Thinking about your digital experience agency? You should be. The marketing industry and its approaches are evolving like never before. The days when you could park your brand work at a marketing agency and expect all the work to be done are gone.

The number of digital experience agencies is increasing, and finding the right digital agency is a crucial step for your brand and your business growth. Especially in San Francisco, you can find different kinds of digital experience agencies. Everything depends on what you are looking for.

There are digital agencies specialized in platform thinking, digital transformation, customer experience, digital solutions, integrated marketing, and so on.

Why is it so hard to select a digital agency?

Customer expectations, brand strategies, relevant technologies, available resources, and corporate leadership all change. What was correct last year will likely be wrong next year. Even the definition of a “digital experience agency” changes over time. In addition, there is little training or education given to help marketers manage the digital experience agency search challenge.

San Francisco by Pacific Austin on Unsplash

You can’t go to college or attend a training course and learn how to find the right agency for your business. If you are looking for a digital experience agency in a metropolis such as San Francisco, you will need much more expertise, or you can get confused by the number of digital agencies and services offered.

Which kind of digital agency should I select?

I’ve noticed that most businesses in San Francisco and the surrounding Bay Area assume digital marketing companies, digital experience agencies, and digital campaign agencies serve the same purpose. Fact is, they don’t. To help you begin the search process more efficiently, I’ve outlined four kinds of digital marketing agencies that exist today based on oldest-to-newest evolution.

1.    The digital campaign agency

-    Overview: This type of digital marketing agency has more traditional ad agency talent. They create emotional campaign ideas to sell products or services, but instead of television spots, they create interactive commercials. Digital campaign agencies push these ideas out to all digital channels with the intention of luring users back to a central hub or destination: it’s the “big idea” that hooks them in. Imagine Don Draper with the Samsung Galaxy 4s in his pocket, a Fitbit on his wrist, and a Bluetooth Jawbone in his ear.

-    Advantages: These digital marketing agencies look to find the truth in any brand, surfacing those truths through a multitude of digital interactions. So they are ideally suited to brands seeking high-level campaign concepts and brand storytelling.

Photo by Karl Köhler on Unsplash

2.    The integrated digital marketing agency

-    Overview: These integrated agencies generally have less of the “epiphany” appeal than the digital campaign agencies, but their strategy of using statistics to drive the traffic back to the destination has proven effective. They develop digital properties that utilize organic search, paid search, mobile, email, display, and so on. The key here is that they seek to improve performance, execution over execution. They use data, analytics, and marketing automation platforms like Eloqua or Marketo. Having all these channels working in concert is similar to how a rock drummer manages all of the drums in a syncopated fashion. Think of a digital marketing agency octopus.

-    Advantages: Clients benefit from having one partner that can - in ideal circumstances - effectively leverage available resources and orchestrate all channels in order to determine what performs best for each.

3.    The digital marketing solution agency

-    Overview: A more recent step in the evolution of the digital agency model is the emergence of the digital marketing solutions agency, which operates more like a custom software development company. For example, this type of agency might develop not only a content management system, but also marketing, customer services, sales portal, and inventory management capabilities on the back-end. This approach enables the brand to operate with greater flexibility and efficiency. However, these digital agencies tend to find competition with large consulting groups (such as Accenture and Deloitte) since clients don’t tend to look at digital marketing agencies in this way.

-    Advantages: These agencies create digital experiences that enhance the overall customer experience and provide holistic benefits through complex solutions that draw from multiple data sources to diagnose and manage many business functions simultaneously. The result is external value and internal efficiencies.

4.    The digital experience agency

Now that you are familiar with the first three examples of the digital marketing agency type, we can take a look at the most recent, most advanced evolution. I believe this fourth digital marketing agency type is well suited to meet the demands of the next generation of digital communications and is on track to serve  San Francisco businesses that are looking for digital transformation.

-    Overview: The philosophy of a digital experience agency maintains that businesses need to think about the gravitational forces that keep customers in your brand’s orbit. The force must be strong enough that customers do not easily pull out of it to begin orbiting a competitor’s brand. A digital experience agency creates campaigns, leverages analytics, closes internal operational gaps, and utilizes human psychology to create solutions that, when combined, activate a robust and steady pull towards the brand.

There is increasing demand for CSOs (Chief Success Officers) and CXOs (Chief Experience Officers) who can lead digital experience agencies to create digital platforms that launch and connect in ways that drive harmonized intrinsic value and the free flow of data. Very few platform agencies understand, have the necessary agility, or the depth of experience to execute this approach harmoniously.

Photo by Hal Gatewood on Unsplash

-    Advantages: Strengthens the customer journey by enhancing the digital platform on every level. The digital experience agency encompasses learning and capabilities inherent in the first three agency types and delivers appropriate benefits from each. In this way, the digital experience agency model is the most comprehensive approach available today.

What is a digital experience agency?

Not surprisingly, there is no shortage of digital marketing companies claiming to be digital experience experts and platform agencies, and it’s not always easy to separate the authentic players from the pretenders.

Here’s a helpful trick: look for agencies that have outlined digital experience-based methods and approaches using proven strategic frameworks.

Our team at Propane found that there is no better way to reduce marketing risk across your entire digital ecosystem and empower innovation across the end-to-end customer journey.

One of my personal favorites is the Orbit strategy from Mark Bonchek (Think Orbit). Here are a few other good ones worth noting:

The stakes have never been higher. However, if brands make the right choices, they can derive real, intrinsic value to their customers and beyond. People’s lives will be enriched because, as Michael Porter says in this video, it’s “how capitalism will provide more shared value to us as humans.”

The right digital agency relationship can help your business find sustainable, measurable value by building more profound, more memorable connections between its brands and its customers. Moreover, as marketers, isn’t that what our business is all about?

Propane Agency - San Francisco
1153 Mission Street
San Francisco, CA - 94103
415 550 8692