The Agency Partner Directory: How Agencies & Clients Work Better Together

In my experience working with and for agencies, what rises to the surface during times of challenge is as varied as the areas of expertise in that agency: staying up on current trends and technology, keeping a full pipeline of new business or building bigger client retainers, finding and keeping talent on-staff… the list goes on.

But one thing that comes up that may surprise those not familiar with our industry (or who have spent most of their time on the client-side)—a huge focus for agencies is finding fit.

Agencies & Clients Need to Find Fit

Whether that’s in terms of finding fit in budget size or project scope—or it’s seeking out internal stakeholders and client teams that can match temperament and work style—most client relationships are not much different from what makes any relationship successful.

What’s less surprising is that clients want the same thing.

As project owner, day-to-day contact for agency workers, or member of an internal team that’s dependent on an agency’s output—roles all of which I’ve filled—fit is what makes or breaks project or overall campaign success.

Clients want fit. Agencies want fit. There’s balance in the need.

We know that a mismatch in the relationship between an agency and a client, regardless of who is at fault, means an end to the work.

So what can Sprout do to connect the two?

A Two-Sided Equation With an X Factor

When we look at how we can help our varied set of customers level-up their social strategies and marketing campaigns, both agencies and businesses from the startup to the enterprise are looking for and can provide tools to help the other.

We’ve got the supply of agencies.

And our customers from the startup to the enterprise have the demand.

So how do they find each other? And how do they prioritize fit and getting to know each other before all else?

We hope to help answer these questions with the Agency Partner Directory: a resource for agencies to tell their story and be discoverable by potential clients.

The Agency Partner Directory is a powerful tool for businesses of all sizes who want to:

  • Level up their social strategy.
  • Work with a partner on day-to-day management of social campaigns, using the full power of the Sprout Social platform.
  • Match with agencies who not only provide social media services and expertise, but a wide variety of marketing services, like content marketing, branding, SEO, paid social, and other digital marketing services.

Why Work With a Sprout Partner?

We know that clients are looking for the right fit and a level of trust. And all of our Sprout-certified partners are not only ready and willing to help them build better campaigns, but they have access to a host of resources and the full functionality of the Sprout platform to help keep their social strategy on the cutting edge.

So whether existing Sprout customers want to work with a trusted resource for their strategies outside of social, or a business wants to use Sprout but needs an agency with whom they can partner on strategy or day-to-day management—the Agency Partner Directory helps you find or get matched with a solution.

Check out our certified agency partners today.

And if you’re an agency interested in becoming a certified agency partner to be found by prospective clients, you can find out more information about the Agency Partner Program and reach out to us today.

This post The Agency Partner Directory: How Agencies & Clients Work Better Together originally appeared on Sprout Social.

Sprout Social

For B2B Brands and Their Agencies, It’s Time To Get Down To Business

So many things in the world are changing, literally as we speak. So why wouldn't the relationship between brands and their agencies change, too? 

According to a study conducted by Forbes Insights and sponsored by Oracle Marketing Cloud, 60% of brand/agency executives say their roles and responsibilities have changed significantly over the past two years while another 48% of marketing executives say evolving brand and agency roles are making successful collaboration more difficult.

Mark Roberts, CMO of ShoreTel, says the shift in roles is noticeable. “Agency relationships have evolved dramatically over the last few years, primarily as they have explored how to become more strategic in the relationship and as marketing groups have struggled to keep up with the pace of change in technology.”

This Is Changing Everything

Data and analytics have changed the face of B2B marketing and the relationship between brands and agencies. But make no mistake about it. At the heart of these efforts is a drive to effectively gather and mine rich sources of customer data.

In fact, when asked to identify which area will see the greatest impact from more effective collaboration between brand and agency peers, the number one response among the survey respondents was capitalizing on customer data/analytics.

Kevin Koh, CEO of DDB Group Korea, says the coming together of all data is vital. “We are aware that a client will have their own data and their own opinions on what they believe will be best for their brand. But we will also have our own data. We need to collaborate together so that we can share the data and create campaigns and strategies that will create long-lasting impact.”

There is much work to be done though as 40% of respondents say their organizations don’t effectively use customer data to create new marketing programs. And almost as many— 38%—don’t effectively create and deliver timely content tailored to specific customer personas.

