Marketing’s connective tissue: How agencies set brands up for success in today’s digital-first world

By Dave Goldstein

In today’s fast-moving, digital-first world, understanding how to engage your customers with the most effective technologies and solutions is key to your brand’s long-term success. But many brands lack the nuanced understanding needed to build out a modern marketing strategy. For companies like this, moving forward without consulting an agency can lead to a lot of wasted time and money, and potentially put them at a strategic disadvantage.

According to Brent Rosengren, chief client officer at email, eCRM and cross-channel agency BrightWave, an Ansira Company, a successful strategy “starts with understanding what success means. Putting that down on paper and defining the key performance indicators (KPIs) that track progress toward success.” BrightWave helps clients keep those target KPIs “in the back of their heads as we work through prioritizing what’s next, what it’s going to look like [and what] the strategy [is] behind it.”

Agencies can bring that kind of understanding and strategic clarity. At Laughlin Constable, Emily Hauptle, supervisor, marketing automation begins by putting together a matrix laying out what marketing technologies make sense for a client based on their specific needs. That gives clients “transparency into why we picked a marketing platform,” she says, and helps them “feel like they’ve come along the journey with us and helped us get to that answer.”

For Prolific Interactive, an agency which specializes in building out mobile apps for brands and giving them the tools and strategies they need to keep their customer retention rates high, the focus is on  “making that [marketing technology] stack really valuable,” says Al Harnisch, Prolific’s VP of Growth “So if we’re using Braze, for example, we’ll build up the email plan, we’ll build out the push plan — we’ll build out both journeys based on [the] different customer segments that we’ve identified in the planning phases. Build those up, automate them as much as possible, and then figure out what the next growth strategy is,” says. 

“In some cases,” Harnisch added,  “we’ll be looking into something like [analytics platforms] Amplitude or Mixpanel and identifying: Where are the pain points? Where are the opportunities? What are each of these people using? What features are people using the least?”

But advance planning isn’t enough — great customer engagement takes teamwork. Whether it’s between different members of a cross-functional growth team or across a range of different internal departments, effective collaboration is an essential element of a successful customer engagement program.

That said, different companies will have different challenges when it comes to collaboration. Steven Moy, U.S. CTO at full-service digital agency R/GA, has found that “some of the more progressive, digitally native companies…already have a more integrated approach.” Fortune 500 companies and other big enterprise brands, on the other hand, “create scale over tens, hundreds of years, they’ve become more functionally focused…[and] have a media department, a marketing department, even a digital department” that need to find ways to work together effectively. At R/GA, Moy explains, “we have to become the connective tissue, to get them all aligned.”

Full-service agency Laughlin Constable prioritizes getting “all of the internal stakeholders for the client to, frankly, just talk to each other about what their hopes and dreams and aspirations are for projects,” says Paul Brienza, the agency’s evp of digital.“It allows us to provide a more unified and integrated recommendation for them.But, more importantly for the client, it allows each stakeholder to hear real-time what somebody else is saying. Oftentimes there is a shared vision they just never talked to each other about. And there are also times where they have different opinions, but they can work it out in those discussions. The vast majority of the time, they leave on the same page.” But, he warns, “if you don’t have those conversations early on, you end up having to have them later on in the project when it’s much more costly to address.”

We’re more than a decade out from the rise of mobile — but the impact of that shift is still being felt by brands around the globe. While digital transformation can be disruptive to companies and even whole industries, it’s also made it possible for brands to establish the kind of strong, sustainable customer relationships that will allow them to rise above the competition. For many brands, getting where they need to go is easier with a trusted agency partner as a guide.

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