What financial services companies can learn from marketing agencies

Bart Burggraaf

“It is so very important you find staff and partners that know and understand your business – without this experience you would be very lucky to get any results the first couple of campaigns around” – Bart Burggraaf, Managing Partner, MediaGroup Worldwide.

Bart Burggraaf, Partner at MediaGroup London, is a widely regarded specialist and expert in managing marketing strategies for the FX industry. Here he goes into detail about how the experience garnered within marketing agencies can be imparted to the financial services sector

I’d like to think brands work with agencies because of some spark of genius they would be unable to find among their own employees. Ideas that only they hold the key to that promise to transform a business and bring in mountains of new business. Alas, while the mentioned is definitely part of the reason brands (should) work with agencies, the real reasons are mostly related to buying power, process standardisation, specialisation and experience. I’ll explain each in turn and discuss what brands can do to emulate this in the marketing department or other areas of their business.

Buying power is a term mostly used to describe agencies that buy from the same publishers for several brands and so are able to leverage their large budgets to get better pricing. Companies looking to do advertising themselves or use this principle in other areas of their business should consider appointing a vendor manager who is in charge of negotiations and contract formalizations.

Bart Burggraaf

While ideally everyone in the company keeps a sharp eye on the purse strings, incentives are not always aligned to do so, and brands can benefit from centralizing this function to some degree. At the very least, for the vendors that are essential, make long term contracts to get better pricing over flexibility.

Process standardisation and specialisation is probably the most interesting part that brands can learn from agencies. How is it that agencies are able to perform services such as buying advertising for all those clients, report and optimize, strategize and so on, with relatively lean teams?

The key is in specialisation and standardisation of processes. For instance, when it comes time to build and execute a mediaplan, everyone knows what to do. Account managers brief after talking to a client, the planning team plans and negotiates, the trafficking team gets the ads live and with the publishers, accounts do invoicing and administration and the reporting and optimization team reports results back to account managers while account managers talk to the client.

It’s a smooth process and it works because everyone covers a part of the journey. There are tightly defined job roles that everyone fulfils and execution is almost military in nature. Brands can emulate this process not by hiring entire teams, but at least by dividing up tasks among dedicated specialized staff for all countries rather than having one person per country to do all of ‘online’ – for instance.

Experience is a big one too. In my opinion the best agencies focus on specific markets and/or industries. No one can know everything and while I am proud of the marketing agency we have built, we don’t pretend to be experts in industrial waste management marketing or some such subject. Believe it or not there are agencies out there that specialize in your industry and failing that, there might be staff at agencies that have relevant experiences for most industries.

It is so very important you find staff and partners that know and understand your business – without this experience you would be very lucky to get any results the first couple of campaigns around. So the same goes for your staff. There is more than enough experienced staff out there in your industry, whether it is payments, fintech, brokerages or banking. Still, I see so many companies hire graduates or people from completely different industries. Why? To save a few bucks? Not a good enough reason, especially not for functions that touch high budgets.

So that leaves me to say that while these are all great things to learn from, by no means are all agencies perfect, so don’t take the emulation too far. Your company structure and working methods still need to fit your brand and culture, nothing is more important for your long term success.

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