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According to 2016 Smith & Beta data, 93% of agency employees feel they are not exceeding client expectations.
It's an ironic stat, considering the entire digital media industry was built on the promise of technology doing more, reaching more customers, and being more effective – but the tools and systems we're using are outdated, fragmented, and inefficient, and we can't provide the performance or the results our clients are looking for.
We've reached another new inflection point in digital, and technology is the driving force. Again.
So, how do we fix this?
Automation Eliminates Repetitive Tasks
Digital media strategists are no strangers to being asked the question: "What should I buy?"
And their answer used to be an important and core value-add for clients. But, there's a shift underway in digital, with this shift comes an evolution in the role marketers and digital strategists will play for their clients going forward. As technology has evolved, there's now software on the market that's able to automate the workflow and execution process of digital media ad buying and answer that question on its own.
Where does that leave the human beings behind the technology and the campaigns? Will we eventually see a fully automated digital world that doesn't require or need human thinking?
Not necessarily. Unless we hit the point where computers can generate original, creative, and strategic ideas on their own, a strategist still has a place in digital media – though in a different capacity.
As tech shifts to this type of automation, the role of a strategist will be a better match to the job title: To be more of a strategic marketing consultant to clients, offering competitive analysis, product differentiation analysis, and determining the right audiences, goals, and KPIs for their client's media dollars. As Ad Age contributor Jack Skeels noted in a recent column, “Clients pay more when the agency is strategically focused and offers unique services."
There were, and still are, many areas where the advertising industry is woefully insufficient because too many people are spending time on mundane tasks. The days of spending an entire day pulling and formatting reports from various systems and platforms are quickly coming to an end. Automation affords agencies the opportunity to shift to a more strategic focus.
Intelligence Fosters Competitive Difference
In addition to automation, intelligence will play a major role in reshaping what people do and the value they can bring to clients. One of the downsides to today's digital landscape is that media teams are using multiple platforms and systems, and actionable and valuable insights aren't easily accessed or contained to one system. Teams are left spending time on manual and operational tasks – not strategic work. And, even if there were time for critical thinking and analysis, many agencies are dealing with a sub-par roster of metrics and analytics tools to track, report, and review campaigns.
Creating software that automates the repetitive tasks leaves more time for critical thinking, reporting, or data-driven analysis about what's going right or wrong with campaigns. And using that software and freeing up time to focus on strategy gives you the insight you need to find the best successes, execute, and report them back to your clients. Accurate, immediate, and easy access to performance data and actionable customer insights is what will drive client relationships, differentiate your agency, and set you up for long-term success.
Strategic Relationships Build Trust
The SoDA Report, which assesses the state of the agency-client relationship every year, in 2016 asked both clients and agencies to rank the areas of expertise they believe to be the most valuable. The number one thing both valued the most? Strategic leadership.
The added benefit of being positioned strategically -- and research confirms this, according to Skeels -- is that buyers wind up trusting sellers more. There isn't anything intrinsically buried into the technology stack that provides tools for cultivating stronger relationships, but it's an added (and hidden) benefit. When technology begins to provide transparency, innovation, and strategy, the relationship dynamic will no longer be based on price, standard components, or specifications. Approaching the relationship strategically, providing thoughtful insight, learning new things, and testing new approaches can only help to strengthen a relationship – providing that value keeps an agency in business, and keeps a client aware of where their money is going.
As digital evolves, so too do the tech, tools, and solutions that are available to us. The complexity of digital today often feels like more than our current tech can handle. But the answer to this digital evolution and the answer to long-term success lies in technology.