As you could imagine, staying sharp and learning from others has always been a cultural pillar for us at DRVN. In doing so, we've made it a part of our repertoire to offer select prospects a no strings attached, audit, of all things. This includes brand, the business vitals, etc. - but very quickly, you'll find everyone wants to know their report card when it comes to digital - and the scary truth is that 9 out of 10 simply don't know what they're doing in this realm. We believe they know what they want to get done (revenue, new customers, etc.) but the approach is where things get off track.
We're not saying we're the best or we're the only group that knows how to make "digital marketing" work but just as companies are clear to articulate their mission, vision, and values - in essence, the same set of rules and approach should be defined when it comes to technical/tactical with digital marketing - especially between the client/partner.
Too many times, we're seeing brands seek out "experts" and specialists (and this ranges from mega agencies, to individual consultants). The reality is, most of these people came from the same farms, the same school of thinking and the issue at the core isn't whether they're good or bad people, it's how they understand their role and approach in managing someone else's limited resources to achieve the results that would make any report card, well, satisfactory. How do they evolve their tactics, where's the basis of their decision making? How do they get beyond the KPI reports? Where's the strategy?
There are a few issues with how these relationships are defined from minute one; let's dive into it. You're going to hear us call out "9 out of 10" over and over. It's a number we hate but we channel it as motivation. It's one statistic that keeps us on the move, constantly pursuing more and more knowledge.
CULTURE. It always begins (and ends) with people. No secret here. But too many times, this part gets overlooked. There's too much hype and emphasis put on past clients, past work, how impressive their case studies are, the size of the team, visual sexy of their deck, etc. - but the reality is, none of this matters.
Remember this, yesterday has very little to do with today and today, the same with tomorrow. The same applies with case studies. We hate case studies like the plague. They do a great job of presenting bias - they typically present only what we want to get across - but the truth is, there's almost nothing of importance to any new prospect except a manipulated lesson in the agency's history. They're a different brand. They have different product. They speak to different audiences. Different price points. Different content, different people behind the business. It's apples to oranges.
Invest more time understanding who will be managing your account. What's their experience level? No knock on team's that look to develop team members but there's a time and place for this. Your business is not a guinea pig. The last thing you need is your limited resources going towards educating junior on their staff on your dime. Your dime, your time. Your seeking hands on support, experience, leadership and above all, mentorship. Find the team that has their top leaders in the trenches driving the execution. Find the group that invests the time to educate you on how digital works. Find the group that wants to hand over the reigns one day and instill knowledge and independence so eventually this skill lives in-house. It's the core of your business and the main line to your customers. Find the group that isn't afraid to share backend - we're tired of coming across agencies that act like what they've created is proprietary or their IP. Protecting subpar work to be honest. Culturally it's f'd up for any "partner" to put a firewall between you and your own business intelligence. Our advice - don't tolerate it, it's yours, it's ours - should be shared openly.
MISALIGNMENT. This one is simple. And we'll cut to the chase. When it comes time to define your terms, keep an eye out for one, messed up incentive that plagues nearly every engagement we've seen. The "standard" 10% of your media buys is typically positioned as the agency's upside in working with your brand. A management/admin fee + 10% of your ad spend. 9 out of 10 agree to this and we think it's a major misstep from the beginning. Why? The team isn't incentivized to think performance - quite the opposite. The only way they grow their monthly recurring is to get the client to spend more money. Say it aloud. The only way they make more is to get you to spend more. There are groups like us who don't believe in this model. Be open to new ideas and ways to engage with groups who think differently. We're typically negotiating positions for nominal fees + % of sales (variable by channel), % of the delta we create - but no matter, it's about how much less we can get the client to spend to drive greater yield. This is performance marketing at its core - but once you've read this - you'll realize, performance was never at the core of your vendor/client agreement.
SET IT AND FORGET IT. You signed up and regardless if it was set for success, there's work to do. Now you're trusting the team in front of you to get things done. The accounts are setup, the budgets are set, now what? In 9 out of 10 instances, the agencies set a budget limit, populate their audiences (we've rarely seen any organized approach here, nor the granularity that you'd think was a no-brainer), build their ad sets. This kicks off the hurry up and wait game - the hurry up and wait for your first KPI report to talk impressions, click-thrus, etc. Then this vicious cycle repeats until someone isn't happy with the results. The truth is, managing digital, to us at least, is like day trading in the stock market. Every minute presents an opportunity to tweak creative, messaging, to redefine audiences to drive better results. Nothing is a constant.
Business is not a constant - things change, influences shift the market. It's unpredictable, the consumers are always on the move - so where does that leave us?
We'll follow-up with a Part II to this piece but in short, spending more time understanding the few points above to ensure you have a clear understanding will leave you in a much better place. Invest more time in the upfront - the learning phase and remember you'll only get as far as you're willing to go.
Try to get comfortable with sharing as many details/vitals on the business to give your prospective team a fair read. Nothing worse than either side having to discover the ugly truths after they've already invested a ton of time working diligently to get your business on the rails. These surprises tend to drive a wedge in relationships; no need to set the partnership up for failure - we know it's never the intent to do so, but when you have a team grinding because they believe in upside (which means they're supporting you for less than you can afford), reassuring the collective team that we're in the same fight together can go a long way.