Digital Advertising and Agency Accountability: The Pressure is on for Agencies to Prove Their Value Post-Click
For brand advertisers, much of digital display advertising focuses on two primary goals: building awareness or driving traffic. Over the years, brand marketers have invested billions with agency partners to create dynamic campaigns with success metrics set around one of these goals. However, as digital advertising matures and advertisers grow savvier, they're beginning to question results.
Sophisticated measurement tools can show brand impact in addition to site traffic and impression metrics to justify ad spend, but translating that impact into actual sales is more difficult. Agencies have always been tasked with demonstrating results of their efforts, but more and more agencies are now being held accountable for what happens after the click to prove that their work can positively — and measurably — impact the bottom line.
Once a consumer clicks on an ad, the buck doesn't stop there. It doesn't even stop if they make a purchase. The ultimate goal of all marketing, branding or direct response isn't to just acquire new customers, but to retain them. Building loyal, lifelong customers means revenue growth and stability for the brand overall, but loyalty ultimately rests on one thing: customer relationship management (CRM).
CRM programs are at the heart of post-click engagement, enabling brands to connect with qualified leads and build ongoing relationships through relevant one-to-one communications across channels, including search, email and social media. CRM isn't just something that should be handled in-house once the agency has done its job of creating awareness and driving sales; agencies need to get on board and focus their efforts on driving customers into the brand's CRM program post-click. That means working closely with its clients’ marketing departments to develop cohesive communication plans to immediately engage prospects from active campaigns with targeted CRM tools.
Loyalty programs are among the most powerful CRM tools, generating up to 20 percent of a brand's overall sales, according to American global management consulting firm McKinsey & Company. Agencies can harness the power of online rewards programs, which function as loyalty programs but offer more immediate benefits, to target those customers that have the most influence on profits and, importantly, directly tie that revenue back to their efforts. Focusing engagement efforts on qualified leads and truly loyal customers directly translates to increased sales, less waste and overall better return on investment.
Chris Tuleya, vice president at Underscore Marketing, is a fan of online rewards programs, and prefers them to cost-per-action programs, which can compromise both the brand's image and the quality of results. "We use online rewards programs in a few ways," he says. "First, we're able to reward consumers for taking surveys that provide us with valuable consumer data. That allows us to target better and launch campaigns more efficiently, avoiding waste and driving higher ROI."
Tuleya also uses rewards to drive sales both in-store and online. "With points, we can make lucrative offers to consumers to purchase certain products at particular stores. The points are more cost effective than coupons for the brand, and have an actual dollar value for the consumer. In fact, consumers often make money on such offers. That actual cash value motivates them to take the action we've requested, and the brand advertiser has hard evidence that their campaign has been effective at driving sales."
Another key part of the CRM process, as well as a way for agencies to take their value beyond the first conversion, is lead nurturing. At the beginning of any new client relationship, agencies should approach that relationship with a plan that not only addresses direct response needs, but also lead nurturing and long-term branding as well. Not only will this mean more business and a long-term client relationship for agencies, but brands receive the benefit of being able to tell a complete story to both attract and retain customers. By taking charge of lead nurturing programs, agencies can help brands create cohesive messaging throughout the entirety of the customer journey, and help map sales back to their efforts.
The pressure may be on agencies to prove their value, but they should be up to the task. As brands become more involved in their agency relationships, they may be more focused on accountability, but it's also an opportunity for agencies to leverage the brand's CRM communications to continue to drive engagement and revenue post-click. Joining forces to create cohesive programs that build relationships from awareness through loyalty enables agencies to not only prove their impact on the bottom line, but actually improve it as well.
Sha Fakiri is the senior vice president, general manager of MyPoints, a consumer shopping loyalty program.
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