How intelligent digital marketing solutions give consultancies an edge

12 December 2017

Consulting firm executives and sector consultants from digital specialists Touchstone CRM joined forces on 7th December in London to work on the knotty problem of why many consulting firms are slow to adopt transformative technologies that could substantially increase their client engagement success and advance their business growth. A synopsis of the key takeaways.

The delegates considered the theme 'How to beat the consulting competition with intelligent client engagement’ – but it soon became evident that there are significant barriers to adoption, mostly in the form of people. Digital landscape success as expounded amongst industry digital experts looks very different from the everyday reality for consulting SMEs. 

A people resistance culture

An analysis of the systems landscape for consultancies shows that there are plenty of innovative, flexible and scalable digital intelligent business applications on the market, offering different levels of sophistication and capability for intelligent client engagement and digital marketing. The technology is in good shape. So is it a PICNIC situation – Problem In Chair Not In Computer?

Inherent resistance to change was a key topic in the discussion. People don’t like the idea of doing things differently. From time-served consultants who don’t want a profile on LinkedIn to established board directors who turn their backs on tech that could demonstrably save them hundreds of thousands and IT managers who are reluctant to do more than lightly automate the same old processes, the group shared their experiences of digital refuseniks, both internal and external.How intelligent digital marketing solutions  can give consultancies an edge

The second problem is a lack of understanding. Every consulting firm representative had some experience of a CRM, but only 40% had a technology solution that could in any way connect and streamline their activities. With disparate data sources, individual communication channels and manually driven reports, the delegates were working at the limit of their available time and understanding. They didn’t know the extent of functionality available and true potential of digital client engagement solutions to manage, automate and optimise client insight and communication in one single source of the truth.

Fee earning first

The third challenge is time and resource. Around the table, more than 50% of the consulting representatives expressed frustration at how difficult it is to get their experts to impart their knowledge to create the relevant content that customers are hungry for. While some had managed to deploy simple collaborative tools to enable team chat and sharing, helping consultants to pool their knowledge and connections, it was difficult to persuade consultancy firms’ financial decision-makers to invest time or money in digital projects that might disrupt day-to-day operations or take fee earning consultants away from client work – even if they were not fully utilised. 

It starts with a business case

How can consultancies overcome these challenges to define and deploy the digital solutions that could transform their success and help them outperform competitors in an increasingly globalised market and disrupt the comfortable, established one-to-one relationships that many clients maintain with the Big Four? 

One opportunity is according to the experts at the event in creating a compelling business case for investment. Ben Revill, Professional Services Business Manager at Touchstone CRM, revealed that 75% of his role is in helping clients to establish and communicate the potential benefits of deploying intelligent digital business applications, so everyone in the organisation can see what they stand to gain by adoption… or lose by failing to act.Quote Ben Revill

Before that can happen, there’s a need to bridge the knowledge gap between consultants and technology service providers, so they understand the capability and potential of the technology solutions available and how to evaluate the many alternatives on the market. The depth and value of analytics insight as well as the opportunity for targeted communication and shared client knowledge is far from obvious to many consulting firms, who haven’t been exposed to the information they need from trusted sources. All of this concludes that digital application adoption is not a simple case of PICNIC.

“There’s a clear need to explain the power, flexibility and cost-effectiveness of client engagement and digital marketing solutions, so they are realistic, accessible and achievable for consultancy firms of all sizes and in all specialist markets,” said Revill. “We therefore plan to offer more consultants the opportunity to join discussion sessions and educational events to help them choose the most advantageous digital path.”

Earlier this year, Dean Carroll, General Manager of Touchstone CRM, gave his take on the five most strategic challenges that UK consultancies are facing. 

Related: Consulting firms not fully monetising digital transformation efforts.


Accenture's push into the creative sector is an identity crisis

18 April 2019

In its latest push into the creative sector, Accenture Interactive acquired New York and London-based ad agency Droga5 earlier this month, adding illustrious clients such as HBO, Amazon and The New York Times to its roster of clients. With the latest in a long line of similar purchases, Accenture Interactive further demonstrated its ambition of becoming the globe’s leading trusted advisor to chief marketing officers. Yet according to Ben Langdon, Chairman of Class35, Accenture’s strategy may be heading in the wrong direction.

