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Q4: how can brands position themselves to benefit from the annual spending surge?

q4

The clock is ticking and as each second passes, the fourth quarter of 2022 moves just a little bit closer. It's a crucial time for marketers,so what are agencies doing to win business from their brand clients?

Clearly, the fourth quarter is hugely important for brands, not least because it's the time of year when consumers - in normal times, anyway -prepare to spend big on just about every category of product. Sales will usually dip again in January and February, so it's essential that brands successfully catch the fourth quarter wave. There are also internal reasons why the fourth quarter is important. Depending on how things are structured, there may be a lot of money allocated to the marketing budget that will be lost if it isn't spent before the financial year comes to an end. And of course, all of this means that the final three months of the year are also vital for marketing and advertising agencies. Brands want to maximise their revenues and agencies naturally enough want a piece of the action. "In terms of momentum, the fourth quarter of the year is crucial," says Beth Pope,founder and partner of brand-building consultancy, Firehaus.

The question is, how can agencies best position themselves to take advantage of the end-of-year bonanza? How can they ensure that existing and new clients will allocate their budgets to them and not to others? This is a particularly salient question for two reasons. Firstly - and this is the elephant in the room - no one really knows how a combination of rising prices and a widely predicted recession will affect how much brands will be prepared to spend. Secondly, brands have choices to make about how they spend. Do they focus on above-the-line campaigns, digital, influencers, social media, out-of-home? The choice of channels is large and getting larger. In other words, agencies can't sit on their laurels and simply expect the Q4 work to come flooding in. Communication with clients has probably never been more important. But what does that mean in practice?

Building Relationships
There are perhaps two kinds of client/agency conversation. One is formal, scheduled and focused on a particular agenda. The other is much less structured. It might take place - if that's your thing - over a round of golf or at a drinks party and, ostensibly at least, it is more about building personal relationships than making pitches. Philip Bacon is CEO and founder of Bacon Marketing,an agency that offers an outsourced alternative to in-house marketing teams. As he sees it, it is those agencies that have strong relationships with clients that will be best placed to win business in the run-up to quarter four.

"Companies are going to be going to their trusted network first, before looking to review new agencies," he says. "Nurture and strengthen the bonds between you and your pipeline and existing client bases." Constant contact means that agencies are better placed to know what their clients are worried about, what they care about and what additional help or services they need. But here's the thing. Scheduled meetings focus on agenda items that are already known and agreed by both parties. What they might not do is bring new opportunities to the surface. "So the informal chat is huge," says Bacon. "If you don't have informal contact you don't really know what's going on." Beth Pope - founder and partner at brand-building agency Firehaus agrees that relationship building is vital. "We work hand in hand with brand leadership teams," she says. "It's all about trust. It is about knowing the organisation inside out and identifying the opportunities to add value." But if relationships are important, so are the ideas. In the current climate, even those brands that are committed to marketing and advertising their way through the recession will want to be assured that the solutions offered by agencies are going to show a return.

More Or Less?
That's perhaps particularly true of those areas of the marketing spectrum that might once have been thought of as non-core. For instance, a major brand might be happy to go on spending on above-the-line advertising while at the same time agonizing over whether to spend less on digital ad campaigns, social media or influencers. Anastasia Cecchetto, founder and CEO of influencer agency and video content provider Ace Influencers says the key to a good Fourth Quarter is to build trust and credibility with clients throughout the preceding months. In her view, the ability to demonstrate ROI is key."Our starting point is to begin with campaigns on relatively low budgets. You prove the ROI and then you can move on to bigger budget campaigns." Beth Pope agrees there is a real imperative to show that you can deliver tangible benefits.She says her agency's clients are seeking ways to extend their reach among potential customers. "Innovation is pivotal for the organisations we work with - and critical to their growth strategy. But they know the potential for innovation to provide competitive edge can only be realised with a strong go-to-market strategy and distinct brand proposition that will get them in front of new audiences," she says. 

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