Enter Technology

Tech of course plays a major role considering many of the marketing technology tools live on the B2B brand side—such as the marketing automation system with prospect contact information. The agency will likely need access to the results of marketing campaigns, either directly or indirectly, but that doesn’t mean they have to own and manage the tool.

There is a lot more to this story. Download Getting Down to Business B2B Brands & Agencies Working Together and learn how B2B brands and agencies are translating collaboration into engagement. 

Oracle Blogs | Oracle Marketing Cloud

The WP Theme that’s winning over US Web Design Agencies

This is a sponsored post via Syndicate Ads.

When you’re running a web design agency or digital media company, whether you’re a freelancer, a marketer, working for big businesses or nonprofit organizations, finding the perfect theme is imperative to running your business efficiently.

If you consider how you can maximize productivity, revenues and capability, it actually makes sense to limit the amount of themes you use. Why? Long story short, an intuitive theme that consistently stays on par with industry standards and provides a comprehensive collection of features is going to save you and your clients a lot of time and money.

One Theme To End All Themes

Having been a startup not so long ago, we wanted to create a WordPress theme that would give design agencies and freelancers the flexibility to create stunning, unique websites for all of their clients. The thing is, most of these agencies have clients from sectors across the board. It’s rare to find an agency that only caters to one type of industry, so we knew that we needed to build the perfect solution for designers looking for one theme that could be ‘everything’. Thus began our obsessive endeavour to keep creating new templates and features that would provide a wide scope of customizability.

After our initial production phase, we wanted to find out exactly how Jupiter measured up in helping web design agencies increase their productivity, revenues and capability. So we went straight to the source. We conducted a series of interviews with web design and digital marketing agencies across the United States to get a pulse check on how well Jupiter was fulfilling their requirements. They all gave us invaluable insights into how using one WP theme has helped them to help their clients.

After the first round of interviews was finished, we sifted through pages and pages of their transcripts and found three common points made by all of Jupiter users regarding their experience using Jupiter:

Improved productivity means more time with current and prospective clients!

When you use different themes for different clients, just keeping up with the updates is time consuming. One interview was with New Yorker Micah Blumenthal, founder of CIX Design Agency, which works extensively with nonprofit organizations. During our discussion he was quick to mention how Jupiter helped to cut down on the time spent creating websites.

The WP Theme that’s winning over US Web Design Agencies

“I stumbled upon Jupiter a few years ago and as time went on I found myself almost exclusively working with Jupiter. Why? Well what I found in Jupiter was not only versatility, but early on I also found that you guys have the support! Maybe the biggest thing is that because I’m able to use Jupiter exclusively I don’t have to go to each site and learn the tricks and updates for each theme. I’ve boiled it down to one theme here the lay of the land is familiar to me. I reduced my own learning curve, which is a benefit to my clients and no small thing in the long-run. Everything updates the same behind the curtain which gives me more time to design and produce.”

The WP Theme that’s winning over US Web Design Agencies

Tom Weinkle, founder of Florida- based Florida- based Vortex Communications highlighted how using one theme allowed him to spend more time with his clients highlighting the ever-increase template base Jupiter offers:

“One aspect of all the templates Jupiter has is that it saves time figuring things out so instead of spending your creative energy doing programming, coding or playing with CSS, you can spend time with your client deciding how you want to present information to their audience. The other thing about themes is that building bootstrap and custom websites can add another 30% time and cost. Jupiter allows you and your client to hit the ground running.”

An SEO-friendly Theme is going to give me and my clients better results!

Web design agencies need to be able to provide a site that is fully optimized for search engines. As you already know, getting your website to rank well on Google is incredibly important in ensuring that you’re reaching as many potential visitors as possible.

Since Google has a comprehensive set of rules to follow, every web designer and marketer knows how important it is to have an SEO (Search Engine Optimization) friendly theme. Having this will allow you to construct a website that contains all of the elements that can fulfill SEO criteria.

The WP Theme that’s winning over US Web Design Agencies

Adam Binder, SEO guru and founder of New Jersey-based digital marketing agency, Creative Click Media, explained exactly how Jupiter helped his clients to improve their rankings by cutting page load speeds.

“Page load times are really important for SEO as Google continues to make the web, really, a great place. Google wants to make it easy for people on any device to access a website and they’ve gone through great lengths to make sure that websites that load fast are rewarded and that those which are running slowly are being penalized. Now the Jupiter Theme is fantastic out the box as far as speed. With the upgrade to Version 5 it got even better.”

