The Internet has brought the worlds of marketing and technology together and customers expect their advertising agencies to be able to provide full service solutions on the web and social media. These solutions often include integration with internal systems and data that fall outside the core competences of the agency, who aren’t able to support the technology staff to provide these services on-demand and seek external partners to provide software solutions. Unfortunately, many companies feel that having an outside vendor provide technology solutions puts them at a disadvantage in the eyes of clients (and prospects) and try to funnel all communication through the agency and prevent the technology partner from directly interacting with the client.
I have written previously about the fundamental differences between solving technical and creative problems and this kind of collaborative solution demands both. Advertising and marketing firms are oriented to solve creative problems, but account executives often lack the training to perform the critical analysis necessary to define the requirements necessary for software development. When the agency buffers the tech provider from the end client, AEs aren’t able to provide feedback on how (and if) an objective can be accomplished or give “ballpark” pricing on items that come up during brainstorming. This means that every discussion requires the agency to go back to the software provider. I liken this to the “I have to ask my manager…” experience of buying a car. Is there any sales experience more frustrating as a consumer? This breeds distrust between the client and the AE – exactly the experience the agency was trying to avoid by keeping the solution provider away from the client. We have a saying at Algonquin Studios: “You will do what you fear most” and this is a perfect example. The things you fear drive your actions and inevitably it back fires. Like getting caught in a lie, the best way to avoid it is to tell the truth from the start. Face your fears honestly… problems delayed are problems expanded.
Advertising and marketing agencies need to educate their clients that technology providers are like the other traditional vendors (printers and media companies) they outsource to because they offer specialized services better suited to an organization designed around those competencies. Similarly, software vendors need to educate their agency customers about the added value they can bring when they are at the table with the customer.
Finally, if you are an agency that is afraid you will be cut out of business by your technology partner, get a new partner.