In this three-part series of articles, Kathleen Jordan, Associate Director at Source One Management Services will take a look at the complex digital agency landscape and provide insights on the process of agency sourcing: considerations when sourcing, vast digital agency options, and the need for bridging the gap between marketing and procurement departments. Kathleen Jordan is a strategic sourcing subject matter expert with a wide range of experience in the marketing category who works closely with marketing professionals and helps alleviate challenges encountered when overseeing agency relationships.
Defining Your Requirements
The marketplace for marketing services is anything but easy to navigate. It is complex, and crowded with a wide range of agency options available to fulfill any marketing support requirement. Niche and full-service players exist, some agencies operate independently, and remaining ones are owned by a holding company. Sister agencies compete against one another or may team up to offer a comprehensive service offering. Mergers and acquisition are relatively frequent and can consequently lead to conflicts of interest. Overall, there are a number of considerations when you are seeking out an agency to support a new marketing channel or upcoming product launch. And these considerations should be known even if there is no forthcoming agency search or new marketing tactic on the horizon to support. Marketing professionals and their sourcing colleagues must always be aware of the current state of the marketplace for marketing services to remain competitive and innovative, especially when it comes to the digital space.
Digital Marketing continues to evolve due in part to the various technologies that apply to digital tactics. Advanced technology and digital marketing as a whole have reshaped the way consumers interact with brands, and digital agencies have emerged to support the various digital channels and technologies that exist. It is vital for marketing professionals and their sourcing counterparts to recognize this and determine what type of expertise they wish to obtain to supplement their internal marketing team and fulfill a specific scope of work. Digital Marketing Depot’s whitepaper titled Digital Advertising Agencies 2014: A Buyer’s Guide (download required) serves as a great resource for marketing professionals, defining various types of digital agencies and how and when they should be engaged. Overall, the report provides an accurate snapshot of the current digital landscape and guidelines on how to effectively work with digital agencies across the various service types.
The initial starting point is validating the need to conduct a digital search. Consider:
- Is the marketer unsatisfied with their current digital shop and looking to transition?
Review and consider the performance of the current agency. Common reasons for dissatisfaction include: missing deadlines, under-delivering, and poor communication, especially when several agencies work together on a project.
- Is a new digital channel under consideration that would lead to an increase in scope, impacting the current retainer model?
When looking to implement a new digital tactic, consider the potential for scope creep. This can occur when a project is poorly defined and can end up consuming allocated budgets.
- Is there an upcoming product launch in which the consumer base has a strong digital presence?
Review the campaign you plan to implement. Are the tactics you plan to use offered at your current agency? Is it something a specialty agency would be better suited handling?
Once the objectives are clearly outlined and the scope details are ironed out, the agency selection criteria should be established. This criteria will dictate the search in its entirety and should tie directly to the scope requirements. For example, if the scope is strictly website development, a social media monitoring agency is not nearly the right fit.
With these activities complete, you can move on to agency selection. We’ll explore this topic in-depth in Part II of this three-part series.