Marketing struggles to be perceived as important or reliable by the wider C suite. It’s vital to have a perceived history of wins when marketing asks for approval of the next campaign or initiative. This puts the focus quite rightly on the history. Digital agencies supply reporting which is a key ingredient of this history. So clear understandable reporting makes a huge difference to the Chief Marketing Office (CMO) and the ability the CMO has to win friends and carry the boardroom.
Procurement likes suppliers to retender often as a way to reduce fees. Does your agency deploy an effective defensive strategy?
- How do you differentiate and make the pain of disconnection real?
- Are you making it almost impossible to compare your agency with others?
- Are you building networks across your clients that value the relationships with your agency experts and the reporting they enjoy?
It’s reasonable to object that relationships are fragile as corporate marketing staff leave and move regularly. Very true. So distribution and communication techniques that make it easier to build larger, more robust networks of influencers are crucial. Achieving this within your agency key accounts is an important insurance policy for retaining clients long term.
But you can’t do this by adopting the tactics, strategies and assumptions that most services adopt.
- Self service really helps SaaS vendors grow quickly. Sadly some of the side effects when supplying a service to help marketing reporting are subtle and pernicious.
- Someone still has to do the work of creating the reports that the SaaS vendor escapes. If your agency takes this on then you battle with:
- a workforce that isn’t excited or motivated by the prospect of using yet another drag and drop editor to repetitively create reports.
- Features that are heavily constrained by the need to be self service. Why? Achieving a flexible data processing and transformation system is pretty abstract and not easily understandable for users whose primary skills are in marketing rather than data manipulation and software.
- A vendor who acts like a truant. Being remote from end customer contact and reporting delivery severely limits the organisational learning the vendor gains. The devil truly is in the detail of the data and the real challenges involved in producing marketing reports.
- Inappropriate incentives. The innovation tends to be dominated by technical capability push whilst the influence of market pull is minimised (because it isn’t informed by the end user of the marketing reports). In other words new features are created “because we can” – rather than “because the end user wanted or valued it”.
- A system that simply re-displays the data available from online systems without radical transformation. This makes creating information of real value to your customers much harder, if not impossible. And leads to stories that are hard to retell.
- The development of monthly subscription services has discouraged the development of formal requirements documentation. When systems required upfront investment measured in the £10,000s formal requirements were seen as essential. Extensive consultancy support was also a natural part. The organisation procuring the solution worked harder to make sure the purchased facilities were “fit for purpose” in the medium and longer term.
- Long term flexibility to deal with your evolving customer needs isn’t assured.
Nor can digital agencies create this insurance policy by adopting the standard distribution tactics. It’s in your interests to create a scenario where procurement encounters serious corporate resistance to the idea of swapping your agency out. CAVEAT: I’m assuming your agency is good at the marketing work they contracted you for..
The subversive suggestion is to use the marketing dashboards your agency creates as a mechanism for building relationships across the corporate.
But not just any kind of standard dashboard. If your potential audience is senior management across the corporate then the standard of reporting has to rise substantially. And the skill with which you “tailor” the message to suit the recipient has to improve dramatically.
The dashboard should show clients of digital agencies quickly “what they should care about and why”. So there is a premium on brevity and clarity. And producing information that is easily and immediately assimilated.
The prize ought to be obvious. Relationships built and value appreciated by the movers and shakers across your corporate client, so that your digital agency is far from the swappable commodity that purchasing can just cast aside in pursuit of another small reduction in cost.
But you’ll need a reporting system that:
- uses organisational context to determine what report variant to show.
- enables controlled distribution to differing roles across the corporate client.
- enables intriguing and compelling stories to be shared. So any or all of the rich media that the web allows.
Hopefully it’s clear by now that digital agencies ought to look seriously at solutions that are far from “minimum”. And a long way from the excel plus email mindset.
So a disciplined approach that recognises that the reporting system is a strategic decision which should be built on in the long term.
If this were a manufactured product; it would be introduced via :
- Proving trials
- Smaller scale usage
- Expanded usage – driven by benefit and organisational fit.
- modular expansion
- A long term programme that starts small and expands over months and years to realise major benefits to all concerned. With the investment supported by clients as they realise the advantages from higher quality reporting.
What’s being suggested above is a radically different approach. That would transform the relationship between agencies, marketing and the businesses they are supposed to serve.