Consultancy vs. Agency: The New Model for Marketing Service Providers

There seems to be a swelling volume of blogs and articles on the types of service providers marketing is looking for. To whom should marketing turn to for help?

Before we propose an answer, let’s quickly identify a few dynamics among marketers and their service providers:

  • Too often, organizational barriers and politics inhibit substantive change.
  • AdTech and MarTech remain fragmented, but are maturing. Marketers are now seeking to optimize with vendor-agnostic SMEs, who are few and far between.
  • Transformation initiatives become too big and collapse on their own weight; or they are too narrowly scoped, leaving some parts of the organization behind.
  • Marketing is increasingly a digital profession, and Agile marketing is becoming mainstream.
  • In lieu of service providers who can “put it all together,” clients are slowly but surely building the expertise in-house.
  • External agencies are nervous, no longer confident what it means to be “digital” or full service.”

Marketings’ Service Providers Are as Fragmented as the Clients They Serve

The usual advisors for marketing are struggling. Historically, agencies have little interest or expertise in the operational end, while the big systems integrators have only a narrow view of customer engagement. The large consulting firms tend to be as siloed as the companies they serve, so they struggle to unite their pockets of knowledge and support a deep-seated transformation in a reasonable amount of time.

Emanating from the wave of digital transformation in the last couple years, large consulting firms – Accenture, McKinsey and the like – have forged marketing transformation models that fill gaps in traditional service models with skills from management consulting; marketing strategy; technology (all of operational-, marketing-, and advertising-technologies), media, and communication execution to support change. Unfortunately, outside of Fortune 500 CEOs and CMOs, the offerings of very large, expensive, service providers are cumbersome and not realistic to take on.

Figure 1: Exposed Gaps is Classic Marketing Service Provider Expertise

The HOW (transformation methodology) is as Important as the WHAT (marketing strategies and tactics)

At Zee Jay, we are less concerned with how we refer to ourselves (agency or consultant types), and more focused on a flexible approach that allows for multiple entry points (top down or bottom up change), creates and pursues an achievable vision, and applies contemporary development concepts that overcome our clients’ organizational challenges.

  • For top down transformation, we build consensus among senior stakeholders and define change in the most actionable unit of work: the customer journey.
  • For tech leaders, we assess and integrate the technology stack with a focus on the data that drives personalization from owned and external sources.
  • For marketing and creative leaders, we identify and build foundational frameworks that help align, activate, and deploy processes that are best fit for the nature of the work: Waterfall and Agile.

Unlike the large (largest!) consulting firms, these multiple entry points allow us to scale up and down to meet the needs of marketers of all stripes.

Figure 2: Think + Align + Build + Scale = ↑$MM

 

On the surface, this approach looks extraordinarily (and perhaps frighteningly) like a heavy, classic consulting methodology, requiring an army of expensive consultants, but don’t mistake comprehensiveness for cumbersome over-complication.

Our approach sets a broad vision and leadership alignment, then deliberately paces the transition to a new operating model calibrated for the needs of the client. The transformation is founded on a sustainable technology platform and durable marketing frameworks. Waterfall and Agile development methods should be incrementally deployed and honed over time, while making substantive changes to customer journeys along the way.

Our projects don’t just end in PowerPoint slides… we execute. To do this, we draw on resources and skills from all types of service providers to marketing, without the weight (and expense) of an engagement with large global consulting firm.

Call it what you want, “agency” or “consultancy.”