As Clients Focus On Outcomes Versus Outputs…ROI Is Top Concern!

April 27, 2010

Clients have never been more focused on getting a good return on their marketing investments. Anderson and MENG found that “marketing ROI” had jumped to become the most important trend to marketing executives. Social media also cracked the top 10 this year, although many are sick of hearing about it.

 

Historically, most agency reviews have been focused around reviewing agency outputs rather than the outcomes they produced. RFP documents included a plethora of questions about a broad range of agency capabilities but asked very little about the results those same campaigns produced.

Well, the game is changing and changing fast. An increasing number of the current RFI’s and RFP’s are including many more questions like the following:

“Please be sure to include results reporting actual numbers versus generic statements like; significantly exceeded target etc.” (If for confidentiality reasons you are not able to share actual numbers then please go ahead and index them)

 Clients are doing their homework and they want to know not only how creative and innovative your work is, but just as importantly how effective is it.

 This increased focus outcomes should not come as a surprise to agencies. A recent survey conducted by Anderson and Meng, found that “marketing ROI” had jumped to become the most important trend to marketing executives. Social media also cracked the top 10 this year, although many are sick of hearing about it. Interestingly Social ROI ranked in tenth place, reinforcing the importance of ROI overall.

 

This ROI focus has caused considerable angst for those agencies that do not bother to track results or alternatively are embarrassed to share disappointing performance or outcomes. The bottom line is that the situation is not going to get easier. In fact, I expect that it will not be long before most or all agency reviews will be significantly influenced by outcomes (results) versus outputs (The work alone).

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Effectively leveraging Digital Channels to Drive Incremental Ad Agency New Business Leads!

April 7, 2010

Most ad agencies are not effectively leveraging digital channels to help drive incremental new business leads. Here are five simple steps you can implement immediately to increase your new business lead flows…

Optimize your website for SEO: Is your agency website full of flash and streaming video? Then it’s probably highly ineffective from an SEO perspective and you are probably invisible to many potential prospects conducting agency research online. Now there is new technology available that makes Flash SEO friendly. (WhittmanHart Interactive is currently at the leading edge of this technology) You now have two options to choose from. Either redesign your site with less flash or update your flash programming to be more SEO friendly.

Monitor your daily website traffic: You would be surprised how many agencies put up a website and then fail to track daily visitors to the site. Simple monitoring through Google analytics can provide you with some very useful leads. Take a look at who visited, how long they stayed, what they looked at etc. This is a very useful tool to monitor activity after a recent new business meeting, seminar presentation or capabilities presentation.

Develop and Implement an agency SEO/M strategy: When questioned on the subject, most agencies admit to not having one. Given that 100 percent of clients looking for an agency conduct online research during the process, it’s hard to imagine why this would be the case. A basic SEO/M strategy can be highly effective at generating interest and inquiries.

It’s time to become more social: A social media strategy is a must have in today’s conversation economy. If you are not involved in the conversation you are unlikely to become a consideration. And don’t think that by putting up a Facebook page, agency blog and by twittering that you have a social media strategy. You will need to implement a comprehensive approach that includes developing your content strategy and how you are going to build your following. It does not end there either…

Ongoing Social CRM: What really makes “social + CRM” work? Connecting customers/prospects, business processes, and employees. Social CRM involves multiple elements, linked together, to provide an end-to-end understanding of how your brand, product, or service is received in the marketplace and how your internal processes produce and deliver experiences that drive this reception. If you are going to reach out through social media you will need a Social CRM strategy to keep the conversation going and deliver the value exchange required to move your prospect along the sales funnel.  

   


Successful Ad Agency New Business Social Media Strategies

March 30, 2010

Just because you build it does not mean that they will come! Contrary to what you may believe, social media marketing may not turn out to be that fantastic “Field of Dreams” you were hoping for. With over 200,000,000 blogs already out there in the Blogosphere, just because you put up your new agency blog does not mean that your new business prospects will find it… Let alone read it.

 

Overnight success stories related to social media marketing are rare. Even more rare to find is an agency with an actual social media strategy. Last year my online agency survey (which included a diverse group of agencies) found that nearly two thirds of these agencies did not have a social media strategy!  

Putting up a blog, starting to Twitter and updating your Facebook page is quick and easy to do. Actually building a following/community is a totally different set of tasks and responsibilities that takes a lot of resources and time to do. Most agencies have no idea about the investment they will need to make to build an active following, beyond the nuts and bolts of getting it live on the Web.

One of the first considerations is to determine what your content strategy is going to be:

Content is still King and keep in mind that we are all creatures of habit. If there’s already an active community dedicated solely to what you are interested in communicating about, it’s likely you aren’t going to be able to move people from that community into your brand new “branded community.” In social media, people tend to avoid the loud “Here I am” type of marketing efforts in lieu of marketers who actually are interested in
building relationships with them in genuine ways.

