Last year, businesses of all sizes and across industries, from bespoke shops and start-ups to international holding companies, were stretched thin. Then sweeping changes were implemented when COVID hit, especially at SMBs and agencies. As a result, their clients and customers reacted out of impulse and fear and halted spending to stop the bleeding. While recovery is well underway, the underlying lesson was that there’s no returning to “business as usual.”
As a result, and with every other facet of life, we had to build a new normal. The biggest realizations? Finding a niche will make you more desirable and you can’t go at it alone. Now, the most successful brands and agencies are those that work with valuable partners to fill the gaps.
To accomplish this, many SMBs are turning to AffinityX for their digital marketing solutions. AffinityX is unmatched in its experience, solutions, and technology. As a white-label provider for digital products, ad operations, campaign management, and creative works, the company serves a high caliber of clients. I sat down with Director of Business Development, Sara Droke, to discuss what drew her to the company, agency sector growth, and why they work with Winmo.
Samantha Stallard: First, tell me about AffinityX.
Sara Droke: We power some of the biggest brands and local media companies by acting as an extension of their team. This is done through digital product fulfillment, ad operations, creative design, website development, copywriting, and SEO, among others. AffinityX is a global company. We operate on three continents with offices in the Philippines, India, Serbia, and the US. Our current partners remind us that our use of people, processes, and technology allows them to deliver high quality, predictable performance with a 50% cost reduction.
SS: Describe your role within the organization. Beyond that, what drew you to this company?
SD: As Director of Business Development, I’m responsible for finding and creating new partnerships. Prior, I worked as a digital sales manager for a broadcast and print media newsgroup. While there, we built a separately branded digital agency that leveraged various white label partners.
Having that experience, AffinityX impressed me with their technology, infrastructure, and unique understanding of the challenges that local media and agencies face today.
When you look at our business development, client solutions, technical account, and project management teams, almost all of us came from a local media or agency background. That experience informs all of the decisions we make as an organization. You can trust that we are innovating to solve the everyday challenges that these organizations are facing.
SS: What are your company goals for 2021?
SD: Most importantly, we’re focused on growing in the agency sector. We’ve been talking to a lot of agencies and we’re finding ways to help them save money and grow revenue in a more efficient way. Economic conditions have been tough, but we’re finding ways to help agencies not just survive, but thrive, in 2021.
SS: You mention opportunity growth, how does AffinityX help agencies achieve that?
SD: Specifically, we empower agency resources to stay focused on activities that capture more of their customer’s spend with minimal risk and tremendous upside:
- Retain and grow their customer base. This is done through complete product or service solutions. Today, there are many niche agencies, strictly social, SEO, or creative, and we give them the ability to grow quickly.
- Turn fixed costs into variable costs. Recently, our market conditions have created so much uncertainty in the agency model. With revenue outlooks in question, reduce your fixed costs by partnering with AffinityX. For instance, variable pricing options enable you to scale offerings without investing in hiring resources.
- Scale quickly. Many agencies don’t have the time or resources to go after big RFPs and service their existing clients.
- Finally, reduce cost and improve overall margins. We take on automated and administrative tasks, so agencies can focus on generating revenue and servicing their clients as well as manage DSP relationships.
SS: What are the biggest challenges on the horizon for agencies today? How does AffinityX address those challenges?
SD: Today, as the world continues its recovery from the economic recession, continuing revenue fluctuations are perhaps the biggest challenge we see. In November, Forrester predicted a 23% decrease in total spend in the US marketing sector, with agencies taking the biggest hit.
Today, agencies must arm themselves with more technology, forecasting trends, and automation tools to make smarter marketing decisions. We all know that the market is constantly evolving. For example, 27% of cable subscribers plan to cut the cord in 2021 — almost twice as many as in 2020. And in fact, for the first time ever, advertisers can reach more households through Connected TV than traditional linear TV.
Agencies will need to adapt their marketing recommendations to fit the evolution of the market. Plus, invest in solutions that drive trackable results and ROI for their clients.
At AffinityX, we understand that cost management has never been more important for agencies. Similarly, we can dedicate resources, a team of any size, which the agency can control. As a result, the costs are variable without having to make an upfront investment. Our global infrastructure provides us the ability to be both highly responsive and extremely nimble in support of our agency partners. Ultimately, we empower agency resources to focus on activities that capture more of their customer’s spend with minimal risk. And tremendous upside.
SS: Why did you decide to implement Winmo?
SD: Before, we worked with ZoomInfo. Then, we got a peek at Winmo — the level of data and the types of data points that are in it are 100% applicable to the sectors we want to serve. Above all, to have a tool that’s populated with very sound data and ways to identify our clients and create efficiencies in prospecting is invaluable.
In fact, we’ve already begun our marketing outreach using the Winmo data and are excited to start our business development efforts with such a refined list of targets.
SS: Lastly, what are the biggest lessons from 2020 agencies should take with them into this year?
SD: First, agencies need to be nimble to maintain continuity in quality and service level agreements. Second, agencies need to ensure that they have a diverse product portfolio. They must be a continued resource to clients as market demand shifts for various products. For example, in 2020, we saw drastic increases in spend in OTT/CTV and Programmatic Audio as a result of a homebound audience due to the pandemic and a shift in viewership/listenership to streaming content.
Most importantly, we stand ready to partner with agencies in 2021!
Sara Droke joined Affinity Express in 2018 and serves as the Director of Business Development. She brings more than 15 years in strategic sales, digital marketing, and media with an emphasis in digital advertising.
At AffinityX, Sara pioneers partnership development across a multitude of agencies, brands, and local media companies. Prior to joining the company, she served as the Director of Emerging Media for a local media news company, where she drove significant revenue growth.
Sara holds a Masters Degree in Business Administration and Management from Bethel University in Tennessee and graduated Magna Cum Laude. She and her husband Geoff reside in Kentucky and have four children.