“Data-Driven Thinking" is written by members of the media community and contains fresh ideas on the digital revolution in media.
Today’s column is written by Lance Neuhauser, CEO at 4C.
It’s an eternal question in a marketer’s life: Should you choose the path of the agency or a specialized point solution?
At the outset, employing a managed services technology solution can be a savvy choice. Any time a new sphere like social media is created, agencies often fail to adopt and master the required technical skills quickly enough. Point solutions specializing in one specific media provide the speed and know-how brands need to dive into cutting-edge technology and gain a competitive edge.
So if a smart decision carried you into a managed services technology relationship, why would it be a smarter decision to ultimately shift back into one with an agency?
And when you make the move, how do you decide which agency best aligns with your revamped needs?
The answer comes down to boosting efficiency and brand security. Agencies offer what point solutions, by nature, cannot: an integrated solution for buying and planning your media. You want to ensure that your customer isn’t being oversaturated with content and that the brand is represented consistently across all channels. Managing all content in the same house provides large-scale efficiencies that protect your marketing investment. When you work with an agency, you eliminate the disconnect between your brand’s latest communication platforms, such as Facebook or Instagram, and your more established offline campaigns.
Perceptive brands recognize the need to move away from point solutions into one cohesive strategy. The same pendulum swing has played out in display and search marketing: Managed services provided one point of expertise until agencies grew more equipped to handle the technology. Today, social marketing is mirroring that process: It’s evolved into a mainstay, crossing the chasm that divides trends from necessary consumer touch points. Brands are beginning to recognize that social channels can no longer be treated in isolation.
To get the most out of your social investment and the sharp understanding of consumer behavior it provides, you need to work with someone who understands all components of your marketing strategy. This approach also brings the added benefit that agencies can take on the heavy lifting of vetting and choosing best-in-breed technologies that they work into their integrated strategy.
Navigate The Switch
Unfortunately, agency and brand motives do not always align. An agency’s main responsibilities are to protect the brand and employ the most strategic solutions. However, agencies are often compensated based on a percentage of media that is put into play, or on a full-time equivalency basis. But delivering better results for the brand? Agencies rarely receive better compensation for better results.
When agencies can’t make more money through results alone and need to reduce costs, they will often choose technologies that make life easier for them – not necessarily for the brand. With this in mind, your responsibility in choosing an agency is to understand not only how they vet their technology, but how they use that technology’s data. As a brand, you need to fully comprehend the benefits of each technology solution provided by the agency. Responsible agencies choose options they have vetted and deemed will benefit the brand in the long run.
As you begin your journey with your agency partner, prioritize the extraction and elevation of cross-channel data. This will be a tremendous source of business intelligence fuel for your overarching strategy. It is important that the agency shares that philosophy or they will struggle to meet this need. Your agency partner has the benefit of working with many clients and brands. Use their experience to help you. Push them to provide analysis and reporting that makes your life easier and helps you keep your mind clearer. Together, you should be able to learn from the stories that are being told by the campaign and audience data.
Win In The Long Run
Historically, attempting to build market-leading strategy expertise and best-in-breed technology simultaneously has been a recipe for inefficiency and mediocrity. It is why the point solutions, over time, must choose one path and why the agencies gain an advantage. As long as your agency adopts technologies that conform to their need to execute tasks quickly – but also choose those tools that can deliver media in a way that maximizes results for your brand – you’ll get the best of both worlds.
Ultimately, moving to an agency-based relationship aligns with the principle that brands do best when oriented around consumer behavior. Consumers do not have channel conflict, just channel choice; the overlap in behavior with social media and television is but one example. Keeping your social point solution separate from all your marketing communication touch points blocks the opportunity to analyze how the consumer is interacting and how you can combine data from all channels to improve engagement. Use social as an integrated business intelligence fuel and you’ll maximize results from your marketing dollars.