Adam also emphasized what a benefit it was that Jupiter can embed YouTube videos, highlighting that YouTube is owned by Google and is the second largest search engine. Thus by offering the ability to embed these videos, Jupiter has helped to make his clients’ websites more visible.

The WP Theme that’s winning over US Web Design Agencies

He even shared the results of his client’s successes with us:

“We’ve seen a lot of success with clients from all different industries… getting those results for lots of our clients who have used the Jupiter theme so it’s been a really great boost to our business!”

“Our website has been one of the major successes; in just the year since we switched to the Jupiter Theme, our SEO has skyrocketed. Part of that is definitely due to the help we’ve gotten from the Theme—and it just looks great and I think people like it a lot!”

The WP Theme that’s winning over US Web Design Agencies

Curtis Hays, founder of Michigan-based Curtis Hays Consulting had this to add:

“Especially with the most recent update, speed has been a huge factor and I’ve seen across the board that most sites have dropped their load times—literally cut in half. That’s going to help improve rankings because speed is now a big factor in rankings. It’s going to keep the user on site, lower bounce rates—all of that data leads to conversions which is obviously the main goal.”

Do more for your clients in less time!

Curtis Hays was impressed with how quickly he could have a website up and running, allowing him to focus on other things:

“With a premium theme like Jupiter, we can get you up and running in under two months and that allows us to take advantage of a lot of opportunities!”

The Artbees Care service we offer with Jupiter also seemed to have an effect on improving capability for our users.

José Rosado, freelance web designer explains:

“A big time saver is Artbees Care services—any time I’ve had multiple client requests, I’ve been able to save a lot of time by giving certain parts of each project to the Artbees Care specialists—it’s like having my own personal backup team. I can always count on this care as well as constant updates made to the theme which streamlines the time it takes me to make sure all my client’s sites are updated!”

The WP Theme that’s winning over US Web Design Agencies

Colorado natives Kristen & Trent Blizzard of BlizzardPress explained how their productivity and profitability was boosted using just one theme:

“For us, Jupiter makes life more profitable. We are able to deliver modern sites with varied designs and high functionality for a reasonable cost to the client. We experience higher profitability thanks to the efficiency of using the same theme environment with versatile design tools. Even in a scenario where we know upfront we will be doing customizations to fit a complex client design – we use Jupiter.”

Micah Blumenthal also added that his capability has been increased with word of mouth:

“In the six years I’ve been doing this I’ve never had to go out and find work, I’ve been fortunate enough for work to find me and that’s primarily because people have seen the work that I do with the Jupiter and asked who did that which leads back to me.”

So far, so good. Now let’s see if we can do better.

While we feel gratified to know that Jupiter has been as asset to our users, we know there’s always room for improvement.

Marketing and web design industry standards are ever-changing at a fast pace and not only do we intend to stay on par with those trends, we will continue to expand the scope of functionality of our product and work to improve the user interface to make it as intuitive as possible. You ain’t seen nothing yet.

Onextrapixel – Web Design and Development Online Magazine

The Truth of Selling to Brands vs Agencies

One of the constant questions that I see startups wrestle with is how to think about the selling process of brand marketers vs their agency partners.  Frankly it is a question that does not have clean cut answer.  But, it is a question that I think I am well positioned to at least help with since over my career I have spent two-thirds of my time on the brand side (P&G) and one-third on the agency side (Rockfish).  So how should startups handle the brand vs agency debate?  In my eyes, there is not a single answer but instead several questions that a startup should consider as they build their selling strategy:

Question #1:  Brand Tech? Ad Tech? Retail Tech?  Which budget would your service come out of?

Not all marketing budgets are created equal and not everyone on a brand has equal control on those budgets.  It is vital that a startup realize the type of spend that their company would fall under.  For instance, if you are a media buy or asking people to purchase based on CPMs than you are most likely AdTech.  And as such, you are not going to have much luck pitching to a Brand Manager.  In most cases, especially with the rise of programmatic buying, brands have empowered their media agency or internal media group to own all AdTech decisions.  For all but the largest strategic discussions, marketers turn over the decision on which sites to buy and do not even begin to get into the details of things like real-time bidding.   If you are a shopper marketing play (ie Retail Tech), then you need to be talking to the marketer (and their agency) that owns the relationships with their retail partners and customer teams.  Or if you are Brand Tech / Digital Marketing, then you are probably talking to the Brand Manager and their digital agency.  Startups can waste a lot of time and energy having meetings with people on the brand that really do not have a say on making the buy.  Figure out which budget you fit into and then map the right relationships based on that.

