Progency – 1
The traditional agency model needs a revamp for the coming martech era. The pre-digital agencies, built for print and TV, were driven by creative and focused on branding. The digital agencies, built for Google and Facebook, added new skill sets like analytics and campaign optimisation, and focused on new customer acquisition. The next generation of agencies will be built atop proprietary digital experience platforms and will focus on customer retention, growth and reactivation. This new agency is what I call “progency” – product-led agency. Like the adtech agencies, it will charge based on performance. This will ensure measurement and accountability – two key tenets for outsourcing core activities.
The customer journey involves multiple stages: new customer acquisition (lead generation, onboarding), retention and cross-sell to ensure growth, reactivation of dormant customers, and driving referrals. The progency is ideal for focusing first on reactivation followed by referrals, and then on using first-party data to optimise new customer acquisition.
An agency which has used a “full stack” approach to revolutionise new customer acquisition is a secretive US company, Red Ventures. New York Times called it the “biggest digital media company you’ve never heard of.” Writes NYT:
[Red Ventures] is now leading a shift in that industry toward what is sometimes called “intent-based media” — a term for specialist sites that attract people who are already looking to spend money in a particular area (travel, tech, health) and guide them to their purchases, while taking a cut.
It’s a step away from the traditional advertising business toward directly selling you stuff. Red Ventures, for instance, plans to steer readers of Healthline to doctors or drugs found on another site it recently acquired, HealthGrades, which rates and refers doctors. Red Ventures will take a healthy commission on each referral.
… [L]ow-profile media companies [like Red Ventures] are riding a shift in technology as both Apple and regulators have eroded the dominance of the creepy advertising technology that allows companies to track you across websites. That has helped push the pendulum back toward the old-fashioned idea of connecting with readers seeking information relevant to their lives, whether it’s a Field & Stream article on the latest fly rods or a Healthline guide to Crohn’s disease treatments.
As Red Ventures’ own website puts it: “We simplify online experiences through premium content, consumer marketplaces and advice, strategic partnerships, AI-driven digital marketing, and world class intelligence/analytics.” Full stack – from content to customer data to call-centre to conversion.
An old article from 2015 in VentureBeat showcased the genesis of the Red Ventures model: “An East Coast Internet provider wants to do a paid search campaign on Google to bring in new customers. Red Ventures will build its own website for that search campaign, which will appear very high in Google’s search results. It will be designed by Red Ventures developers and run by its sales team. All the links and phone numbers on this website all lead back to Red Ventures. So, the brand itself doesn’t interact with potential customers. Of course, Red Ventures’ website is built to the brand’s specifications, but the customer acquisition responsibility is placed entirely in Red Ventures hands.” Since then, Red Ventures has simplified the acquisition process by acquiring many content brands.
So, how could the Red Ventures model for customer reactivation, referrals, and new acquisition?