5 Things a Digital Agency Can’t Do

I have the opportunity to work with quite a few digital marketing/creative design agencies over the years, some good and others not so much. Agencies are good with coming up with creative ideas, provide design concepts and proving an extension of your team but there some things they just can’t do.

Executive Support

An agency can’t help you get support from the executive team that can help secure funding and remove obstacles. They can pull together a pretty creative pitch but ultimately you need to be the one to pull together the support and be able to clearly communicate to the executive the strategy, the objective and impact. Getting executive support will ultimately lead to your success or failure.

Funding

An agency can pull together some elaborate plans but if you don’t have funding then what is the point. I have found over the years if you don’t pull together the strategy and help guide the agency you may end up with a plan that can’t be delivered. Funding for a project depends on your ability to be able to communicate that impact to the executive team if not present the ROI. In the case of rolling out an internal social intranet there wasn’t an ROI as much as the impact of transparent communication and collaboration was huge.

IT Resources and Infrastructure

Again, if you don’t help lay some reasonable expectations for an agency you may find yourself in a situation where you have great plans but no one to implement the infrastructure required. Building a cross collaboration team that includes your IT team, HR and keeping finance included will help improve your ability to deliver.

Communication

An agency will typically provide a project manager and can assist with team project updates but not overall executive or divisional communications. When you are building your team it will be important to keep your stakeholders close and well informed. You may need one or two team members that share this responsibility to ensure stakeholders are aware of the plan, status and more importantly how it benefits them. This will be critical to keeping objections and obstacles to a minimum. It also helps build a grassroots internal marketing awareness campaign through word of mouth and water cooler gossip.

Obstacles

With any project and more specifically when implementing disruptive marketing programs you will have obstacles. Besides the typical, finance, contracts, legal obstacles there is sure to be political obstacles that someone will raise. Politics usually arise when people who aren’t stakeholders, aren’t informed, aren’t educated but may be impacted by the project process. Keeping good transparent communication and some personal attention will help keep the team moving along.

One of the tactics I have used is keeping all project details open to the public so anyone can see what is occurring at anytime. It helps to have a communicate collaboration platform like Jive Software where you can post, manage and keep the team updated with a single portal.

Agencies can add value to any project but there ultimately needs to be a leader of the overall program to address and manage the above items that they can’t. And that leader is you.

I’ll be sharing more details about these topics at the Argyle Customer Care Executive Forum NYC Nov 5th. If you are interested in hearing more register via the link and I’ll see you there.

Integrating community and web to improve your business

How do you integrate your dynamic community with your static website to improve your overall business? It is easier than you think but requires some thought and planning. Four months ago we started our journey to integrate our community into our existing website. It was something we had put quite a bit of thought into so when I was asked what I needed to accelerate the project and roll it out in 3 months I already knew the answer.

If you are a new company just getting started then you aren’t looking to build a website, you are looking to build an interactive community which just happens to look like a website. I’m a bit opinionated on this concept which you can read in my post “Web 2.0 is Dead”. However, if you are an established company that has evolved with the technology over the years then your business likely has a website, microsites, partner portals, communities and social pages all in an attempt to reach your customers. This is the problem most companies are facing and here is how to solve that issue.

First up is the design and user experience (UX). I am going to keep this focused on the design aspect because UX includes items, like single sign on, OAuth registration, User Behavior Profiles and analysis, traffic patterns, etc… all of which are important and need to be considered but when limited to a short deployment timeline with a hard go live date you have to focus on what has the greatest impact and work the rest into phased agile releases after.

Our community looked similar to our website from a branding banner perspective but it wasn’t really unified, they were still two very distinct web sites that didn’t have a consistent look and feel between to the two. In our case because the community design was lagging behind the web design it was fairly easy to apply the design theme to the community which mostly included the header navigation and ensuring the Website had a “Community” navigation in the main menu so when you switched between the web and the community the top navigation and banner remained consistent. However, the problem we ran into with this is communities are dynamic and are discussion forums are often created by members for products that your company may no longer sell, support or has been consolidated and renamed into another solution offering on the website.

So, the design was probably the least of our worries. Breaking down the silos and categorizing over 200 communities into 14 product solutions to simplify findability and navigation would now be the challenge we needed to focus.

In the next post I’ll build on this and share more details on how we defined and leveraged our community managers and members to help categorize communities for improving navigation.