The Alignment Gap, Concierge Marketing And The Future Of Agencies

The Alignment Gap, Concierge Marketing And The Future Of Agencies

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Summary: The story of why I decided to start the world’s first true “Concierge Marketing” service for large and mid-size brands.

It all started because I knew the one thing I didn’t want to do.

About three months ago I left my role at one of the biggest marketing agencies in the world and the only thing I knew for sure was that I had no desire to start my own agency. I hated billing by the hour. I didn’t want to build a team of my own. But most of all I knew that there was something missing in nearly every project I had worked on for the last 12 years. Something that no brand team OR agency alone had the answer to.

In a word, it came down to alignment.

Yes, I know the word “alignment” immediately may inspire many of us to reach for our imaginary “buzzword bingo” game board. It is certainly overused. But many of the biggest problems brand marketing teams face today come down to what you could call the Alignment Gap.

The Alignment Gap is a mismatch of strategy, resources, or incentives that reduces how well your marketing works. Solving it means your marketing can drive real business value through either selling more products/services, growing more customer evangelism, or delivering more customer satisfaction.

This Alignment Gap in real life typically leads to the five most common big challenges that nearly every large or mid-size company marketing team faces today:

  1. Justifying Budget. Proving REAL results to senior management to defend or justify budgets and resources.
  2. Collaborating Better. Dealing with internal disagreements over resources and ownership that result in slow action and “death by committee.”
  3. Setting The Vision. Avoiding incomplete or hastily prepared strategy and creative briefs that result in misunderstanding or lower quality work.
  4. Incentivizing Partners. Managing agencies/partners fighting over budget and responsibilities, which leads to biased or nonstrategic recommendations.
  5. Innovating Strategically. Making the right bets on up and coming technology or platforms to avoid the hype, but sstill innovate ahead of competitors.

Agencies, of course, are easy scapegoats on whom to blame these problems. When you work at an agency, you know that you’re probably going to be on the receiving end of criticism for anything that doesn’t quite work – whether it happens to be your fault or not. But agencies are not the problem. And alone they can’t offer the solution either. Most agency-client relationships need something else to bridge that gap.

So the real question is, what does the solution look like?

I have spent the last several months thinking about that challenge. When Jonathan Kaplan, the founder of the Flip camera was working with branding agencies to develop a name for his new camera when he famously came up with the idea of calling it the “Flip” after fooling around with his spring loaded Audi keychain.

For me, that “flip moment” came while watching a special episode of one of my favourite shows on TV – Royal Pains. The show is about a doctor who decides to build a new kind of “concierge medicine” practice in the Hamptons. He travels to patients’ houses, helps them with conditions and spots the things that modern medicine can’t (or won’t).

Sure, it has its fair share of romance, intrigue and stuff blowing up … but the practice of Concierge Medicine is very real and growing. In fact, a recent BusinessWeek article even wondered if it might be “the future of health care.”

What might happen if we applied this model to the world of business and marketing as well?  That’s exactly what Concierge Marketing aims to do – and why I am devoting a big part of my time to launching this as the flagship offering from the Influential Marketing Group.

Concierge Marketing is a straightforward model for unlimited and unbiased marketing, branding and social media advice from an independent and experienced brand marketing consultant.

Learn more about Concierge Marketing >>

 

FAQ About Concierge Marketing (Read for more details!)

Why Is Concierge Marketing Different From A Traditional Agency Model?

  1. Flat retainers, no projects or hourly fees.
  2. Real time help – 24/7 when you need it (included in retainer).
  3. Long term relationship, not campaign, channel or vertical based.
  4. Designed to work WITH your existing agencies, not replace them.
  5. No junior or support staff – all work delivered by the person you actually hired.
  6. Unbiased credible advice from former agency leader, best selling author & current Georgetown University Professor.

How Does This Model Scale?

The short answer is, it doesn’t. That’s why most agencies or consultancies don’t offer this. My aim, instead is to be up front with the model and only work with brands who I can truly help. So, I will ONLY work with 6 clients at any time under this model. And I already have my first two clients. The end result is, you can be sure your time is not diluted – and I can make sure I am not overloaded with too many clients to reduce my ability to provide great support.

Do You Really Need Concierge Marketing?

This model is NOT for every brand. In fact, BECAUSE my time doesn’t scale – I can afford to be upfront with you about whether this model will work for your brand or not because I only have capacity to take on 6 clients at any time. Here are a few prime indicators for whether you might be a great candidate for this model:

  1. You currently work with more than 2 agencies on different aspects of your marketing mix.
  2. You are planning for a new year of activity or a large product/service launch.
  3. You have an RFP in market or are in the midst of evaluating new partners or agencies.
  4. You have budget constraints for hiring, which requires you to bring in external support.

Why Would My Agencies Want Another Partner?

