Recent Fortune 100 RFP’s Search For A New Breed of People2People Agency

December 22, 2009


In recent weeks, a number of Fortune 100 companies have issued agency RFP’s that share a common purpose. They are all looking for a unique agency organization that can truly deliver what they refer to as “Integrated Customer Relationship Marketing”. Some common parameters across all of the documents can be summarized as follows:

  • Preferably an agency that was not built out of a historical specialty (like advertising or direct marketing etc), but rather one that has been built from the ground up with the vision of being a truly integrated shop.
  • The key disciplines required are digital, direct, CRM/eCRM, data analytics, integrated marketing planning and true channel neutrality.

A key question asked by most of them is: “What is your vision for the future of Integrated Customer Relationship Marketing?” I thought I would take a shot at answering it, and sharing my perspectives with all of you.

Here is my response:

As we move deeper into this new “conversation economy,” true brand engagement and customer relationships are becoming more and more important. Marketers must strive to create ongoing and relevant dialogs with consumers, if they are to have any hope whatsoever of remaining part of the consideration set going forward.

We know it’s been said many times before that, traditional marketing and advertising thinking is no longer effective as consumer media habits continue to evolve at an ever quickening pace. Branding as we know it is for all intents and purposes dead, as most consumers’ first impressions of a brand are what they find in search results or what they read from other people in reviews.

As consumers continue to circumvent traditional media approaches, they are gravitating towards those media/channels that provide easy access to information, advice and recommendations, plus allow them to socialize and be entertained at the same time. In the process, these consumers are building and refining their own trusted personal networks.

If marketers want to be positioned to take advantage of this evolving opportunity, the first step is to forget about continuing to structure your organization in silos like brand, direct, digital and social marketing, and start to think about People2People marketing. If you can seamlessly integrate your marketing efforts and succeed in motivating customers not only to interact with you, but to develop a true brand relationship, you may be able to persuade them to share their personal networks with you. In doing so you will have created a powerful channel and relationship for your brand in the marketplace.

Traditional direct and database marketers will be disappointed to hear that targeting is dying too. As consumers change to pulling information as they want or need it, push marketing becomes less and less relevant, no matter how “targeted” the marketer thinks it is. No longer can you just drop an email to your house file or run a banner campaign with the simple objective to sell more products or generate more leads. You have to become part of the conversation, where they are and when they want to have it. Also, keep in mind that conversations cannot be bought either, and if they are, the community often quickly finds out and retaliates.

The new age of People2People marketers have to be experts in understanding consumer habits and expectations in this new media environment. They need to be the unbiased filter that prioritizes the media/channels and indentifies the ones that will yield the greatest ROI.

This new breed of marketer will avoid the temptation to shout messages at consumers disrespectfully or target thousands of people multiple times with generic messages and offers of little or no relevance. Instead, they will embrace techniques that cultivate genuine and open dialogue with customers, where brands quietly listen and learn, and then respond with relevant content and new features and product innovations that better match the needs of the consumer.

Marketers who embrace this new reality of People2People marketing will be rewarded by clients who not only out perform their competitors, but also deliver industry leading financial results. You may be interested to know that in July 2009, a report by social platform provider Wetpaint and analyst firm Altimeter found that:

Companies deeply engaged in seven or more social channels (blogs, branded social websites, Facebook, Wikis, ratings and reviews etc.) significantly surpassed their peers in terms of both revenue and performance”.

You may think that this is a tall order, but I know that it’s not impossible. That’s because the solution can be found in the motivations of the conversationalists themselves. After all, conversation is mankind’s natural search engine.

The above being said, the question then becomes – how do you keep the conversation going? You’ll constantly be competing with other conversations for your customer’s time and attention. You spark and fuel conversations with surveys, forums and invitations for contributions that pertain to the incremental value that your brand/product can bring to their lives. Keeping ongoing conversations fresh is where contextual research and newsletters, blogs, websites, videos and social media shine.

The remaining question is how do you monitor results and measure success? According to Susan Scrupski of ITSinsider, seeing results depends heavily on how you organize your business and equip the people who are part of it.

As you enable the conversation between you and your customers, you enter into collaborative design. Picking up information and passing it into an organization that knows what to do with it is the inflection point between an integrated marketing relationship strategy and actual business success. Taking the time to measure it in the fundamental currency of business is the final step in putting all pieces in place to win in the marketplace”.


Rx for Ad Agencies Suffering From Direct, Digital and Social Media Confusion or Disorientation

October 18, 2009


The opportunity is clear. Forget about continuing to structure your agency in silos like brand, direct, digital and social marketing, and start to think about People2People marketing. qIf you can integrate your marketing efforts and succeed in motivating customers not only to interact with you, but to share their personal networks with you, you will have created a powerful channel for your brand in the marketplace.

