In a recent study conducted by Forbes Insights and Oracle Marketing Cloud, 60% of global marketing leaders, on both the agency and brand sides, said their roles and responsibilities have changed significantly over the past two years. It's no surprise that the rate of change in marketing is increasing, but that's a really significant number. Especially when you consider the importance of the brand agency relationship.
While the study did not specifically focus on B2B or B2C, we reached out to a couple of B2B marketing leaders to get their perspective on this changing relationship. We asked a broad, open-ended question:
How has the relationship with your agency changed, especially with regard to collaboration, technology, and scope of work?
Randall S. Rozin, Global Director, Brand Management and Digital Marketing at Dow Corning Corporation, said that technology has enabled collaboration in a way that was not possible before.
"Technology has increased collaboration with agencies that are dispersed geographically from our marketing hubs. As web meetings are now standard, agency teams working across the country or across the globe are accessible and integrated seamlessly into our business planning and other relevant discussions with ease. The ability to share, edit, and comment on files from a central storage location, accessible to internal and external teams, has enabled improved collaboration as well. Additionally, having common digital asset management systems in place offer the capability to grab, enhance and upload new digital assets straight into a common repository. The caution is to rely too much on these technologies and lose sight of the human connections that only face to face afford.
"Scopes of work are in a constant ebb and flow," Rozin continued. "We continue to develop our in-house capabilities on systems, data management, and even design and production services in many cases. We continue to look to agencies for cutting edge capabilities, best practices, strategy development and additional capacity and workflows when needed."
Mark Roberts, Chief Marketing Officer at ShoreTel, uses his agency as way to add technology skills to his team without hiring new employees. This is a less risky way to add the latest expertise.
"Agency relationships have evolved dramatically over the last few years, primarily as they have explored how to become more strategic in the relationship and as marketing groups have struggled to keep up with the pace of change in technology. Much of the expertise is unaffordable or unproven for a vendor to take on as a full-time employee and thus lives inside an agency arrangement. The two issues (unaffordable and unproven expertise) are tightly linked. Without the confidence to invest in the expertise of a full-time employee, it becomes less risky to look at the skill set as something that can be leveraged across several companies and therefore ideally placed in an agency relationship, thereby lowering the cost of access to the expertise.
"Secondly comes the transfer of knowledge/value creation of leveraging that expertise. I have noticed that the pace of change has made the usual cycle (of learning, seeing value, bringing it in house, making it a core marketing capability) impractical. The best practices and technology discussions are moving too fast to get a return on the traditional approach. This necessitates more engagement and collaboration with agencies offering services in these areas.
"I would expect the rise of skill sharing to become more prevalent over time, so using individuals for specific roles for a short period seems to be a logical progression in the marketing world," said Roberts. "Historically the agency has taken that role by seeing the need and filling it. As more agencies understand Platform business models, I could see a rise in the use of temporary expertise. In the past this has been looked upon as a method for temporary labor and not as a strategic approach. A minor shift in mindset by the vendor could shift this dramatically, but will drive a requirement for greater collaboration skills by all parties."
Read more about the changing relationship between agencies and brands in the Forbes Insights Report: The Age of Brand, Agency & Customer Collaboration