August 27, 2008 - Comments Off on How has the internet impacted on client/agency engagement?

How has the internet impacted on client/agency engagement?

A Chairman’s perspective ………

An internal debate at a recent BM Board meeting revolved around the frustration experienced by our management team regarding delays then being experienced with certain clients that were impacting both our ability to deliver AND particularly the RoI estimates we had provided for these projects. These delays invariably revolved around client inter-departmental ‘dynamics’ and decision making; into which we had little, if any, influence or contribution and for which we feared we would ultimately be held accountable! This sense of frustration was exacerbated by the knowledge that from our perspective it was a ‘no brainer’ for the client to commit fully to the project due to realistic ROI and business benefit projections; even when prudently calculated. However, we also acknowledged that we were engaged as an ‘external’ agency and as such were not party to the decision-making criteria or process used by the client; a position that only served to ‘fuel our fire’! After all, our ultimate objective is not just to deliver value but to make a significant contribution to client success.

The ensuing debate brought up a number of key challenges faced, we believe, by many digital agencies and their clients. The following is representative of the dialogue that took place during this debate:

The business world, both B2B and B2C, has evolved to a point where traditional business strategies, models, processes and even organisational structures are CHALLENGED by the ‘New Way’ enabled by internet technologies and techniques.

Young internet focused (.com) enterprises are structured and focused from inception to engage fully with the power of the internet and are taking full advantage of their first mover status. More ‘traditional’ enterprises are encumbered by the ‘old way’ of doing things and potentially face radical change to achieve the same level of efficiencies and effectiveness.

To the ‘initiated’ the internet has already become such an obviously powerful tool for brand and image management, market positioning, business development and strategic decision making. These ‘experts’ therefore consider it a business imperative to embrace with this change and engage fully with the Internet. Tesco’s .com response to the insurance marketplace is a recent example of this change imperative in action.

However, the problem many traditional business enterprises face, particularly in such a fast paced technological environment, is that the internet can often appear to be a ‘Black Art’ and even a ‘Black Hole’; particularly those faced with the challenge of potential radical change. This is further complicated by young internet entrepreneurs and their businesses being required to INFLUENCE larger, historically successful and more experienced business leaders and ‘advise’ on full engagement.

The time has come, I believe, for Digital Agencies to be BOLD and positively project their role WITHIN their clients to engage pro-actively with their decision making forum and influence a move away from procrastination, re-activity and dabbling to one of full engagement with the ‘New Way’ enabled by the Internet.

With the challenges presented and opportunities afforded by the current economic pressures, this pro-active approach surely has to be a MUST.

That said ……………… digital agencies are therefore faced with the challenge of HOW to impact change within their ‘traditional’ clients and WHAT that change should be ………………as well as justifiably expect the client to value and pay for this support/advice/representation!

Agencies in turn therefore face the challenge of HOW this approach impacts their own market positioning, service portfolio, client engagement …. business model, etc., etc. Also, with capacity management having such a big impact on business performance, this challenge also has to impact on their client selection criteria!

It therefore seems to me that the ‘agency child’ had better evolve rapidly into an ‘adult’ in order to engage properly with its client parents ………… whilst the ‘parent’ needs to mature rapidly in order to respect and listen to the advice of its young adult ………. IF they wish to survive that is!!

I am not sure if I/we am/are alone in this view and perhaps can already anticipate the ‘after you’ responses but would certainly appreciate and welcome critique and feedback from both client-side and other agencies; particularly those who have already ventured down this path ………. ???