By Stephen Knight, Founder and CEO of virtual agency network Pimento.

Whether you’re a fan or not, football is back on our screens and for many this is a welcomed sign that things are very slowly returning to some kind of normal. For avid fans, it also means they’re kickstarting their Fantasy Football teams. But what if there’s more to the virtual, drag-and-drop nature of this recreational game, and it actually represents the future of the modern marketing solution?

Adapting to change

With the current Coronavirus pandemic, there’s been a lot in the headlines recently about the ‘new normal’ and how adaptability is crucial for business continuity in these unprecedented times. As a result, this has seen much of the world working from home and embracing a more digital daily routine – such as video calls for client meetings and team check-ins.

In some cases, companies have adapted their proposition to help the NHS – such as setting up 3D face mask printing services – while others have completely pivoted and changed their entire offering, in an attempt to remain buoyant within the marketplace.

However, no matter which category they fall into, for businesses of all sizes and across all sectors, it’s been a time of uncertainty, which has meant that team-wide collaboration and thinking-outside-the-box has been key in helping to weather the storm.

And this is especially the case for agencies, given that cross-team collaboration and creativity is crucial to deliver client projects on time, on budget and on brief.

Yet while COVID-19 may have forced many companies’ hands when it comes to embracing the virtual meeting, it has unfortunately had an adverse effect on many marketing budgets – seeing them reduced by up to 70%.

But in a time where all brands need to keep talking and keep their communications flowing clearly and effectively, how could an approach similar to the iconic football loan scheme help agencies navigate the current sea of uncertainty, create a more agile way of working and strengthen their proposition?

Where does football come into the equation?

The basic rule of Fantasy Football is that users have a budget and have to pick their best squad – choosing players across various teams – for that week’s fixtures.

The simple concept is that users score performance-related points depending on their role and individual KPI. For instance, a goalkeeper’s main focus is to defend the goal, while a striker’s position is to attack and score one – either player could probably turn their hand to the other’s role if they tried, but it’s not their specialism and they wouldn’t fulfil it to the same quality standard.

And this, in many ways, can, and should, be applied to the modern marketing industry.

Every agency has its specialism – whether it’s PR, design, social media, events, digital or print – and while some may offer a mixture, there are undoubtedly strengths which stand out from each one.

But how do agencies know whether the client on the end of the phone has a complex brief which perfectly aligns to their proposition, and how do clients know that the agency they’re contacting has the expertise they’re after to successfully deliver the project?

In this sense, it’s often a bit of a lottery as to whether the partnership will be a successful fit for both parties – but if the industry embraced more agency-wide collaboration and a virtual working model, this would arguably remove any doubt and increase trust.

The concept of a virtual agency network mirrors the Fantasy Football model as it sees hundreds of members – different agencies – pooled together in one place to be cherrypicked based on their skillsets for the right ‘match’, or in this case, brief. Only then, when you have the right men and women for the job is the squad complete and set for success.

And this highlights an emerging trend within the industry – the importance of harnessing the era of the specialist and recognising that no single agency can wear all the hats.

Collaboration knows no boundaries

There are many articles floating around the media landscape about the ‘death of the office’ as we know it – with some agencies having abandoned the physical workspace altogether, in favour of a more virtual one.

However, no matter which side of the fence you are on in this respect, or if you’d prefer a combination of both, inter-agency collaboration can take place with or without bricks and mortar –  all it takes is a fresher approach to thinking and a digital approach to working.

Being one key player within a larger team allows agencies to focus on their individual specialism, fostering a more joined-up and less siloed approach to modern marketing. With the tools and infrastructure there to make this a reality, it’s now in the agencies’ hands to speak up about their strengths and wait to be picked to play in their dream match.

Photo by congy yuan on Unsplash