Consultant. Hearing that word evokes notions of a company that is in trouble, needs to figure out their staffing or financials, and is begging an “outside hire” for help to do so – doesn’t it? Maybe I’ve watched Office Space too many times, but it sure did for me.
In my experience, the consultative part of my job is something that gets me excited and that I am especially passionate about. With the way of today’s technology, tools, and strategy convergence across all channels and functions of business, there are valuable insights that we as marketers are privy to, which can impact businesses as a whole when acted on correctly.
That said, it’s an aspect of the job that can get overlooked, or not considered at all in some cases for digital agencies. The digital marketing industry is a space that has seen such rapid growth not only economically, but in terms of business-specific impact as well over the last few years. As a corollary, there are more and more digital marketing agencies popping up left and right each day, which makes the services each provide more and more commoditized.
So, the question becomes, how can you as a business-owner ensure that you’re getting the most value possible from your digital agency? My advice goes back to the first point of discussion; make sure they pride themselves on being consultants – not just a service line agency.
Now, you’re probably asking yourself – why on Earth would that matter? That’s probably just a buzzword USP that agencies use to acquire new business.
In my experience and in speaking to companies who have found themselves in the market for a new digital marketing agency – it matters and differs a great deal. Here’s how.
1) Consultants Have a Stake in Your Business Success
Ultimately, the role of a consultant is to drive business progress forward using the channels and methods at their disposal to do so. Some consultants are financial or accounting experts; they can tear through your books and ensure that you’re not spending a dime out of place. Some are more attune to operations, creating efficiencies and new processes where previously there were none. We are experts in marketing, using the vast reach of the channels in the digital ecosystem as well as the data it provides to give real business insights and drive company revenue.
This is a key difference. A lot of agencies purely have a vested interest in the results of their channels, as opposed to those of the business as a whole. Due to differences in reporting attribution, this can cause reporting for those channels to be inflated relative to the actual results that are being driven to the bottom-line. Consultants care about the bottom line because they have a stake in your business.
2) Consultants Have More Flexibility and Adaptability In Their Strategy
Let’s think about the goal at hand – consultants aim purely to drive the business forward, utilizing their expertise and resources. Because of this, there is a lot of room for adaptability and flexibility in the tactics that are being deployed to better serve towards that goal. If something isn’t working, a consultant will identify and change it quickly to something that may work better, as opposed to beating their head against the wall with something that won’t.
Other types of agencies have a tendency to stay rooted in the channels and strategies that are in place due to the assumption that it would hurt their profitability to shift to other channels or strategies.
3) Consultants Use The Data Inform Your Business – Not Just Optimize Campaigns
This is probably the most crucial of all the differences and strong suits of why you should seek out an agency that prides itself on being a consultant as opposed to anything else.
As digital marketers, you have access to real-time customer data through ad engines, ESP’s, CRM’s, Google Analytics, and much more. Within these platforms is not only performance data but demographic and behavioral data that can be very valuable – especially for a small and mid-sized company that is looking to continue their growth. When analyzed and delivered correctly, this can inform other aspects about their business outside of just marketing.
Take for example running ads. If you’re doing this correctly, it’s likely that you’re testing different audiences, USP’s, messaging strategies, and differentiators to stand out from the competition, regardless of your industry. The results of these tests can inform things such as product development, messaging strategy, creative strategy, and more across every channel in business.
If you’re doing this in a CRM like Salesforce, you are informing and empowering the sales team with information around close rates, lead to opportunity %, LTV, and more. This is valuable for every single aspect of the business, spanning from online advertising to financial.
BUT – this can only happen when your agency dives deep enough into this data to get you the insight and making that recommendation based on what they’re seeing.
Ultimately, agencies that act as consultants first make the most sense for your business. They care about your bottom-line, tweak and optimize the strategy and tactics to suit the goal of moving the business upward and onward, and give you managerial insights based on the myriad of data that is present in each and every engine. They can create the best partnerships when administered correctly and can move the needle more for businesses than other agencies due to the business acumen they bring to the table.