The perfect partnership: 6 insights to help get the most value from your partners

Alessandra Alessio, Carl Nawagamuwa / March 2021

The way marketers reach their customers in APAC has forever changed after many more people came online last year due to the pandemic. Consumers now expect brands to engage with them on a more personal level. But brands are scrambling to uncover the key customer insight from first-party data that will spark the next personalised connection. Not to mention the challenge of trying to work within data privacy concerns and regulations.

So how are brands in APAC managing to undergo this digital transformation in such a complicated world? By partnering with agencies to help share the burden. In fact, only 10% of APAC organisations currently keep 100% of their marketing activities in-house — the rest are working with partner agencies to help handle the heavy lifting.1

To help marketers prepare for more complex challenges in 2021, Google partnered with the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) to gather helpful insights. We spoke to senior executives across Google partners in APAC and found six major tips to help marketers get the most value from partnerships in the region.

The evolving partner landscape

In APAC, there’s a growing partner ecosystem equipped to support marketers with solutions that can help take the guesswork out of engaging with consumers.

For brands feeling left in the dark, these partners bring fresh consultative and collaborative support, new compliant data privacy products, specialist expertise, and improved processes for organisations with time, budget, and knowledge constraints.

There are three roles that partners typically play for clients in APAC:

Marketing transformation

Here, we look at six practical tips that marketers should consider when looking to engage partners.

6 tips for finding value with partners

1. Form a trusted circle of different partners to work together

Partners want to bring the best possible solution for clients, and realise that often means collaborating with other agencies or organisations. Leading agencies have even created an “open” ecosystem of partners they learned to work with effectively. So use a combination of partners and ask them to collaborate.

If your brand has an agency responsible for media planning and buying and another responsible for on-site analytics, encourage both partners to work together to create more advanced solutions.

For example, Nissan Motor Asia Pacific partnered with MightyHive, a Google Marketing Platform data analytics partner, and its media agency Nissan United, to collaborate on audience activation strategies. MightyHive gathered first-party data in Analytics 360 and analysed the data using machine learning models in BigQuery. Nissan United then used the first party Analytics 360 audiences within Display & Video 360 media campaigns to personalise creatives for different audiences and evaluate how its campaign impacted test drives and dealership registrations.

2. Align incentives, ambition, and objectives

Data-driven marketing often requires precise measurement of media performance, which can sometimes lead to higher fees. Be creative — align on goals you can share with your partner and agree on performance indicators that allow for experimentation.

Partners are often open and flexible to working on project-based agreements, hours-based scopes of work, and paid-for training. For example, in APAC, we’ve seen partners assist brands to move it’s media buying in-house, so cost moves from a percentage of media fee to an hours-based model where the marketer could use them as much or as little as needed.

3. Set a clear, long-term vision with short-term milestones

Partners can help prioritise short-term wins based on implementation, value, and technology capabilities. These priorities can be planned over a three or six-month timeline as guiding milestones on the road to a larger multi-year initiative.

Let’s say a retail business has a two-year vision to transform its online presence to be digital-first. The company’s partner can help create key short wins such as implementing a website and app analytics tool that can help gain important customer insights that will help to inform future decisions.

4. Be candid about your challenges and constraints beyond marketing topics

If partners understand your struggles, internal constraints, and stakeholder dynamics, they can factor difficult business imperatives into their approach and even help marketers overcome internal challenges with the benefit of a bird’s eye view. Share what your limitations are — particularly around technology and processes, organisational capabilities, and whether there is an appetite for change.

Many companies store data in silos within their organisation and hold onto legacy processes which might prevent them from moving forward. Brands may want customer relationship management (CRM) software, marketing analytics, and advertising to be connected but sometimes this is not possible, so be upfront about what you can and can't do. Then partners can assess your baseline and offer practical steps to accelerate transformation.

5. Don’t shy away from constructive criticism

Be receptive to partner insights and learnings. Empower partners to challenge you on assumptions, ask probing questions, and bring fresh perspectives to broaden your knowledge. This could include pushing back on goals and objectives, questioning your team’s alignment with key internal stakeholders against the success of this project, or whether they think a different approach could be a better solution.

6. Treat partners as part of your internal project team

Involve key partners in your thinking from the beginning. Often partners are involved to execute a solution, rather than be present during the early planning stages. Once the business problem is identified, it’s helpful for partners to be involved before you decide on a solution so they can bring more ideas before jumping right to execution.

Also think on a cultural level, not just executional, and embrace partners as an extension of your team. Involving them in team events can build a close relationship that helps foster smooth collaboration and ultimately a more intimate understanding of your business objectives.

Closer collaboration between marketers, partners, and technology platforms is becoming key in addressing an organisation's unique needs. This three-pronged partnership provides a pathway for marketers to leverage valuable expertise and experience that can help them achieve the goals of true digital marketing transformation.

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