Question #2:  Who is impacted by your product? What work would take place to implement it?

While there is often a single decision maker that gives the go / no go decision on working with your startup, there is a good chance that decision will impact a multitude of folks on the brand and agency side.  Those people can become champions of your solution or there is an equal chance they can become a poison pill that kills the deal.  It is important to try and gain a 360 degree view of the landscape and how your solution might fit.  For instance, many brands are currently working on global templates to bring a common architecture to their websites globally.  If you are attempting to sell a social media content hub to the brand team in North America, you will have to realize the impact that would make on the global template work that another team might have been working on for over a year.  As the worlds of the CMO and CIO continue to blend together, the need to understand the impact of your solution is more important than ever.

Question #3:  Are you selling a “test & learn” to start or a broader implementation?

When a startup first sells to a brand marketer, they quickly learn the term “test & learn”.  Think of it essentially as a trial or foot in the door with the brand that lasts a set amount of time (and usually is under $ 50K at max).  Done right, it can lead to a bigger long term relationship.  Done poorly, it can mean you have shot yourself in the foot and ruined any opportunities in the future.  Some startups try to inherently avoid test & learns but that is a dangerous path.  Instead, you should focus on clearly defining the success metrics of the test & learn and what next steps would look like if those metrics are met.  Excuse the bad analogy, but you want to think of the test & learn as the engagement period that will hopefully lead to a marriage.  Even in those situations where you are pitching a much broader engagement (for instance switching to an entirely new Content Marketing Platform), the startup should look for a way to get a brand to dip their toe in the water.  If you have a great product that truly solves a problem that a brand faces, this trial can be what ultimately leads to you winning the business.

Question #4:  Have other brands or clients at the company / agency worked with you before?

Most startups learn about the concept of social signaling when first dealing with investors.  Well the same holds true with brand marketers and agencies as well.  If your startup has worked with another client at an agency, they are going to do the due diligence of finding out what worked and what did not.  And they will do the same if you have worked with another brand within a company.  You can use this to your advantage as well because marketers like to know that someone else has taken that first risk on your startup and worked out all of the kinks.  And frankly even more importantly, they know that someone else has the scars on their back from doing the hard work of getting your startup through legal and set up in their purchasing / payment system.  That seems like a small thing but it is actually a very big thing for most folks.  On the flip side, if this is the first time your startup has worked with a certain company, realize that you are asking that person on the other side of the table to not only say yes, but to also be a champion  for you internally.  You need to reward and recognize them for the extra work that in many times they will be doing on your behalf (this holds true if its on the brand or agency side).

Question #5:  What is the role and authority of the person you are talking to?

One of the biggest mistakes that a startup makes is not understanding the person they are selling to.  In general, they make two types of mistakes in this regard.  The first is they assume the more senior the person is, the better for them to sell to.  For instance, just last week a startup sent a LinkedIn message to the President of a large CPG that I know.  This President has overall Profit & Loss responsibility for his division yet this startup was trying to get him to meet to talk about a small digital activation of less than $ 100K (a rounding error in his budget).  The second mistake is that they don’t understand the role the person has within the organization.  There is a big difference between a Brand Manager that has budget responsibility and an Innovation Manager that is responsibility for exploring new areas.  Its not that one is better than the other but instead their internal reward structures are different.  For instance, the Brand Manager is going to be measured on growing their top and bottom line of the business – not on creating a new innovative marketing campaign necessarily.  Likewise on the agency side, the Account Director might not “own” the budget for the client, but they likely have one of the closest relationships and ability to convince them why it is worth taking a risk on a new idea.

If a startup goes in understanding these questions about their business and the company they are talking with, it will help them figure out the right path to explore.  There are amazing opportunities for brands and startups to more closely collaborate but it will take both sides working to make the most of the relationship.

Hard Knox Life

We Asked Agencies to Share Their Oddest Decorations, and They Did Not Disappoint

Not every marketing agency can be an architectural marvel, but they do all tend to have at least one oddly compelling bit of decor that reminds you you're not in a law office.

Just for fun, we decided to ask our Twitter followers to share some of their favorite pieces of office decoration, and they did not disappoint. Below you'll find a recap of our favorites.

Adweek : Advertising & Branding