Adapting to the AI and Freelancer Revolution: How to Keep Your Agency Relevant and Profitable

AI is disrupting marketing agencies

Adapting to the AI and Freelancer Revolution: How to Keep Your Agency Relevant and Profitable

Is your agency still relevant and profitable in 2023? If you’re not already asking yourself this question, you should be.

The marketing and public relations industry has witnessed two significant trends over the past three years that have reshaped the way we operate: the influx of AI tools and the freelance revolution.

The integration of AI technology in the mainstream has brought about a plethora of automated tools for marketing and PR tasks such as media outreach, social media management, content creation, and data analysis.

Truth be told, clients have more options than ever before for doing it themselves. And some of the options are pretty damn compelling.

Simultaneously, the pandemic has led to an increase in the freelance economy, as more and more people sought flexibility and remote work opportunities. As a result, the market has become fiercely competitive, with clients demanding more personalized, cost-effective solutions.

The reality is the demand for client contracts is more competitive than probably ever before, and not every agency will survive this upheaval.

“The rise of freelancers has made it easier for businesses to find digital marketing services, but it has also created a situation where there is an abundance of supply and not enough demand. This has resulted in lower rates for freelancers, and in many cases, it has also resulted in the loss of jobs for those working in the industry,” explains Big Futur Marketing Agency in a story on Linkedin.

Once we land clients, our job isn’t any easier. Marketing is competitive, and clients have understandably big expectations.

Things have changed, and our agencies need to change to meet our clients where they’re at right now.

Agencies that fail to adapt to these shifting dynamics risk losing market share and relevance. So what’s an agency to do?

It is imperative to acknowledge and embrace these trends rather than ignore them. By adapting our services, exploring new pricing models, and revisiting our traditional ways of doing business, we can effectively meet the evolving needs of clients and ensure our agency’s continued success in a world that’s evolving at break-neck speed.

A commitment to learning and evolving is no longer optional – it’s imperative.

AI is disrupting marketing agencies

Challenge #1: Competing With AI and DIY Marketing / PR Tools

The influx of AI-powered marketing and PR tools has ushered in a new era of efficiency and affordability for clients. These intelligent tools offer a wide range of functionalities, from automated social media scheduling and sentiment analysis to content generation and data-driven insights.

One of the most compelling aspects of these AI tools is their ability to provide affordable price points for brands. With recessionary fears still looming large for many brands, a decrease in marketing spend might be propelling the demand for DIY marketing tools as well. 

In an article for VenureBeat, Robert Rothschild reports, “The ghosts of recessions past show that consumers are quick to reduce their spending when hard times are on the horizon, and business leaders behave no differently. When anticipating reduced sales and profits, their first decision is often to cut back on variable costs, like marketing, to deliver on the expectations of the financial market.”

Lets get real: hiring a marketing or PR agency can be expensive and the affordability of these tools may leave many clients wondering: ‘Do I really need an agency?’

In light of these changes, PR and marketing agencies face the pressure to adapt their offerings and provide unique value propositions that go beyond what automated tools can deliver.

Solution: Use AI as a Resource to Streamline Processes

“The use of artificial intelligence (AI) in creative and PR jobs opens up a new set of resources. For instance, AI algorithms can assist in producing content and images or personalised digital experiences,” suggests Helen Armstrong, founder of Apsley Australia.

AI technology offers immense potential for PR and marketing professionals to streamline their processes. By leveraging AI-powered automation, professionals can efficiently handle mundane marketing and PR tasks, allowing them to focus more on strategy, creativity, and building meaningful relationships with clients and target audiences.

Solution: Lean into Strategy and Human Expertise

There are certain things AI can not do.

Tell a story. Build a relationship. Truly understand complex marketing and PR strategies. 

Maximilian Nestler of Nestler Creation explains, “More companies are adopting AI-driven solutions to handle routine marketing tasks, resulting in a demand shift toward advanced,
custom services that go beyond what AI can currently provide.”

By leaning into the human element of PR and marketing campaigns that AI and DIY tools simply can not compete with, agencies can stay relevant and in-demand. 

Media Moguls PR adapted to these changes by doing away with some of our old link building packages that simply didn’t make sense for clients anymore, financially or strategically. Instead, we’ve leaned into our Thought Leadership strategies and our keen ability to build key relationships with media contacts, because these can not be replicated by AI.

Essentially we’ve learned to combine the power of AI + the value of human experience to craft campaigns that deliver for clients in new and improved ways. 

By leveraging the strengths of both human expertise alongside AI capabilities, agencies can provide clients with a holistic and impactful approach that sets them apart in this evolving landscape.

Challenge #2: Increased Competition

With the pandemic accelerating the shift towards remote work and flexible arrangements, an increasing number of professionals are choosing to work independently as freelancers or marketing agency owners.

This influx of talent has created a highly competitive market, offering clients a broader range of options to choose from.

Cody Jensen, Founder of Searchbloom explains the challenges by saying, “This year’s marketing landscape has been a dynamic and challenging one. A significant hurdle we encountered was the escalating competition within the industry. With an ever-growing number of agencies competing for the same clients, standing out and showcasing our unique value proposition became an absolute priority.”

