3 Steps to Getting Agencies Out of the Woods

out_of_the_woodsConsumers engage with brands through an increasingly fragmented collection of channels, applications and devices on nonlinear paths to purchase. As the number of consumer interaction points and marketing solutions climbs, so too does the complexity of our digital marketing landscape.

Navigating through the cross-channel marketing forest has become a time-killing chore for ad agencies, limiting the already-stretched-thin productivity of their rosters, including media buyers, marketing strategists, analysts and creative teams. Worse yet, agencies struggling to adjust to the rapidly evolving industry have implemented overlapping or incompatible technology platforms, simultaneously increasing their workloads and straining relationships with brands.

Just 27% of marketers agree that their agency partners help them adapt to today’s changing market environment—in fact, brands are as likely to say that their current agencies hinder them from adaptation as they are to say that they help them. (Forrester Research)

Combined, obscure cross-channel buying paths and adoption of disconnected marketing platforms have turned the modern advertising agency into its own worst enemy. No longer focusing on their strengths in strategy and creativity, agencies spend as much as 80% of their time performing manual, low-value tasks such as report-formatting and data entry.

Here’s what agencies need to do to cut their way out of the woods, win back their time and restore their brand relationships:

1. Sharpen the (right) tools 

As felling a tree requires more than just a chainsaw, planning and launching successful cross-channel campaigns necessitates the use of many different marketing technologies: marketing automation, data management systems, social media platforms, SEO tools, content management systems, CRMs, etc.

In an Adobe report from November 2012, 52% of agencies indicated that disparate tech platforms and data sources were the greatest barriers to marketing more effectively. The underlying problem here is unintegration. Disconnected systems lead to scattered data, decreasing targeting accuracy and ad relevance, and causing returns on ad spend to fall.

For agencies to overcome these challenges, they’ll need to identify the technology blueprint that works best for their clients and relieves their own inefficiencies. Rather than hoping multiple incompatible solutions and vendors will work in unison, the ideal integration platform provides agencies with a single point of entry for omni-channel media buying and management, allowing them to precisely measure and attribute data from multiple publishing sources, as well as make educated, data-driven decisions for client campaigns.

2. Leverage heavy-duty machinery 

In a study released last June, The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) revealed that just 20% of agency campaign-processing time is spent on activities that directly improve performance, such as strategic targeting and optimization. Automating the manual tasks that occupy 80% of agencies’ time not only demands alignment between campaign stakeholders, but also sincere application and maintenance of their chosen integration platform.

For example, consolidating campaign, customer and vendor data into a unified data warehouse allows agencies to unearth granular insight into cross-channel marketing activities without the use of a single Excel spreadsheet. Saving the time that would normally be spent correlating massive amounts of data—and providing a greater understanding of user activity—results in a quicker marketing response, which in turn increases the potential for positive engagement with customers.

3. Get back to their roots 

Once they’ve got the right tools to do their jobs—and tackle the manual processes that occupy 4 out of their 5 business days—agencies will once again be able to see through the tree line and into the greater landscape. Escaping the forest completely will require them to return to their strengths.

The leading full-service agencies of tomorrow will compete with specialist buying shops by blending digital marketing offerings into their existing and evolving strategy, creative, media and data capabilities, without losing their traditional media competencies. As agencies move toward digitization (and integration), they will win back client confidence by returning to their creative and strategic roots, differentiating them from tech vendors that all but call themselves agencies.

Marketing technology exists not only to help reach target audiences, but also to automate the manual processes that keep agencies from leveraging their core values. As advertisers demand more accountability and marketing performance from their agencies, agencies must pinpoint their timesink-tasks and eliminate them from their daily regimen with applicable integration technologies. This will get them out of the woods and back to serving their clients. 

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