Industry Insights

Why Are More & More Digital Agencies Finding Themselves Under Review

Digital agencies must ensure that they continue to be relevant to their clients or they may find themselves under review.

CMS Insider with Stephen Saber

In the CMS-Insider segment during our extremely entertaining Opens Source vs Proprietary episode, we welcomed The Pulse Network's CEO, Stephen Saber to offer his perspective on a growing trend: the increase in digital agency reviews by their enterprise clients.

Covering an excellent article written by Digital Clarity Group analyst Tiffany Elliot, Stephen and Butch asked the question,"why is it that we are hearing about a growing number of companies deciding to hold reviews of their digital marketing agencies?". With marquee companies like Coca Cola and Volkswagen taking a closer look at their media agencies, we had a conversation about what might be causing this recent phenomenon.

Stephen was immediately on point with his commentary and pointed to the fact that customer needs are changing in an increasingly rapid rate. Companies need to ensure that their message is in keeping with these behavioral trends and it's usually up to the marketing agencies to facilitate this through various PR channels.

The original story outlined 3 specific areas which are influencing how agencies mature in today's digital landscape:
  1. Service providers are becoming an extension of your marketing department.
  2. Service providers are helping you define organizational vision & strategy.
  3. Service Providers are helping with technology expertise.
Consider that these 3 areas used to be handled by 3 separate service providers. Stephen goes on to explain that these items are no longer mutually exclusive. They are closely related and depend on each other to deliver an effective, multi-channel strategy. An agency must now be able to deliver on marketing, vision and strategy as well as consult on the supporting technology. 

Be Proactive - Don't Fall Victim to the Review

In order to fend off the ire of the 'agency review', service providers need to be proactive in delivering answers to common questions before they're asked. This is happening now. Agencies can't afford to sit back and wait.
  • Make every effort to stay a half-step ahead of your clients needs so when they come to you with questions, you have the answers.
  • Diversify the feedback across business strategy, marketing strategy as well as the underlying technology.

Do it All - Channel the Proverbial Yes Man

Referring back to the 3 competencies listed earlier, agencies need to provide service across a multitude of channels. Using an exaggerated example: a business leader will tend to say 'yes' then figure out 'how' to do it later.

"If your client comes to you and asks, can you do this? Do you say yes and figure it out later?"

The agency has to be able to say yes, explained Stephen. If you don't know how to say yes, sure, you need to save face and quickly educate the team on the requirement before delivering an informed answer to the client complete with example implementations that support both the client and their customers. Always stay a half step ahead of their needs when possible.

Closing Advice for Business's and Agencies

Stephen's advice for agencies who wish to mitigate any chance of a review must be prepared. They need to map out the industry that they're attempting to solve and map out the business problems that they'll inevitably be asked to answer. The virtual map will allow the agency to plug the holes in the strategy with one of the options listed above. Present the whole solution and get ahead of the client's needs. Proactively create content, messaging and stories that will legitimize the strategic approach and problem solving ability. Back all of this up with testimonials and case studies that continue to push the agency's comfort zone.

For companies considering an agency review, develop a similar map and from there identify where the needs are. Some business will need help with this but in the end they will determine whether their needs are best met via specialized, solutions vendors or an all-in-one agency. The solution map will identify each of the business needs and expose where an outside fulfillment company would be best utilized. Keep in mind that if clients are asking for something, then these questions should most certainly be answered during the solution mapping stage.

Have you been subjected to an agency review?

How did you handle it? Or were you part of the 'half step ahead' group that were able to stay pro-active and lead the charge on behalf of your clients?

We are very keen to hear your thoughts on this story.
Jade Carter

Jade Carter

Jade is a content writer for CMS-Connected, facilitating the needs of the company blog. Bringing 10 years of Search and Digital Marketing to the table, he strives to build informative, relevant and fun editorial posts for the blog feed. Jade is an ultra distance (26.2 miles+) trail runner and lives to run trails in and around his home town of Victoria, BC.

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