Since we just discussed what an agency isn’t doing right, what other things do you think, what’re the criteria that make an agency look great these days? 

Brian: Number one: your current and recent clients are your best tool to get new business. We all know this, but agencies don’t always take advantage of it. Our platform is designed to help you quickly get a review, a testimonial if you will, from a client that likes you. Plus, have reviews on third party sites that verify every review, as we do, is gold for your business development.

PL: You have a reports section on your website that includes the Top 30 Advertising Agencies. How do you create a list like that?

Brian: An algorithm takes an initial stab at ordering the list, and, then, we fine tune it based on agency work and what we hear people saying about the agency. The more complete your portfolio is, the higher you are going to rank in organic search for the algorithm too.

PL: You folks do a lot of client-based research. What do you see as the top 2 or 3 trends that are happening in 2019? Where is the business going?

Brian: Good question. One of the things I was surprised by, and maybe I shouldn’t have been, is how strong advertising itself continues to be. It’s our number one most searched service, but it’s not necessarily because of the idea of traditional advertising. When you look at all of the search data, digital is the primary influence in advertising, digital advertising and across all the social media channels, Google, Adware, all the ‘newer’ platforms.

No surprise, digital is influencing every other service, literally, even packaging design is now being influenced by digital. For example, how is a package going look on social media, how is it going to show up on Amazon? The broad influence of digital across many platforms is one of the things we take for granted.

Another interesting finding is that we saw a 74% increase in searches for women-owned agencies, which I thought was phenomenal. There has been a lot of focus on women, women leadership and in the marketing space, just in general in the board room and it’s great to see some of that translating to agency searches.

PL: I’ve got two other questions for you.

You’re entering this world of partner management. What does that mean to you?

Brian: We built a private internal tool, an internal platform for companies like an American Express that helps them better search, engage and manage their roster of existing agencies and other partners more efficiently, effectively, and mitigate risk internally.

We have really large brands that have hundreds or thousands of agencies and design partners globally. They now have a single place, internally, where all their team members can go. The agencies are invited to update their information as it relates to that client and now there is an internal dialogue between marketers and other subject matter experts at those companies searching for partners. It is streamlining marketing, contributing to better performance over time, and improving the relationship between marketing and marketing procurement too.

PL: Last question, if you had one simple, succinct, piece of business-building advice for an advertising agency, a digital agency, a PR agency, in 2019 what is that finite piece of advice?

Agency leaders and CMO’s have got to start talking more about ROI – and not in a fluffy way. It needs to be tied to a quantifiable increase in customers,  increased revenue, increased conversions. All the hard stuff that may be sales-y on the sales side of marketing.

ROI focus has never been so visibly demanded in the board room, by the C Suite and the CFO’s as it is today. If you don’t have an ROI analytical competency, you need to take a hard look at how you’re staffing and measuring results for your clients.

PL: I will second your point here. ROI rules. Figuring a way to communicate a LOVE of ROI at the agency is critical.

Even More – Leads

Give me a shout if you’d like to hear one brilliant business development idea that will drive more leads from the advertising agency clients that you deserve.

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