The current business landscape may be as challenging as it has ever been. Economic uncertainty, supply chain issues, and evolving consumer preferences are just a few of the factors that make your job tougher than ever.
Thankfully, your agencies can help you navigate these challenges and drive genuine business impact. In fact, the role of your agencies play is even more critical - staying accountable to your revenue, margin and growth objectives while all else is in flux. Here are some considerations on what your agency can (and should) do to keep your brand growing even in these demanding times.
Perform. Perform. Perform.
A performance mindset is essential in any landscape, but especially right now. Seeing the larger business picture and actively collaborating with your business to drive measureable business impact may sometimes require agencies to proactively ask questions, listen to what you are saying, and where necessary, drive innovation beyond their usual remits.
Recently, we worked with a retail client, kicking off as soon as contractual obligations to its previous agency could be wrapped up - smack in the middle of the November-December 2022 peak period. Few retailers would brave such a transition, but our client saw it as a risk worth taking in a business-critical period. The team dove in head-first, establishing a high-performance mindset from day one so that the positive impact to the transition was immediate. As a result, the client doubled its return on ad spend (ROAS) target across digital channels within the first two months of the partnership.
Measure what really matters.
What we know about great performance is that it’s impossible without best-in-class measurement. Gone are the days where using reach and frequency as the sole measures of media success are good enough. Instead, seeking opportunities to measure agency impact in ways that directly ladder up to business success metrics will help keep budgets defensible in difficult times.
With the breadth of media measurement technologies available to marketers, it's essential that agencies leverage the optimal measurement and attribution strategies: connecting online activity to offline conversions, holding brand activity accountable to performance impact, and taking a cross-channel lens whenever possible.
However, as privacy is increasingly becoming the focus for consumers and government regulation, some measurement techniques are no longer reliable. As a result, agencies need to invest in the specific skills to help their clients drive enhanced measurement in the current privacy-centric and increasingly fragmented media landscape.
While most businesses are still on the path to robust Marketing Mix Modelling (MMM), there are a range of measurement tools that brands and agencies can lean on to ensure every dollar invested is being held accountable to revenue returns - for example: updating to Google Analytics 4, implementing conversions API for the Meta, Pinterest and Snapchat ecosystems and leveraging offline conversion tracking and footfall tracking to enable closed loop measurement.
Recognising its importance, we partner with each major digital media giant to solve the all-too-common technology infrastructure challenges impeding optimal media buying, measurement, and attribution. Since 2017, this program has seen us partner with nearly 300 of the world’s largest brands and collaborate with every major media agency network to help them buy and measure media better.
Lead with agility
Agility was the differentiating factor for businesses that soared through the pandemic, and those left behind. Brands need their media agencies to push beyond the constraints of predetermined budgets, preplanned media channels, and ‘set-in-stone’ media plans.
By using real-time measurement to drive media management, agencies can proactively optimise their clients’ media mix, audience targeting, and creative to ensure they are maximising their performance at any given time - and from our experience, the impact can translate to hundreds of thousands - even millions - of dollars in incremental revenue.
Given the current pace of change, purely relying on human smarts to drive these optimisations will limit capability. Instead, agencies that leverage a combination of their team’s expertise alongside smart technology and AI will help brands capatilise on key opportunities, and help maximise working media contributions as well.
Go deep where you can’t
Agencies are engaged for their breadth and depth of expertise. However, they often get stuck focusing on delivering on retainer line items, rather than actively working to drive their clients' digital and media capability forward.
The role of media and digital agencies is changing - agencies that will drive impact for their clients into the future are looking beyond media. A truly well-suited agency will focus on complementing the resources you do have, and fill resource gaps where required, evolving their service mix as your needs change. For example, they are: enabling infrastructure that drives connections between media platforms, Customer Relationship Management platforms (CRMs), and Customer Data Platforms (CDPs); ensuring optimal performance of product feeds, championing the capture, unification, and activation of first party data, and optimising brand investment across a breadth of media types including paid advertising, owned channels and assets, earned reviews and media, local area marketing and retail media.
For example, almost five years ago, The Pistol’s partnership with a leading liquor retailer started with our own local area marketing platform. Since then, our relationship has grown to encompass all of their digital marketing - from collaboratively setting the group’s digital strategy to end-to-end media buying as well as enabling its critical infrastructure and supporting its retail media offering to hundreds of suppliers.
As a result, we work closely within this client’s agency village on their technology stack, ecommerce platforms, websites and creative to ensure all efforts ladder up to delivering value back to the business. By taking strategic ownership of the digital marketing agenda, our partnership has driven significant growth and efficiency, with a record-breaking period of sustained growth over the last four years.
Likewise, our ethos of always leaning into emerging opportunities, even where things are hard, is what led to the incubation what is now the standalone retail media SaaS platform, Zitcha.
Break down silos
Now more than ever, marketing cannot afford to operate in a silo and the right agency can play a valuable role in rallying support in the c-suite and across the business to support your goals. We see huge value in engaging finance, IT and operations early the marketing planning process and our clients find that an external facilitator who deeply understands the business can be the difference in accelerating cross-functional initiatives that help drive business growth.
Challenge you where appropriate
When under pressure, some agencies can become order takers rather than collaborative partners driving towards collective success. Even as time and other pressures mount, an agency seeking to serve you well will take on the mantle of providing external provocation, continuing to lead you, asking the hard questions and challenging you where appropriate in the best way.
Ongoing training and education is also a fundamental value-add your agency can be providing your business, complementing your employee value propositions by sharing the very latest in innovation and technology - especially as the media landscape continues to evolve so rapidly.
During a time when many are re-evaluating their media and agency partnerships, ensuring that you seek out an agency that places your success at the heart of everything they do will ensure sustained business growth in the current economic climate, and well into the future.
By Yulia Edirisinghe, Strategy Director, The Pistol