The segments hard-hit by the crisis—retail, hospitality, travel, to name a few—are furiously working to get back on their feet and re-invent themselves for the ‘new normal’. Rarely has there been a time when the need for support from expert marketing agencies and services providers has been so important.
However, with budgets under intense scrutiny and hard measures of performance being more critical than ever, many companies are looking to reduce complexity and working with fewer, better partners who can work hand in hand with the business at all levels. This means greater competition for marketing firms to prove that they have their finger on the pulse of the ‘new normal’ and that they will be the right partners to help clients bounce back from the crisis and for future success. Drawing on input from our wide client base at Go Inspire Group, this article outlines the top qualities of an ideal marketing partner; choosing the right partner will be key to attracting new clients as well as for customer retention.
1. Ahead of the game
With the support of their marketing partners, businesses should be identifying new behavioural segments as they are emerging. Collecting data about shifting purchasing habits and identifying loyal customers is an important part of getting to know your customer base, particularly at a time of profound change. Drawing on customer data, a savvy marketer will help to make sense of these new customer segments and to formulate agile strategies in response to changing needs.
2. A panoramic view
Consumers have changed the where and the how of their shopping. The pandemic has forced much of our spending to migrate to the online realm—and this is likely to create new spending habits in the long-term. With this in mind, it is essential that marketing partners are able to offer a complete view of both physical and virtual channels in order to fully make sense of new purchasing patterns. Without a 360-degree view of customers’ journey to purchase, many companies are likely to misdirect their advertising budgets.
3. Well-balanced use of channels
Effective marketing strategies should avoid excluding any communication channels. Marketers should be able to offer to their clients an optimal mix of both digital and physical channels. Any channel bias towards either digital or physical campaigns may mean missing out on valuable opportunities for client engagement.
4. Boutique service
Marketing partners with a large-scale production capacity for physical campaigns are typically able to unlock optimal pricing for their clients. However, an ideal marketing partner can offer this industrial capacity with boutique service. High-touch account management is needed to deliver a properly tailored service, rather than a mechanised process where mailings must fit into the partner’s production schedule. Sophisticated providers will offer services such as hybrid mail – where small volumes of daily triggered mailings are offered at mass mail prices.
Offering some form of risk-sharing is a sure way for marketers to demonstrate great service, geared towards producing optimal results. Results-based arrangements should be the norm. This works out to be favourable to marketing providers too, as additional rewards can be earned from over-performance.
6. A smooth transition methodology
One of the biggest concerns when changing suppliers relates to transition problems. When a partner changes, operational difficulties and commercial losses are a risk. As a standard, marketers should offer a proper transition de-risking methodology and be able to showcase the effectiveness of their methodology through client testimonials.
7. Innovation, innovation, innovation
Leading marketing services companies are usually well-positioned to gain early access to the latest developments in technology. This will not only positively impact their current capabilities, but will also future-proof their offering. Ideally, marketers should be able to contractually commit to delivering ongoing continuous performance improvement and innovation. A marketer who is able to demonstrate access to best-in-class technology will have a clear advantage over counterparts.
8. Staying clear of short-sighted strategies
While immediate cost reduction is a necessity for many in the ‘new normal’, a valuable marketing partner should make sure that near-term savings do not undermine communications quality, customer relationships and future revenues. Any loss of quality through substandard messaging for instance, could be detrimental in the long run. Identifying quick wins is key, but this should be balanced out with a longer-term strategy of optimisation. External awards for high-performing campaigns can act a valuable third-party proof-point of a marketer’s approach.
The selection process for choosing a marketing partner is a difficult one, even without the context of budget restrictions and a ‘new normal’ to come to terms with. By following the criteria above, marketers will demonstrate to their potential customers that they are an ideal partner to help them navigate current volatile markets and proactively plan for their success in the long-term.