A press release on Accenture’s website announcing the acquisition sits next to a quote stating that “brands aren’t built through advertising” – a huge contradiction from a consultancy firm hell-bent on becoming the ‘CMO agency of choice’. It’s not alone of course. The entire consulting industry wants a piece of the creative pie right now. In addition to Accenture Interactive, recent acquisitions by PwC Digital, IBM iX, and Deloitte Digital meant that in 2017, for the first time ever, four of the world’s ten largest creative agencies were consultancies.

So just what it is that Accenture wants to achieve from this? For one thing, it’s clearly trying to be a digital transformation business. A one-stop creative shop rivalling more traditional models, it wants to lure CMOs in with the promise of lower ad spend and a “more impactful customer experience”. At the same time, though, it’s still in thrall to those same slinky, shiny branding and advertising agencies it’s attempting to disrupt. The Droga5 acquisition and that of Karmarama a few years before are both testament to this.

There’s a fundamental problem with this, though. Digital transformation businesses don’t sell to CMOs. These people have enough on their plates trying to transform their own marketing skills in order to keep up with an ever-changing market – they just don’t have the time or the energy to concern themselves with digitally transforming a whole business. If Accenture’s purpose is digital transformation, then going after creative agencies is barking up the wrong tree.Is Accenture's push into the creative sector an identity crisis?

Worlds apart

Perhaps more importantly, these two industries are worlds apart in terms of the way they think. Creative agencies are all about ideas, campaigns and consumers. Digital businesses, on the other hand, are customer-driven – they think in terms such as lifetime value, measurement, and efficiency. Customer-led thinking is an entirely different beast to consumer-led thinking.

The reality is that the arrival of digital and an all-encompassing obsession with technology, measurement and social has led to the death of agencies in a reductive, zero-sum, efficiency-focused battle with brands. Indeed, agencies have become so obsessed with the latest tech fads, they’re beginning to forget how brands work. Worse still, they’re beginning to forget how brands are built. And, by forgetting, they’re destroying their own values.

Killing creativity

All things considered, it really feels to me as though Accenture is a chip leader in a game it doesn’t understand. Expensive acquisitions like these show that they’ve got the big money, but they don’t appear to have any idea what they’re doing with it. Take talent, for example. The best talent in the creative industry right now is out in the market; it’s not tied to any one agency. Both agencies might well be at the top of their game, but why would a consulting firm waste so much money on buying them when they could hire high-quality creative talent on a contingent basis instead?

As their presence in the top 10 creative agencies shows, there is a growing trend in which Accenture, like many of the other big players, are buying up agencies as if they were nothing more than keywords. What they’re really buying, though, is a collection of credentials, clients and IP. Unfortunately, the talent that created those credentials aren’t going to stay at the business, the clients that hired the agency in the first place won’t be interested in buying what is basically just another part of Accenture, and the IP never really existed to begin with.

Droga5, for example, was one of the few agencies that did great brand work the old-fashioned way – undoubtedly something that made it attractive to Accenture in the first place. The irony, though, is that by leading it further away from the way of working that made it so special, the consulting giant will kill its creativity.

“Accenture Interactive has been dazzled by its ambitions to become the CMO agency of record…. But, in flashing its cash, it is spending millions on acquiring nothing of any value.”

If pressed, the recently acquired agency staff at Accenture will tell you just how dysfunctional the new arrangement is. They’re largely unfulfilled. Rarely do they feel their work has any sort of meaning or purpose. What’s more, the different disciplines have found little or no common ground, and find it hard to work together as a cohesive whole. It’s not surprising, then, to see talented people leaving in droves.

Beyond the window dressing 

It’s clear, then, that consulting firms and creative agencies are no easy bedfellows. But in his company’s defence, Accenture Interactive’s Senior Managing Director for North America, Glen Hartman, described its culture as being “far, far away from what a stereotypical consulting firm would look like. Our office and studios look a lot like Droga5’s.”

In demonstrating a belief that office design equates to workplace culture, this statement serves as an illustration of how confused Accenture is right now. It wants to justify its new strategy so badly, it’s started dressing like a creative agency. But if you look beyond the window dressing and see that you and your partners are speaking a different language with a different purpose, selling to different people in a different market, there’s no getting away from the fact that you’re different.

Accenture Interactive has been dazzled by its ambitions to become the CMO agency of record, and it wants to dazzle others with its new direction. But, in flashing its cash, it is spending millions on acquiring nothing of any value.

Related: Space between consulting firms and creative agencies is converging.