Work Your Marketing Agency Up the Food Chain of Strategy

Many agencies start out specializing in service lines such as Facebook Ads, Google Ads, email marketing, Google Analytics, technical SEO, etc. This often means that they’re stuck implementing a channel with no strategy or with someone else’s strategy guiding the direction. If only they could upgrade their standing with the client and get in the driver’s seat of strategy, things would be better.

For agencies that don’t own or influence the strategy:

  • Client churn is very high (6-12 months)
  • Can’t get the budget necessary to succeed
  • Dealing with people too low on the totem pole who are inflexible
  • Other agencies learn how your channels work (or don’t), but you don’t get insight beyond your own channel

In this article, we’ll cover some different paths to earning the trust of your clients to start dictating strategy.

Tactic 1: Master of Analytics

Put short: if you’re able to tell your client how they get leads/business and give insights on what’s working and what isn’t, you’ll become a trusted advisor to your client. Many clients crave real insights into how to make marketing work for them and if you’ve got all the answers on what’s working, you’re going to quickly discover new insights into a strategy that other people might not see.

Those insights will be super valuable for your client, as long as you can present them in a way that is meaningful. Our favorite way of presenting these marketing insights is to tell short lead stories about real prospects and how marketing helped bring them through the buyer journey.

Jim from ACME searched for “rocket car Phoenix”. He clicked on our Google ad and landed on the rocket car category page. He spent 2:33 clicking around the different product pages, checking prices, and then booking an appointment to test drive a rocket car.

These lead stories are easy to understand and are very powerful for showing a client how specific parts of their marketing are working.

If you hold the keys to demonstrating where the value is being provided and which marketing channels are bringing in the leads, you’ll be the first to be asked whether a new idea would work or not. At the worst, you’ll be asked about ideas the customer has reactively and the customer will ask you if the bus bench ads they bought are doing anything, but you’ll more likely start getting asked your proactive opinion.

Tactic 2: Pitch Services That Are Higher in the Food Chain

While being involved in strategy in bits and pieces is better than nothing, creating a more complete strategy usually results in a direction that makes MUCH more sense. Some agencies sell strategy upfront, while others sell it as a service after they’ve worked with the client for a while. Strategy upfront is always better, but sometimes you need to get your foot in the door with a different service.

Strategy services to consider building and selling:foodchain

  • Persona development
  • Buyer/User journey creation
  • The goal, strategy, and tactic development

No matter what kind of strategy service you go deliver, ensure the client is involved and feels like they have ownership of the strategy. Include stakeholder interviews with your client’s employees to see if you can gain any quick insights before going to prospect/customer interviews or to the data.

Persona and buyer/user journey creation are fairly easy to get right as long as you perform good stakeholder interviews and you have a good source of data to mine for insights and fact-check in-person insights.

ActiveDEMAND can play a big part in developing data-driven personas and user journeys. There’s a ton of real data that can be used to find or check insights and we have a full article on that here.

Tactic 3: Pitch Account-Based Marketing (ABM)

“Account-Based Marketing” or ABM is a targeted form of marketing that delivers practical, easily measurable results for clients. They are typically limited scope projects that turn into monthly follow-up retainers to keep the leads coming. We’ve written extensively on how marketing agencies can pitch and perform ABM for clients here.


While each strategy session with each client will get unique results, the process to get there should be standardized and repeatable. While it’s good to have your mind open to new possibilities when developing strategies, it’s important to pair up that style of thinking with a repeatable process. Otherwise, you’ll burn time recreating the wheel and you’ll get inconsistent results on each strategy project. You should standardize:standardize processes that get results

  • Strategy project timelines
  • Visuals like personas and user journeys should have a standard format that you reuse between clients
  • Proposals should cover common “gotchas” and set clear expectations of what you need from the client to succeed
  • Strategy documents should have a standard format
  • Some final delivery and presentation material should be standard, some should be customized per client

Strategy exists at all levels

Don’t forget the basics. A good strategy will give bad results if your execution of the details sucks. There are plenty of agencies out there that can come up with a fancy-pants strategy but could never execute on it to produce a positive business change for their clients. Your agency should be the one that can do the strategy AND knock it out of the park.