Agency Services: 9 Tips for Agencies to Find an Ideal Technology Partner
By Lisa Waters, Verndale Agency Services
July 8, 2014- In my recent blog post on facing a client marketing automation challenge, I discussed the many marketing and experience management solutions on the market today and the difficulty in trying to keep up with each one to understand what makes these systems work properly.
More recently, I've had the opportunity to meet with several Verndale Agency Services partners to discuss how particular experience management technology platforms need to be configured to properly execute on several strategies. These include but aren't limited to:
Leverage existing technology expertise
Today, marketing is as much science as it is art. In order to connect more closely with customers and create a "relationship" with their target audience, your clients need measurable data. It's an indisputable fact that to collect these accurate, measurable metrics you must have a solid, properly configured technology platform in place.
While your agency should be aware of and familiar with the leading experience management solutions on the market, you don't need to become technology experts in all of the available platforms. It's just not practical.
So the challenge becomes finding a technology partner that can seamlessly collaborate with your agency. How do you make a successful transition from what you do best to what they do best?
Finding Your Perfect Partner
I've had several conversations with my agency partners about what they want in a technology partner. here are nine tips from shops that have had both good and bad partnerships and how you can make sure the partner you choose is the right one:
1. Find a partner with the best value, not the lowest price - I know that seems obvious, but when you're under the gun to get a project done on-time and on budget, the pressure to select a partner based on price alone is strong. Find a technology partner that is willing to work with you on both the rates as well as scope and strategy. Remember, a good technology partner knows the values of the systems they're implementing. And a great partner can help give you the language you need to discuss getting additional budget for the project. Ultimately the happiness of the client will get you more work, so compromise and creativity is better than cheap and badly executed.
2. Find a partner that will provide ongoing support - Another big issue my partners have talked to me about is that after the initial project is done, their partner has moved onto something new and isn't providing support for the work that was done. You need a partner who will stand with you for the long term.
3. Find a partner that can speak shorthand with you from a digital strategy perspective - This is often a crossover area between the technology shop and the agency. Both organizations have strategists that focus on building digital strategies and metrics for clients. A good technology partner can help translate the digital marketing strategy you created for your client into the right technology architecture that will deliver on that strategy with results.
4. Find a partner that understands the perspective of the agency - Again, this is often a crossover area between the two organizations. I would argue however, that having a partner that looks at things from your side of the table enhances the communication for these projects ten-fold. You have a creative person focused on the customer experience and journey, and so does your technology partner...only they are focused on taking your vision and turning into a reality with the technology platform rather than pushing back and telling you it can't be done.
5. Find a partner with a strong internal process for managing communications, timelines, budgets and expectations - Implementation of the best solutions can be botched with unnecessary and surprise schedule delays and cost overruns. Your partner should have a solid, documented process to make sure projects stay on track.
6. Find a partner that understands what needs to be done from a solution architecture perspective, and is not just an engineer that can code - This is one of the biggest complains I hear from my partners. The developer/engineer is great, works hard and is very responsive...but a lot gets lost in the translation with their interpretation of the designs, wireframes and ultimate goals. Additionally, if your client is planning to leverage any of the specialized features of the technology platform (e.g. marketing campaigns, globalization, personalization/segmentation, eCommerce, analytics and reporting) then it's critical that these things are taken into consideration during the implementation phase.
7. Find a partner with wide ranging platform experience - There is no single cookie-cutter approach to developing client solutions. A shop that works with only one or two platforms may try to shoehorn those technologies to fit the project rather than analyzing the situation and selecting the appropriate technology. A partner proficient in many solutions will be able to analyze the particular client need, and offer the platform that provides the best result.
8. Find a partner willing to help educate you - Agencies want to stay informed about what is happening with these different platforms and what they have to offer, as well as the key differentiators and advantages so they can have an educated high-level conversation with their clients.
9. Find a partner willing and able to co-develop - Many agencies have a team of people that have some experience developing and or implementing in some of the leading Experience Management platforms like Sitecore, Adobe, EPiServer, Kentico, and Drupal...but don't necessarily have the bandwidth or level of experience for every project that comes through the door. Working with a technology partner that has a strategy for co-development allows your developers to stay involved in the implementation process, extend their team and become more knowledgeable about the platform at the same time.
We've all seen (and possible experienced_ a company that may try and take on services in-house, which they've traditionally had to outsource in the past. But how many of them have been able to sustain that model successfully for the long term? It's not to say that these companies don't have the in-house expertise, but often the investment, focus, and knowledge that goes into these services and projects are underestimated; it's just not core to their business.
I realize this is a lot, and arguable not every project will involve all of these issues. However, the last thing you want to do is have a great client relationship go sideways either by getting in over your head, or by making a poor choice in technology partners. Find a partner you can stick with for the long haul, and you'll establish a foundation to ensure that every project will be more successful and profitable than the last.
Stay tuned for post three of this series, and in the meantime, don't hesitate to reach out with any questions-email me at firstname.lastname@example.org today!