In 2011, IBM published a white paper called The Social Business, Advent of a New Age (you can download the PDF here). In a nutshell, a social business is a fully integrated company. Despite the name, this doesn’t just mean that the company is integrating social media into its marketing tactics. A social business means employees are integrated with each other, with the C-Suite, and with customers. Marketing is integrated with sales. Customer Service is integrated with accounting. There is two-way communication in all directions.
In this context, IBM released the 2012 State of Marketing Report, which aimed in part to determine how well marketers were working within an integrated or “social business” framework. The survey of 360 participants reveals a lot of insight into today’s marketing world, but what we gleaned from the study was a total of seven powerful new ways that companies can benefit more from the relationship with their agencies (these seven ways could also serve as an enticement to work with an agency if you do not currently do so). With that in mind, let’s dig deeper and see how you could empower your agency to do more for you.
1. Integrate your agency into the “4 Ps”
The most successful companies that were included in the IBM survey stated that marketers were involved in Products/(services), Price, Place, and Promotion, otherwise known as the 4 Ps. The argument for this integration is that if an agency/marketer understands how you are pricing products, for example, they can offer better insight into how to reflect (or not) that pricing in any messaging. They can assist you in doing research to see how your pricing compares with your competitors. If fully integrated, an agency/marketer can also help you work with customers to brainstorm new product ideas, a powerful and increasingly common R&D approach in the 21st century. An agency can even assist you in determining the most ideal distribution channels for your product. These are all powerful ways to integrate an agency into your team, lightening the load for your internal sales and marketing departments.
2. Integrate your agency into the development of customer service and sales messaging
We recently talked about landing pages as an effective way to help capture sales lead information. What happens after a visitor to your site expresses an interest in your product or service? What happens when a customer calls with a question? Integrating an agency into your sales and customer service processes can not only assist you in making sure your messaging is consistent with your brand as established in other channels, but it also allows you to receive an external perspective on how your communications might be received.
3. Enhance your agency’s ability to measure effectiveness
Believe it or not, 58% of marketers polled by IBM said their greatest challenge was measuring the effectiveness of their campaigns. Why would this be? It is easy to attribute this problem to the lack of 2-way communication. If your agency does not have access to sales numbers, how can they know when to alter tactics? If your agency does not have access to your Google Analytics numbers, how can they know what pages on your site have the greatest bounce rate? Make sure there is more communication between all of your internal departments and your agency. This will remove obstacles in the way of your agency understanding how effective its tactics truly are.
4. Integrate your agency into data evaluation
IBM found that while 65% of marketers polled tracked online behavior, only a third of those companies actually used that information to customize online messaging for those website visitors. This relates back to idea three as well. If your agency understands that a certain landing page is getting a great deal more attention than another one, that information can be used to improve other landing pages and enrich the experience for visitors who visit that specific landing page. By sharing CRM information with your agency, customer behavior can be analyzed from a marketing and a sales perspective with the end result that visitors to your website will be more effectively led through the sales funnel.
5. Depend on your agency to keep up with new channels and devices
According to the IBM survey, 41% of marketers said one of their greatest challenges is keeping up on new channels and new devices. That’s *marketers* who really need to stay on top of such things as a primary part of their job. If you are not a marketer by trade, where keeping up on everything is not your sole focus, the challenge is even greater. An agency can help you by filtering channels they think would not help you or by informing you efficiently and effectively about channels/devices that may be of interest to you. Make clear that you are depending on your agency for this kind of information and work out a system where you can be updated on a regular basis.
6. Use your agency’s expertise to avoid marketing silos
A lot of the data IBM gathered pertained to new marketing channels like mobile and the still relatively new social media channel. The survey shows that a disturbing 79% of marketers use both mobile and social media as a siloed effort. In other words, a company throws up a mobile site but does not integrate that effort into anything else. An agency can assist in looking at the big picture of your entire marketing campaign and identifying where new tactics like mobile or social could enhance and/or supplement other efforts.
7. Coordinate your agency with your IT team
If your agency has a hand in your website, or as you integrate your agency into sales efforts, the ability for your agency to understand and cooperate with your IT team becomes more important. For example, if a website goes down after hours, it is helpful to you and to your agency if they can contact your IT person/department directly to ascertain what the problem may be. This relationship can also increase the ability of the agency to participate in evaluating online data, CRM information, Google Analytics, and more. The more your agency and IT department can communicate, the less you will need to insert yourself into the dynamic. Of the marketers who worked for high-performing companies, 51% stated there was a strong relationship between IT and marketing.
These are just seven ways that you can use an agency as an increasingly strong, increasingly integrated business partner. As the concept of the social business continues to catch fire, the ability to depend upon an agency as a resource, support, and a hub for other vendors (printers, videographers, etc) will I believe continue to become more vital to the success of a business.
Now it’s your turn. What do you think?
Image Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mroach/2765757383/ via Creative Commons