Mobile Marketing. The Ad Agency New Business Goldmine

October 16, 2009

mobile 3images

Mobile marketing has an additive effect on other advertising and marketing efforts and can bridge the gap between digital and traditional campaigns. It is also flexible, lending itself to both direct response and brand reinforcement campaigns. (Source: eMarketer, June, 2009)

Despite the rising number of mobile users and their increasingly sophisticated habits and mobile devices, currently advertising and marketing dollars flowing to mobile lag behind consumer usage of the channel. This however is about to change and the change is going to be significant. According to eMarketer, mobile advertising spending is going to increase from a mere $416 million in 2009 to $1.560 billion in 2013.

mobile media106464 

This increased growth will ultimately create a need for better creative. Up until now, marketers and their agencies have done a tremendous job of recycling and repurposing creative assets from other media and channels, in an attempt to make sure that as much of the budget as possible goes into working media.

This is an opportunity for agencies to step up to the plate and deliver a better quality product while demanding more fully funded mobile production budgets.  While most creative types currently believe that mobile environments have significant creative limitations, the reality is that this is indeed not the case. The problem is that most creatives are not aware of the technologies currently available and hence what is actually possible.

While there are currently some notable agencies out there leading the charge and creating excellent work, most seem to be overlooking the opportunity.




Social Media Fuels Land Grab Within Client Marketing Departments!

October 13, 2009

The exponential growth in social networking and popularity of social media, has created an incredible land grab within many internal client marketing departments. This can be both an opportunity and threat as it relates to the agency world.

In a June, 2009 survey by Zoomerang/StrongMail, marketers were asked the question, “Which marketing function owns social media within your organization?” The survey revealed that 29% of respondents said that it is shared by multiple functions. The majority of respondents however (36%) reported that direct marketing owns social media with only 9% saying that is was owned by PR and just 5% claiming to have a dedicated internal social media department.

A deeper look into what may be driving this revealed some very interesting facts. According to a recent eMarketer article, when marketing executives were asked what they perceived the benefits to be of social media, their responses were as follows:

value of social 

 81% of respondents stated that the major benefits were both brand building and CRM. 69% also believed that it was a viable recruitment tool too, with customer service close behind it at 64%.

Looking even deeper, here is how this same group of marketers answered the question, “For what reasons do you use social media?”

 resons they use sm106332


For those respondents who claimed not to be using social media, here are the responses as to their reasons why not to.

Reasons they don't106328 

 It’s no wonder that social media responsibility is shared between departments for nearly a third of marketers and very clear to see what exactly is stopping the majority of the non-users from leveraging it. Depending on how you look at it, this can either be an opportunity or a threat, whether you are an incumbent agency or a competitive agency trying to win some new business.

New Business Opportunity for Ad Agencies…Web Analytics

October 1, 2009

Data aggregation

When Webtrends surveyed marketers worldwide about how to close the gap between data analysis and business action, their top answer was more knowledgeable staff. These marketers just self identified a real new business door opener for savvy agencies.

Smart agencies are always looking for a compelling reason for approaching new business prospects. Most have already found out that the offer of a credentials presentation is not the answer and most often leads to no response at all.

In this particular instance, marketers themselves have identified a specific frustration they are experiencing, as well as what they believe they require to help them solve it… More Knowledgeable Staff! Their problem, however, is that in the current economy, most marketers have had to cut their staff overheads to the bare minimum and hence do not have all the capabilities and smarts that they need on their marketing teams. According to Unica survey, 72% of marketers had no full time staff member devoted to analytics!

What could be a better new business door opener for a smart agency that can help them close the gap between data analysis and business action? Heck, there is even Independent research available to help agencies support their approach, and identify the specific issues that need solving.

Challenges with web analytics 

Of course this assumes that your agency has the capabilities to help the client:

  • Integrate data and results across all channels and from all possible sources.
  • Verify the accuracy of the data.
  • Simplify the data as much as possible and drill down to find the insights within it. (If you torture that data long enough, it will confess)
  • Develop a dashboard that’s easy to use and powered by real time, up to date information.

I once asked a client of mine what she attributed to her meteoric success within the company. Her answer was simply:

“She who owns the data has all the insights and therefore holds all the power”

A perspective that might be helpful as agencies consider the opportunity at hand and whether to pursue it or not.




Client Churn Causes 70% Of Ad Agencies To Miss Their Numbers!

August 24, 2009

miss their numbers final

If your agency has previously omitted preparing “Key Account Plans” as part of your overall agency growth strategy, these recent survey findings may convince you to do otherwise!  

