Jan 9, 2017
We are living in a digital world. Every organisation is going through a digital transformation today to stay relevant and be competitive. The smartest organisations are not going it alone. They enlist help to fill expertise gaps and bring in experience to accelerate them on their digital transformation journey. This help comes in the form of agencies and consultancies that have ‘done it before‘. However, are digital transformation partners themselves transforming?
It is not the strongest of the most intelligent who will survive but those who can best manage change – Charles Darwin
Late last year I attended a digital marketing event where a major global brand in the financial sector asked the agencies in the audience, are YOU transforming too? The presenter went on and listed a few things they look for from an agency to help them. We’ll get back to those. But first, his organisation clearly manages a large ecosystem of agencies and consultancies. With everyone one of them offering up experience and expertise to do better in a digital world. How can he differentiate between them?
A Digital Transformation Partner
For nearly two decades, I’ve seen brands and marketing teams continually outsource work to agencies to get stuff done that they couldn’t do themselves. Email marketing. Video production. Web Analytics. Display Advertising. The list goes on. In this model, there is little or no learning on behalf of the business. The agency is an extension of the organisation. Want a fish, buy a fish. Want another fish? Buy another fish. The business is incapable of feeding itself in these specific outsourced capabilities.
I remember sitting down with an insurance company, about three years ago now. We were brought in to re-platform a few of their brands onto a new customer experience platform. The then Head of Digital sat me down, looked me squarely in the face and said, we do not want you to solve our problems for us. Okay, what do you need? We need you to surface our problems so that we can solve them together. We want to be the fisherman. Teach us how to fish so that we can feed ourselves. This model is less agency and more consultative in its approach.
Over the years, both models and combinations of them remain relevant. Which is better? It depends. On what? The current situation. Do you need to move fast? How much can you invest to grow a new capability? Do you have the talent in-house? Do you want it in-house? Over what period of time? Is that new capability core to your business and if so, for how long? It’s a moving feast.
Regardless of agency or consultancy, the business needs a few key digital transformation partners.
What are brands looking for in a Partner?
Now let’s get back to what our friend who works for that global brand in the financial sector. What was he expecting, working in the digital marketing domain, from a digital transformation partner? In fact, let’s not say digital marketing as this corners digital into being a single channel within the business. Digital is more than that. I prefer Clive Sirkin’s, CMO of Kimberly Clark perspective on things.
Today, we are marketing in a digital world – Clive Sirkin
Online and offline. Broadcast and Personal. Global and Local. Static and Dynamic. Episodic Campaigns vs Always-On Campaigns. It doesn’t matter, we are marketers in a digital world, which means that organisations must transform towards that digital ideal bringing both the non-digital and physical.
With that in mind, this is what our financial client was looking for in a partner:
- Leadership: Grab the baton and take us forward. Lead by example. Show us what we don’t know and take us on that journey with you.
- Expertise. We need end-to-end full stack digital experts. We value horizontal experience (connectivity) over vertical experience (deep tech). We’re not breaking down silo’s here, we are connecting across them.
- Integrated Services. We want to consume integrated service offerings from you that make it easy for us to buy from you.
- Outcomes. We operate in business outcomes. Don’t bring us sales speak and theory. We need realistic outcomes for the business that you as a partner bring innovative ways to accomplish.
- Agility. Bring agility to the business powered by experience. Agile software development makes it technical feasible but we need to adopt agile management approaches in marketing to drive business agility.
What should partners be doing?
Marketing in the digital world is tough. To quote Diana Ross, we’re in the middle of a chain reaction. Consumers change. So organisations change. As do industries. And so must partners. To remain competitive, partners need to:
- Practice what we preach
- Continually innovate and co-create with our clients
- Build hypotheses and test them to death to learn the good, the bad and the ugly
- Educate and train our clients
- Trust and empower our teams to execute
There is no single, one and done digital transformation. It’s a series of small transformations that partners and brands engage on. Partners must continue to do great work for clients. However, we need to afford ourselves the time and effort for inward reflection. This will enable us to run, grow and transform in this ever changing digital world, faster than our clients.