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selecting a digital agency partner
a step by step guide for australian marketers
C The Communications Council
White paper prepared by the Communications Council digital committee.
The internet contributed $50 billion, or 3.6% of gross domestic product, to Australias economy in 2010 equivalent to the size of iron ore exports and is growing at 7% to reach $70 billion over the next 5 years. Ref: The Connected Continent: How the Internet is transforming the Australian economy Deloitte Access Economics
Digital now accounts for 17% of Australian marketing spend becoming an important constituent of many traditional businesses. Today, marketers and their procurement departments, and agencies are required to get involved with, and make decisions about digital marketing.
What quickly becomes clear even after a cursory exploration is that there is a confusing array of options and skillsets available for hire.
Businesses looking to get the best results possible from their digital marketing efforts need to thoroughly understand the landscape and how to clearly articulate their requirements.
So, whilst selecting a digital partner has many similarities to and indeed often overlaps with creative and media agency selection (particularly in todays heavily integrated landscape), there are a number of key considerations that are specific to digital.
Our aim with this guide is to highlight the key areas of focus, provide some food for thought, and offer/suggest a few tools aimed at making clients and their prospective digital partners more successful at pitching.
who is this guide aimed at?
Client-side marketers looking to engage agencies for digital services. (It is aimed at the larger client, probably spending $500K-plus annually on digital marketing initiatives.)
Agencies looking for possible digital partners.
what kinds of agencies and digital disciplines does this guide represent? This guide has been produced by digital practitioners working in both integrated and specialist digital agencies. The authors also hail from both independent and multi-national network businesses.
A list of Communications Council digital agency members is contained at the back of the guide.
selecting a digital agency partner
a step by step guide for austral ian marketers
what services do i need? digital marketing consultancy e-business consultancy e-commerce, online retailing digital media strategy search search engine advertising online advertising website development campaign websites content development application development information architecture technical architecture data analytics web hosting mobile marketing mobile advertising mobile development email marketing & deployment social media strategy social media monitoring social media engagement affiliate marketing adserving site tracking, reporting and analytics
Conducting a pitch provides an organisation with an opportunity to witness an agencys strategic, technical, creative and/or digital media capabilities as well as providing a forum for assessing the relationship chemistry.
For an agency, it represents an opportunity to demonstrate the quality of their work and the value they could bring to the clients business. While a potentially fruitful exercise, the pitch process can be time-consuming and demanding of resources on both sides, so having a good understanding of how to manage a pitch is incredibly important.
In the case of digital partner selection, there are a number of big differences compared to a traditional agency pitch. Thats because, as well as strategy and creative, there is a third dimension at play: technology/software development.
Not only does this add complexity that pushes many marketers outside their core skill-set, but it also means that digital agencies can be called on to provide services that, in the past, might be seen as being/falling outside the remit of an agency partner.
For that reason, the first part of this guide is designed to help clients define their requirements. Requirements gathering is a typical digital development phrase that describes the definition of the scope of a project. Defining the requirements of a digital partner is a critical first step. All too often we see clients having to use the pitch process to determine what they might need in a digital partner because they arent sure what they need. This is wasteful of both the clients and agencys resources when some simple tools could have been employed to assist in the definition of requirements.
The second part of this guide is dedicated to the pitch process itself and some suggested approaches. This is based on work that has already been undertaken by various parties at the Communications Council and external third party sources.
If the key to success in finding a digital partner is in defining requirements, then what are some of the questions that should be asked here?
Stakeholder analysis: often a digital agency appointment involves many internal groups within an organisation who should/needs to be involved?
Marketing (brand, customer, product, channel)
Sales IT and or Web Services Procurement Corporate (comms and/or strategy) International (stakeholders affecting policy
or agency alignment).
Technology: do we have any strong technical requirements?
Do we need one agency? Do we need full-service digital, or can we accept
parts of the value chain being outsourced? What skill sets do we require? Are there any skills the agency does not offer?
It is vital in this step that the importance / weighting of each requirement is also gathered. Frequently one requirement dominates the pitch when in reality it only makes up a small component of the overall quality of the output. For example, an idea brief is hijacked by the technology department. This also will enable the establishment of a clear decision matrix.
The key to success is to assess which services and capabilities can be offered in-house as opposed to outsourcing. Core competency is the key here. Also note that outsourcing may not necessarily be a bad thing. It is rare that an agency can claim to be self-sufficient in a world of multiple competing development technologies. If they do partner for this, then in which areas? Do they have a philosophy around partnering?
The following 2x2 matrix is a simple approach to mapping the market you can probably plot some of your existing relationships onto this.
Whilst we are not suggesting that the matrix will completely define your agency shortlist it will help you shape and define it, equally provide you with a clear direction on what areas of expertise you need to focus on and as such, assign the appropriate team to respond.
the digital dimension
Mapping the digital landscape
Pure PlayDigital Agency
Digital Development Competencies
Of course there many of other dimensions, including:
Media Capability Social Media Capability Proven Integration expertise
One important dimension is that digital is often pitched in relation to a specific assignment, rather than as a retained Digital Agency of Record.
Often this means that a process more akin to software development kicks in:
Request for Information [RFI] May not involve responding to a specific brief. More like a credentials document, often with a need to respond to a specific technical capability.
Request for Proposal [RFP] responding to a specific project request.
If youre in doubt about any of these areas, then the good news is that there are a number of very digitally savvy pitch consultants out there.
step 1: reason for pitching Ensuring that both the pitch management team and the agencies involved clearly understand the objectives and evaluation criteria behind the pitch goes a long way toward achieving a successful process outcome.
step 2: setting up the pitch management team Acrucialfirststepineffectivelymanagingthepitchprocess is to establish a pitch management team which is representative of all levels of key stakeholders and decision-makers. The pitch team should conduct a thorough requirements gathering, will help determine the makeup of the team. For example, if technology is a key element of the requirements, then this/technology specialists should also form part of the team.
Additionally, consider nominating a Pitch Champion to be responsible for managing all aspects internally and externally of the pitch. While this person will most likely beresponsibleforpreparinganddeliveringthefinalpitchbrief, they can be most helpful in canvassing all of those who are expected to work with the agency on their views of what Agency capabilities and experience are required.
Itcanbedifficulttoachievetheoriginalpitchobjectivesifthe stakeholders change throughout the pitch. This can befrustratinganddifficultforeveryone(bothclientandagency).
Ensure all key stakeholders are included on the pitch management team and remain involved throughout the entire process.
step 3: selecting the pitchers Creating an appropriate Digital Agency Pitch List is another key step in the successful pitch process.
This starts with preparing an initial shortlist of the agencies you believe may be able to add value to your business.
When looking for a digital partner, suggested areas for consideration are: