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Building a Big Culture using Small Data: How to Improve Client - Agency Relationships

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With the help of new technology, marketing has entered what is commonly referred to as “The Age of Now”. It’s no longer sufficient for agencies to provide just one service; in today’s marketplace, clients demand information, feedback and collaboration.

For example, a restaurant chain looks to its agency for help developing and executing an online customer loyalty program. The agency responds and the program hits the ground running. In a previous era, the project would have been considered “mission accomplished” at that point. But in today’s environment, the objective is only partially achieved at that stage.

The effective agency provides your business with the ability to see the results of the program in real time, and advises you on how to turn the results into actionable steps. If, for example, loyalty program participants for the restaurant chain are found to purchase 30% more than non-participants, then the marketing manager knows which side of their bread is buttered, so to speak. The agency and the client can thus work on ways to increase customer participation in the program, boosting sales.

By providing these capabilities, the agency increases the client’s success rate, and in doing so, increases its value to the client. This heightened level of success requires more than just agency creativity. It demands an informed data-driven agency.

The Informed Data-Driven Culture and the Agency

In order to transform the traditional agency into the informed data-driven enterprise, a data-driven culture must be developed and nurtured. There are a number of steps necessary to achieve this objective:

First and foremost, encourage and reward data-driven thinking at every level of the agency.

Stress the importance of decision-making based on data. For example, as in the restaurant chain example presented above, wherein the data gathered from the loyalty program shows that loyalty members spend 30% more than non-loyalty program members, agency team members should be rewarded if their ideas succeed in increasing loyalty program participation.

Further, to expand on this concept, the agency should utilize tools that make data transparent to their clients. Agencies do not have a monopoly on data or creativity; in fact, client input can be vital, both to a program’s success and to the agency-client relationship.

Another simple step to baking in a data-centric culture is to exploit the “water cooler effect.” Back in the “good old days”, information sharing was often done around the water cooler. During the Renaissance, the entire city of Paris was considered a water cooler of sorts, where artists lived, worked and freely exchanged art, ideas and inspiration.

Today, the water cooler has been replaced by visualization and collaboration tools. These tools, if used properly, can give the water cooler effect an expanded reach far beyond your offices four walls. From a more concrete perspective, displaying metrics in real time for team members to see can act as a surrogate water cooler, as they gather together to observe and analyze the data.

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It has been said that if it can’t be measured, it doesn’t exist. This theory holds true in marketing, where metrics are all-important. And communicating key metrics to all stakeholders, including the client, is a critical component of the informed data-driven agency. In addition to communicating results-oriented metrics, there’s also the need to communicate targets, forecasts and goals.

Accomplishment can and should be a team sport. In the data-driven culture, teamwork is a natural by-product.

Note: Office culture changes evolve; they are not imposed. Therefore, it’s important to “phase in” the data-driven approach rather than trying to turn the Rockies into a putting green. However, the benefits realized when using the right visualization and collaboration tools will accelerate team member buy in. Tools that can provide information in real-time, are flexible and scalable; and very important, are easy to use (better yet, fun to use) can make the cultural evolution a positive experience for all involved.

The Informed Data-Driven Culture and the Client

Clients live and die by their ability to build brand recognition and differentiation with consumers. A brand that truly differentiates itself will have a natural competitive advantage in the marketplace (unless, of course, it differentiating factor drives down their quality). Likewise, an agency with a truly data-driven culture will have a competitive advantage in its own marketplace.

As previously mentioned, data will be shared among the teams within the agency, as well as with the client, which will provide these additional benefits:

•A better flow of business intelligence, ideas and insights.

•Providing information in real time will help both the agency and the client make proactive rather than reactive decisions.

•Anything you can do to free up more of your clients time so that the they can conduct the business aspect of their business will be perceived as a major value add. In other words, if real time reporting and meaningful interaction and collaboration will replace time-consuming weekly status meetings and cumbersome reports, the client and the agency will benefit.

•As the agency introduces the most modern and sophisticated tools for data-driven, real time reporting and interaction, the client becomes more proficient in the use of these tools as well. The bond between agency and client strengthens, as does the trust level (not to mention the enjoyment of working together).

In the modern world, the agency that will succeed has the tools to gather and measure and react to data. They adopt an informed data-driven culture, the culture of dynamism and collaboration, and they’re so diligent in every situation that it makes each client feel like they’re the only one.

Tool Selection

The agency that takes the leadership role in becoming truly data-driven will be the agency that rises to the top of the pack. As Peter Abraham, thought leader and EVP of leading digital marketing company Econsultancy put it, “Once you realize that real time is the key to your business, the flow of data and content becomes imperative.”

Therefore, the question becomes not just “What do you do with the data?” but “How do you get it and how do you communicate it?” This is where tool selection becomes the new imperative. The effective solution must:

•Present all the information needed
•Present it in an easy to digest format(s)
•Encourage usage (both by the agency and client) by being user friendly
•Be scalable, extensible and flexible so as not to become obsolete
•Be backed by a solid and reliable company, with support and development expertise.

Once you find a tool that meets these criteria, your quest to create an informed data-driven culture within your agency is well on its way.

Conclusion

The ability to accrue and analyze data in real time makes it possible to anticipate and, to a certain extent, control what is going to happen next. For the agency, this provides the opportunity to provide clients with more value than was even conceivable in the pre-digital age.

Developing an informed data-driven culture in your agency will help you expand existing client relationships and attract new ones. This is a prescription for success in “The Age of Now”.

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