Stack’s new Managing Director Nicola Nimmo discusses why the very best CRM agencies don’t believe in CRM. A version of this article first appeared on Stack’s blog here.
Everyone’s a switcher nowadays. There are so many products, brands and services to choose from that every time we are faced with a choice we start evaluating our options all over again. Who can blame us for doing that? Why would anyone stick with what they’ve got when there are so many other exciting new options to try?
Does that mean that loyalty is dead? Well, yes and no. For brands, it doesn’t mean you’ll just keep losing customers, but it’s probably time to reframe what you can expect from them.
At Stack we believe that the only way to succeed is by adopting a continuous customer acquisition mindset: you need to focus on each customers’ next choice and ensure your brand remains relevant, especially when things are changing as quickly as they currently are.
But how do you deliver genuine continuous customer acquisition for your clients? It’s not about creating a Zoom ad to fit in with these strange times – customers have already moved on. It may be about focusing on providing sheer, unadulterated entertainment, like McDonald’s did so well recently with their Return of the Mac ad. But, let’s face it, not every brand is McDonald’s.
For us it has meant that we have had to re-examine how we work as a team and how we work with clients. Here are the four actions we have taken within the business to get us into the right mindset:
1. Get beyond curious
Every agency talks about curiosity, so much so that it’s become a cliché. Aren’t we all naturally curious? For us, we believe that we really need to go deeper into the brands we work with. Deeper than going through research documents, deeper than speaking to the marketing and product teams, deeper than analysing past campaign performance. It’s about understanding what really drives revenue and value for a brand and how aligned the operations, data and IT are behind this mission.
This year we began working on a global project for Elanco Animal Health and before we even started developing a strategy we spent time with the people behind the business. Of course we spent time with the teams from marketing and sales, but it meant spending time with the distribution, finance, product, innovation, pricing and legal teams. Not only did this give us a deeper understanding of the business as a whole, it also helped everybody understand what we were charged with doing and how they might contribute to a better outcome for Elanco and their customers worldwide.
2. Flatten up
If you are going to invest time in understanding your client’s businesses more deeply you have to have a greater level of trust in your own team. They don’t need their boss, their bosses’ boss and their bosses’ bosses’ boss in every meeting. Clients don’t want endless layers of account handling either. This isn’t about budgets, this is about empowering your teams, giving them space to learn, grow and educate those around them. The leaner and flatter you are, the more you can move and react to the environment and adapt quickly to what is, and isn’t, working.
At Stack we deliberately have small core teams of experts, all the while knowing that, by being part of MSQ, we can also pull in expert resource from across the group. We don’t filter these relationships through the Client Service team wasting valuable time and budget. We allow clients to work directly with the subject matter experts, getting to the heart of the challenges much quicker. The experts then capture this knowledge for the whole team to draw down on. It’s something that Management Consultancies do naturally, but Agencies run away from.
3. Pass and move
Why are agencies so worried about sharing their workings with their clients? Our role should be about simplifying the complex and educating our clients along the way. We should recognise that our role, if we want to be considered a partner, is as much about delivering great work as it is around knowledge transfer.
For a number of clients recently, such as PSA Groupe and Evaluate, we have invested our time in showing the client teams how to run their own reporting function. This enables them to react ‘inflight’ to customer behaviour and allows us to work on initiatives to drive further customer revenue streams rather than draining their budgets on Business As Usual. Win-win.
4. Work on the core
Essential to change was a review of our technical offering. We already had an excellent data capability across both first and third party data, so delivering insight and targeted messages was (no pun intended) second nature. But what we didn’t have was the technical platform to use this insight efficiently and effectively on behalf of our clients.
So, we have invested heavily in dynamic tools that allow us to build and deliver content and comms across multiple channels: social, email and digital, ensuring we can now deliver the right message at the right time to customers wherever they are in their journey.
We believe that using the continuous customer acquisition lens allows us to reshape our client offering to become more focused on both the value the client receives from Stack and the effectiveness of the activity in driving engagement and purchase.