Why Clients Really Fire Agencies-And other insights from the SoDA Report

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No matter whether there is a change in CMO or marketing director or whether it’s time for a review, agency management can be an emotional challenge. Over years of collaboration, organisations build collaborative ways of working together – processes, systems and tools become intertwined. People become friends. Colleagues. Even partners. So what really happens when a client fires an agency? Darren Woolley has an answer that may surprise you.

As Founder and CEO of TrinityP3, Woolley has a particular view on how and why the client-agency comes undone. “The sum of the parts equal an underlying whole … which is they no longer feel the love and commitment”. The challenge, however, is that this is an emotional response to a situation, but the business focus remains on the work being performed. As a result, the agency may respond to the client’s feedback technically or creatively while not addressing the client’s feelings of dissatisfaction. This is a recipe for disaster.

In his chapter for the SoDA Report on Digital Marketing, Woolley goes into more detail, suggesting that there are four critical junctures for the relationship:

  1. When a new marketing leader is appointed – it’s review time, so the focus on rapid relationship building is essential
  2. Before the honeymoon ends – don’t wait until the goodwill is gone, start proactive account management from day 1
  3. Quiet periods – the challenge is to remain visible, provide value but don’t appear to be wasting time and money
  4. Performance pressure – when the work is underperforming, tensions are bound to arise.

Navigating the professional and emotional tightrope is always challenging. But going that extra mile really never hurt any relationship.

The SoDA Report’s Digital Marketing Outlook is a great snapshot of the industry. Covering topics from the modern marketer to technology, with a couple of handy case studies thrown in, it’s a fantastic resource to inspire your 2015 planning.

Synthalitics – setting a new benchmark for customer engagement

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Have you noticed recently that your web browsing experience is becoming narrower, more confined and focused? What about those pesky ads that follow you from one website to another? Do they annoy or help you? It seems that all it takes is one visit to a retail website, and next thing you know, that retailer’s ads are stuck to your computer screen, appearing in every available ad spot across the web.

If this sounds like you – then you’re not alone. You’re actually part of the newly emerging real time web that combines big data and analytics to track and target you in search of that all-consuming sales conversion.

Businesses are putting their data to work

There has been significant progress in the world of analytics in recent times. The masses of data that has been collected for decades is now, thanks to the meshing of powerful, purpose built hardware and software, available to business decision makers at the touch of a screen or click of a mouse. This on-premise information is a rich source of vitality data that – with the appropriate mapping and analysis, can reveal hidden truths about our customers, their lives, lifestyles and even their futures.

Meanwhile, customers are themselves, increasingly self-tagging, self-identifying and self-analyzing their daily activities, weekly routines and personal aspirations. This information, in turn, is floating around the web, being stored, collated and cross-referenced to improve the effectiveness of our communal and personal web experiences. From the captcha codes that Google uses to improve its OCR book scanning to the social media check-ins that Facebook and ad networks use to micro-target and re-target advertising, the potential for augmenting a business’ on-premise data with publicly available “big data” is revolutionary.

The emergence of synthalitics will change marketing

“Synthalitics” is the combining of public data with business data, cross-pollinated with customer’s business and credit history, matched with their real time social and location-based information – and made available for a business rules engine at point of interaction. It may sound far-fetched, but it already available in a crude form that will improve as software and hardware improve. Just look to real time bidding advertising networks and ad re-targeting.

These are the pesky ads that follow you from one website to another. The technology clearly works, but advertisers have yet to apply creativity and insight to the re-targeting process. Rather than playing the same ad over and over, ad networks and advertisers will need to become more nuanced in their efforts and connected in their digital storytelling before these feel anything other than intrusive. But this will happen. And what currently appears clunky will, in very short order, become common place – and if we (as consumers) are lucky, it may even become useful.

The growth in real time bidding (RTB) display advertising indicates that businesses are rapidly acclimatizing to this digital world. In the US, RTB spending was expected to hit $3.34 billion in 2013 representing a massive 73.9% growth over the previous year. By 2017, eMarketer suggests this figure will hit $8.69 billion. The automation of digital display will create a gulf between those brands that understand and can integrate digital formats into their strategy and those that can’t – and clearly, this will accelerate through 2017.

Synthalitics deliver one-to-one engagement at scale

However, RTB is just one part of the digital story. Marketers need tools that can absorb the vitality data, augment it with big data-like, location based, self reported data (available through smartphones and social check-ins) and corporate CRM data and synthesize it in such a way that it reveals new and potentially predictive patterns (see diagram below). This is about knowing who your buyers trust.

imageIncreasingly, sales and marketing teams will need to work through a central platform to be able to contextualize business critical information about a prospect’s digital behaviour, needs and expectations. Or if no central platform or suite of tools are available, the need for frictionless data and aggregation points will become vital. The gulf between digitally-enabled and analogue businesses will grow, with the former over-running and out-innovating the latter.

Businesses without a digital transformation agenda need to rapidly reassess their strategy and go to market models. In short order – synthalitics will transform marketing and sales as we know it. And it is synthalitics that will deliver on the promise of one-to-one engagement at scale.

The question for you and your brand is not whether you are READY, but whether you have even STARTED.

The Buyer’s Journey Takes the Long Road

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A marketer’s job would be so much easier of customers followed a set path. In fact, if buyers could fit into a convenient model that allowed us to identify, track, monitor, engage and convert them, life would be rosy. But this is never the case.

If we take a moment to consider the buyer’s journey based on our own experiences, we can yield insight but also understanding. Think, for example, of your last major purchase:

  • How much time did you devote to research before your purchase?
  • How many times did you test, validate and change your mind?
  • How long did you wait before you actually engaged with a salesperson?
  • Who did you ask for advice, reviews and input?
  • What were the prompts that helped to trigger your decision and purchase?
  • How much time did you spend online (email and mobile included) in the leadup to the decision?

Now, consider that your customers are going through very similar processes. Oracle Eloqua’s latest infographic provides some insight into this process. Clearly, their focus is on automating the process of marketing, but importantly, they are also showcasing the important role of integrated marketing. After all, we rarely make a decision based on a single interaction.

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The Long Trail of Digital’s Long Tail

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For the last couple of months I have been researching the digital marketing automation market – speaking with vendors, watching demos, listening to customers and analysing features, statistics and case studies. It’s a crowded market with a wide variety of feature sets and capabilities.

But if there is one thing that is obvious in all the noise, it is this: while the technology has matured, digital marketing skills, capabilities and processes are comparatively immature.

Marketing automation software delivers impressive outcomes:

  • ROI: Identifying, nurturing and delivering warm leads into your sales funnel gives your marketing a direct line to ROI. This path to revenue provides marketers with the confidence and knowledge to understand what works and what doesn’t when it comes to digital marketing investment
  • Accelerate marketing maturity: marketing automation requires a certain level of process maturity in your marketing. For businesses where process has been lacking or alignment with sales has been ambivalent, marketing automation can deliver a relatively quick win
  • Generate uplift through omni-channel integration: many marketers focus on “last click attribution”. But we rarely make single click decisions – especially on more expensive purchases or when we are in a B2B situation. Integrated or omni-channel marketing has been shown to significantly impact revenue and pipeline.

The presentation below is a case study of one of Marketo’s own omni-channel campaigns. It reveals that the digital long tail is indeed, a very long trail. But careful planning and management can, with targeted content, deliver value across your marketing programs – not only for your digital work.

Interested in marketing automation? If you are interested in my upcoming marketing automation report, contact me here or sign-up for access to the Constellation Research Library.