So you work in the bicycle and tattoo department…?

I once had a boss who referred to ‘digital’ as work generated by the ‘bicycle and tattoo’ department. At the time, digital initiatives were perceived more as an eyebrow raising ‘also ran’ than core pillars of a marketing strategy.

A decade later,  things have changed somewhat and even the word ‘digital’ is now somewhat redundant given that almost all marketing strategies have online, mobile, social, programmatic and analytical components to support it.

So even if the word ‘digital’ may be a little out of style, here’s something to consider next time you’re out looking for a new agency:  Every strategy, every pitch is (and needs to be) a digital strategy or digital pitch. Irrespective of whether you’re looking for a brand, digital, PR, Media, CRM or combination of solutions – it will almost always benefit from thought, collaboration and processes that are ingrained in digital roots.

Digital agencies by their very nature have always tended to be more collaborative because historically their timelines were – and still are – shorter than their brand counterparts, their DNA is naturally more collaborative, and metrics are generally more integrated into their rationale.

So whatever kind of exercise you’re now undertaking – whether it’s creative, media or even pure digital – here some digital DNA hallmarks you might like to add to your list when thinking about your next strategy or agency:

How does your agency champion thought leadership? 

Who’s driving thought leadership in the process or the agency?  Are they re-tweeting or leveraging articles from their international network, or is someone really driving new ideas internally?  If so, who?  One person?  Two? Many?  And from which groups? And if someone references a ‘guru’ from another city – call us (you’re going to need help).

What’s your team’s vision for the future of your business?

A vital question in any agency – whether they’re coming in for a meeting or you’re in the process of searching for a new agency  – where do you see the communications business in the next couple of years?  Five years?  What innovations are they planning or recommending to help drive your business and add real value?

Where are your junior resources coming from?

Junior resources? Yes. Junior resources are often future rock stars in the making with a finger on the pulse of all things digital and it’s being woven into everyday lives of consumers and customers just like yours. Our business is moving so fast, make sure your agency has got place for vocal thought leaders of tomorrow who will help challenge otherwise traditional views and thinking.  (And get them on your business!)

Ever looked at your agency’s web site?

Go ahead.  Take a look.  Is it all “we, we, we”  or “awards, awards, awards”?  Or is it well structured, thought provoking and easy to navigate to find what you’re looking for? And if you’re asking “is this important or how’s this relevant to me…?” consider how well their thinking is going translate across your digital properties.

Do your resources collaborate well?

How well are your internal and agency resources collaborating?  Is it an organic communication style where resources share (digital) solutions freely by seamlessly and instinctively providing the best person to present solutions?  Or are they hampered by traditional processes where solutions, recommendations and answers get ‘funnelled’ through a single person?

What tools do you use to collaborate across multi-functional teams?

Beyond email and voicemail, how do your internal and agency teams collaborate with each other across groups and active projects?  What tools are they using to break down internal walls to energize their ideas and bring them to life? Or are ideas being squashed before they ever see the light of day?

How do your teams develop and present creative? 

How do your internal and agency teams develop and present creative work? Is it a build to a ‘big reveal’ which excludes others from the process?  Are there check-in points or online tools that enable you to see work in progress?  What integration points are offered to partner agencies – when are they made available

While the word ‘digital’ may now appear to be something of an anachronism, the DNA of digital thinking and processes are still powerful hallmarks to watch for across all your teams and agency – even if your requirements aren’t specifically around digital.

So if you didn’t know it, you probably now work in what was known as the ‘bicycle and tattoo’ department. (Even if there isn’t a bicycle or tattoo anywhere to be seen).

STEPHAN ARGENT

Stephan Argent is Founder and Principal at Listenmore Inc offering confidential advisory to marketers looking for truly independent insight and advice they can’t find anywhere else. Read more like this on our blog Marketing Unscrewed / follow me @StephanArgent

Photo: amanda dias
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