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Agency Audit Insider Survey

Agency Audit Insider: Survey Segmentation

BY White Label IQ
4-minute read about how segmentation makes Agency Audit survey data usable and strategic.

Population segmentation often reveals things we didn’t know. For example, there are about 573,000 people aged 100 or more worldwide, roughly 0.007 percent of all people.*

That number seems low.

However, in the 1960s the number was much lower: 0.0006 percent. But it has climbed exponentially ever since.*

Which means, we’re more than 10 times more likely to live to 100 today.

“If you live to be 100, you’ve got it made.
Very few people die past that age.”

—George Burns
(In a twist of fate, he lived to be 100, but not past it)

Another thing that we’ve recently learned about age is that the audience segmentation resulting from the 2022 Agency Audit was not affected by how old the respondents were. Nor did their gender nor job title nor tenure, nor agency size nor revenue play a role.

(Spoiler Alert: Audience segmentation was more about mindset versus demographics.)

In the inaugural launch of this annual marketing survey, the 343 respondents were agency owners and leaders, with 90 percent of them in the U.S., but 20 other countries were also represented.

Based on their responses to certain attitudinal questions, the respondents fell into five distinctive categories, or segments. That is, this segmentation was completely organic—based solely on survey input, not any sort of pre-determined personas or other assumptions. And in a random outcome, each of the five segments equally comprised about 20 percent of all respondents.

Here are the five segments (2022 Agency Audit survey results and segmentation):

Agency Audit


Thought Leaders:

Qualifying attitudinal questions specifically asked participants about their thought leadership mindset—are they positioned as thought leaders in the marketplace, do they actively develop that position, do they have that reputation? And this segment strongly agreed, yes.

Also, they strongly answered “yes” to whether or not they had a strong niche positioning. For example, an agency’s niche might be a dedication to manufacturing clients that market their products exclusively through dealerships. That’s a niche. Whereas something broad like “health care” is not.

Leading approaches to thought leadership included written content, blogging and speaking engagements. It’s easier to be a thought leader about something (a niche) versus everything, so focusing on content makes sense—something specific to communicate that others cannot.

Thought Leaders—a correlation between strongly dedicated to thought leadership and niche positioning.


The great majority of
Thought Leaders strongly agreed
they have a solid niche.


Staffing Strugglers:

Talent shortages, remote work, salary issues, a pandemic, the Great Resignation—all of these challenges might make one think that agencies have struggled with staffing. And they have.

However, one group of respondents flagged it as a crisis. Meaning, much more than others, they worry that salary levels will limit their talent offering, they can’t get the right employees and they’ll miss out on business because of it, and they are losing talent to higher-salary offers.

This survey was conducted in Q4 of 2021, when staffing may have been more pronounced. So it’ll be interesting to track this again in the next survey and see if it was a trending bit of segmentation or a longer-term issue.

Staffing Strugglers—challenges with talent acquisition and service offerings, salaries and attrition.


Nearly all Staffing Strugglers
were most likely
to engage partners.


Change Seekers:

For this group, everything around them is changing, everything is upside down and their agencies need to make changes as a result. They say the markets for their services are changing dramatically, they can’t get clients to focus on strategy and clients don’t want to pay for strategy.

They also believe bigger agencies have an advantage over smaller ones (remember, there is actually no major difference in agency size from segment to segment). And they are more likely to fear client attrition.

No one else reported these issues as dramatically as Change Seekers—demand for services, the value of strategy, fear of client attrition.


Change Seekers were alone in
saying that clients don’t want
to pay for strategy.


Cobblers’ Kids:

Like the old story, the shoemaker’s children have no shoes. The respondents here agree that marketing their own agency is lower priority than client work and self-marketing efforts are haphazard. And they strongly disagree that they prioritize those efforts as if they were a client.

When considering that agencies—more than anyone—have the know-how, skills and resources to market themselves, the question becomes, is it more about discipline and priorities?

Cobblers’ Kids—marketing their agencies is low priority, haphazard, not prioritized.


Cobblers’ Kids were most likely to report
their operating status was fully Virtual.
Agencies with fewer than 10 employees
reported about the same.


Loyalty Builders:

Two main points define this segment. First, they do a good job of reporting the work they do for clients and the performance of that work. Second, they have a good understanding of why clients are at risk of leaving and they have strong client retention programs in place to prevent it.

When dissecting survey results about this group’s agency-services offerings, they are more likely to offer digital services such as social media, online advertising, analytics and lead gen. That digital focus could relate back to the consistent reporting of work being done and its performance—simplifying it (even though it still takes effort).

Loyalty Builders—solid reporting of work done and reporting of its performance.


Most Loyalty Builders “always” reported
work performance to clients—far more
likely than any other segment.
Agency Audit
Stats are important, but segmentation is revealing, too

Agencies that are more effective comprise unique segments. Likewise, agencies that face greater challenges fall into their own unique categories.

All of which are unrelated to demographics.

Segmentation was about mindset—attitudes, fears, concerns, outlook and positivity.

Although all segments are unique, Thought Leaders and Loyalty Builders are more strategy-oriented. They’re more optimistic about opportunities and less concerned about challenges. They feel they can weather change and are positioned to succeed. They both lead all other segments when it comes to niche positioning. And revenue is much less impacted by client losses.


Thought Leaders and Loyalty Builders:

  • Strong niche positioning.
  • Always incorporating strategic services.
  • Fewer worries, most optimistic.
  • Positioned to succeed and weather change.
  • Revenue least impacted by client losses.
  • Generally as willing as others to partner.

Agencies develop a deeper understanding of themselves, their clients and their clients’ audiences through research.

According to the Harvard Business School, an agency can then position itself and formulate a value proposition that is attractive. A niche in the marketplace where it can serve as a thought leader, building a sustainable competitive advantage. And that process is deeply anchored in data and analysis. Read more about it in our related article, Audience Audit: Strategy.

White Label IQ, in partnership:

Special thanks to Susan Baier and Drew McLellan for their “2022 Agency Audit Research Results Webinar” review and commentary that contributed to key content paraphrased or referenced in this article.

Susan Baier, Head Honcho, Audience Audit Inc., Chandler, Ariz.,
an independent segmentation research firm serving small- to mid-size ad agencies.

Drew McLellan, CEO, Agency Management Institute,
helping owners of small- and medium-sized marketing communication companies succeed.

*Buchholz, K., “Is 100 the New 80?: Centenarians Are Becoming More Common”, Statista–Global Health,, Feb 5, 2001.
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