Agencies become jacks-of-all-trades

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Jeff Hilimire, president & CDO, Engauge
Jeff Hilimire, president & CDO, Engauge

The direct marketing industry has become glutted with technological solutions. As a result, many agencies are finding themselves in a position where they can no longer specialize. In today's integrated marketing world, clients expect agencies to be versed not only in CRM, direct mail, or social media, but also in all facets of digital marketing, which requires expertise across various technological solutions and the ability to use those technologies within marketing campaigns.

“The new agency is going to have to help clients achieve their goals through any means available,” says Jeff Hilimire, president and chief digital officer at Engauge in Atlanta.

Founded in 2008, Engauge was intended to be a traditional advertising agency, a direct marketing agency, and a digital agency all wrapped into one.

The core difference between then and today, Hilimire says, is that teams from each discipline now work together to build marketing strategies for clients. “We're organized around clients, not the services we provide them.”

This strategy, he says, has allowed Engauge to “move into pace with where the industry is,” and anticipate evolving client needs. “Future brands will be looking for a full-service agency that has core capabilities in those service areas,” Hilimire says.

The biggest challenge marketers face when adapting new technologies is stepping out of their comfort zones, he says. “It's very hard for an agency that does something really well to embrace new areas of opportunities,” he says.

“A few years ago you could be a social-only agency. What we're learning now is that social can…affect everything that a company does from a marketing perspective,” he adds.

The agency operates as both a full-service agency for some brands, such as The HoneyBaked Ham Company, and specializes in certain marketing disciplines for other brands, such as The Coca-Cola Company, for which Engauge performs specific marketing services. For example, Hilimire says, Engauge handles solely social media for Dasani water, a Coca-Cola brand.

Engauge plans further expansion into social media by using social to drive ROI on various direct marketing campaigns. Mobile is also a big point of expansion, Hilimire says. “It's so personal to the consumer, and if you do it incorrectly, it can really disrupt your relationship with the consumer.”

Engauge studies and meets start-up companies like Badgy, a social loyalty platform and We&Co, a mobile application build to build loyalty in retail—in order to learn from them, he says. “It's all in the hopes of understanding where the industry is going,” he says.

The idea that a marketing company like Engauge needs to be everything to all clients isn't necessarily a bad thing, he says. Marketing, like all industries, goes through periods of expansion and contraction. Luckily, he says, direct marketing is in a period of expansion, which means big challenges with big opportunities.

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