Keeping the spark alive: why relationships matter more than ever in the tech era

The value of an ongoing dialogue between supplier and client should not be eroded by the inclusion of tech platforms as any part of strategy - keep the conversations going and set clear lines in the sand around what you’re measuring, how and what success looks like.

Rupesh Sharma, VP of Client Services at RealTime, reflects on the irony of “penning a piece on the importance of client-supplier relationships” in the age of automation, but a narrow focus on platform is draining true understanding, and the erosion of partnership approaches to strategy will harm, not help efficiency.

You might think the emergence of tech platforms that do the heavy lifting of digital marketing would bring to an end ‘keep in touch’ strategies and regular reporting. And – essentially – an ongoing dialogue between brand teams and external experts on the true impact and ongoing value delivered by the platform to the business.

This is a consequence of a narrow focus on platform, and it’s becoming a problem. In too many cases it’s draining a true understanding of client issues and supplier solutions. This erosion of a partnership approach to strategy is potentially harmful and needs to stop.

Which comes first: the problem or the solution?

Many of you will have had the following experience.

As a supplier, you’re working alongside a brand with an innovative piece of technology, and there’s usually a ruthless focus on maximising media campaign efficiency.

Initial tests show great uplift, and the focus quickly turns into tunnel vision. But then along comes another stakeholder – often higher up the food chain – who introduces new metrics driven by another platform or data source to pour cold water on your results. Suppliers are often excluded on this basis – an experience I’m not in a rush to repeat.

Diving straight into the data produced and measured by your platform is the wrong strategy. Instead, it’s vital to take a step back at the start.

It’s the only chance you’ll have to properly consider strategic goals and set parameters of success. Without doing so, you risk wasting time hunting for proof further down the line and, selfishly, you undermine your own opportunity to prove your value to the client.

How to agree on meaningful measurement

Brands are demanding a holistic view of how their campaigns and budgets are performing so they can optimise and improve results. This requires a strategy up front that wraps in the right people and the best approach to measurement from the beginning.

Clients require a solution that helps them understand, with confidence, the impact of all elements of their marketing activity. This allows better budget-making decisions and a better chance of maximising ROI when the campaign results roll in.

Here’s some things you should consider when agreeing measurement strategy:

  • Have a firm grasp on how activity currently tracks, and whether this approach is likely to
  • help brands truly understand that activity’s value.
  • Demand buy-in from all parties on what will be measured and how, and a clear definition of success.
  • Recognise that the bigger the proportion of the media budget you own, the better the outcomes are likely to be. You’ll have more control over the scope and measurement of activity.
  • Seek access to all available data to shape models and make better marketing decisions, rather than paying lip service to strategy.
  • Agree a clear testing framework that will be implemented for all types of activity.

All these factors must be considered before any work can get under way, as well as being baked into the interpretation of results, insight into impact of activity, and understanding the path.

Remember, though, that every client is different, so ‘holistic’ measurement may not be possible in and of itself. It’s desirable, but understanding the nuances of business goals, marketing strategy and measurement preferences from the outset is the key to influencing eventual outcomes.

Measurement in a shifting digital landscape

Times are changing, and clients are demanding up-to-date knowledge of the digital measurement landscape; or at least suppliers that infuse solutions with real-time knowledge of these strategic shifts.

Major changes include the impact of iOS 14.5 and a cookieless future which is just round the corner. There’s much complexity and confusion about what this means for measurement, but it’s worth noting that solutions exist which don’t rely on personal data. Many of the tools aid understanding of the true value of marketing activity beyond existing attribution technology that’s in place today.

Our industry is slowly starting to align with key dates for change and the expected impacts. We’re also collectively realising existing measurement techniques must be revised.

Yet it’d be great to see a more agile approach applied universally. Helping clients to understand the potential impact of what’s to come, and supporting them with expertise and best practice, is the way forward.

It’s just another example of the importance of dialogue, relationships, and avoiding an over-reliance on technology alone – however good it purports to be.

Rupesh Sharma

VP of Client Services, Realtime