Creative agencies face some of the biggest challenges in recent history. Although US agency revenue rose 4.4% to $28.3 billion in 2016, the industry saw its slowest growth since 2013, according to Ad Age’s 2017 Agency Report.

Major consultancies like PwC, IBM, Accenture, and Deloitte are eating up creative agency contracts to the tune of $13.2 billion. More companies are using their budgets to build in-house marketing and advertising teams instead of contracting outside agencies.

Shrinking budgets combined with an increasingly competitive landscape means creative agencies must find innovative ways to prove and communicate their value to current and prospective clients. But value is in the eye of the beholder—which means it’s up to agencies to influence client perception.

Perception is reality

Today, when you think of lobster, you picture a gourmet meal served with melted butter on a porcelain plate. However, this wasn’t always the case.

Lobster was so plentiful and unwanted in the 17th century that prisoners and indentured servants often ate it.  “Their plenty makes them little esteemed and seldom eaten [except by the Indians who] get many of them every day for to bait their hooks with and to eat when they can get no bass,” said William Wood, a 17th century British historian.

Enterprising railway companies rebranded the abundant crustacean as an exotic delicacy to train travelers in the late 19th century. Many of those travelers were from inland cities where there wasn’t a lobster in sight. Today, lobster prices have soared up to $15/pound.

Perception is reality. Finding creative and effective ways to convey your creative agency’s value increases your competitive advantage. Here are five ways you can channel the lobster to win and keep more clients.

Understand your value

Agencies must know exactly what they bring to the table before they can prove their worth to clients. “No one will ever pay you what you’re worth. They’ll only pay you what they think you’re worth,” says pricing strategist Casey Brown during her TED Talk “Know Your Worth, Then Ask for It”.

Here’s the trick: “You control their thinking. Clearly defining and communicating your value is essential to being paid well for your excellence.”

Differentiate yourself based on your branding experience, skill set, or digital capabilities. Perhaps you specialize in a specific creative style. Or maybe you use a project management platform to streamline processes and facilitate collaboration. Find what sets you apart from the competition and make sure clients know they can’t live without it.

Give them a front row seat

Your clients are under a lot of pressure to justify every expense—that means you. Give them a peek into your creative process to help them better understand the work going into every design decision. This level of transparency also builds trust in your brand and makes clients feel more invested in the finished product.

Creating custom, shareable dashboards allows both internal and external teams to check on projects in real-time to see who is working on what and which stage of the workflow it’s in. Stakeholders can click into any task on the dashboard for more details, eliminating the need for frequent status meetings, emails, or phone calls.

Creative agency Position2 leverages this strategy and invites clients to take part in their detailed workflow. “On one project, a client observed my request to a developer to rewrite his code on a task. In the next project meeting, the client was appreciative that we were taking care of their needs at such a detailed level," says Harish PS, Director of Web & Apps Group at Position2.

Provide white glove service

Good customer service still matters—maybe more than ever. More than 65% of US consumers are willing to spend more money with a company that provides them with excellent customer service, according to Microsoft. And 60% of consumers say they haven’t completed an intended purchase due to a poor customer service experience.

As award-winning author Neil Gaiman noted in his 2012 commencement speech, people get work for three reasons: their work is good, they’re easy to get along with, and they’re on time. “And you don’t even need to be good at all three!” he says. “Two out of three is fine! You don’t have to be as good as everyone else if you’re on time and it’s always a pleasure to hear from you.”

In other words, providing great client management services can make the difference between winning or losing the job.

Responding to inquiries and keeping communication channels open shows clients you listen to them, value their input, and acknowledge their needs. The proper project management software keeps all communication in the context of specific projects, tasks, or files, so it’s easy to keep clients in the loop and quickly answer any questions.

Any time a client posts a comment or @mentions someone on your team, they’re alerted in real-time. This ensures smooth handoffs and allows creatives to respond to requests in a relevant and timely manner. A win for everyone!

Share metrics

You know what your team is working on day-in and day-out, but your client stakeholders aren’t in the weeds with you. It’s not always easy for creatives to prove their value with quantifiable evidence and cold-hard facts—especially before campaign results roll in.

Using a collaborative work management solution enables creative agency leaders to measure the output and prove the merit of their teams. How many projects is your team working on at any given time? How fast do you turn projects around? How many client revisions does your team field?

If your workspace captures metadata around projects and processes, you should be able to pull reports with the answers. "The biggest benefit of Wrike is that when you're working with 900 individual personalities and independent contractors, being able to prove your value is crucial," says Christina Anstett, Direct Marketing Specialist with Sotheby’s Realty. "Pulling a report and showing them how many jobs were completed on their behalf during a certain time frame is very, very powerful for us."

Be the Lobster

Whether you’re creating an unparalleled customer experience, providing a behind-the-scenes look into your creative process, or sending weekly performance reports, finding creative and effective ways to demonstrate your creative agency’s value is essential in today’s highly competitive landscape.

It took creative thinking and strategic positioning to transform lobster into a decadent symbol of luxury consumers can’t live without. Follow these tips to influence your creative agency’s perceived value. Clients new and old will take note.

And for more insight into how leading agencies like Ogilvy-Australia and Skona lead the pack, download our free eBook below: 6 Ways Creative Agencies Use Wrike to Work Confidently.