In my recent national online survey (Ad Agency Business Growth Strategy Survey), I found that 57% of respondents admitted to having missed their financial numbers over the last three years due to an unexpected client loss. Another 12% claimed that while they had hit their goals, the client loss had significantly impacted their overall performance for the year.  

Based on in depth analysis of the survey information, I found conclusively that failure on the part of the agency to include “key client account plans” in their agency growth strategies, was a major contributing factor. Here are some additional findings and supporting details.

50% of total survey respondents indicated that they currently do not have “key Account Plans” in place for their top 5 agency clients. Interestingly, there is a very high correlation between these respondents and those agencies that indicated they had missed their numbers due to unexpected client churn. In fact, 87% of the respondents who said they did not have “Key Account Plans” for their top 5 clients, all had instances where they missed their financial numbers over the last 3 years!

Next, I took a deeper look at those respondents (62% of total sample) who answered yes to having clients within their agency that either run at a loss or alternatively break even at best. Just over 70% of this group also answered “no” to having key client plans in place.  

Finally, I took a look at the respondents (31% of total respondents) that answered affirmatively to having a nightmare client in the agency that their staff hates to work on. In this case, 84% of this group did not have key account plans in place for their top 5 clients.

These survey findings clearly indicate that, the omission of key client plans from an ad agency’s growth strategy can have a significant impact on its financial performance. Absence of these key client plans substantially increases the risk of the agency losing a key client, as well as increasing the incidence of poor performing clients within the agency client roster.

 If you really think about it, this should come as no surprise to any of us! In the absence of a plan how do we:

  • Plan and focus the resources needed to support our clients?
  • Consistently stay pro-active and deliver innovation?
  • Maintain client satisfaction levels, keep ahead in their category and deliver incremental value?
  • Plan and execute against organic growth targets and opportunities?
  • Integrate metrics, measurement and results into our work?
  • Optimize resource allocation and management. Making sure that we do not either under or over service the account?
  • Focus resources and effort in the areas that THE CLIENT deems of value versus what the agency values?

Bottom line! Client retention and churn management is without doubt one of, if not the most important pillar of any agency’s growth strategy. Unfortunately, most agencies do not allocate anywhere near as much focus and resources to it as they do new business. Many even overlook it altogether.

My 5 pillar agency growth strategy approach enables you to consistently deliver superior agency growth and profitability.






Kraft Foods, A Clients Perspective On Ad Agency Positioning

August 21, 2009

Dana Anderson

Yesterday I spent an hour with one of the smartest strategic minds, if not the smartest in the advertising and marketing world. (Dana Anderson, SVP Marketing Strategy at Kraft Foods) She shared with me some great advice from a client’s perspective about differentiating and positioning an ad-agency. Here’s what she had to say…

For those of you who do not know Dana, I can tell you that she has had a long and illustrious career in the advertising agency world. She has spent many years at agencies like DDB and most recently as President of FCB Chicago. Her past agency experience combined with her current responsibilities on the client side, provide her with a very unique perspective on the agency business.

She said to me, “there are things I did when I was on the agency side that, knowing what I know now, I cannot believe I said and did.” The problem is most agency people continue today to say and do many of those same things.

I would like to share with you a few of the insights she shared with me:

  • Generic statements like: “We are an agency that connects the left and the right brain” do nothing to help you differentiate your agency. Claiming to combine the use of data and analytics with attitudinal research and great creative is table stakes. Every digital agency currently claims to deliver this. Its core to Digitas’s positioning and from a brand agency perspective, Draft/FCB staked this claim a while ago.
  • Positioning your agency as media neutral with a 360 degree approach is just as passé’: Claims like this only serve to help roll the client’s eyes to the back of their heads and sigh in disbelief.
  • Rhetoric that positions the agency as full service and able to deliver an integrated solution, no matter the channel or media is just not believable. There is not a client out there who has not been disappointed by an agency claiming to do it all and do it well. It’s just not possible and there is not an agency out there that can live up to these claims. Claims like this just serve to undermine everything you say.
  • Agency’s that come in claiming that they have a proprietary process that… “Starts with a deep dive into the target consumer, is then combined with a competitive and category audit which then leads to”, is just not going to cut it. Every agency has the same process that claims the same thing and at the end of the day it’s enough to make a client throw up.

What Dana suggests is that every agency takes a very serious look at what it is they really do well. Why do they do it well and what is different about the way they do it. Start with a strong perspective on what the agency stands for. Do your homework and use research (either primary or secondary) to support your approach.

Include both quantitative and qualitative research to help prove out and support the basis for your approach. Once that’s complete, then develop your process and go to market strategy based on the insights and information you have defined. Dana quoted an excellent example as being a small agency called “Energy Infuser, A Kay Allison Company”