Why Digital Marketing Agencies struggle to retain Corporate Clients

Marketing struggles to get the C Suite to see them as important. They can struggle to get budget and approval for the next campaign. This puts the focus quite rightly on the history of wins.
Digital Marketing agencies supply reporting. This is a key part of this history. So clear reporting really helps the Chief Marketing Office (CMO). It helps them win friends and carry the boardroom.

Buyers like retendering to cut costs.

Does your agency have an good defensive strategy?


  • How do you differentiate?
  • How do you make the pain of disconnection real?
  • Are you making it almost impossible to compare your agency with others?
  • Are you building networks across your clients.
  • Do clients value the relationships with your agency experts
  • Do clients value the reporting?

Relationships are fragile. Corporate marketing staff certainly leave and move regularly. A large robust network of influencers is crucial. Report distribution make it easier to do this.
Creating these networks within your key accounts is a useful insurance policy. It’ll help retain clients long term.

But adopting the tactics and strategies that most agencies adopt doesn’t help. You need to be different.

Why SaaS is hurts digital marketing agencies

Self service helps SaaS vendors grow quickly. Some side effects of SaaS are subtle and nasty. Particularly when the service is marketing reporting.
Someone still has to create the reports that the SaaS vendor dodged. If your agency takes this on then you battle with:

  • a workforce that isn’t excited by another drag and drop editor. Nor by another series of repetitive tasks.
  • Features that are constrained by the need to be self service. Why? A flexible data processing system is pretty abstract. Marketing users may be poor at using an abstract model of this kind. Data analysts and programmers are much better.
  • A vendor who acts like a truant. The vendors are remote from end customers. That severely limits the learning vendors gain. The devil is in the detail of the data. It’s hard to produce good marketing reports.

Other side effects of SaaS

  • Poor incentives. Product innovation tends to be dominated by technical capability push. And the influence of market pull is minimised. The product features aren’t informed by the end user of the marketing reports. So new features are created “because we can”. They are not created “because the end user wanted or valued it”.
  • Often systems simply re-display the data available from online systems. There is little or no transformation. This makes creating high value information much harder. Sometimes it’s impossible. This means persuasive stories are hard to tell.
  • Formal requirements documentation is rare. Monthly subscription services have discouraged it. When systems cost many  £10,000s formal requirements were  essential. Consultancy support was also a natural part. The buying organisation would ensure the purchased facilities were “fit for purpose”. Both in the medium and longer term.
  • Long term flexibility to deal with your evolving customer needs isn’t assured.
Does your agency stand out? Really?

Standard distribution tactics won’t differentiate your digital marketing agency.

Why not create a situation where procurement finds it difficult to swap your agency out?

A subversive approach for agencies

Why not use marketing dashboards to build relationships across the client.

But not just any kind of standard dashboard. If senior management view the dashboard high quality reporting is required. And the skill with which you “tailor” the message to suit each recipient has to be good.
The dashboard should quickly show “what they should care about and why”. There is a premium on quick access and clarity. Everyone wants information to be easily assimilated.

The prize ought to be obvious. Any agency wants relationships built and value appreciated. Most importantly by the movers and shakers across their corporate client. This moves your digital agency far away from being a “swappable commodity”.

It becomes harder for procurement to cast your agency aside. Particularly if the only gain is a small reduction in cost.

What kind of reporting do you need?

You’ll need a reporting system that:

  • Uses organisational context to select the report variant to show.
  • Enables controlled distribution to differing roles across the corporate client.
  • Shares compelling stories.
  • Uses any of the rich media that the web allows.

So what should Digital Marketing Agencies do?

Digital marketing agencies ought to look at solutions that are far from “minimal”. And a long way from the excel plus email mindset.

So a disciplined approach should see the reporting system as a strategic asset. And build on this investment in the long term.

A manufactured product would be introduced via :

  • Proving trials.
  • Smaller scale usage.
  • Expanded usage – driven by benefit and organisational fit.
  • Modular expansion.
  • A long term programme that started small.  And then expanded to realise major benefits to all concerned.

Clients would support this investment as they realised the advantages from higher quality reporting.

This is a radical approach. It would transform the relationship between marketing agencies and their clients.

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