Marketing agencies are ‘early adopters’ for digital marketing tools. Over the past few years, they have put a great deal of effort into digitising their organisation, much more than the marketing teams for which they develop actions and campaigns. There’s been a successful marriage between marketing agencies and marketing technology. However, the explosion of marketing technology providers, the fragmentation of the office landscape and the emerging digitisation of marketing teams (the clients of the agencies) are endangering that marriage.
The result is a tangle of technology around an agency, a client and the suppliers of both parties (mainly freelancers and niche professionals). Where technology is meant to make life easier for marketers, it now often causes confusion, frustration, misunderstandings and loss of time. In this article, I will zoom in on three scenarios that you find in practice and share my vision on the best possible way to use digital technology within a marketing agency.
With Husky, we regularly organise workshops with marketing agencies. We gauge how they digitise, how they set up and manage their internal processes, but also whether they can communicate quickly and professionally with customers from within their organisation. About half of the marketing agencies acknowledge that they do not have their internal digital organisation in order. The internal planning is done in outdated systems and the campaign planning for customers is usually made in Excel. All other digital tools hover next to this plan and don't integrate with the essential tools. In this scenario, the marketing agency struggles with its internal organisation and can hardly communicate with and report to the customer quickly and professionally.
Modern marketing agencies know that there is now a tool for every process or action that makes work more comfortable, cheaper or more efficient. Digital marketing agencies, in particular, have understood this very well. They juggle tools for project management, marketing automation, social publishing, KPI dashboards, time trackers, rank trackers and email publishing platforms. The technological landscape surrounding digital marketing agencies is, therefore, starting to look impressive.
Top students have a digital tool for just about every organisational question or need. Many of their digital tools are also integrated so that they have a high-performance internal organisation. However, the digital agency organisation is entirely separate from the digital team organisation at customers. As a result, a lot of emails, Excels and PDFs with marketing data are sent out.
What often happens in practice: the data contained in MarTech tools are exported to Excel or PDF because (in their experience) this is the only alternative to performing data exchange using the same logic. So, for example, the marketing planning of the marketing team from tool A is translated by the agency via Excel into a marketing planning in tool B. Or the marketing agency will export a results dashboard to PDF, which is then used by the marketing team on its own (among many other dashboards). As a result, the number of emails, Excels and PDFs is increasing alarmingly in the communication between the marketing agency and its customer.
On the one hand, all these separate tools and platforms have been built with the sole aim of making the work of marketers easier, more organised and more efficient. On the other hand, in the communication between agency and customer, they only provide more emails, Excels and PDFs. Ironic.
The marketing agency of the future will go further than setting up an internal digital organisation; it will build a digital ecosystem that optimises not only internal communication and organisation but also ensures professional communication and reporting to the customer. Our research shows that the ecosystem between agency and customer consists of 7 components:
A brief interpretation of the terms API, iFrame and iPaas:
In the above example:
In this scenario, there is a perfect marriage between the digital organisation of the agency and that of the client. The situation sketch above is evident if the marketing agency had only one customer. But that is hardly ever the case, with a few exceptions excluded. At the same time, a marketing agency is always working on actions and campaigns for several clients. Every customer has her strategy, her organisation and her digital tools.
Marketing agencies must take the lead in building digital ecosystems
The solution for better communication with and reporting to the customer, therefore, lies in marketing technology that makes the exchange of marketing data between different platforms easier. But technology never stands alone; success with marketing technology is also a matter of people and processes. That is why there is an individual responsibility on the part of marketing agencies that have to put their customers on the road to proper use of MarTech within the mutual relationship.
Nothing will become impossible in the future MarTech ecosystem. Technology offers a solution to a problem that is still created today by (a lack of understanding of the functioning of) technology. The role of the marketing agency within the MarTech ecosystem will be threefold, in my opinion:
I admit: the playing field of marketing technology is quite a challenge for marketers who have historically come from a creative angle rather than from a technological nest. But thanks to proper guidance - from the technical guys within the marketing agency or through the intervention of a MarTech player - the communication and reporting between the marketing agency and its customer(s) can be raised to a higher level.
Do you have any questions about this article, or do you as a marketing agency (or as a customer of an agency) use a different solution? Feel free to let me know by filling in the form below.