By Garrett Dearey, Associate Director, Positive Digital.
The boom in SEO has led to an upsurge in boutique agencies specialising in providing tailored and unique digital services to brands that because they aren’t as specialised their current marketing agencies can’t offer.
Most businesses see the advantage in increasing their SEO potential and have jumped on the band wagon hiring these independent agencies to thrust them into the digital age without giving a moments thought to whether or not outsourcing to a boutique agency is the best way forward, especially at a time when marketing budgets are being squeeze more than ever before.
The standard template within the marketing sphere currently appears as one brand served by three separate agencies: a Digital Agency, a Marketing Agency and a Technology/IT Agency.
So, we have one brand with three agencies reporting into it, each one fulfilling the individual objectives the brand has set. But, with multiplicity comes confusion particularly since all three will be talking to the same audiences – hence it is essential that these agencies work very closely together, which in reality can be tricky.
Surely it’s common sense to have a single structure that allows for a channel neutral approach to effective planning and deliverance. This will allow for much clearer communication lines between brand and consumer. Consumers are receiving more communication from businesses, this means to create cut-through companies need to be more targeted and relevant than ever before.
Marketing is becoming increasingly multi-channel focused in order to maximise any communications it has with people, for example there are numerous studies showing how media can complement each other, such as the recent study from Royal Mail that revealed seven in ten people believe that direct mail supports online advertising.
Brands are turning to integrated services because they feel the message they put across all these channels will be better received and more appropriate.
Another threat against specialist, boutique agencies are conflicts of interests between clients. How can they diversify and use sector knowledge amongst similar client bases without conflicts arising? I know of at least half a dozen examples where a client has opted out of using a small specialist for this very reason.
Moreover, another research report from Royal Mail investigating the benefits of integration found that integrating digital advertising with direct activity can increase customer spend by almost 25 per cent. For a brand this means a higher ROI. Why then wouldn’t you use the same agency capable of providing both – surely common sense?
The agencies that invested in digital years ago in preparation for the online revolution will be in the best position to deliver channel neutral strategies that brands need.
No doubt boutique agencies will survive, but in these difficult times we are already seeing casualties and it is inevitable once the economy picks up we will see an increase in M&A activity. Furthermore, as belts get tightened brands are demanding more value for money.
And by consolidating agencies scales of economy can be achieved saving significant marketing pounds – hence the fashion for small independents is once again changing – this will be the year of the full-service, integrated approach.
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