Recently my company appointed a new creative advertising agency to be the single external creative agency for creative strategy, design and creative production for all business units and to work side by side with the in house creative team. In centralising the creative agency we are effectively reducing the need for over 20+ creative and marketing agencies.
Unfortunately, it isn’t as simple when it comes to developing a roster for digital consultants or agencies because of the diversity of digital from its strong foundation in innovative technology solutions across SEO, search or digital marketing to implementing a transactional ecommerce system. However, I use only one digital strategy consultant.
Nearly four years ago I started in my current role and I inherited a large digital project and which had one of Sydney’s large international digital agencies onboard as well as an independent digital consultant. Fast forward 4 years and we’ve parted ways with the digital agency as a business partner. The relationship with the independent digital consultant has continued to grow and mature where it is undeniably core to the success of the company’s digital vision.
Here are 5 positive experiences engaging an independent digital strategy consultant:
- Accessibility & Experience – I have nearly unlimited access to C level experience and knowledge to assist working through complex strategic digital business issues or simply to chew the fat about general topics. It is as easy as picking up the phone or sending an email for a prompt response. During the recent creative pitch the creative agencies rolled in their C level talent, and trust me when I say they were impressive and so was their experience. However, their proposed retainers which were ‘significant’ did not show the same level of accessibility to their C level talent from a strategic perspective.
- No sales pitch – there is never a sales pitch, they are providing valuable and independent advice which isn’t flavoured by an agencies need to sell other services, products or technology.
- Access to the latest technology – the consult streamlines access to new technologies and services by reviewing what is relevant to our needs. My phone rings off the hook with vendors trying to sell new products and services and I simply do not have the time to meet with everyone and nor do my team. I still meet with suppliers off my own bat and if they are not suited to our needs I’ll often recommend they meet with the consultant as they may have other opportunities.
- It’s a business partnership for the long term – after close to 6 years with the business the knowledge accumulated by the consultant is extremely detailed and I often rely on this knowledge which pre-dates my time in the business. Would you get 6 years from an Account Director in an agency? In a recent conversation late last year the consultant explained he was bringing in a new consultant to work with my team and other stakeholders, but they would continue working with me and the Executive on strategic pieces. Businesses need to grow and change and through good communication developed over the years you learn to trust each other. Unfortunately there is a high turn over in agency land and agency management are often nervous informing a client of staff changes and the impact this will have on the account.
- Digital mentoring – the piece I professionally and personally get great value from the consultant is the individual mentoring and my team are leveraging this as well. Throughout my career I have often been the lead digital person and my growth and experience has been built by trial and error over the years (hopefully less errors as I get older). The last 3-4 years being able to use this consultant to discuss a number of other issues has been invaluable – managing a team of digital specialists and their needs, team structure, presentation writing for the CEO & Board and my own personal career growth and skills development. I have used business coaches previously but the conversation is generic and as this consultant knows our business the mentoring is specific and more valued. This specific digital mentoring is priceless and if you can, I highly recommend finding someone in your industry who can give you this type of honest and open mentoring.
I’m not disparaging the value a digital agency brings to a business but you need to look at the needs of your business. We produce/develop/complete a good amount of our digital work internally and the team has been structured accordingly because we want to retain the skills internally. Therefore we need a different type of digital resource to support our business and an independent digital consultant suits our needs exceptionally well. We are still engaging with various best of breed digital agencies and technology vendors and I’ll write another blog of this very soon.
Let me introduce the independent strategic digital consultant – Mike Zeederberg, Managing Director and Founder of Zuni. Mike is quite well known in the digital industry in Australia and Mike has been a business partner with NRMA Motoring & Services for close to 6 years and is an integral part in the ongoing development of our digital platform.