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How Can Agencies Work Better with Marketers?

Forrester Principal Analyst Jay Pattisall shares some key tactics

In a recent Adweek webinar sponsored by OpenText™ Hightail™, guest speaker Jay Pattisall, Forrester principal analyst and former agency executive, shared that agencies need to “become more nimble and responsive to their [marketing] clients to help them meet their need for growth and their need to be more customer-centric.” He added that marketers are prioritizing “customer obsession,” because companies that are customer obsessed are more likely to be more profitable and are “in a better position to serve and retain their customers and grow.” In fact, Forrester’s research indicates 42% of customer-obsessed companies grew their revenues by 10% or more within a year.

But how can agencies balance customer-first strategies with the need to be nimble?

In a follow-up interview, Pattisall said that agencies are streamlining their processes to drive customer-obsessed strategies for their clients by:

  • Cultivating progressive leaders. Agencies need a new kind of leadership commitment, one that develops leaders with multidimensional skillsets that include business strategy, client management and practitioner skillsets. Armed with such leaders, agencies are in a position to manage bigger client relationships that cross the C-suite and lead global capability practices.

  • Assembling agile teams. Chief marketing officers (CMOs) want the best people on their business no matter where they sit inside the organization or in the world. While agencies’ staffing models currently are too rigid to nimbly move people around their organization, they can help drive customer-obsessed strategies by creating mechanisms to move resources and staff across projects, and clients.

  • Leveraging technology and platforms. CMOs are rigorously managing costs across marketing services to help fund media campaigns and digital transformation. This threatens agencies’ revenue models, whether media, creative, production or other services. Agencies can help marketers by adopting or building technology to drive efficiency, collaboration, throughput and optimization.

  • Aligning financial incentives and structures. CMOs are looking for partners to drive growth and help solve business problems. Agencies’ financial structures and conflicting P&Ls often limit the opportunity to solve these problems. The key is aligning a structure that rewards innovation and outcomes over hours and deliverables.

In addition to his insights into how agencies are streamlining their profiles, Pattisall answered three questions for us on the struggle between niche offerings and stretching core offerings, the need to address siloes and how to get clients on board with agency processes and platforms.

How can agencies balance the need to provide niche offerings with being everything to everyone?

The risk of trying to be all things to everyone is being nothing to no one. Among the more difficult decisions agencies and marketers face is focusing their purpose, audience and offering. Being nimble can help agencies stretch their core offerings and capabilities into more versatile clients and applications. Agencies can apply their specialties and core competencies more broadly by building flexible service structures. CMOs need integrated solutions that can quickly scale up and down. Agencies’ core creative and media competencies would be made to be more valuable with additional executional specialties. Agencies can help marketers execute customer-obsessed marketing by adding key service layers, including data, production, strategy/consulting, technology and more.

How can agencies better help clients who are in siloed organizations?

Siloed marketing organizations with separate budgets, decision makers and agendas work against the integrations CMOs are asking for from their agencies. Agencies can help break down the siloes by playing intermediary between clashing client departments. Agencies that have real skin in the game, with multiple groups inside the client organization, will do well playing mediator. Agencies helping to broker the relationship between marketing and IT to ensure access to data is a frequent example. The agency knows both the marketing and technology/data language and can help translate to marketing and technology constituents.

What steps are agencies taking to get clients on board with their processes and platforms?

Agencies, and the work they produce, are only as good as their clients allow them to be. Clients must support and, when necessary, embrace their agencies’ teams, processes and platforms. Agencies can build their clients support by:

  • Training clients in emerging marketing practices. More informed and capable clients make for better marketers. When marketers understand the ins and outs of the work, process and technology they are much more likely to support, even evangelize them. One digital agency does just this by providing 50 different digital marketing curricula to train clients and employees.

  • Providing clients transparency of process and data. CMOs demand higher levels of transparency into their marketing and media. Agencies answer the call by proactively offering clients clear sight lines of fees, AVBs and working dollars. Agencies can also provide clients peace of mind about processes and platforms by ensuring clients properly own and retain their customer and campaign data.

Watch the webinar, featuring Pattisall, on demand, Make Agencies More Agile: Be Nimble, Streamlined & Responsive.

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