Deep Dive Into the Trials & Tribulations of the SEM Agency Executive by Marc Poirer
Deep-Dive Into the Trials and Tribulations
of the SEM Agency Executive
Acquisio and Agency Executives
• We sell software almost exclusively to agency executives
• Never took the time to really try to understand who they are
• Needed a reality check
• Hired an independent research firm to help us create a persona
• Research lasted 2 months – December 2012 and January 2013
• 15 SEM agency executives were interviewed
• 60 minute interviews over the phone
• Semi-structured interview with open-ended questions
• Interviews were conducted by analyst
• Results were compiled in February
• First time we share this information.
Who is the SEM Agency Executive?
• Understanding the problems Agency Executives face in
creating, communicating, and delivering value to CMOs.
• Exploring the future of Interactive Agencies by gathering
the perspective of the Agency Executives responsible for
moving their agency forward.
• Determining the strategic role of technology vendors in
making Agency Executives more successful with their
Persona: Brian Ops
15 SEM Agency Executives in ONE!
• The senior-most executive …
• Chief Operating Officers, VP of Interactive, SVP of Integrated marketing
• Adult-level problems and budgets, typically at larger firms with a broader
portfolio of offerings to CMOs
• Manages the blend of operations and customer-focused services with a futuristic
• Responsible for the productivity of the agency…
• Increasing revenue and managing cost of sales (SG&A)
• And the alignment of the cross-functional resources required to
• Working with sales and marketing leaders across the organization
• Views productivity as a system, not an individual activity
• Focused on working backwards from what CMOs want
Who is Brian Ops?
SCALING AN AGENCY:
20 MOST IMPORTANT ISSUES
ACCORDING TO BRIAN OPS
“My core charter involves making sure our existing
customers are growing their business with us.
That means they need to be serviced in the proper way
and they need to achieve the results we agreed to.
I need to do that in a profitable way.
On top of that, I need to think about the future
services and products to offer, identify new acquisitions,
and find the right technology partners.
We need new capabilities to enable digital performance
on a global scale by maximizing all channels,
and also adding new channels over time.
We need to make sure that is done in a holistic manner
by leveraging our people and our processes to achieve
the growth we need to stay competitive --
and somehow do that in a way that says
‘we’re different than the other guy’”
It’s all about customer
growth and satisfaction
Brian on Change
We are so KPI driven that we often fail
to think about things like messaging, storytelling, etc.
Today my clients work with 1 advertising company,
1 digital company, 1 media company,
1 creative company, 1 web agency,
1 technology company, 1 PR company,
1 social media company, etc.
And all these companies don’t necessarily
work together to adapt to the customer.
If we could address all of these things,
We could address more of the value chain for clients.
We need to change how we’re working
so we can be more valuable to customers.
We Need to Change How we Work
Brian on Enabling “Performance Marketing”
“A lot of how we work is done
in silos inside the agency.
In other words when a contract comes in,
there is a process involved, and that process
needs to be enabled.
When we look at
how we work, and what is required
to bring our team together, to make decisions,
and then take action on behalf of clients,
there is a lot of complexity.
We need to enable that somehow
so that we can continue to evolve.
I think this is how the industry
needs to evolve as well ”
We Can’t Continue
to Work in Silos
Brian on the Need for a Vision
A lot of what we sell is “smarts.”
We work hard to break down silos internally
and force a more coordinated effort to focus
solely on the customer’s integrated view of digital.
We don’t want to run search just for the sake
of running search. Our value lies in
adding the art to the science.
That means we’re bringing something
different to the CMO – often what
they don’t even know about.
So, we’ve got to be different
– everyone says ‘we can perform better’ –
but it goes beyond that – so what is it?
We’re Selling Smarts
Brian on the value contribution to clients
“My job requires that I grow our client base
and improve the satisfaction of clients
with our organization. I need to make sure
our clients are serviced correctly and
that we are increasing the profitability
of each client engagement.
We need to deliver in a holistic manner
and add value to marketers in a variety of ways,
not just in one or two channels.
That means we need more of a 360 degree view
of the objectives we’re driving for marketers
– everything from the partnership we’re creating,
to the way the channels blend to drive incremental value,
to the value we’re providing related
to the latest trends in mobile and social.”
We Need to Add Value at
Every Touch Point
Brian on his value to marketers
We need to be driving business results
and revenue for our clients. We need to do this
over a long-term – it’s not just a one-time project.
Through our relationship we need to uncover
the formula for success and iterate with clients over time.
They are struggling with what they are doing
and the results they’re getting.
Our job is to help them overcome those challenges
and get the most out of their marketing spend
in a way that drives more profitability
and results for their company.
We’re Selling Results
Brian on Improving the Customer Experience
“We are the digital strategy lead
in a lot of our client companies.
We actually become part of their team.
We take the needs they have
and translate that into specific actions
that will get them their results.
We work with customers in a way
that helps them acquire more budget
and more resources to achieve their results”
We Need to Become
Part of Their Team
Brian on Aligning the Agency to the Customer
“We find that we often have to help our
clients evolve their business strategy.
We push them to think about the real issues
and to become more and more precise.
We bring a holistic lens that helps them
innovate and integrate their thinking.
