Brands no longer turn to agencies solely for creative content or campaign management. 

Now, the importance of technology, data, and CX means that demands are growing – and client-agency relationships are changing.

Econsultancy’s Partners in Transformation report in association with IBM delves into this topic, specifically looking at the areas agencies should be focusing on in future.

Before we take a closer look at the research, note that the companies who took part in the study are split into ‘high performing’ and ‘mainstream’, with the former significantly exceeding their top 2016 business goals compared to others that are defined by a poor to average marketing performance.

So, what do brands need from agencies in 2017 and beyond? Let’s get into it.

CX support for different stages of the journey

Improving customer experience remains at the heart of most brand growth strategies, however, agency input usually depends on where companies are in the process of implementation (and current levels of success).

Our research shows that high performing companies are far more engaged with their agencies in areas related to customer service – 65% compared to 40% of mainstream companies. 

High performing companies also draw on different kinds of expertise, with 44% citing new and innovative ideas for improving CX as most important. In contrast, mainstream companies still in the early stages of development largely cite execution and implementation.

This shows us that – while CX presents a massive opportunity for agencies of all sizes – it is vital to understand and recognise where brands are in the journey and to determine how they can move forward.

Turning data into insight

90% of brands agree that knowing more about their customers is the key to improving CX. However, with an increasingly fractured customer journey – with people moving from one device to another and back again – it’s becoming all the more challenging for marketers.

Intelligent use of data is the answer, with agencies able to play a vital role in more technical aspects of analysis. However, this doesn’t mean all companies are willing or well-prepared to heed agency advice.

High performing companies are nearly 30% more likely to take advantage of their agencies’ ability to turn data into insight than the mainstream. 

This tells us that lower performing companies tend to get stuck in the cycle of collecting data but doing the minimum with it, whereas real success is generated from making sense of it.

Technology and training

Similar to the challenges presented by data, many brands struggle to take full advantage of the existing technology they have in place. As a result, agencies can offer value by stepping in and helping brands understand and execute technology-driven marketing.

What’s more, agencies can also play a vital role in helping brands to stay on top of innovation, with 42% of high performing companies citing the importance of them ‘helping to source technology providers’.

Meanwhile, agencies can help to foster long-term partnerships with brands by providing technology training. This emphasises the fact that value does not just lie in providing greater access to tech, but in helping brands gain a deep understanding of it themselves.

Collaboration is key 

Despite 92% of all companies saying that it’s important for agencies and internal teams to collaborate, levels of satisfaction are relatively low. 

Just 19% of mainstream companies say agencies’ collaboration with internal teams is ‘quite effective’, while just 13% say the same for collaboration between multiple agencies.

In contrast, high performing companies are much more positive about the situation, citing close relationships, leadership, and regular reviews as the key to successful relationships. 

In conclusion…

In such a highly pressurised and competitive landscape, brands often need to turn to agencies in order to drive growth as well as expand their own internal capabilities and expertise.

Perhaps the most important takeaway from the research is that there is no single or overarching strategy for success. 

Rather, the most successful agencies demonstrate the ability to adapt and hone relationships based on client-need, fostering communication, fast decision-making, and collaboration every step of the way.

Subscribers can download the full report: Partners in Transformation: What brand marketers need from agencies.

Nikki Gilliland

Published 20 July, 2017 by Nikki Gilliland @ Econsultancy

Nikki is a Writer at Econsultancy. You can follow her on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn.

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