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The call for participation in Econsultancy's Top 100 Agencies Report is now open.  

With 2013 being the year that digital truly goes mainstream in business, and the multitude of predictions on themes to watch along the way, this series of Q&As with marketing heads agency-side will bring analysis and commentary ahead of the report to our blog.

Marketing is becoming more data-driven and technology-driven. How can agencies - and their clients - best ensure the right balance between creative thinking and scientific marketing?

Marketing is absolutely becoming more data driven. The sphere of 'creativity' is no longer limited to words and images its now been extended to creative technical architecture solutions and creative uses of data. Identifying the right balance is challenging.

At CACI we have a mix of people with mathematics, statistics and analytics degrees and PhDs combined with designers, creative consultants, marketeers, planners and solution architects, developers and programme managers. Over the years we have got pretty good at creating multi-disciplinary teams.

We find the three key roles on these teams are programme managers - who can see the complete customer experience; data scientists who are able to understand online and offline data and solution architects that understand legacy and SaaS technologies and the key iteration points.

From a training and development point of view, we are encouraging our younger team members to spend time in different areas of the business, be it tech, analytics, creative, client services and consultancy. In this way we are growing balanced individuals which will hopefully serve us well in the furture. 

Do you find that your staff are spending more time working in-house with your clients?

CACI have always offered clients multiple delivery models, which include onsite working, back at base working or a hybrid. Right now, we have teams working on site with clients in far flung locations such as Silicon Valley, Australia, Amsterdam, South Africa and Gibraltar, as well as many more closer to home.

We encourage this, where appropriate. It enables us to become an extension of the client's team and build up the really strong bonds that are critical for successful delivery in pressurised situations. We find the more operational BAU type work is often better done back at base however.

For major projects that require significant investment, have you taken any novel approaches to financing and the ownership of the product (e.g. custom-built technology that can be resold or repurposed)

Absolutely. In challenging economic circumstances we certainly have had to become more creative in terms of financing.

We have created transaction-based pricing solutions for public sector organisations, and amortised technology costs for media and leisure clients, as well as more standard licence-based options for multi-year solutions.

What has become increasingly challenging is integrating the costs of a multitude of SaaS technology vendors into the overall solutions. Some clients wish to contract directly with these vendors, but others prefer to do so via CACI.

Have you been getting more deeply involved in the offline and multichannel sphere?

CACI's heritage was in offline and multichannel, so this is critical to what we do. We take a different perspective to marketing by viewing the customer at the core and then aligning an integrated multichannel customer experience around this.

We are fortunate we can leverage a wealth of expertise in location-based data and services, offline demographics, online customer experience, call centre and store expertise, combined with a campaigning capability that stretches across DM, email, call centres, social and mobile.

Client feedback says that they don't want to see customers as 'online' or 'offline' but as both. The challenge seems to be an organisational one, where many clients still have separate online, marketing, analytics and tech teams. This hurts customer experience and driving customer value.

Often we get asked to help manage this organisational change as well as the customer experience one.

What are other hottest trends you are observing among your clients? 

At the risk of playing buzzword bingo, big trends right now seem to be video, personalisation, geo-location targeting, cross-channel customer experience, data management and analytics, mobile, privacy & security and integrated multichannel marketing campaigning.

All of these are areas which we are working in with clients across a broad range of industries, including media, telcos, financial services, retail, technology and leisure. Added to this is an emerging trend in cross channel recommendations, which is combining the real time decisioning solutions of the offline world, with the behavioural targeting and recommendation algorithms of the online world.

It's complex both technically and organisationally, but hugely valuable and powerful for both customers and client organisations if they can sort.

Ryan Sommer

Published 5 March, 2013 by Ryan Sommer

Ryan Sommer is web veteran and recovering expat who contributes to Econsultancy on startups, content marketing and new media. You can connect with him on LinkedIn, follow him on Twitter, or add him to your circles on Google+

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