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As consumer behavior continues to change and demand fluctuates, brands are under pressure to adapt. Whether it’s by leaning into first-party data, creating a culture of experimentation, or delivering seamless customer experiences, there have never been more opportunities to unlock growth and mitigate risk. But working out the right route to digital transformation often calls for expert counsel.

Marketing partners and agencies have long been in the business of harnessing digital to future-proof their own business models, while helping clients to do the same. From redefining budgets to rethinking measurement, there are six areas in which agencies can help brands be more agile, create new revenue opportunities, and build resilience for the future.

Six areas in which agencies can help brands future-proof their businesses: 1. Planning and budgeting 2. Talent, teams, and culture 3. Data and insights 4. Customer-centric marketing 5. New customer experiences 6. Outcomes and agility

I recently spoke to seven agency leaders on the front lines of digital transformation to hear how they’re evolving their agencies and helping their customers be ready for the future. Here are their tips.

Route to Ready Waypoint 1: Planning and budgeting

Rethink marketing as a growth driver

“Instead of thinking about your budget as the cost of doing business, think of it as the cost of growth. We are seeing more alignment — although still not enough — between the CMO and the CFO. The most future-facing CFOs really understand the power of marketing to have a measurable impact on business performance, which means they don’t view it as a cost center anymore.”

Create more fluid budgets to meet consumer needs

“As consumers move more fluidly across platforms and channels, so too must a brand’s marketing dollars. That means building a process that allows for fluidity across brand and performance budgets. In our instant economy, where the purchase funnel has collapsed, you need to be able to switch from one to the other in real time.”

Zach Morrison, CEO at Tinuiti

Route to Ready Waypoint 2: Talent, teams, and culture

Prioritize a more diverse, inclusive work culture

“What’s the point of hiring people from diverse backgrounds and pathways if the culture doesn’t give them a sense of belonging? We have a progressive platform in place that cultivates cultural intelligence and coaches our people, regardless of level, to show up and lead authentically and inclusively.”

Shift the focus from individual excellence to the strength of teams

“It’s important to acknowledge the individual, but we need to create a thread that results in a nimble, culturally aware team. We have internal awards that recognize the achievements of an outstanding individual. But what about the teams? We’ve started with the Ignite Award, which recognizes the contributions of a collective in forwarding our business.”

Stacy DeRiso, U.S. CEO at Initiative

Route to Ready Waypoint 3: Data and insights

Future-proof your business with first-party data

“To build a strategy that is truly future-focused, marketers have to be able to plan for the unknown. We’re partnering with our clients to create custom solutions with an emphasis on delivering them data ownership. This allows them to be flexible and nimble, and to adapt to industry, company, and consumer change over time.”

Don’t just identify data. Use it to drive better business outcomes

“Beyond curating the right data sets or enriching existing assets, it’s equally important to plan for how these large data sets will be utilized through data science. It’s not just a matter of packaging and pushing audiences. We want to help our customers apply machine learning and AI to deliver better outcomes through simulations and predictive modeling.”

Kirk McDonald, North America CEO at GroupM

Route to Ready Waypoint 4: Customer-centric marketing

Drive personalization at scale through search

“There is incredible opportunity in the power of search. Search is one of the best intent signals, and adept marketers will continue to unlock how search behaviors can drive personalization at scale across other channels and media decisions.”

Release the human from the robot

“The role of automation must be used as a strategic weapon, not as a cost-saving weapon. A lot of organizations think automation leads to savings, but the goal of automation is to release the human from the robot and create capacity for thought. If Billy the Bot can handle that task, it allows Brenda to be more strategic.”

Doug Rozen, CEO at Dentsu Media Americas

Route to Ready Waypoint 5: New customer experiences

Don’t waste an opportunity to connect with customers

“If you have the mindset that every impression is a potential opportunity to open up a relationship and earn that all-important opt-in consent, it should drive you to do the hard work of delivering valuable digital experiences people want in their lives — repeatedly and on demand — and wasting no impressions. Omnichannel is about convenience — providing a seamless experience wherever the customer is.”

Helen Lin, Chief Digital Officer at Publicis

Focus on delivering long-term customer value post-purchase

“The next wave of customer experience innovation is about what happens after the moment of conversion. We believe the role of the brand is about helping customers become their ‘next-best selves’ by providing valuable experiences that empower them to live happier, more fulfilled lives through the benefits of a product, service, or experience. It’s the basis of today’s healthy, mutually beneficial brand relationships and for keeping customers long term.”

Tiffany Rolfe, Global Chief Creative Officer at R/GA

Route to Ready Waypoint 6: Outcomes and agility

Create a culture of consistent experimentation

“We drive a culture of consistent experimentation at OMG through our learning agenda process. This process is tied directly to our clients’ KPIs, with a focus on A/B testing as much as we can. Business KPIs become the keystone for our measurement and experimentation culture.”

Measure growth to guide business decisions

“Measuring our clients’ business growth demands a multipronged analytics strategy that allows us to understand, through data-driven approaches, how productive a marketing investment is to a client’s business KPIs, and then use this data to guide decision-making.”

Megan Pagliuca, Chief Activation Officer at Omnicom Media Group