So you already have agencies – won’t bringing on another person cause tension with those relationships?  Good question! I have spent over ten years working as an agency leader.  The end result is, I know what they need to have a great client relationship with you – and I can help you develop it.  Sometimes this comes down to creating a better brief so they have stronger and clearer marching orders to develop programs. In other cases, it may mean helping to get them more immediate feedback so they can keep working and delivering. Some might call it “agency optimization”  - but ultimately it helps everyone.  You get a better product, and the agencies can deliver better work … which helps them keep you happy and continuing to work with them.

Why Can’t Anyone Be A “Concierge Marketing” Consultant?

Well, to be honest – anyone could.  But there are a few things that make this a unique offering that I believe would be hard for other marketing consultants to duplicate:

  1. Channel Expertise.  I started my career working in direct marketing and print advertising.  Then I led an interactive and digital team, and working with television advertising. Then I moved to PR and media, and built a social media team from scratch.  Finally, I was part of a brand and business strategic consulting team.  The end result of this is that I understand marketing from every channel – and never approach marketing from an “evangelist” point of view to say one solution fits everything.
  2. Industry Expertise. I have never focused on a single industry vertical.  As a result, I have spent time working in financial services, consumer products, travel, technology, healthcare, nonprofit, and even  farming.  This broad industry approach means, I can not only understand your industry quickly (and have a good frame of reference from my previous work), but also that I can bring insights and models from outside your industry that may add value.
  3. Large Brand Expertise.  I have spent my career working with large brands. This means I understand the politics and different team elements involved. I understand where the turf battles occur, and how to sell in a program to senior management. I live in Powerpoint. All of which means, I can help you navigate the sea of pitfalls that every large organization faces – and actually help you get the resources you need to get things done.

What Are Some Examples Of How You Can Help?

The unlimited focus of this offer means you can get help with pretty much anything you need, whenever you need it.  Think of it as having a senior level marketing resource “on call” for anything that comes up.  Here are just a few of the examples of situations where you could use this Concierge Marketing service:

  • Justify and secure more budget or resources - Assist in developing strategic plans and add input to help secure more budget or resources.
  • Explain social media and digital to skeptical senior management – Often having a recognized third party expert author (and University Professor!) can help to lend more credibility to your plan and validate its important for senior leaders who may need this external support in order to sign off.
  • Improve presentations – Simplify strategy, assist to making more visual presentations, refine pitches, and help tell your story better to your stakeholders.
  • Learn from other industries – Get external insights from other industries that can inform your strategy.
  • Offer a proactive point of view – When big news hits, often you’re asked internally for a quick point of view.  Now you don’t have to spend hours trying to build it on your own without any help.
  • Get immediate crisis + real time response advice – When you are in a crisis situation, get access to immediate advice and feedback (particularly useful when dealing with real time issues in social media)
  • Evaluate current campaigns/strategy – Having a “gut check” on existing campaigns and auditing existing strategy can help make quick adjustments to improve results.
  • Review your current partners with a neutral 3rd party expert view - Who better to review current agency recommendations and vendor solutions than a former agency exec who has done them before?
  • Writing better creative briefs – Often the results you get from campaigns and creative thinking depend on how well you can brief your teams – I have written hundreds and can help improve yours.
  • Team recruitment and structuring – How can you best structure your team for success – and how do you look for new team members?  I have hired dozens of marketers and helped large brands structure marketing teams, break silos and build models for new social media centers of excellence.
  • Brainstorm creative ideas & problems – Need better ideas or a quick brainstorm? Often a quick call or some ideas over email can spark a new direction, and help build that flash of insight that you need.

What’s The Small Print?

There are, of course, a few things that are not included in this concierge marketing model. I will never hide that fact.  The rationale for this isn’t because I want a chance to sell you something else.  Instead it is because I do have some services that I offer in other parts of my business for an additional fee which take extended periods of time and don’t fit well into the Concierge Marketing model. The list is fairly short – and again my aim is to be completely transparent with what they are before we start working together. A few excluded services are:

  • Day long workshops or meeting facilitations
  • Keynote speaking or large group presentations
  • Large scale original content creation (such as ebooks or reports)
  • Travel expenses or other expenses (I never charge for sneaky things like faxes or long distance phone charges)

How Much Does This Cost?

These services are based on a retainer model – so essentially you can choose from a 3, 6 or 12 month engagement, and the pricing will vary based on the time you select. You can cancel anytime and the work will be prorated so you can get a refund for any unused time. As outlined before, this is a flat rate retainer based model – so you will never be charged per hour. Expenses for larger things, like flights or hotels are extra – but I also don’t believe in charging for things that should be part of my own cost of doing business … so you won’t get invoiced for things like phone calls or gas for driving to meetings. I am upfront about invoicing, and you will know exactly what the budget should be before we start working together.

To get an exact quote as well as a customized proposal on how I might be able to help your brand – email me at rohit [at] workwithimg [dot] com or use my contact form.

How Else Can We Work Together?

At any time, this Concierge Marketing model may not be ideal for you or your brand – but there still may be a way we can work together. I have a series of signature workshops that I have developed in collaboration with industry thought leaders, and this list is growing every month.

For the latest list of workshops avaiable, visit http://www.rohitbhargava.com/workshops

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