Key findings from the 2024 Agency Marketing Benchmark Report

 |  In: Agency management | Trends and insights

Acquiring new clients has always been one of the most challenging aspects for agencies. And 2023 presented even more obstacles, with the economic downturn causing reduced budgets, longer decision-making times, and projects being cancelled even after the agency had won the pitch. All of these factors highlight the unpredictable nature of client engagements and the need for robust marketing strategies.

This year, Synergist has partnered with Chime Agency to produce the 2024 Agency Marketing Benchmarking Report. 

Chime analysed 200 agencies to discover why 60% are falling behind and revealed what sets the top agencies apart. The report gives agencies tangible insights to use as a springboard for growth.

The current landscape

Chime evaluated how the agencies stacked up across four key areas:

  • Their proposition
  • Their website effectiveness
  • Their social media presence, and
  • Their overall content marketing strategy

Marks were totalled across all categories to hit a total out of 47.

58% of agencies scored below last year’s benchmark. With over half of agencies scoring below last year’s benchmark, marketing performance seems to have dipped, suggesting an industry-wide struggle.

However, deep-diving into specific specialisms, the report found that digital and web agencies, along with performance agencies, are the frontrunners—perhaps due to their ability to navigate complexities—while video production and events/experiential companies were lagging behind somewhat. The common thread that emerged was the ‘always-on’ concept, a recognition that marketing is a continuous process rather than a one-off effort.

Mirroring last year’s results, large agencies are dominant, with 58% of the agencies in the top 10% with more than 30 staff employees. It’s clear that agency size, resource allocation and overall performance are intrinsically linked.

Proposition scores indicate a growing recognition of the need for clear, compelling positioning. Although the way agencies present their value proposition has improved by 16%, 42% still lack clarity in their messaging.

Content across channels

60% have seen their content marketing quality drop over the last year. Lack of cohesive content cost many agencies marks in the benchmarking process, with no clear goal orientation, absence of diverse content, unclear target audience, undefined tone of voice and underuse of channels all cited as reasons for poorly executed content strategy.

In fact, 45% of agencies lack any kind of content marketing strategy altogether. While most scored well on the visual design elements, the real surprise was the lack of optimisation of call to actions. This essential draw for meaningful engagement was not clear in 43% of agencies – a real opportunity here to be grasped.

Almost half of agencies are also not offering up regular fresh content, refreshing monthly at a minimum. Plus, just 37% are using case studies, a critical narrative tool which can highlight tangible benefits to clients.

Many agencies also failed to single out a ‘hero moment’, a high-value campaign led by thought leadership or research. These can have huge commercial value when integrated into a cohesive content strategy, but only 26% of agencies embraced them.

Target audience definition was also patchy, with 44% of agencies struggling to identify their specific audience segments. 60% of agencies also failed to tailor content to different social media audiences. There were also notable issues with content quality, with 29% of agencies falling below expectations in terms of misalignment of content with proposition.

Taking an audience-centric approach can lead to better commercial marketing success, so agencies could look to improving their audience understanding and strategic content planning in the future.

Practise what you preach

Do as I say but not as I do? 46% of agencies are not practising what they preach!

Events & experiential: a staggering 86% of these agencies don’t host their own events to showcase expertise, possibly due to resources or a lack of clear strategy. But these agencies have a golden opportunity to show as well as tell, demonstrating their expertise through their own well-executed events.

Web & digital: this group fared the best, with an impressive 87% showing a strong digital presence which effectively showcased their expertise. For those falling short, it was due to poor website usability, navigation issues and slow loading times.

Performance marketing: here, the report found that 64% of these agencies practiced what they preached, particularly in terms of clever use of meta descriptions and active blogs to maximise SEO activity.

Consultancies: although these agencies are the experts in their field at advising clients on strategic solutions, the report found that just 19% apply their own strategies internally. This minority offer advisory content for audiences, through regular website updates and social media posts. Singling themselves out as definitive thought leaders and building credibility with their clients.

Copywriting & content: the split here was relatively even, with 55% of agencies putting their money where their mouth is. For the remaining 45%, suggested areas for improvement including consistency of tone of voice, creating engaging, relevant content for their audiences and showing the power of words in a marketing strategy.

Marketing & full service: inconsistency and lack of regular website and social media updates were the main culprits for the Do as I say but not as I do? Highlighted rectifications here included facing inconsistency head on and aligning their own content with their asserted expertise.

Design, branding & creative: the majority of these agencies were deemed to be effectively showcasing their skills, but 41% were not. The report suggested increased synergy between messaging and execution could help boost these scores, with a web presence that struck the balance between visual appeal and ease of use.

PR & communications: while these agencies were offering a range of channels for their clients, 71% weren’t making full use of these themselves. The report acknowledged this could be due to licensing or accessibility issues, but suggested using strong testimonials and case studies could help to circumnavigate this.

Video production: with just 42% of these agencies actually producing their own videos, there is clearly room for a more proactive approach, using videos on their main web pages and embedding them into blogs, as well as using videos on social media platforms.

Navigating the agency marketing crisis

Ultimately, the findings of the report showed there are some clear disparities with agencies’ marketing efforts in comparison with expected levels. But where there are challenges there are opportunities, and the report also highlights areas of potential improvement which could propel agencies forward.

Running an agency means never having time. You and your teams are always busy with client work because that’s where the revenue comes from.

This can trap you in a catch-22 situation of taking people off client work to do internal work to generate more client work. But, if you want to grow, you need to invest. This will mean allocating some of your team members to your marketing and reducing their time on chargeable work.

Our most successful Synergist customers treat themselves as a valued ‘client’, planning out what they need to do to reach their objectives and giving it a proper marketing budget.

You should respect that doing this properly will cost you money. It’s not free, and it shouldn’t be free – don’t undervalue your work. Although it can be tempting to scrimp and save, it can be a false economy. Remember to practise what you preach!

We recommend you estimate the time and resources needed for each marketing project and your monthly ‘always-on’ marketing activities, such as content and socials. Then, include this in your agency’s financial plan. This helps you properly allocate and manage your time and costs, plus you can bring in external resources, as these costs are planned for.

We'd also highly recommend tracking the cost of these jobs, just as you would any client job. That way, you can see the return you achieve, helping reinforce the value of your time and expertise.

By truly embracing and implementing marketing strategies, agencies can not only navigate through these lean times but emerge stronger, more visible, and more attractive to current and potential clients.

Get the full report

Dive deep into the evolving marketing landscape with the 2024 Agency Marketing Benchmark Report. Download the full report