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How do you solve a problem like… entering a new agency market?

How do you solve a problem like... entering a new agency market?
Written by publishing team

Each week, we ask agency experts for their advice on the real problems facing marketing practitioners today. This week, as part of our deep dive into globalization and the marketing industry, we ask how agencies should navigate their entry into new markets and regional regions.

Every company aspires to grow, but expanding into a new market or region is difficult. Recently, we have seen big names from the agency scene, such as Accenture Interactive and S4 Capital, invest in the South American markets; Similarly, WPP’s new campus in Milan indicates its ambitions to grow in Italy.

For an agency approaching a new national or regional market, what should you focus on? What are the biggest obstacles facing an agency trying to gain a foothold in new territory?

How do you solve a problem like.. entering a new agency market?

Lars Lin, Group CEO, Incubeta

Entering new territories is a delicate process – the risks are high and the costs are high. It is important that it is fully supported and supported by management, customers and global partners. Both can point to the right people and organizations in the market, and even help facilitate early conversations.

It is critical to have trustworthy people on the ground who understand local challenges. Success depends on the necessity of action, which determines the willingness to spend and take risks. However, entering new territories makes the business more diverse and diversified, and in doing so we gain strength and value for our customers and partners.

Scott Harkey, President and CEO of OH Partners

The dream domain approach (“build it and they’ll come”) doesn’t work, which is why placing an office in a new territory doesn’t work – particularly in the world of marketing and advertising, where people tend to be suspicious. That’s why I found it more economical to get agencies. The goal of new openings depends on talent and clients, because it is people who drive success. Agencies have specific areas of expertise, as do their employees. You can build on those existing relationships and give yourself a runway to work from.

Mark Armstrong, APAC Executive Creative Director, Bulletproof

The biggest mistake when growing in a new market is thinking that you know everything, or that what you did in other markets will work again. Stay naive, identify what makes you different and make that your focus.

It is important to be clear about your values. Don’t compromise on it but understand that the way it appears will be unique to each market. The success of our studios in Singapore and Sydney is due to two things that embody our values: people and culture. This seems counterintuitive but it is extremely difficult to get it right.

As we begin to build our presence in Shanghai, finding the right talent – people who champion new ways of thinking and who see boundaries and conventions as challenges to be met – is the number one priority. Our employees are the most valuable asset we have as a company.

Adrian Belina, Founder and Chief Creative Officer, Jam3

land and expansion. This is the best and simplest way to approach your new area. Our entry into a new market is rooted in project business and building momentum, with a focus on organic growth/appointments. We always start with one to two narratives, one of the chief creative and executive producers, with one always local to the new territory and bringing their connections, and the other a senior Jam3 leader, ensuring that Jam3’s culture is translated.

When looking for new clients and future hires, we strongly believe in the naturally occurring benefits of having “shoes on the ground”. Availability on a consistent basis with a single focus on meeting people in their own backyard allows for additional conversations in a softer and less compelling manner, which ultimately reduces stress and feels less “sales”.

Chris Mellish, CEO, TMW Unlimited

There are no hard and fast rules for entering new markets. Challenges will come in many shapes and sizes, and they are being highlighted more than ever. But if there is one constant that can help give a framework for launching into a new market, it is that we are only human. If you can understand the motivations behind the individual, you can help elicit feelings and inspire action.

Keith O’Loughlin, CEO, Smyle

Opening a new ‘store’ is an exciting time in the business cycle – embracing creativity, diverse cultures and experience enriching the core organization at a rapid pace. To acquire or build at home or abroad, the enterprise’s business must be very strong in terms of talent, client revenue, and relationships to give “bandwidth” to the new. With solid foundations, it is advisable to continue the business through existing relationships with clients, seeking out enthusiastic local talent and building around it; Use your leadership experience to accelerate new business growth.

Andy Coker, Chief Operating Officer, Kepler UK & APAC

Entering a new market requires a thorough understanding of the local nuances and business culture. Just because the formula works in New York or London doesn’t mean it will work effectively in Singapore.

You may be de jour in one market, but you are unheard in another. So developing a local brand niche with regional case studies is essential to building a trusted reputation. Look to acquire a large local company with the necessary strategic and technical expertise in your new market. If you are growing organically, focus on getting the right first hire(s), and get the support of your existing customers in other markets to expand with you.

Jason Cobold, CEO, BMB

Geographical expansion is the dream of an agency business. But for every successful move, there are failures due to the assumption that what makes you successful in one market will automatically work in another. It’s a move that model companies would love to be proud of and repeat.

The work of agencies is about culture. And the culture is endlessly rich and diverse. Learn what works elsewhere, and stick to your values, personality, and eccentricities, but be prepared to adapt your proposal to the local culture. Hire great local talent. Most of all, be hungrier than the local startup you’ll be competing against.

Hunter Hyndman, Chief Creative Officer, Argonaut

In our experience, the most important thing to remember when approaching a new market is to balance the need to generate excitement – with potential people and customers – with the reality of the situation. I’ve always thought that as you enter a new territory, it’s best to put off bold public announcements until you’ve built or achieved something that really guarantees it. Our industry isn’t known for its quiet unpretentiousness, but it’s always fun to celebrate something tangible and noteworthy that reflects you at your best rather than teasing something that may or may not.

Andy Nathan, Founder and CEO of Fortnight Collective

In addition to Boulder, Colorado, we have an office in London. We just created a footprint in New York. For FC London, we want to give them the freedom to do what’s best for their market. They have adopted our proprietary process but also have some flexibility on how it applies in the European/UK market. Years ago I worked at O&M NY on IBM and then was transferred to O&M London (I also work for IBM). It went from a global role to a European role, followed by a market role for the United Kingdom. When I was at O&M London we used to tell the global team that we are not the 51st country – our point is that you need to acknowledge that there are differences in market and cultures. It’s not always a one-size-fits-all solution.

Do you want to join the conversation? Email sam.bradley@thedrum.com to join the discussion next week.

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