The influx of competition has disrupted the traditional agency-client relationship, and prolonged the sales cycle for many agencies. When brands can find a more affordable marketing option, many of them do. 

“There is a lot of competition that is willing; and wants to either undercut on pricing, or they will do quite a bit to beat out their competitors,” offers Dan Salganik, managing partner at Visual Fizz.

Remote work is disrupting the marketing industry

Solution: Embrace Creativity to Stand Out From the Crowd

Creativity has always been the backbone of successful marketing and PR agencies, but it’s even more important now. 

“Agencies must be willing to invest in new technologies and strategies in order to stay competitive. Additionally, they must be willing to take risks and be creative in order to stand out from the crowd,” suggests Angelo Sorbelo of Linkdelta. 

In today’s highly competitive marketing landscape, the importance of creativity cannot be understated. Creativity serves as a crucial differentiator, allowing agencies to stand out from their competitors and capture the attention and interest of potential clients. 

Solution: Deliver & Showcase Exceptional Results

Marcus Clarke of Searchant offers this sage advice to agency owners, “It is more important now than ever to differentiate by showcasing unique value propositions, highlighting success stories, and focusing on personalized and tailored strategies that align with our client’s specific needs and goals.”

Providing exceptional results to clients has always been a cornerstone for agency success, but it’s especially true now. Highlighting client success stories through case studies, and reviews can also become a key marketing piece for attracting and converting new leads, as well as retaining existing clients.

Challenge #3: Delivering Marketing & PR Campaigns With Impact

If attracting and retaining clients has gotten more difficult, so has running the actual client marketing campaigns. Delivering a marketing or PR campaign that’s a good use of the client’s budget in 2023 presents two challenges:

  • Competing for attention amidst a sea of noise
  • Being able to measure the results from the campaign in a tangible way

As a PR agency owner and Freelance Reporter who not only pitches the media on behalf of clients, but also receives media pitches from brands and agencies, I can attest to this fact: more and more brands are vying for the same attention, the same airtime, and the same interviews.

Five years ago, I would get maybe a dozen or so pitch emails per week. Now, I receive no less than 100 pitch emails from brands every week trying to get coverage for themselves or clients. I couldn’t possibly write about all of them, even if I wanted to! 

Then, once a client gets coverage, or gets a marketing win, showing them the true value of the work is still an uphill battle.

“Measuring the impact and attribution of our marketing efforts across various channels has proven to be an ongoing challenge. Accurately evaluating ROI and optimizing our campaigns has required a data-driven approach and the utilization of advanced analytics,” explains Carlos Barros of ePOSnow. 

Solution: Measure Results and Adapt When Necessary

Measuring campaign performance allows for a deeper understanding of what works and what doesn’t, enabling iterative improvements and the ability to allocate marketing resources effectively.

Put simply: paying attention to what’s working and not working on your campaigns allows you to make changes when needed. By knowing what works, you can do more of it, and do less of what isn’t yielding results. 

“In 2023, we faced a fierce marketing landscape where adaptability became
our greatest challenge. As the digital realm continued to evolve at a breakneck pace, staying ahead of the curve demanded constant innovation,” explains Steve Bouboulis, CEO & Founder of The Branding Agency. 

In an industry as fast-paced as marketing and PR, being agile and open to changes is critical yielding results for clients. What worked last year might not work today, and if you’re not paying attention to data and results, you might not realize it until it’s too late. 

Solution: Deliver ROI to Clients

Measuring and communicating about campaign performance is also crucial to client retention. 

It might sound obvious, but clients need to see the ROI on the campaign you’re delivering. 

Colt Agar of BizPedia says, “In 2023, it remains crucial to develop robust measurement frameworks that help clients understand the value created by the agency’s campaigns.”

Measurement allows clients to gain insights into various key performance indicators (KPIs) such as reach, engagement, conversion rates, and overall campaign success. This data-driven approach provides transparency and accountability, enabling clients to evaluate the effectiveness of their marketing efforts objectively.

Looking Forward

2023 has not been an easy year for the average agency owner.

PR and marketing agencies are experiencing transformative changes due to the rise of AI technology and increased competition in the industry. These shifts have prompted agencies to adapt their services, pricing models, and ways of doing business to stay relevant in a rapidly evolving landscape.

However, amidst these changes, there remains a sense of optimism. Agencies recognize that certain aspects of their work are irreplaceable. The art of storytelling, building genuine relationships, and crafting complex strategies require human creativity, intuition, and expertise.

By embracing these indispensable elements and integrating them with the power of AI, as agency owners we can navigate the evolving industry landscape and continue to deliver exceptional value to clients. 

Hey agency owners! Want to keep your business thriving? Consider our Agency  Consultation and Whitelabel PR services if you’re interested in any the following:

  • Attracting new clients in a competitive market
  • Creating a plan to stay afloat and grow despite the market challenges. 
  • Improving the ROI on existing client campaigns with whitelabel Thought Leadership and whitelabel Media Pitching services. 

Contact us today to learn more. 

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