Why you shouldn’t let a management consultancy or advertising agency advise you about your marketing

Before you start your digital transformation, make sure you’re getting the right advice, from the right people. Here’s why you should be wary of the advice from your consulting firm, agency or technology vendor.

Around the world, companies are struggling to make sense of their marketing technology and big data. And they’re turning to their trusted advisers; advertising agencies, technical vendors and consulting firms to help them redefine their technology stack and digital marketing practices.

The big consulting firms

All of the global consulting firms have set up digital divisions. But how can a consultancy with their heritage traditionally in operational efficiency and accounting call themselves experts in digital marketing and technology?

I was recently on the technology vendor side of a project to redesign and create a global mobile app for one of the world’s biggest brands. They had hired a top 10 global consultancy firm to help them develop a strategy for what the new app should do, the technology it should use and how the brand should deploy it. The consultancy charged millions of dollars to complete their strategy, and the result was an app that was missing basic functionality like an offer wallet and push messaging! There was a multi-million dollar bill to the client for a piece of work that took nearly 2 years to complete and was eventually thrown out and the task then given to their mobile digital agency to fix, which they did in under 6 months for a fraction of the cost and with a far more effective solution.

The reality is these firms are filled with MBA graduates that can dazzle you with charts, numbers and process but have no experience in the real world application of marketing technology or how it is used. The few people on their teams that do know, are drowned out by a culture of extending the brief to continue to charge the client millions and making sure there is on-going work to fix it when it all goes wrong.

Advertising agencies and networks

Advertising agencies have been struggling to catch up with the digital age for years, I know because I’ve worked for agencies and global networks throughout that time. The sheer volume of technology options and platforms required to run effective digital campaigns are overwhelming. As a result, agencies and networks are struggling with the exact same issues their clients are; what technology, how to use it, and more importantly, how to control it so that they can keep all of the client’s budget.

When I went to work for a marketing technology vendor I spent years trying to educate agencies on the benefits of the Ad Tech platform I was involved with but was never allowed to speak to the clients directly or be included in the process of helping them to show the client the value of what it could do. Eventually I went around the agency and direct to the clients. The agencies were furious that I had the nerve to talk to one of their clients about my technology, however the clients were amazed when they finally discovered everything it could do and what the actual cost of it was (much less than they had been told). As expected the agencies had failed to explain the real benefits of our solution because they didn’t understand it, and more importantly couldn’t figure out how they could monetise it for their own gain.

I was recently in a meeting with another global brand that was asking their agency to conduct a review of their Ad Serving activity, when I had to point out that their agency was charging them twice the market rate for their Ad Serving and were more the cause of the problem than the solution. That brand is now using a specialist independent digital consultancy to run their global RFP for that project, and their Ad Serving costs have already been halved.

Monetising digital technology for agencies is a global issue, many are creating alliances with big software vendors to ensure they get a kick back and can maintain the management of the technology and charge the client for it. Just like clients, they are looking for global solutions that give them an economy of scale. However, client needs are not generic, no one solution is the same, and as a result the advice your agency is giving you might be right for them and their bottom line, but may not be right for your business.

Technology vendors

Of course if you want to get all the facts you need to go straight to the source. But there is no single technology vendor than can provide you with a complete marketing solution (yet). The right solution for your business will require a number of technology vendors, and they will all tell you which platforms and technology is right for you (theirs or their partners) so if you’re trying to identify the best solution for your business, unless you’re an expert on all the possibilities then beware of the biased advice you’ll get from your vendors.

The other obstacle you’ll encounter when dealing with vendors is they can rarely give you a big picture view of your total solution and more often than not once they’ve sold you their product, it’s then up to you to figure out how to use it. There is now a multi-million dollar industry dedicated entirely to managing clients’ marketing technology. The very platforms the vendors say are self-service and easy to use.

I’ve witnessed first-hand, clients that have deployed impressive marketing technology solutions but are only using 5% of their features because they simply don’t know how to use them or optimise them, and the vendor, having sold them the platform has moved on to the next potential customer.

So what do you do now?

If you want impartial, expert advice to help you improve or transform your digital marketing and technology you need an independent agency or consultancy that is not tied to their own product, and has the experience and knowledge of people who have actually worked in roles using technology to deliver digital marketing for agencies client's and vendors.

There’s no doubt that this is a frustrating problem in the current marketplace, and one that drove me to join such a consultancy, because I was fed up with watching clients waste time and money on the wrong solutions recommended to them by companies that are completely biased or unqualified to advise them.

The good news for clients is these specialist digital and technology consultancies are generally a lot cheaper than your big consultancy firm, with people who actually know what they’re talking about and will give you completely impartial advice.

It’s also good news for the agencies and vendors, because using independent experts to help guide and advise clients, provides a clear vision and road-map, meaning agencies and vendors are given specific briefs and responsibilities saving them time and effort in identifying what they need to deliver instead of fighting over trying to own more of the solution.

Advice for companies looking to improve their digital marketing and technology

Understand what it is you want to achieve, is it to:

  • Develop better marketing technology, data driven practices?

  • Build a more efficient and effective marketing technology stack?

  • Improve performance or cost effectiveness of your digital marketing?

  • Bring your digital management in-house?

Find a consultancy or agency that can give you expert and impartial advice

  • No ties to a specific vendor, technology or agency network

  • Has people that have first had experience identifying, implementing and using marketing technology and who understand online, mobile, loyalty, social, e-commerce and data

Run an audit of your current technology and digital marketing practices

Identify the right solution for your business

  • That can integrate all your data (single view) and provide efficient analysis and access to it

  • Future-proofed to allow you to switch to emerging technologies

  • Delivers value across your entire business; marketing, operations and logistics

Seek out potential new technology and vendors

  • Run an independent RFP, that ensure a non-biased evaluation and enable you to negotiate better commercial terms

  • Deploy your new solution with independent advice and management to ensure the process runs on time and to budget