Things Are Looking Up For Smart Agencies in 2022

February 08, 2022

The Deltek Agency Solutions Team recently released the 2022 CEO Outlook Survey Report, revealing what hundreds of agency leaders expect in the coming year. This blog provides an overview, spotlighting key findings and critical trends. 

Are agencies finally starting to shake off the funk from the past couple years, and offer a more optimistic outlook for what’s ahead? According to the hundreds of agency leaders and department heads who contributed to the Deltek/Mirren 2022 Agency CEO Outlook Survey, the answer is a refreshingly confident yes! The good vibes are not without their cautions, of course, but let’s agree that the prevailing wind of optimism and opportunity is more than welcome.

The majority of survey participants believed that the market is entering a phase of increasing client demand along with, accordingly, a boost in available budget. Further good news includes the presumption that the flight of and fight for top talent is stabilizing. Good people are finding shops and settling down again. The dust from that battle has yet to settle completely, however, and everyone seems more than a bit wiser about the importance of attracting and retaining the right people.

Any savvy member of agency leadership is ready to put the struggles of the recent past in the rearview, but that doesn’t mean disregarding the lessons learned. Applying hard-earned insights to shaping how things are done today is proving to be a big part of everyone’s approach to success for tomorrow.

The challenges most noteworthy to survey participants included:

  • Making inroads in new verticals, which means new business,
  • Streamlining operations to help build better margins,
  • Cultivating fresh skillsets that strengthen overall agency offerings,
  • Creating authentic, adaptive cultures of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion for their talent and clients alike.

Of course, none of the above is possible without a robust, profitable operation in the first place. That, according to survey respondents, is driving laser focus on bottom-line growth for 2022 and fresh attention being paid to operational efficiency. It’s worth noting that “lack of systems” was a frequently expressed concern; clearly, agency leadership is eager to find ways to make internal processes more efficient as much as they are interested in creating a robust business- development pipeline. 


2022 Agency CEO Outlook Survey Report

Discover what agency leaders predict for the year ahead.

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In a common-sense extension of that thinking, CEOs are realizing that improving internal information management, communication and collaboration systems and processes actually helps ease dependence on talent. Yes, systems, software and tools are seen as the means to empower people and optimize their productivity. But they are also providing an infrastructure that allows your agency’s intellectual property to remain with the agency. When someone moves on, good ideas and good work don’t have to move on with them.

Survey results also reinforce faith in the trusted strategy of simply earning plenty of new business wins, but that comes with a concern. Increasingly, CEOs and team leaders are wondering how they can get their shops to stand out from the crowd. What adjustments, radical and subtle, can they make to make their brand position as distinct as possible? That might be the heaviest question that keeps CEOs up at night.

New Year, New Priorities 

In terms of steps agencies are taking when it comes to creating and sustaining a dynamic culture, professional development tops the list. Investing in the up-skilling of talent, building both every day and strategic skills, and bolstering teams with new capability is seen as a tremendous value-add for clients. It’s also playing a big part in agency retention strategy; employees are eager to acquire new abilities, boosting career satisfaction and individual wellness.

In concert with investing in team skill, the survey also revealed that creating an agency culture that champions Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DE&I) has become a top priority. Leaders have recognized that this is not something that can be addressed casually. It requires a well-written, long-term plan that takes myriad aspects of agency culture into account. Many shops have started the important process of dialogue and discovery, but the need to make real strides on behalf of DE&I and actualize these initiatives will have to ramp up in 2022.

Returning to the challenge of finding new business, it was particularly interesting to note that the survey revealed a fresh focus on organic growth in comparison to pitching new business outright. This is compelling agency leadership to take a hard look at the health of their relationships with marquee clients, asking whether or not their needs are truly being met. If a shop is keeping a client happy, the odds of more work, as well as referrals, are likely to jump. Experienced leadership understands this and is reinvesting attention in optimizing their key client relationships.

All of this is really just a taste of the depth of information and insight contained in the 2022 Agency CEO Outlook Survey Report. A glimpse of the highlights might be inspiring, but a deep dive into its 24 informative pages is definitely worth your time. It’s good to feel bullish about the year ahead. Download the report here, and you can be as informed as you are inspired!