Recently, GinzaMetrics COO, Erin O’Brien, had a chance to catch up with Fuel Interactive COO, Stuart Butler, about the challenges that face marketers and agencies with regards to workflow, process, and overall client/agency relationships. The FOUND Friday discussion provided lots of insight and tips not only about how to handle these challenges, but how to grow business and a great company experience as well.

The Rise of Marketing Tools

How agencies interact with their clients and produce measurable results is evolving as quickly as the tools themselves. The evolution means there is often a gap between expectations, resources, and tools across marketing functions – creating a challenging environment for everyone. To best serve clients, agencies must employ a blend of marketing strategy and tactics, but how do they best use their tools to manage projects, produce analytics and set client expectations? According to Stuart, “It is really challenging and it becomes more challenging every year because it feels like the number of tools is increasing exponentially.”

When digital marketing first began, companies and agencies had two or three options to work with to edit websites and understand traffic and user analytics. Now companies are utilizing SEO, website analytics, call tracking, social media, email, and scores of internal communications tools. “I think the biggest challenge that folks are facing today is how to integrate these tools,” asserts Stuart. He believes that agencies need to use data to be sure that nothing is falling through the cracks.

Preventing Information Loss

Loss of information in the swarm of communication options and cross-team interactions is a huge challenge that is rarely addressed. To help mitigate this risk, having data centralized somewhere through a BI team, or at least regular meetings across departments / functions is key.

Another important aspect of preventing information loss is to make sure tools are integrated, and integrated correctly, as often as possible. This will ensure that data is shared, double-checked, and safe-guarded in the instance one system has an issue. For many email, analytics, SEO, and sales tools, there are APIs and integrations already built in – easily identifying and passing leads or information through their customer journey.

By integrating tools, your teams can build a more cohesive marketing strategy that starts with the big picture view and is segmented down into individual goals and tactics that contribute.

Connecting the Dots

In the past, agencies have been divided into individual departments, or silos.  Getting information and sharing it with the different departments has been a challenge.  Stuart’s solution is to break down the silos and cross train everyone in the different disciplines so there is at least a basic understanding of different methodologies and marketing strategies.  Once understanding is established, the people working in those departments may come across a piece of data that would lead them to make a recommendation to another department.

With the right tools working together, companies and agencies would find many opportunities for cross-pollination. Erin notes, “If the Email department has a campaign testing subject lines and they see that people are gravitating toward a topic or subject lines, there is a great opportunity to leverage some SEO value.”  That leverage might come from the social media department or the advertising department.  Looking for those opportunities is key to innovation and great content.  According to Stuart, “You never know when a moment of insight is going to come from one department that influences another group, leading to better content for everyone.”

Show Me the Money

It is not enough to just know the metrics, you must follow it through to revenue and profit for the business.  If you are just looking at metrics in isolation, you could be misled into thinking your content is effective, when, in fact, it is not generating leads.  “You really have to track everything through all the way to the end.  You have to generate conversions,” Erin states.  The content that is actually good for business is the content that generates conversions.  The most effective data is the data that not only shows click through rates or keyword searches, it is the final conversion data that should be driving content creation.  Many times the person or department that is generating the content is not the person that sees the relevant conversion data and may not be generating conversions for the sales department. “There is always a push and pull because the content creators are not getting the end-to-end spectrum of their efforts,” concludes Erin.

Providing companies with analytics that bring all the information together from all the various sources and making that data actionable is where Stuart believes the analytics marketplace is headed. “The business intelligence angle is probably where it is heading in the next five years,” predicts Stuart.

To make room for resources in business intelligence, the rest of reporting should be as automated as possible. “We are big fans of automated reporting because there is so much human capital spent on aggregation of things that could actually be automated.  That is brain power that can be used toward something only an actual life human can do,” remarks Erin. Manually engaging in reporting functions that are repeatable is a drain on human capital and often a large cost for both agencies and clients.

Building Relationships Starts with Setting Expectations

According to Stuart, the three biggest challenges at the agency level are:

  1. Setting expectations
  2. Client education
  3. Communication internally and across the client-agency relationship

For any company, taking the time to create great content is the result of a blend of writing well with substance and collaboration.  Agencies are most successful when they work as an extension of the client marketing team.  It needs to be a partnership that begins with a working relationship.  Stuart suggests that vetting clients up front is one way to ensure a positive outcome. “Just like you are selective about your spouse, your friends, your circles, or your business relationships, I think you should be just as selective about your clients.”  He sees it a little bit like dating, taking the time to get to know each other up front, leads to less frustration along the way.

Successful agencies set expectations for what can be reasonably accomplished instead of being pulled along by the latest trends. “Lets’ not lose sight of what is working – let’s use data to make decisions,” implores Stuart. Marketing plans work best when the strategies are ROI driven and not trend driven.   One of the big mistakes in digital marketing, according to Stuart is bandwagon jumping.  He reminds marketers, “Content marketing is not a tactic, it is the cornerstone of your digital marketing strategy.”