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Changing Clients – Changing Agency.

VP Growth Dean Elissat discusses how Engine Digital's client partner relationships have evolved over the years.

Every January, we send out an annual Client Partner Survey that helps us gauge the current state of our client partner relationships. We aim to answer questions quantitatively, such as what are we doing well, what we can do better, and what we are not doing that you’d like to see us do.

This latter question can be a complicated one to answer.

In part, it assumes client-side teams know clearly what their future state needs might be. To be fair, many of our clients have an annual plan for their digital engagement strategy. Still, many of them may only see their future one business quarter at a time — a view that, more often than not, is met with short-term solutions to immediate problems at hand. We get it, it’s hard to manage the near-term stuff, while allocating time, resources, and budget for the bigger, loftier bets the business may need to make to evolve and grow!

Colloquially, lots of effort goes into putting out those pesky fires.

We prefer to look a bit further ahead, beyond the immediate problems to solve, by focusing on future business opportunities that lie beyond the horizon. This isn’t to suggest we ignore the near-term challenges our clients face. It’s a matter of taking those short-term problems as a forecast of more systematic or market-driven changes that lead to needs not being met.

In health management-related terms, we aim to address the root cause of the ailment, not just deal with the symptoms of the patient. We can prescribe a prevention-based approach to solutions.

Engine Digital and Rich Brilliant Willing team members sitting in a workshop.
Workshopping with our client Rich Brilliant Willing at their Brooklyn, NY studio.

A colleague recently asked me to describe how our client partners have changed over the years, and in turn, how we’ve changed. Here’s what we learned about ourselves in just the past five years:

Organization Type & Brand Stature

  • Increasingly we’ve moved toward larger-scale enterprise organizations (primarily based in the U.S.) with global audience reach and a high level of brand recognition. Our client work for Adidas, HP, Google, Goldman Sachs, Mastercard, and the NBA certainly meet this definition.
  • The business sector make-up of our client roster has become less scattered and evolved into a more streamlined level of vertical industry expertise (in Financial Services, B2B Software/Services, Fashion/Apparel, and Media/Entertainment).

Client Level Accessibility

  • Many of our direct client contacts that solely used to come out of the marketing department have shifted toward personal engagements within the broader organization that’s cross-departmental (within corporate strategy, digital strategy, IT, operations, and customer service).
  • Increasingly, we sit at the table with those who have a direct impact on the future state of the business. We join strategic conversations earlier and further up the organizational hierarchy from front-line Manager/Directors to the VP/SVP and C-Suite level of decision making.

Opportunity Complexity

  • Often we’re brought into larger, more complex assignments that are highly strategic in nature and have direct attribution to support corporate strategy imperatives. As a result, the connection is more evident between the outcome of our work and our client’s overall corporate success.
  • Project durations are longer, moving away from an average of three-month engagements to six-, eight-, and 12-month+ timelines. High-value, complex work needs a higher degree of discipline and rigor that cannot come at the cost of speed.

Foundational Impact

  • The strategy and design assignments we work on today more closely tie to foundational client-side business operations that also impact organizational and cultural behaviors. Many of our client partners express delight in learning new ways of collaborative working in sprint-based teams and workshops that ordinarily they would not have an opportunity to participate in within their more siloed and hierarchical organizational structures. In effect, we act as a facilitator to cultural change, one small group at a time.

In the end, our evolution as a digital agency comes from our innate need to continually improve based on our interests, while equally being driven by evolving client partner needs that push us both beyond the horizon.

To find out more about what an ideal client partnership looks like for you, feel free to reach out to us. We’d love to hear from you.

Dean Elissat VP Client Engagement