Five business questions every agency needs to ask

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If you hope to follow a marketing strategy, build on some core truths that align business goals and consumer behaviors

Effective marketing always begins with insights and understanding — insights about the consumer, understanding about the business goals to be met. An agency would never attempt to build a communication strategy around a one-dimensional consumer profile such as "people who eat" — yet we have no problem accepting equally broad and vague statements like "increase market share" as a valid business goal.

The outcome of such an approach is always the same — marketing that is devoid of strategic value.

Achieving a marketing strategy that is as aligned to business goals as it is to consumer behaviors and attitudes begins with five questions that every agency should ask a client, and themselves, ideally even before they start working together:

1. What is your Five Year business goal, and how will you get there? Knowing the north star of the Five Year plan [or similar] allows the agency and marketer to align year-to-year on the actions that support the goal — this includes the role of the brand in delivering the business goals and the organizational alignment behind that. Collaboration also works to ensure that the goals are realistic and that short term strategies are compatible with the longer term vision

2. How do you balance short-term sales requirements and longer term brand building? Brands no longer have the luxury of focusing on only one area at a time — investment needs to work on multiple levels whenever possible. A deep understanding of the appropriate balance between the demand activation needed to hit monthly/weekly sales goals and the demand creation that comes from broader brand building allows us to better determine the channels and the tactics that can both drive transactions and advance brand metrics.

3. Who are you building your products/services for? As a brand evolves and expands its product line, the profile of its target audience similarly changes. Knowing who the next generation of target consumers will be allows the agency to consider and map the expansion demand opportunities and targets in the context of current investments.

4. What do you believe are the key truisms of your category and brand, and why? All brands have beliefs about what works to drive sales and brand equity. Knowing what levers have worked historically shortcuts the learning process for new and existing team members – and at the same time, opens the door for an agency to challenge the validity of old conventions and to capture all opportunities in a rapidly evolving media world where real-time decisions often make the difference.

5. Are you willing to share information that supports marketing efficiency and effectiveness?

Data tracking at a level that supports multi-source modeling and attribution – including daily/weekly/monthly /quarterly sales data — allows the agency to identify the best drivers for both sales and brand metrics. While data management and security issues remain a critical concern, an agency needs to know going in to the relationship what data will be available, just as the client needs to know how the agency will securely house it.

Exploring these areas during the briefing or on-boarding process not only aligns marketing strategy with business goals — it also clarifies expectations on both sides of the table. The end result will be more effective marketing investments and a more successful agency/client marketing partnership.

Mainardo de Nardis is CEO of OMD Worldwide.

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