ADOTAS — After reading Andrew Edwards’, “Fox in The Henhouse: Should You Trust Your Agency With Analytics?,” I felt as though someone needed to take an alternative viewpoint on the “In-house vs. Partner” analytics debate.
To say that digital agencies can’t do numbers because they also happen to be smart, hard-working creative types would be like arguing that the American League is better because they don’t let pitchers hit. While it might be true, it can’t be conclusively proven because it’s an argument of opinion. So that said, I’ll offer my opinion on this topic.
The biggest argument for Andrew Edward’s point of view is dictated by poor selection on the part of the companies he’s trying to help. If you choose an agency based solely upon creative sizzle without vetting the agency’s plan for holding themselves accountable then you, quite simply, have chosen poorly. Additionally, if you perceive that your agency is dishonest, and they are not open with you about what really works and what doesn’t work with hard, objective data to back it up then you need to find a true partner.
True partners show up with targets, excellent measurement plans and technology that allows the clients to see for themselves what is happening on a real-time basis so that the agency team can’t hide behind spin. They don’t shy away from accountability – they relish it. Never discount an agency’s desire to learn whether or not the creative ideas they spend hours upon hours on really work, what audience they attract and if they increased the average cart size by $15 while also increasing the buy rate by 1.5%. True partners share your enthusiasm for the project and want you to succeed.
The biggest issue in the analytics space is that clients often do not want, or are not prepared, to be held accountable for what they – and their partners – drive from a return standpoint because it means budgets might (gasp) get slashed if they don’t do well. While we accept that, and frankly relish the challenge, ROI is anathema to bureaucratic organizations.
The assumption that agencies are the only ones that try to talk glowingly about their services is naive. Benjamin Disraeli said it best (though Mark Twain embellished it well): “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damn lies and statistics.” The statement refers to the persuasive power of numbers, the use of statistics to bolster weak arguments and the tendency of people to disparage statistics that do not support their positions.
The key to any worthwhile business relationship is trust. While there may be a handful of unscrupulous agencies out there, I can assure you that the agency bogey man is likely not hiding in your analytics. Be meticulous with your selection process and a smart agency can provide you with a myriad of business-critical services that help marketers dramatically improve the bottom line and also provide you with the analytics to prove it.
Good agencies are also always willing to work with other analytics partners to drive success for our clients. People choose friends that are open and honest, and companies should choose partners that way too.