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As Digital Marketers Battle for Customer Insight, Agencies Maneuver to Help

By Jay Wilson | April 01, 2021 | 2 Comments

marketingCustomer Understanding and Marketing ExecutionDigital Marketing Strategy and Executionmagic quadrant

Gartner for Marketers published two significant pieces of research over a two- day span in mid-March.  First, our annual Magic Quadrant for Global Marketing Agencies, quickly followed by our Digital Marketing Survey, 2021 – published as a trilogy of insights about marketing leaders’ challenges.

The parallels found between these two studies is striking.  Namely, our Digital Marketing Survey finds that marketers continue to struggle  to deliver customer understanding, while the Magic Quadrant noted agencies attempting to rise to that challenge by developing proprietary approaches to customer data and insight, while leveraging their marketing experience across industries.

From a client perspective, a lack of customer understanding isn’t founded in a lack of data, as the Digital Marketing Survey points out.  Rather, it’s a problem of context – listening and learning from customers, and connecting customer data points to drive desired business outcomes.

This often requires broader, cross-industry expertise, and that’s where agencies are uniquely positioned to help.  Indeed, according to the Digital Marketing Survey, 59% of digital marketing leaders report a large dependence on agencies for digital marketing execution.  23% say they also largely rely on agencies to set marketing strategy.

Although marketers tell us that they’ve accelerated in-housing of some marketing capabilities – in our recent CMO Spend Survey 32% report moving some previously outsourced marketing work in-house – they’re still spending largely the same amount with agencies year over year.  This indicates a shift in the work agencies are doing, and that ties back to customer insight.  In our Magic Quadrant research on agencies, we find that agencies who are able to optimize multiple data sources and analytics to drive actionable insight – combined with 5 other key attributes – are those best positioned to thrive in 2021 and beyond.

The unique perspective leading agencies bring, with their experience working concurrently in multiple industries, for clients with diverse business models, across geographies, that ensures they are able to remain relevant to today’s CMO, even as agencies’ core business offerings – creative, content, and media, are increasingly insourced.

As the Digital Marketing survey noted, “strategic use of outsourcing for digital marketing strategy development and execution represents a bulwark against disruption”. Digital marketing leaders who’ve reduced their reliance on agencies in certain areas would be remiss to ignore the strategic value agencies can bring on the customer insight front.

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