Over the last couple of years we have been witnessing some significant changes in decision-making process among both consumers and customers. Both revolution in terms of technology and evolution in terms of consumer behaviour have pushed marketers towards online marketing. Therefore, the role of digital agencies is gaining in importance. At the same time, the agencies are facing the need to adjust to changing client demand, evolving media and the new consumer. A report recently published by Skyword, “Digital Marketing Agency of the future”, reveals the direction of agencies’ evolution.
1. The increasing importance of a digital agency’s role
In 2005, Procter & Gamble (P&G) introduced the idea of the First Moment of Truth (FMOT) to define the first interaction between a shopper and a product on a shelf in a store. P&G’s research showed that shoppers make up their minds about a product within three to seven seconds. This means that a consumer forms an opinion in just one glance. P&G stated that this critical moment is the best opportunity for marketers to convert a browser into a buyer. The concept of FMOT emphasised the importance of exceptional in-store marketing execution – the packaging, facings, shelf position, price, etc. The FMOT was often described in opposition to the Second Moment of Truth, which refers to the consumer actually using the product, and assessing its features and usability.
A lot has changed since 2005 in terms of path-to-purchase and the consumer decision-making process. According to a survey conducted by Google, people nowadays make purchase decisions long before visiting a store, whether that be an online store or a traditional one. As much as 88% of consumers research prior to purchase and visit, on average, as many as ten or eleven sources. This means that the focus of marketers should, in many cases, transfer from the store shelf (either real or virtual) to the sources of information. This applies to both the B2C and B2B sectors. According to Google’s survey, 71% of respondents browse the Internet on a daily basis before making business purchase decisions. “For business-to-business marketers, this means treating the Web like a giant call centre”, says Google’s Jim Lecinski.
2. Change in strategy: embrace and leverage the converged media
In simple words, media convergence means merging and blending of separate communication channels for greater impact, reach and depth of the communicated message. It involves leveraging content through various channels to obtain the synergy effect and fully use the potential of each media.
Burnett and Marshall, cited in Grant and Wilkinson (2008:5) explain convergence as “blending of the media, telecommunications and computer industries” or, in other words, as the process of blurring the boundaries between different media platforms and uniting them into one digital form.
When you think about it, this approach is just a natural consequence of the technological progress we have been witnessing over the past few years. Never before have marketers had such a wide range of communication tools to choose from. Merging them in one holistic platform to increase the effectiveness seems like a natural, reasonable choice.
Media convergence also results from the increasing information clutter that viewers experience nowadays. Consumers are being exposed to plenty of brands and commercial messages; according to certain research this number may be up to a mindblowing 5000 per person, per day! (Robert Heath). Applying a holistic and consistent plan for converged media helps to get the message through to a targeted audience.
In order to keep up with the converged media model, digital agencies will have to proactively enter close cooperation with outside companies such as media houses, creative agencies or even research agencies. The converged media model may also refer to the merging of owned, paid and earned media channels. For example, Facebook may be all of the above.
3. Change in operations: focus on the customer, not just the brand
Another change digital agencies will have to adapt to is building a consumer-oriented organization. Bob Collins, content and digital strategy director at Beehive Media, described this shift as “brand-centric to customer-centric. This transition to consumer centricity requires agencies to evolve centres of excellence, so that they foster expertise across all channels and functions, recognizing that customers aren’t searching for particular brands or companies, but looking to solve a problem, address a need or engage in an experience of interest or passion.”
Digital advertising agencies’ tasks are now targeted at delivering expertise in highly specialized services such as SEO, SEM, ePR, social media marketing and digital advertising. The challenge now is to go further and build strong partnership with outside companies. In the future, expertise will not be enough. A holistic approach towards customers’ needs will allow companies to stay competitive and be more effective.
4. Educating the client
An important part of a digital agency’s job is to make their clients understand online marketing. To this day, you may hear about cases of creative agencies being given the task of preparing corporate or promotional website content without first consulting a SEO agency. At times, clients implementing SEM or SEO still focus on immediate one-time results, without considering long-term benefits.
Other times, SEO clients put a lot of emphasis on established performance indicators such as search engine rankings or traffic. However, in reality, these factors don’t reflect exactly how a business is performing. The goal of the agency is to determine proper KPIs for clients’ business. In the eyes of the client, a top position in Google ranking may be the ultimate goal, and achieving it seems like a great success. However, if a wrong keyword was targeted, the first position may bring no or very little added value. In order to be successful at getting Web pages to rank well in the search engines, it is crucial to analyse the quality of keywords and their relationship to generated traffic and conversions. In other words, ranking high for a keyword is not enough; it needs to be a high-quality keyword to bring conversions and actual profit.
In order to distinguish valuable keywords from the rest, it is a good idea to apply a dedicated SEO tool such as ColibriTool. Colibri is made for SERP tracking of keywords in more than 150 local Google, Bing and Yandex search engines made in the cloud. It allows the tracking of a website’s position on selected keywords, suggests new, potentially high-quality keywords, and thus delivers tailored insights into how to rank higher and how to improve on-page SEO. Most importantly, it shows which keywords generate most goal conversions and are at the same time most valuable.
5. The new approach to technology
The role of the digital agency of the future will be to provide strategic guidance rather than just focus on single campaigns and projects. Its task will be to gather valuable insights and translate them into actions. It will be crucial to contribute to meeting strategic goals of the customer’s business. Currently, online marketing agencies are based on several main areas of activity, such as monitoring, content planning and production, content dissemination, customer relationship management and analytical solutions. The point is to integrate them into a consistent strategic plan, ideally executed according to a real-time delivery model, whilst keeping the agency’s workflow efficient and profitable.
In order to cope with this challenge, a smart solution for the agencies will be to outsource technology solutions to a greater extent. Agencies will have to delegate and outsource more services by using online marketing cloud-based tools for content creation and dissemination, CRM and analytics systems. The input of the agency will be the know-how and expertise on how to use these tools in order to grow client’s business. Needless to say, the agency have be up to date with available online marketing tools to choose those which add value to their work.
This also applies to SEO tools that aim to efficiently and effectively gather useful insights. A good example is ColibriTool. It enables agencies to have one location where they can access all of the necessary data at one time. It is a cloud-based tool that tracks a website’s position on selected keywords in more than 150 local Google, Bing and Yandex search engines. It can also help by suggesting new keywords with high potential. Moreover, it can automatically reveal and analyse a website’s main competitors, while tracking all their SEO activities. Also, it helps to track backlinks to the website. Working with ColibriTool, agencies can predict the CCP with the monthly budget needed for a given keyword in Adwords. An agency can grant access to many of its employees and SEO professionals so that they can all stay up to date with the valuable data. The data is presented in an intelligible way, with the help of self-explanatory charts and graphs. ColibriTool reports may also be downloaded by the agency in CSV format and imported to such software as Microsoft Excel, making it easier to format and present in a desired way to the client. In order to try out ColibriTool for go here: http://colibritool.com
To sum up, the main factors that will determine digital agencies’ success in the future, or perhaps the ones that are now just starting to influence them, are as follows:
- an increasing importance of online marketing and thus digital agencies in marketing and business
- a need to embrace and leverage the dynamically changing converged media
- making long-term partnerships with clients rather than project-focused cooperation
- providing strategic guidance as well as buyer and channel understanding rather than simple data analysis and measuring a campaign’s results
- remaining open to cooperation with other outside agencies, such as media houses, creative agencies or market research agencies, in order to deliver best results
- answering the need for educating clients in terms of online marketing and how it can contribute to business
- increase in delegating and outsourcing services, as well as making more use of available online marketing tools