Time, Timing, and Partnerships: A Winning Strategy

10.29.18   Kimberly McCabe

Have you heard? Brands are bringing more work in-house. Internal agencies are growing. And at the same time marketing budgets are growing. Digital is now BAU. But according to Forrester’s 2018 Customer Experience Index (CX Index) for US brands, brands are not delivering.

The good news is that there’s opportunity. The challenge is understanding where the distractors are and where brands are struggling. While I can’t proclaim to know all of the factors, after many discussions with various players I can tell you about a fairly consistent problem. Time. The infamous TTM (time to market).

Some brands are bringing some work in house because of TTM. And let’s face it, ‘timing’ wraps around ‘customer experience’ like a glove. You’ve heard it a million times. You need the right message at the right time. Consumers, just like you and I, expect to have things when we need them. And when they don’t, we tend to be not a bit unforgiving.

So brands face a lot of challenges. There are more competitors with less barriers to entry. Is there any industry safe from disruption? This is why timing is key. No matter what the challenge, task or strategy -- time plays an important role.

Some agencies and consultancies are slower than others. Some aren’t in the business of deploying smaller projects. Some of the largest agencies in the world don’t always have the resources available to deliver in the timeframe clients want. More frequently, brands aren’t able to get what they want in the timeframe they need. In recent history they just accepted that if they wanted a particular agency to do the work, they’d have to wait or pay overtime. But usually they’d wait. But now TTM is too important — there’ just too much at stake.

To meet their TTM demands, brands sometimes make do with the available resources they have and don’t get a result that’s everything it could (or should) be. As the saying goes, “Jack of All Trades, Master of None”. There’s some truth to that. While there is value in having generalist capabilities, sometimes the best results come from the experts that focus their entire business on doing something really well. And often with complicated projects, the overall results are best when you work with the best for every element of a project. We don’t second-guess this concept when it comes to high-risk projects like building a skyscraper. Have you ever seen how they put the spire on the Burj Khalifa, the highest building in the world at over 800 meters from the ground? An architectural team designed it. A team of specialized engineers selected the right materials in the right places to ensure the safety and durability of the design. A specialized construction team built it. And they hired someone that was specialized in being able to move a spire into place at such an elevation with enormous winds.

So when delivering Customer Experiences, brands often sacrifice expertise for TTM. Is that dangerous? Is the reason Forrester claims there’s no customer experience leaders in the USA because TTM concerns are causing agencies to execute faster with lower expertise? Or does this challenge actually align with McKinsey’s research and prediction (which we’ve discussed in our ebook) that the future is brands having an ecosystem of agencies which they will call upon for their highly specialized services when they need them?