Renegade Thinking: To Increase your ROA (Return on Agency)

A new year awaits, ripe with promise. Time to pounce on the opportunities that guarantee higher ROA in 2008. Here are a few for your consideration:

1. Stand for something—Sounds simple enough but few brands or companies for that matter, really stand for anything. Those that do seem to thrive and inspire endless amounts of creativity from their agency partners. Apple stands for originality, consistently delivering products and services that are intuitive, elegant and a joy to use. (For more on how Apple got here, see this great summary on basement.org). Dove stands for self-esteem, striving to help women find “real beauty.” What will you stand for in 2008?
2. Fix your product—Is there some aspect of your product or service that you simply know is not competitive? This is the year to get it right before you spend millions on marketing the same old same old. The ancient adage that ‘there is nothing like a great ad campaign to kill a bad product’ applies now more than ever. With bloggers waiting to pounce faster than you can say Digg, your flaws will be paraded for all to see. You need look no further than Dell and Jet Blue to know how quick and painful an avalanche of negative cyberink can truly be.
3. Provide vision not tactics—It’s your brand. Tell us where you want to go, share your vision, loud and proud. But don’t be ultra-prescriptive, detailing every last tactic you want to pursue. Nothing inspires a clever agency like a clear destination AND an open road. You’ll be amazed at the creative solutions your agency (partners) will discover to help you get where you want to go. With so many tactical options to consider, the most effective combination of tactics is rarely clear until the big idea is discovered. Limit the tactics upfront and you’ll undoubtedly be asking yourself later “why isn’t my agency thinking out of the box?”
4. Think about marketing as service—Instead of investing your precious marketing dollars on ads that explain why your widget is superior use your marketing to provide a genuine service that benefits customers & prospects alike. Your customers will thank you with increased loyalty and your prospects will appreciate the added value you delivered. The HSBC BankCab provides a service, giving customers a free ride in NYC. It also generates tons of good will and PR in the process. For many more examples visit MarketingForGood.net.
5. Dance with your customers—Everyone talks about having a dialogue with your customers and this has spawned the user generated content craze. And a dialogue is certainly better than a monologue–but a dance is better still. A dance is a far more intimate and memorable affair. It requires being in sync with your customers, creating interactive brand experiences both offline and online that are simply unforgettable. Channel Al Pacino in “Scent of a Woman” and you’ll be dancing into the marketing history books in 2008.
6. Measure what matters—Of course, the ultimate goal of marketing is to support sales. However, when was the last time you made a significant purchase decision without doing some research first? The reality is that most of us collect all sorts of information from all sorts of sources, narrow our list to a reasonable consideration set and then make a purchase decision based on price, availability, convenience, reputation and a myriad of intangibles including that bane of rational marketers: “I just like that brand better.” Marketing can and does impact the consumer across their journey. You need to measure the critical milestones along this journey not just the sales at the end. If your CEO asks “are your communications working?” then you need to be able to show your “dashboard” with all the critical datapoints from awareness to trial, purchase consideration to Net Promoter Score, web traffic to social media buzz and so forth. This sounds so obvious but you’d be amazed how few CMO’s have the metrics they need to defend their campaigns.
7. Say thanks—We agency types are like faithful workhorses, toiling 24/7 to please our masters. A heart-felt bit of praise is cheaper than a crisp apple or sugar cube and goes a long way to ensure continued dedication. We know it is our job to meet your deadlines, to deliver big ideas and to flawlessly execute them. Just the same, a little praise goes a country mile on our side of the fence. Think about it, offering up a thank you for a job well done costs you nothing and could be the glue that holds your high-performing agency team together for another campaign or six.
8. Your welcome—Make a point of sitting down with your agencies this January to discuss how the relationship could be more productive. You might be surprised how an open dialog could identify some simply fixes on both sides that can speed up the process, increase the work quality and improve overall program results. Make sure you ask for a frank appraisal of your staff as well. You might learn about an abusive product manager who is a thorn in everyone’s side, gumming up the works and is in need of a “fresh” opportunity in the shipping department at your Des Moines warehouse.
9. RIP RFPs—Here’s a wacky thought, forget the RFP’s for small projects this year. The time your staff will spend preparing, briefing and reviewing redundant proposals could surely be put to better use and negates any possible cost-savings procurement might squeeze out of your otherwise demoralized agency. Instead, give the project to one of your long-time agency partners as a reward for all their hard work to-date and as an incentive to making your business their most important and beloved. Not only will you save time but also you’ll probably end with a more cost-effective marketing campaign. Cheers to that!

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