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.

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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.


Rx For Agencies Suffering From Digital, Direct, PR and Social Media Confusion Or Disorientation

January 25, 2010

Reduction in the role of channel specialists. Today, interactive marketers want agencies to keep them ahead of the curve. But for most agencies, this means little more than just providing executional help in digital channels.

“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

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. If 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.

Click on the link below to view or download the full presentation.

View more presentations from Clive Maclean.

The Top Four New Business Trends for 2010

January 19, 2010

As the advertising world slams the door on a very difficult 2009, advertising agencies are looking ahead to 2010, hoping to deliver stronger growth in the sector. What lies ahead? Nobody really knows – However here are four key trends that in my opinion are sure to make waves in the marketplace!

The End of the Digital/Traditional Agency Divide.

I have no doubt whatsoever that the imaginary line dividing traditional and digital agencies will not completely disappear. But 2010 will see the distinction blur to the point of being meaningless. The Great Race, as Forrester Research calls it, pits digital shops looking to hone their branding chops against traditional agencies adding tech skills. This will in turn lead to more digital agencies competing for (and sometimes winning) through-the-line assignments, plus more clients will be willing to choose a lead agency based on which of its roster shops comes to the table with the best idea.

Social Media Will Become Synonymous With Digital.

There is no doubt that Twitter became the Cinderella of 2009. In 2010 we will see social-media tools being treated as an integral component of the digital world as predicted by Altimeter Group’s Charlene Li :

“Social media will become “like air,” and be pretty much everywhere”.

That means publishers and marketers will use tools like Twitter and Facebook Connect to make experiences more social. More marketers will look at social as an integral part of their digital strategy, rather than a stand-alone area for experimentation.

 The Year Mobile Marketing Comes of Age

I know that I have written about this subject many times over the last year however, 2010 is certain to be the year when the mobile advertising market finally takes off.  According to a recent Adweek article, heavyweights Apple and Google are poised to face off in the key markets, with Google pouring its seemingly infinite resources into the development of the Android operating system.

The competition will open up new opportunities for marketers in the burgeoning app economy. The biggest push should come in location-based services, which hold the possibility of giving brands the chance to minutely target consumers.

Data Du Jour.

In 2010 we will continue to see exponential demand from marketers for data served up real time in a user friendly format. Agencies will be expected to have the ability to integrate data across all channels and from all sources. They will be looking for everything from data analytics, to web analytics to data modeling in support of personalized content delivery to advanced behavioral customer data and segmentation. 

A 2009 survey conducted by Unica revealed that 72% of marketers had no full time staff member devoted to data analytics. In 2010 they will solve this issue by either developing the capabilities in-house or source it from a capable agency partner.

 


This IS The Age Of Mobile Marketing …Is Your Agency Standing On The Sidelines?

December 29, 2009

According to a recent article published by eMarketer, mobile commerce’s time has arrived. Aided by a flurry of acquisition activity, an influx of venture capital funding and growing brand adoption in the latter half of 2009, the year ahead will see mobile continue its shift toward the marketing mainstream.

 It is eye-catching when a consultancy revises a market forecast upward in the midst of an economic downturn. That is exactly what ABI Research did with its forecast of mobile sales of physical goods in North America. In January 2009 it projected m-commerce sales would reach $544 million this year, up 57% over 2008—impressive in its own right. But in late October, ABI upped its forecast, saying sales would top $750 million in 2009, a whopping 117% annual growth rate. M-commerce’s time has arrived, and it is an easy bet that sales in 2010 will pass the $1 billion mark.

 Whereas consumers once limited their mobile phone purchases to downloadable ringtones and games, today they are using their devices to buy books, apparel and other items associated with online shopping on a PC.

 As I have often commented before, 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.

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The Two People Most Critical To Agency New Business Success!

December 17, 2009

 

Is getting in the door and developing the new business lead important? “Absolutely!” However, if your follow through is lacking, all that development work and investment just goes down the drain accompanied by increasing agency new business strain. Critical to achieving new business success is a great pitch strategy, a pitch czar, a well articulated deck and a well rehearsed team! Without all of these, it does not matter how creative your agency is!

The agency pitch environment is incredibly frenetic, fraught with individual agendas and distracted by the pressures of ongoing client responsibilities and work. It is not unusual for an agency to assign pitch leadership responsibility to a senior account person, who by the way is already inundated with existing client work.

 As you have probably found out already through experience, this simply does not work. If you are serious about new business and the need to win, you have to allocate the right resources. It goes without saying that you need the “team to win” versus “the team available, however without the following two people, your chances of success are slim.

 

 The Pitch Czar:

It is imperative that you appoint a pitch leader that has both the responsibility and authority to lead the pitch. This person is responsible for:

  • Making all the hard decisions, their word is the last word on everything.
  • The pitch strategy.
  • Making sure that the pitch work addresses the brief.
  • Introducing as required external resources and partners.
  • Keeping in touch with the client/consultant, and constantly building the pre pitch relationship.
  • Keeping the team on track, on budget and on time.
  • Orchestrating the final presentation format, pitch logistics, leave behinds etc.
  • Post pitch follow up.

 

Internal New Business Coordinator:

The Pitch Czar cannot achieve success on his/her own. They need the support of an internal new business coordinator. This individual is internally focused and ultimately responsible for the day to day management of the pitch and budget management. Their responsibilities include but are not limited to:

  • Development and control of the pitch deck, including the quality of the final output.
  • Keeping the pitch team on budget and delivering each step on time.
  • Implementing the agreed pitch process and ensuring everyone adheres to it.
  • Coordinating deliverables from outside resources, if any. (research etc)
  • Food and drink for pitch team during late night sessions.
  • Production of any leave behinds.
  • Researching the pitch venue and layout and determining what is possible or needed from a presentation perspective.
  • Equipment and technology required for the pitch.
  • Back-up plan for a possible technology failure.

 

The simple truth is that assigning senior account people who are already overloaded with existing client work is not going to deliver the results you need. In fact it will only serve to distress your pitch closing ratio and ultimately demoralize the agency. In my consulting practice I see the same mistakes being made every day. On the other hand, I also see the benefits when it is done correctly.