That requires us to maintain a high level of intimacy
with them while we’re focused on continuously
improving results over time”
We Influence Our Clients’
Brian on Providing thought leadership
“We have to stay on top
of what’s going on with technology and best practices.
We need to provide thought leadership and guidance
to help translate strategy into
results through better execution.
We sometimes have to educate the marketer on
digital media best practices and we sometimes have
to have more strategic conversations that are
more business oriented to provide a solution
of how digital can complement their strategy.
That means we have a role to play in future proofing
what they’re doing as a business.”
We Need to Educate Clients
to Drive More Business
Brian on Creating a Forward-Looking Strategy
“I try to get a variety of different perspectives from
our C-Level customers in order to find out
what their challenges are and what
their most pressing issues are.
When I do that, I need to make sure that
we’re able understand those problems
and add that to our current level of expertise
and thought leadership in a way that drives towards
enabling the marketing needs of the future.
We need to build these insights into a
corporate strategy to help our
customers become smarter marketers .”
Our Customers Help Us
Understand The Best Way Forward
Brian on Differentiating From Other Agencies
“We need to help CMOs and marketers
get to where the consumers are.
Digital is becoming more of a commodity.
The industry is trying to do traditional strategies
with digital approaches and the challenge is
reaching targets at a lower cost.
Agencies will face increased price pressure
to do more with less.
We have a heavy human focus, where we
are labor intensive. That manual nature
of our work causes us to compete on
the lowest common denominator.
We need to automate where we can
so we can differentiate in our ability
to execute and add value.
Can’t Compete on Lowest Common
Brian on Organizational Issues
“A lot of what we do is art informed by science.
The value we provide to marketing executives
is largely found in the expertise and skills
of our employees.
We work hard to retain
the best talent, and make sure we’re helping
them stay on top of the newest trends.
When we find a great person, it’s really hard
to scale that person’s expertise out across the organization.”
Our Overall Staff Retention
& Expertise are Crucial
Brian on Agility
We try to offer flexibility so we can deliver
more campaigns more rapidly than before for our clients.
That means we need to be creative
in designing a strategy that is adaptable ,
the strategy needs to support a trial and error approach,
so we can put that strategy into action
in a way that drives efficiency, effectiveness
and drives impact for our customers.
To keep it simple, we need to eliminate
as much operational waste as possible,
so we can rapidly improve traffic
and sales for our customers.
Drives Better Results
Brian on Measuring and Analyzing Results
“A lot of times when we meet with the CMO,
their analytics/data guy is right there with them
in the meeting. Clients expect us to add value
when it comes to understanding and leveraging data
across the various channels and across their
various brands and sites.
We need to start hiring more mathematicians,
programmers, scientists and statisticians and less
History and Philosophy majors.”
We Need a Deeper
Understanding of Data
Brian on Communicating value to clients
“When it comes down to it, we are really selling outcomes.
Outcomes like revenue growth and sales.
Some of our clients are interested in the journey
to get to outcomes, others want to know what
technology we’re using.
Some CMOs probe on the results more than
on the strategies we employ, but more and more
of them are becoming savvy to what’s going on
because they want to drive accountability
They want to know are we getting
enough out of this channel and is it performing
well or not? We need data for that”
Clients Want More Detailed
Information Than Ever!
Brian on Optimizing Internal Resources
“Our customers need to make choices.
They need to decide if we should go ahead
and build out best practices across the board
right away, or if we should find the low hanging fruit
and prioritize the work by identifying
what’s working, what’s not working,
and what needs to work better.
What that then requires us to do is
prioritize our work accordingly.
The way we prioritize what we do
and how we do it will drive the initial workflow.
That workflow needs to adapt quickly to changes
in strategy and execution requirements.
We are constantly trying to optimize
each client’s workflow to serve our clients better “
Brian on the Role of Technology
We need software with real workflow in it,
that provides consistency in the business sector
we need to operate in, and will allow us to
move more quickly and drive more
consistency with customers.
The integration of the horizontal business processes
like customer relationship management
and the workflows involved in prioritizing
what we do with clients and
how we do what we do
is becoming more important.
We need to rely on technology
to sift through patterns, sort and group,
and handle the complexity around us.
Technology has a huge role to play in
helping us prioritize, manage time,
and improve speed to put things
into the right order.
We’re on the clock,
and our clients are too
Brian on Managing technology and infrastructure
“There is a rapid evolution in client maturity
which we need to get ready for.
There are more and more
sophisticated performance marketers
seeking help from agencies
to operate technology platforms,
and there is an expectation of receiving
highly sophisticated services
that fully leverage data and technology
That means our staff needs to be experts
at taking full advantage of best in class technologies.
It also means we need to make our own choices
in technology to manage our workflow
and help us move from reactive to more
adaptive processes and approaches.”
us more productive
• Need to Integrate Disciplines / Channels Beyond Search
• Agencies Need Reorganization (Specialists and Generalists) and
New Skills (Data!)
• More Automation is Required to Help Differentiate and Add
Value on Strategy
• Agency Team Needs to Become One with Client Team and Take
the Lead on Strategy
• Educate Clients and Establish Thought Leadership – Become
• Need to Improve How They Communicate Value to Clients
Summary of Findings
Contact me for more info: firstname.lastname@example.org