Spend some time doing some buzz monitoring and take the time to really listen to what the data is telling you:

Try to understand how your different prospect segments consume content. One segment might like conversing on forums and message boards. Another segment might want more information, so a blog providing that information would be better suited for that segment . If you don’t dig into the
data, it’s tough to really know what your audience is looking for.

You have to actively build your following versus waiting for them to come to you:

This is an extremely important yet overlooked component of a successful social media strategy. You need to strategically integrate every tool and channel available in your arsenal to get the right people engaged. For example, consider content federation strategies if you happen to have a substantial amount worth sharing. Identify key influencers and follow those people who follow them as many will go ahead and follow you back. This can be a very effective strategy for building a large following quickly.

It all starts with a social media plan based on sound insights and leads to effective, sustainable engagement. You will know that you are successful when you are able to get YOUR prospects to share THEIR personal networks with you.  


Does Your Agency Have An Effective “Elevator Speech”?

March 23, 2010

Most agencies do not have a succinct “Elevator Speech” that effectively communicates both what they do and their unique value proposition. In fact, if you asked ten different people within the same agency, you are likely to get ten different answers! So how can we expect prospective clients to understand clearly who and what we are?

 

If you do not believe me, I challenge you to take a walk around your agency tomorrow and ask ten different staff members to explain in a simple statement what it is you do and what your value proposition is. I have done this recently on several different occasions and the result has been consistent. Complete inconsistency!

What has been consistent is the gratuitous use of super superlatives that just add to the noise and clutter and make our industry seem naive and commoditized. Common place are words and phrases like:

  • Full service integrated agency
  • Proprietary planning methodology/tool
  • Highly insightful creative
  • Award winning creative agency
  • Channel agnostic
  • Outside of the box thinkers
  • The industry’s leading….
  • Widely known throughout the industry for our…
  • Nationally recognized experts in …

The bottom line is that clients have heard all of these claims before many times. They also tell me that in their experience, no agency to date has ever delivered against their claims and the therefore their BS Meters are tuned way up. I recently heard a well known Search Consultant describe the situation as “Embarrassing”!

My advice is before you do any more new business prospecting that you sit down with your team and take a deep and considered look at how you position your agency. Try not to “drink the cool aid” as you do so. Be honest and ask yourselves the hard questions, such as:

  • What do we as agency really do well?
  • What is it about the way we do it that helps us do it well?
  • Is there anything unique about what or how we do it and what’s our value proposition from a client perspective? Why us and not any one of the 5000 other agencies out there claiming to do the same thing?
  • What proof do we have to support our claims versus just rhetoric?
  • What are the characteristics of our ideal target client? ( Partner vs. vendor etc)
  • What categories are we relevant to? (Not which do we aspire to)

These are just a few of the questions that every agency should answer in order to be successful at differentiating itself from the competition and winning new business. Every day I continue to be amazed at how many agencies out there have not taken the time to do so.


Successful Agencies Don’t Just Excel In One Particular Channel

March 15, 2010

According to Forrester Research…“There will be a reduction in the role of channel specialists. As marketers seek interactivity, agencies that subsist will forgo their role as channel specialists and dedicate themselves instead to determining how to change the relationship marketers have with their end customers”.    Source: Shar Van Boskirk, Forrester Research, Jan 12, 2010

 

Today’s successful marketers have realized that it isn’t good enough just to excel in one particular channel. Multichannel marketing companies absolutely need to spend as much time on their “old” channels as they do with their “new” ones. The biggest problem these marketers face, is finding agency partners that think the same way.

While the entire buzz right now is centered on subjects like making iPhone apps, Twitter strategies, Facebook and search marketing, the reality is, if the rest of your channel marketing sucks, then an iPhone app isn’t going to make a big difference. Likewise, if your in-store (or branch) experience is disappointing, that won’t make up for a lackluster online experience. The key to success is to spend some quality time looking not only at each of the channels individually, but more importantly, at how they intersect with each other to deliver the overall brand experience.

To help understand the philosophy, I would like to share a quote from Jack Aaronson from ClickZ.

“I’ll use a folklore tale of an architect. According to the story, an architect was hired to design a college campus. He put up the buildings but created no sidewalks. When the head of the school asked him where the sidewalks were, he replied, “The students will create the sidewalks.” Sure enough, a year later the architect visited the school and built paved sidewalks where the students had created well-worn paths in the grass”.

This implies a truly customer-centric (needs-based) design approach and we can all learn from this story as we create a methodology for modeling multichannel behavior. You’re most likely aware of how consumers act within a specific channel. You may know how to create the best brick-and-mortar experience, catalog, Web site, kiosk, call center, sales office, Web 2.0 widget, and the like. In the story of the architect, these channels are the buildings. They run fairly well on their own. But how do users move between them? What paths do they create? And, most important, how can we analyze the paths’ success and value?

The first step is to understand the paths people are taking between your buildings and why. Once you create the sidewalks that let them do this easily, everything else will follow suit. The technology exists to track these sidewalks, attribute value to them, and credit the channels appropriately.

