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The setup of the most effective and most efficient service provider pool

One evergreen of marketing management generates more need for action during the current crisis than ever before: the setup of the most effective and most efficient service provider pool irrespective of the number of service providers included.

To some companies and industries the crisis will have an overall accelerant-like effect, something that applies to this subject in particular. That’s because with the start of the new decade and another massive wave of digitalisation, dramatic change was already taking place exactly where the effects of the crisis were heightening urgency and pushing in particular the need to reach, treat and inspire customers as they would expect to be in 2020.

The need for action in this context extends equally across many levels – from content and organisational levels, to the process and economic levels.

One basic, yet often overlooked, task is to firstly check the focus of the different service providers. The objective here is to synchronise their subjective-based actual perception with the actual vision of the contracting companies, to reveal any resulting blurs, and to finally determine what needs are to be adjusted. In many instances it emerges at this point that a mutually defined basis simply doesn’t exist, thus making real focused cooperation impossible. One reason for this is a structural problem in the industry itself: there is an increasing trend in the development of markets towards temporary, non-binding business relations between tendering companies and bidding service providers. In this respect, it is only logical – though counterproductive – for companies to only integrate agencies at a relatively low level when it comes to content. The concern of suffering collateral damage in such dynamic market conditions is too great. Despite this ambivalence, it must be realised that only those who consistently and consciously attune all relevant stakeholders within their setup to the defined company vision and the related goals can expect the perfect contribution from their service providers.

Besides synchronising the focus, a fundamental comparison of the actions of the different service providers should be carried out to uncover content overlaps and identify possible inconsistencies. Despite the marketing industry concentrating for years on integrated communications, extensive shortcomings are still evident here. The comparison must go into minute detail so that the actual function of every single action is visible. Only then can roles be clearly assigned and divided. The motive for all these efforts is not cosmetic but to maximise the effectiveness of each single action.

When there is a clear understanding regarding the content level, the organisational setup must then be analysed accordingly. It’s not without reason that the principle of agile working is now gradually asserting itself beyond its software context: this leads, on the one hand, to a return to what in itself is a very trivial realisation that lean, interdisciplinary and preferably self-determined teams deliver the best results and, on the other hand, to organisational discourse reverting back to an exclusive, content-driven level. In view of the established practices in the principal-agent relationship in recent years, this development was overdue. The concentration is at last on the tasks at hand and always against a backdrop of clearly defined goals, not on possible suspicions of service providers pursuing their own commercial interests. That’s because in the end this is where the major opportunities for both sides lie.

Once clear structuring of the content and organisational levels have taken place, possible redundancies can then be identified and synergies created alongside the tasks and activities. Sustained focus on this subject can also be seen as a preventative measure against growing staffing levels often resulting from new buzzwords. Continued reflection of all actual incoming tasks and the actual skills required can develop into a huge lever for efficiency improvements.

A similarly strong efficiency lever can also be found on the process level. This is where weaknesses on the addressed organisational level are often potentiated. But even with a well set-up organisation it is not uncommon for process weaknesses to occur. Recognising, addressing and using targeted measures to eliminate these can reveal unexpected potentials. Particularly in the context of today’s compulsion to real-time marketing, structured monitoring of KPIs is necessary for optimal process design. Because as mentioned at the beginning: customers in today’s world must be reached, handled and inspired as they expect to be in these times of ever-smoother and ever-performing customer experiences. Any deviation from this is no longer seen by today’s critical customers as a mere triviality, but as a real disappointment – something that no company in this day and age can afford.

Lastly, attention must turn of course to the cost structure. The main cost drivers of all levels mentioned earlier should be recorded and firmly discussed, as well as compared with alternative approaches in the context of a benchmark system. Only then can the maximum ROI be achieved from marketing’s ever-continuing and drastically increasing opportunities.

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