What’s the best way to position your agency for growth? Selling the services your clients really want to purchase.

Right now, clients are preparing their 2017 marketing budgets and making strategic decisions for next year. The way companies search for marketing services has shifted over the last three years, and your agency might need to reposition itself to meet emerging new demands. 

Agency Spotter — a free online service that makes it easy for agencies and brands to find one another and work smarter together — recently compiled a report that looks across the top 25 marketing services from 2014, 2015, and the first half of 2016. Subscribe to HubSpot's Agency newsletter today.

The Agency Search Trends Report offers revealing insights on the evolving world of agency search, selection and engagement. In this article, we’ll cover how these agency search trends could impact your business and — possibly — your career in the industry. You can also download the full Agency Search Trends Report here

Staying On Top: Advertising, Digital Strategy, Web, Social Media, Marketing Strategy

Some marketing services seem to always be on top. Advertising has remained the number one most popular service to search on Agency Spotter from 2014 through the first half of 2016. It is also the most crowded service in terms of the number of agencies identifying as advertising agencies.

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Digital Strategy, Web, Social Media, Marketing Strategy, Mobile all remained near the top across the same duration.

Dropping Down: Branding, Design Strategy, User Experience, and more

Branding, Design Strategy, User Experience Design, E-Commerce, Gaming, and Graphic Communication Design were all down by the first half of 2016 versus where they had been in 2014, indicating a steady decline in client interest.

Some, like E-Commerce, Design Strategy and User Experience, actually generated more searches between 2014 and 2015, only to show a significant decline for the first half of this year.

Others, like User Experience (UX) and Gaming, dropped off Agency Spotter’s top 25 services list altogether. As someone who has practiced user experience design in one form or another for 20 years, the decline in searches for UX had me scratching my head for a minute.

I don’t think the importance of UX has diminished. I suspect that searches for UX have gone down because it has become a given and a requirement for any digital agency or design firm.

Perhaps the way people search for UX design has changed. Digital marketers are likely searching instead for Digital Strategy, Web, and Mobile first, and evaluating how much focus these digital agencies have on User Experience Design.

Perhaps the same is true for gaming. Has gaming become just one component in consideration as marketers look for a digital agency partners who can drive more results across multiple areas? Or, have marketers become more savvy in their digital strategy, no longer just searching for a trend but only looking for a gaming specialist agency when their strategy calls for it to reach their desired goals?

Bouncing Back: Public Relations, Events, and Innovation

Maybe it’s no surprise that searches for Content Marketing Agencies have been skyrocketing up. But did you know that searches for Innovation Agencies were down last year and seem to have more than rebounded in 2016? Public Relations and Events Marketing also bounced down in 2015 and seem to have recovered for the year.

Many Jumped Up: Content Marketing, Data Analytics, Direct Marketing, and Experiential Marketing

As some services decline, others seem to be searched more and more since 2014. With all the talk of big data, the Data Analytics service shows sustained growth in number of searches across all three data points.

Content Marketing continued to see growth so far this year, though it was near parity between 2014 and 2015. However, in 2015, we introduced Inbound Marketing and suspect that may have competed with Content Marketing. Interestingly, Inbound Marketing has shown strong growth since it was added in 2015 and this year.

Another addition that has taken off since its introduction in 2015 is Experiential Marketing. We have especially seen this category to be popular for marketers in the food and beverage industry and the CPG industry.

Last, but not least, we were shocked to see Direct Marketing move from number 12 up to number three with consistent growth in number of searches throughout the research period. Of course, direct marketing today is a very sophisticated business, and means much more than just mailers for many brands from across industries like automotive, financial services, e-commerce, retail, and banking.

Agencies Need to Adapt to Changing Client Needs

The world of marketing services is not getting any simpler for your clients or you. In the US alone, there are 60,000 to 100,000 agencies, depending on how you define “agency”. That number is also growing year over year despite acquisitions and other exits.

The key takeaway? Agencies need to be tuned to what clients are searching for. The marketing services landscape is intimidatingly complex, and agencies can make themselves more accessible for clients by shifting to suit their current needs.

Marketing decision makers are searching for more agencies, more frequently. The number of people searching Agency Spotter for marketing agencies continues to increase and grew more than 45% when comparing the first half of 2014 to 2016.

Marketers are also managing more relationships with more agencies than ever before. Beyond that, the Marketing Technology (MarTech) landscape is also getting exponentially more complex and crowded each year.

The ability to navigate this complexity in a meaningful way has become critical. As your clients become more savvy and aware of the complexity they are faced with, we expect to see even more of them using search services like Agency Spotter. You can access the full Agency Search Trends Report here for even more insight on client search trends.


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