Agency Lessons Learned from Working with Dot Coms
Through the years my agency and those in the direct response industry have worked with many an entrepreneur to launch a product on television and offline channels to drive direct sales. What we are seeing more frequently today is a new variety of entrepreneur, those who have started and are scaling the latest generation of dot.com 2.0 companies. What they have in common with direct response marketers of old and big brands, is that many of those businesses are turning to TV to scale their business. The industry news of late reaffirms the fact that TV is not dead, and this is further exemplified by the stampede of eTailers and subscription online businesses flocking to it as they learn the ‘digital is not scalable’ lesson. But there is something different about this new breed of companies that has emerged from the startup world that contrasts with the traditional brand advertisers.
I am talking about the latest generation of dot-coms that for us includes online retailers, information portals, and subscription-based online business. These include B2C as well as B2B based businesses and run the spectrum from dating sites and lingerie sellers to dog sitters and web site builders. All of these businesses have one fundamental quality in common that sets them apart; they are technologists at their core. Some of these businesses started because they built a better model for selling or servicing, and their platform is their product. As start-up technologists, they have most likely never worked for a big brand, and they have set a new operating model for partnering with their marketing and advertising agencies. Here are some of their areas of differentiation:
Data and Analytics At Their Core
These companies have measurement, data and analytics at the center of everything they do. They expect the agency team to know the numbers for their campaign and optimize to it, because the client side team knows their daily acquisition numbers. This includes everyone on the agency side from the CEO on down to the creative team. Yes, even the creative team. We have a saying now at our agency, that because of this trend, we are really an advertising agency that is an analytics company at its core. We measure our offline (and online) campaigns daily to build a client’s business, because that is how they learned to do it in the digital space.
It Is All About Performance
Most of this new breed of clients grew up in the online era where they have always been able to measure performance. They quantify customers in their web analytics platform as they flow through the site and use this information to enhance the customer experience, furthering product development. They easily track conversion through the purchase funnel of their paid search, social and display advertising to optimize campaigns down to the creative and placement level. They are experts at digital marketing techniques and view other marketing efforts through the same lens. They have an expectation that they will have the same level of measurement in every other channel, even the offline channels; television, print and radio.
The organizational structure at these .com companies tends to be fairly flat. Their marketing resources are scarce, and they wear many hats. The original founder(s) are often still involved with the business. Since there is very low bureaucracy, they typically make decisions quickly and are risk takers. The impact to the agency is that they need to have an optimization mindset and speed to market.
Very similar to sports teams, personnel at the .com companies are driven to win and passionate about their brand and their product. Most have launched their marketing campaigns with in-house staff and this is the first time they are using a marketing resource outside of their company. They expect their agency team to know as much about their product and business as they do, even beyond the marketing efforts you are running, and they demand a strong POV. They want you on their earnings calls (post IPO) and they expect you to use their product. They care about where the marketing dollars are spent and anticipate that the agency will treat every dollar spent in marketing like it was their own.