What Clients Want From a Digital Marketing Agency

  |  August 3, 2009   |  Comments

Four ways that digital agencies can help build a relationship with a client.

In the lightning-paced world of digital marketing, it can be a feat to get three executives from three different companies in three geographical regions together for a virtual chat, let alone in the same room for an in-person panel discussion.

We were lucky enough to make the latter happen for our agency's annual digital marketing summit last month. Held in our Seattle home office, the meeting was a standing-room-only affair for our three panelists (from the finance, hospitality, and education sectors), who offered extremely valuable client perspectives on what they look for in, and expect from, a digital agency.

The hour-long question-and-answer session covered everything from creativity to coffee to corporate cash flow. The points raised weren't so much groundbreaking as they were refreshing and validating to hear. They involved issues that all digital agencies wrestle with while trying to grow business and nurture relationships.

The town-hall-style conversation took many twists and turns. Below are four insights gleaned from the discussion that, though familiar, bear repeating -- and practicing.

Understand the Overall Business Opportunity

While executing on specific strategies, it's easy for agencies to lose sight of, or miss entirely, the big picture. Our panelists each stressed the need for agencies to keep larger goals in mind. Sure, we're often hired to do one thing right, but if we fail to offer thought leadership to other campaigns, or tactically relate what we do to broader corporate goals, we aren't really doing our jobs.

Play Well Together

It's in the nature of agencies to compete for business, often against one another. Many clients prefer this "last one standing" approach to getting the best idea and execution. But we heard several times from our panelists that it's increasingly important for agencies to "play well together." That is, to find ways to collaborate -- to reach out and offer solutions to other hired agencies, among non-digital ones, where the common good of overall business objectives are served. It's a karma thing.

Solutions Should Begin With Business Insight

Often agencies jump right into creative without fully vetting the emotional impulses behind a campaign. Or they're quick to plug creative into a thought template that doesn't really speak to customer needs and wants.

Nike was brought up as a successful example. What is the reservoir that Nike tapped into? It was the business insight that they could help people achieve their athletic pursuits and make them feel good about themselves. That emotional need was effectively connected to Nike products via the hugely successful "Just do it" campaign. If an agency can get to the bottom of what customers are wrangling with, they will have opened the door to a plethora of engaging executions.

Never Get Complacent

Sure you did a good job yesterday, but what about tomorrow? Our panelists each emphasized that their own jobs require them to plan for the future, and that they fully expect their agency partners to do the same -- without being asked. Sure, we should celebrate our successes. But the moment you rest on your laurels is the moment another agency is passing you by.


Shane Atchison

In 1998, Shane co-founded ZAAZ to advocate a different approach to Web services — one that respects and delivers on the power of the individual and the promise of Web technologies. As CEO, Shane leads the company's long-term strategic vision of working with leading financial service organizations, consumer brands, startups, non-profits, and community-based organizations, helping each realize the potential of the Internet and its meaningful impact on their business.

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