2019 was an eventful year, filled with babies, client wins, and we even threw an office move in for good measure. So, we sat down with our MD, Brian Whigham to look back over the last 12 months at Venn and what's coming up in the world of digital in 2020.
How would you summarise 2019?
Business-Focused. We’ve spent a lot of our time concentrating on client acquisition and client growth over the last ten years, but this felt like a year of reflecting on who Venn were, both our strengths and challenges and looking at where we wanted the business to be.
Digital moves so fast, products move so fast, and because of this, it’s easy to lose sight of your product. Therefore the performance we deliver internally and externally gets watered down. So, the biggest achievement for me was that we were able to reassess the quality of what we provide.
Looking back on some of Venn’s work in 2019 what has been your proudest achievement?
I am proud of, as always, the Web Design products we deliver, I believe they're still up there as some of the best work we produce. We continue to be seen as an aspirational company to work with, and I’m very proud of the level of quality we have been able to maintain over the last ten years.
Charlton Morris was a highlight for us in 2019. It posed us a new challenge within the recruitment industry and a new way of delivering content within this space. I think the way we have built a custom platform for them, encompassing, video, podcasts, downloads and blogs, is really brave.
Other brands such as LWC drinks continue to surprise me in terms of their growth on the platform, the way we custom build features and functions on their B2B trade platform is always impressive. In terms of marketing performance, our SEO team are consistently achieving results which make me proud.
What are we doing differently in 2020?
As a reflection of how fast digital is growing, it was nearly impossible to expect an Account Manager to understand everything digital encompasses. This meant that in some instances, the traditional model was not fit for purpose in such an aggressive market, so we decided to give clients direct access to the departments.
The structural change at Venn has been about creating more transparency within our operations. Now our clients can talk directly to the head of departments, making them accountable for their profit and loss within the business, and so far, that has been a very motivational change. I’d like to think Venn are leading from the front in terms of that model and I think we’ll begin to see more and more agencies adopting this direct model for clients.
What digital trends do you think will shape the marketing landscape in 2020?
It’s easy to get distracted in our industry, there’s always something new, whether it's influencer marketing, podcasts, or new technologies. However, I think despite all this, Venn will continue to refine its proposition, focusing on what we are good at and what we enjoy, and not be distracted by new platforms that won’t benefit our clients. We’ll let other people forge ahead, and we will ensure we offer an innovative but stable product.
The thing I’m looking forward to in 2020 is delivering a much clearer and more integrated product. The choice of just buying a website or just buying SEO from an agency is becoming too fragmented. There’s too much expectation for web to perform, so simply buying a website has become more challenging in my opinion. Delivering a 360 service, where we are completely in partnership with our client’s brand is proving very successful.
2020 is a year of growth again, with the economy, agencies are coming out the other side of tighter times and becoming clearer, stronger and much more integrated as a partner, and that’s what excites me for 2020 and beyond.
What should Marketing Managers expect from digital in 2020?
Knowing the answer to that question is part of the challenge. I think it's all about Marketing Managers getting the most out of digital. For others, it's about creating a healthy and proactive relationship with your external agency.
Marketing Managers have a tough job; they juggle events, social media, sales collateral, websites, and so much more. There are 10-15 things to manage in this role, and there are only 12 months in a year. This is why I believe that digital agencies must become an extension of that internal marketing team, allowing us to work together and play to each other's strengths. The most beneficial agency relationships come from having healthy transparency. If this is not happening, then chances are you're with the wrong agency.
The B2C market has become very mature and very aggressive; it’s a bloodbath. As a result, everyone is going online, making it a hugely competitive space, and when things get competitive, they get expensive, and it’s not getting any cheaper.
So B2B is the next market that’s going to change this year. I think manufacturers, distributors and stockists will have to undergo wholesale changes, focusing online more than ever before. So, I think Marketing Managers, subject to their sector, will need to focus in on how important digital becomes part of their marketing mix.
How do you think digital can influence the B2B2C market?
B2C marketing is a very well-trodden path; retailers, for example, have learned how to market directly to their consumer audience. We look at the drinks industry, traditionally a brand such as Heineken would sell their product through pubs, bars and restaurants, meaning the data sat with these establishments.
Now they are waking up to the likes of BrewDog who are going direct, setting up their own bars and marketing strategies, building a direct relationship with consumers. So BrewDog, the manufacturers are a great example of being able to benefit from B2B2C, having strong relationships with bars and restaurants while still exciting the consumer through direct marketing. The challenge is for every other business to achieve this, that will be a significant shift in the coming years.
How does the shift to B2B2C affect the way agencies work?
It’s about taking a much bigger data-led understanding of your audience. Without data, we don’t have any evidence to go on, and now there are more touchpoints available than ever before. So, I think for us, it’s all about helping the manufacturer understand the audiences they have, and how vital the data can be. So, breaking it down, I think we need to:
- Invest in more data analysis to make informed decisions and understand the potential that manufacturers or businesses have to grow.
- Choose the correct routes to market. Marketing Managers feel they must use every platform from TikTok to Snapchat through to Twitter, and they don’t. The fact is those users might not be your target audience.
- Open direct channels of communication, i.e. manufacturer to the consumer to drive the demand through the middleman. It’s not about cutting the middleman out, they have a role to play, but we need to close the gap between the manufacturers and consumers instead of relying on intermediaries.
Digital moves fast, but so do we. We can’t wait to see what 2020 brings. Whether you have a project in mind or simply want a chat, come and visit us at our new HQ. Our door is always open, and we would love to learn about your business and see how we can help.