The Digital Agency is Dead – Long Live the Agile Digital Agency

In the last six months, I have personally met with and interacted with not less than five different people and teams who are running what I’m calling the Agile Digital Agency.

It is a model of delivering enterprise quality digital marketing services that is going to have major ramifications to the current industry players.

What is the Agile Digital Agency?

The Agile Digital Agency has the following characteristics.

  1.  It is typically run by one or two founders who have digital marketing experience at the agency level serving a range of clients in various industries.  They are intimately familiar with the challenges of serving large demanding clients and implementing complex digital marketing campaigns.
  2. It is typically founded on  dissatisfaction with “the ways things are currently done” where they currently work.
  3. The Agile Digital Agency leverages cloud based technologies and mobile technologies to the max to allow them to conduct sales and marketing, operations, service delivery and manage overhead activities at the lowest fixed cost possible.  Not because  they are tight arses, but simply because it does not make sense to invest in infrastructure that minimises their business options.
  4. The Agile Digital Agency uses it’s strategic knowledge, technical skills, industry understanding, problem solving abilities and project management prowess to pull together flexible teams of digital marketing specialists to actually “do the work” without having to wear the cost of a full time team.

What is driving the Growth in the Agile Digital Agency?

There are a range of factors that are contributing to the growth in the Agile Digital Agency.

The disappearance of the distinction between traditional marketing and digital marketing.

Businesses no longer make a distinction between traditional marketing and digital.  There are only marketing channels to access  customers.

This has resulted in the massive increase in demand from small to medium sized enterprises for service providers with skills in the digital space which in turn provides the reason for being of Agile Digital Agencies.

The Talent Shortage

It’s becoming harder and harder to recruit technicians with the right online marketing skills who are willing to work full time in your organisation; to be paid less than they are (what they think they are ) worth  just to deal with office politics, the morning traffic jam , and the frustrations of broken internal processes that limit their ability to get the job done.

People with the right technical skills and experience in areas such as SEO, Content Marketing and Paid Search are tough to find.

Don’t believe me?  Try recruiting an SEO manager worth their salt in any capital city in Australia.

The Challenge of Recruiting and Managing Full Time Staff

The challenges of managing a full time work force are amplified with the current seismic shifts in values, technologies and career expectations of the current working generation.

Just listen to us poor old Gen X Managers talk about recruiting and keeping Gen Y staff.

There are some great discussions online about the challenges and frustration of trying to build an agency and a team of people who give a shit about the business you are building. Will Reynolds of Seer Interactive is one of the most transparent agency owners who talks about the challenges of recruiting  and motivating and keeping staff.

It’s becoming less and less attractive to build a team of full timers for many entrepreneurs, especially when there are alternative approaches available.

 Epic Technological Developments

In a world of crypto currencies, electric cars, distributed and mobile technologies, it’s no surprise that the cost structures of business have massively been turned on their heads.

Not only that, cloud computing, which encompasses the tools of the trade such as analytics, project management, social media monitoring and management, accounting and content marketing platforms have given agencies the ability to “do the work” better and faster and collaborate in ways that could never have been imagined just 10 years ago.

Don’t believe me?  37 Signals, a company renowned as the developer of cloud based project management software Basecamp has been operating with a virtual team of talented people since 1999.

 The Growth in Personal Options

The narrative of how you should live your life and what you should do to support yourself has changed along with the rest of the world.

Whatever cause you ascribe, globalisation, technology, the boom in the desire to live a fulfilling life of consequence, the fact is that people don’t  feel they need to follow the traditional path of getting educated, working a traditional job and living a normal life.

Tim Ferris and his book The Four Hour Work Week is an example of the kinds of thinking that has led to the growth in location independent entrepreneurship, and the Freelancing Economy which has changed how people want to work and work together.


What does this all mean for the Status Quo? 

I believe that the growth in the Agile Digital Agency will result in the following  changes in the Digital Marketing Space.

The Death of the Traditional Mid Sized Digital agency

The mid sized digital agency is being challenged on all sides as the larger traditional advertising agencies either buy or set up their own digital shops looking to take their share of the digital marketing pie.

Turf creep is inevitable as these behemoths look to offering  integrated offerings to their clients including services that traditionally were the forte of “Digital Marketing Agencies”

At the same time that digital agencies are being squeezed from the top end, the Agile Digital Agency is stealing their traditional bread an butter business by providing essentially the same services at at either a lower price point or at the same price point but with a much lower cost base than an agency that has full time premises, a full time staff and other traditional on-costs.

The Growth in “Premium Small” – The Agile Digital Agency

The expectation  that a small agency with a distributed team of part timers cannot deliver premium quality service and outcomes is patently false.

The quality of the service and the outcomes is driven by the knowledge and skills of the enterprising agency entrepreneur who can pull together best of breed technicians and manage the process in a manner that meets all parties expectations.

Smart entrepreneurs will leverage blogging and social media to position themselves as a premium offering that will be attractive to businesses wanting quality outcomes without paying the overheads that traditional mid sized agencies typically have to pass on.

Remember “Premium Small” is not to be confused with the backyard cowboy marketing person selling spammy seo services.

These are my observations based on my meetings and discussions with people working in the digital marketing space in Australia.

I’d love to hear your perspective in the comments below.

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