The world of digital content development is becoming one of the last-minute amendments. A typical digital agency is normally dealing with dozens of minor (and not-so-minor) requests from customers that go, “can you change this or that, because [insert reason]”. In fact, many of them don’t remember when was the last time they simply made content and delivered it without that “oh, and remake this” stage. Customers are getting more inquisitive than ever.

a new digital customer

Can you blame them? The marketing scene is now quite different from even several years before. Ever since the dam broke when industries discovered social media, content has been transforming into a quick thing. Subconsciously, when you can get instant updates on Twitter, you expect quicker updates in other content types. The race for content recency (read relevance) is pretty much the name of the game in today’s marketing. Blogs and social networks have set the tempo even for things like HTML presentations and apps.

There’s also the fact that marketers, executives and in general company managers have become more digital-savvy because their audience has. This is – unexpectedly enough – a good thing. Your digital customers have grown to be more involved, and it is the agency now that has to react to this change.

Understand the game, interpret the rules

Companies that are investing in digital content are no longer trying how and if it works. Their management ranks are filled with people who know it does, and they mostly know what they want – even if it seems they don’t. The scrupulous attention to details and the need to change, modify, adapt and readapt – all of these reflect the harsh competition that all content enters once it leaves the agency.

In brief, companies want:

  1. More content. Before you gasp and think of the spammy flood of information that was supposed to be efficient, think of the following. By producing a bigger amount of valuable content, companies ensure proper segmentation. Talking of valuable content, the amount produced is an issue for today’s companies. According to research by LinkedIn Technology Marketing Community, 50% of marketers cited reaching the sufficient volume/variety as their principal issue. That’s why companies employ multiple agencies at a time, crowdfund and generally combine all means of getting the necessary content for all the channels.
  2. Current relevance. Marketers need regular content updates to react to the competition. This has always been true, but remember what Twitter did to the audience? The stakes are higher, and the game has reached a speedup level. In this situation, customers want content to be produced ASAP.
  3. Lower costs. Yes. Could one expect otherwise when so much content is to be produced? To cut costs, companies outsource part of their content production, but also try and do some of it in-house if it seems reasonable.

What agencies can do

To win over this new type of digital customer, agencies should look closer at those companies’ working processes – namely, how content production and management is organized. With multiple channels to manage, organizational and strategic coordination is now very important, with 42% companies having an executive specifically employed to direct the overall process. Why? Look at how many sources content comes from. According to Smart Insights, only 10% of companies get content assets exclusively or principally from agencies, while further 74% combine in-house production and outsourcing. This means that a lot of content comes from multiple teams and needs to be kind of “squeezed” into the paradigm of the overall marketing strategy.

Not that it’s always a success, of course. In reality, it is a struggle – which is why digital customers seem stingy. And demanding.

Agencies should understand and accept they no longer hold a monopoly on content production for any particular business. Those who develop content can’t be jealous of their customers – instead, they should try this:

Be as relevant to your customer as your customer wants to be to their audience.

This involves several things. First and foremost, the speed of production. To tackle the issue, agencies should search for suitable frameworks and templates. Developers working with HTML5 will confirm that without a library, making, say, an app supposed to rival a native one, will get way longer. The new digital customer appreciates speed – because their audience does.

The time won by using a framework is valuable because that’s when the (already mentioned) last-minute amendments come. Customers want, and can, participate more in content creation. For an agency, this is also a benefit. It’s better when the necessary changes are mentioned on earlier stages than closer to rollout.

The customer gets reduced time-to-market, the agency saves effort. The product that comes out is more exactly what the customer has in mind.

Next comes coordination. With piles of content waiting to be approved, the customer company will gladly embrace if an agency suggests a common workspace where all the stages of content development can be covered, monitored and inspected. More agencies are now embracing a new “lifehack” technique when an integrated platform is adopted and a person is appointed to act as a link between all the parties involved. With a digital manager aboard, whose responsibilities are exactly coordinating, the processes get faster, and the company gets to participate more. Above, we’ve seen that marketing teams are already taking that step – in many cases, it’s the agency that should.

Lastly, a call for agencies: don’t fear to be not the only one! After all, your content is very likely to be reused and repurposed; developers should embrace a standard that allows for the clean code so that other people get to work with it when authorized. Even within a content agency, there can be multiple teams and/or personnel “optimizations”. Using HTML5 frameworks and platforms that enable content reuse will make you closer to the customer company, and pave the way to long-lasting collaboration.