Agencies today must adapt to new technology trends and standards in almost real-time. This requires agencies to stay flexible in their digital strategies.
W2O Group, a San Francisco-based network of complementary communications and marketing firms that operates five marketing and communications firms understands the importance of agility. We talked to CMO of W2O Group Aaron Strout about open-source software, data-driven decision making, and how to deliver better solutions to clients.
Velocitize: What is W2O Group’s stance around open-source software and WordPress?
Strout: We’ve always used technology that provides the most effective way to solve our clients’ problems. Open source has certainly played a role in that. WordPress specifically is something that we’ve been bullish on as a blogging platform for years and, more recently, as a website platform of choice.
Velocitize: Do your clients ever specifically ask for open-source software?
Strout: Our digital firm, Sentient, fields these specific questions more often – but, at a broader level, we tend to deal with clients that trust our expertise to bring them the right solutions, whether it’s open source or not.
For them, the cost factor is definitely something that comes into play. They want something that they can trust but is also cost-effective. What they are asking for is actually more like open source than not but they don’t realize to ask for it.
Velocitize: What is W2O doing to stay flexible in its marketing strategy?
Strout: We do a lot of experiments internally to better understand what’s working, and then we apply that to clients. We also heavily incorporate data into the work we’re doing. We’re a company of 500+ and 85 of those people sit in the analytics/data science department. This allows us to be more data-driven in all of our digital efforts.
We use this data to help us answer the questions that provide the best insights to our clients: Who are the influencers? What type of content is succeeding? Where is the content succeeding? Can you do cluster analysis? Can you do attribution modeling? This helps us decide which new channels to explore and better understand what’s working and what’s not so we can determine which strategies our clients should implement.
Velocitize: How important is it to have a marketing toolbox that’s open to everyone so they can adopt it to their needs (i.e. open access to data, MarTech solutions, etc.)?
Strout: I think it’s incredibly important. Although you don’t necessarily as a marketer need to be using eight thousand different marketing tools, you need to be able to integrate the right 8-10 tools. These may change over time depending on marketing needs and technology trends, so you need to be using a system that allows you to easily add new tools to your stack.
With open source, regardless of where your data is coming from, it allows you to integrate it into the larger solution. Open source platforms like WordPress are the wave of the future. MarTech is proliferating at such a pace that you need to be ready to integrate the next great thing that comes along into your marketing stack.
Velocitize: What role does data play in your internal marketing strategy?
Strout: We prioritize clients over ourselves, and as a result we haven’t been as good as we can be about making data-driven decisions internally. That said, since I took over as CMO in October, it’s been something that we’ve really been focused on. The team put together a balance scorecard that looks across paid, earned, shared, and owned channels. This not only enables us to see how we’re doing from an engagement perspective but it also allows us to easily track the return on investment (ROI) of our initiatives.
Then we evaluate by looking at brand attributes, word of mouth attributes, sales, customer growth and so on – we want to measure how these areas improve over time. It’s not an easy process but it is something we take seriously. We also know how well it works for our customers, we know what the techniques are, and we know where to get the data, it’s just a matter of being disciplined enough to apply it to our own efforts. We aren’t exactly where we want to be but we are definitely making progress.