As the world of advertising and marketing becomes ever more complex, with multiple channels, it makes sense to simplify the operational side of advertising agencies – to reduce head count and enhance the client experience.
Marketing operations in a media agency can suck up a lot of time, but there are technologies you can use to minimise time per client on repetitive mundane tasks, reduce errors, and enhance the overall client experience.
By eliminating or minimising double handling of material, and using technologies wisely, you and your employees have more time to spend on the value-adding services like strategy and quality creative.
Key reasons to automate your agency
Traditionally, agencies are people heavy, and much of that activity (outside creative) involves rekeying data and moving numbers around on a spreadsheet. But with new technology platforms available, we can start to automate many of these processes.
Here are three main reasons to automate marketing operations in your agency.
1. Quality control
When a number of people need to handle data, often multiple times, the opportunity for error increases exponentially. Automating tasks, setting up templates and the like, obviates the need for multiple handling. The data is entered once and then is available to all the programs and people that need it.
2. Head count
Accounts, media planning, account service, production, emails to and from clients; all of these activities are time consuming. With ‘high-touch’ low-volume (so low-margin) clients, this means more of your people working on the account, which leads to lower profits. With automation, your agency has the ability to scale up significantly and manage more ‘low-touch’, high-volume (so high-margin) clients.
If your client is a large geographically dispersed network, automation in the form of templates, online order forms and the like help to deliver consistency across the network while allowing regional divisions the freedom to personalise or localise their messages.
For example, different property marketing offices could dynamically change elements (like location, price, inspection times) on a digital property billboard or sign board while still using the same ‘big idea’ template. With an automated process, your client can input the data themselves – data that is pushed to the relevant media. No intermediaries, no delay – the information can be updated instantly.
Automation with integration
Most of us use, or are familiar with, software that automates emails and social media. However, we believe the future of automation is more than software and more like a platform in which you can integrate everything from email campaigns, CRM and lead touch point scoring to events management. You’ll also be able to adapt targeted campaign messaging based on the customer journey. Whether your contacts are current active clients or early-stage prospects, you’ll be able to communicate with them on a personal level.
Surveys that help you learn more about your clients’ businesses can be set up once and run at a click. Your creative, sales and marketing teams can work together and share information through a single platform, while advanced analytics give you a comprehensive view of how your agency is tracking with profit per client.
In a smaller media agency, this type of in-depth analysis is often done manually but if you want to scale up, you need automation to cope with the sheer volume of data and metrics you need to cover.
Disruptive automation technologies
We’ve seen how programmatic advertising is disrupting the marketplace with Real-Time Bidding and scale. In the near future, blockchain may help to streamline many operations within advertising agencies through removing intermediaries and reducing delays.
Automation in action
We spoke to Casey Aimer, Head of Digital and Innovation at Blaze Advertising, to learn what his agency is doing to free up time for more strategic interactions with their clients.
Notes Casey, “Our goal right now in automating processes is to eliminate double handling, and eliminate or minimise keystrokes. In practice, that means, for example, that if one of our clients wants to send some information to us for an advertising campaign, then it’s delivered in a template that links to other programs. No retyping of the information. That saves us time and reduces human error.
“We have other processes we’re streamlining, like putting all our rates into the system. That’s everything from print to digital to outdoor, with a rate for each size ad. Our media-savvy clients who have relatively simple requests can pretty much build their own media schedule without having to wait for a media planner.”
Of course, that do-it-yourself method works best for low-touch, high-volume clients, who place advertising regularly as part of their marketing mix.
As Casey says, “High-touch clients need more personal interactions. They might have a more complicated brief, or simply have no idea how to reach their target audience. They’re looking for advice on how to reach key customer segments; for example, women aged 55-70 years who are anxious about their financial future.”
These high-touch clients value industry knowledge and strategic leadership. Often because of their internal culture, they’re not ready or willing to get involved in what they see as risky high-tech project management. They want to be able to speak to the person who carries the responsibility for their business.
Even with high-touch clients, though, some processes can be automated. The research available for fine-tuning a client campaign strategy is there at a few clicks. Complex media schedules for similar clients can be cloned and adapted with little effort on the agency’s part.
Once the strategy is delivered, and the agency has completed a media plan, the plan is sent to the client. Once the client approves the schedule, the relevant media channels are notified automatically.
“With automation, transactions with media channels can be seamless.”
“It isn’t like the old days, when media planners had to call each radio station, TV station or newspaper individually. Now the transactions can be seamless,” comments Casey.
Automate or atrophy
There are real threats to agencies, especially those in real estate marketing. Large software companies (think IBM, Oracle, SAP and Salesforce) are on a mission to break into data-driven marketing. With massive processing power, any one of these companies could be ready to take a stroll into the property marketing space.
These companies can use economies of scale to provide cost-effective services, charging clients a monthly fee on a Software-as-a-Service model rather than a fee-based or percentage-based model.
Key risks and opportunities of automation
While we believe that automating as many repetitive, mundane tasks as possible is our future and that of other advertising and media agencies, we don’t believe that we can do away with any human contact at all.
The risk of fully automating processes is that your offer becomes generic. Your client will not value the convenience if everyone is offering the same automated, hands-off process.
“Maintain relationships with low-touch clients through value-adding strategy and creative.”
By being strategic in what you automate, and how, you can increase revenues while keeping costs down. It’s vital to keep your clients close through offering value-adding strategies and creative so that, although your client is self-sufficient in some areas, your input is key to their success.
Ultimately, our credibility is earned by a judicious mix of highly available technology combined with quality human interactions.