Agencies that truly understand this philosophy and embrace it will become leaders at delivering the consummate “Customer Engagement Experience” and assume their rightful place at the head of the client’s agency roster.


Six Agency Search Questions Clients Ask…How You Answer Will Determine Your Success!

February 25, 2010

These six questions consistently come up in most agency search RFI’s. Your answers to them play a critical role in the decision as to whether you move forward in the process or are eliminated at this early stage. Take the time now to develop considered points of view rather than a rushed “in the moment” response.

 

What are the exclusive or unique services and capabilities that give your agency a competitive advantage in the marketplace?

 While the actual wording may differ, the question is almost always included in most agency RFI’s. Clients want to know exactly what it is that makes your agency different. What value does your agency bring to the relationship and how will what you offer help them compete more effectively and win. It’s not about a laundry list of capabilities – as every agency claims to have every capability. My suggestion is that you take the time to ask yourselves not only what you do well, but also what it is about what you do that makes you measurably better than the competition. Remember that you cannot be all things to everyone.

Describe the top three trends in the industry as you see it and how is your agency leading and reacting to these trends?

 Clients want to know that the agency they select is a leader and not a follower. They want to make sure that it is at least constantly keeping abreast of current trends if not predicting what the next one will be. In addition, clients are interested in knowing how you are leveraging them to give your clients competitive advantage. Depending on the RFP and your type of agency, the question can vary from broader consumer trends to specific category or vertical developments. 

Why do you provide better thought leadership than your competitors? 

This is just another question aimed at helping the client determine whether your agency is a leader or a follower. This question probes areas like strategic thinking, use of technology, innovative media and communications planning and data analytics etc. Once again they are trying determine what your value proposition is and how do you keep current.

How do you help your clients manage their brand and the total consumer experience in the digital space?

The buzz surrounding brand and customer experience continues to grow exponentially. Lead by Forrester Research, there has recently been a plethora of articles on “customer engagement agencies”. In fact, Forrester was even planning to publish a wave focused on  “customer engagement agencies” in the first quarter of 2010, however I am led to believe that this has been put on hold due to a lack of agencies who meet the basic selection criteria. You can be certain that this question is going to become ubiquitous in the near future so I would suggest that your agency develops not only a point of view, but also a track record of delivering it on behalf of your clients.

How have you used social media to generate business results? How did you measure ROI?

I would be very surprised if your agency has not already had this question thrown at you. Currently this seems to be the question that is on the tip of every clients tongue. It’s probably one of the most difficult questions to answer. I am certain that there are more agencies than not who cannot truly answer this question based on their own experience. I recommend that if you fall into this category that you at least develop a POV and approach that you can share. This will demonstrate to the client that you have given it serious thought and have a strategic approach to answering the million-dollar question.

Explain how you test, measure and optimize results for your clients?

This question is top of mind for most if not every client out there. There has never been in the history of marketing and advertising, a stronger focus on effectiveness, tracking, measurement and ultimately results. ROI is the subject d’ jour with many clients even asking agencies for some type of guarantee or at minimum shared risk participation. Some of the larger companies have moved all of their agency compensation models to a pay for performance model. Take the time to document your philosophy, approach, process, tools and tracking capabilities.


Forrester Survey Highlights Clients’ Lack Of Confidence in Both Traditional And Digital Agencies Alike!

February 9, 2010

Forrester Research conducted a “state of interactive agencies” survey of about 100 global interactive marketers. It found just 23 percent believed their “traditional brand agency” is capable of planning and managing interactive marketing activities.

While that would appear to be good news for digital agencies, particularly as digital continues to enjoy increased allocations in most marketing budgets. The Forrester survey however, found few clients are willing to give them responsibility for the brand’s overall direction. Just 22 percent agreed that their interactive agency is “ready to lead my brand.” Another 33 percent said their digital shops aren’t ready, with the rest neutral.

The result is what Forrester calls “the great race” as traditional shops scramble to add digital know-how and digital shops seek to move up the ladder to become brand stewards, rather than Web site and banner ad specialists.

The survey found that in an ideal world, clients would like to work with a single agency with 60 percent saying that they would like one digital shop.  When you look deeper into the survey data it would appear that even within digital, only one in five respondents currently rely on a single provider. Almost 60 percent of respondents currently have two or more.

For every digital agency that manages to secure brand lead responsibilities, there are just as many traditional agencies making inroads into the digital world.  Add to this the increasing number of emerging media specialists (mobile and social media) that appear on a daily basis and you have the digital equivalent of the Wild West.

No matter whether you are a traditional or digital shop, there is no doubt that you have your work cut out for you.

From a digital perspective your agency might be well served… Investing your time and money keeping abreast of new technologies and emerging media versus chasing those elusive brand responsibilities.

From a traditional perspective, your agency might be well served… Protecting your current turf and client relationships, while at the same time expanding your creative and strategic capabilities to include people like Idea Architects and Idea Engineers. Then partner with digital specialists to develop and execute truly integrated marketing campaigns.