If you had to pick, which factor would you say is more important as an agency: innovation or speed to market? Here’s the thing: it doesn’t matter how innovative or great a new product you’re going to offer is if you can’t get it to market before your competition does. A slow speed to market (STM) is like handing over the competitive advantage to your competition. Innovation and speed go hand in hand, and if you can’t master the latter, then your rivals will be racing ahead with new digital marketing products and advertising services faster than you can add them to your basket of offerings. If you want to give your competition the chance to dominate the market and leave you scrambling in the dust over behind-the-times business crumbs, I suggest you stop reading.
If you want to be an industry leader, you have to lead the industry—not follow it.
Why does it matter?
In the 2016 SoDA report (Society of Digital Agencies), clients of B2Bs rated their satisfaction with their agency partner’s digital products a measly 3.2 out of 5. Combine this with the fact that 20% of clients leave a partnership due to their needs outgrowing the agency’s abilities, and suddenly you get the picture with how important innovation of products is to your clients.
It’s not just the clients who feel this way, either. The agencies surveyed in the SoDA report rated themselves at a 3.0 when asked to rate their organization’s strength in terms of “driving digital innovation within [their] competitive set and incubating new products and services that are transforming [their] category.” Mind the mouthful, but looks like even agencies themselves aren’t confident in their innovation and leadership within their competitive space.
It all comes down to the speed to market factor, which lets any agency position themselves as an industry expert and leader of the pack when it comes to digital marketing.
Image Source: Green Hills Software
As demonstrated in the graphic above, the later you are bringing your product to market, the more market share your competitors get to gobble up.
Your clients want new incremental products. If you offer new incremental products, they’re going to pay for them. If you offer them before anyone else does, you’ll get way more clients coming to give you their money to get their hands on it. It’s pretty straight forward. A slow speed to market can hurt you pretty badly.
If your new product launch is delayed by 10 months, that’s 10 whole months you’re leaving your competition to grab market share, and less money-happy clients for you to do business with when you finally do go to market.
Image source: Arena Solutions
Decreasing your speed to market by 5% can increase your rate of return on investment by 13% (Green Hills Software).
Who wants to give up that much revenue to their competition? No one. Time to take speed to market matters into your own hands.
Traditional Boundaries of STM
The journey from prototype to active product is a long one. It’s one of those trips where you’re going to want to find audiobooks of the full LOTR series, download 10 GBs of new music and pack your cooler full of bread loaves and jars of condiments. You’re in this for the long haul.
In the realm of consumer goods, the average speed-to-market is 22 months (BCG Perspectives). In the industry, a company that gets their products to market within 15 months is considered a top speed performer.
When your products are new digital advertising and marketing solutions, there are many unforeseen circumstances that can drastically affect your speed to market. Roadblocks like vendor selection, due diligence, infinite integration meetings and 90+ day contract negotiations can push back your launch date endlessly, and leave your competitors ample time to move in on that innovative space. Not to mention more technical details like basic bugs, crashes and glitches.
With timeline plugs like these, you’re basically handing your competition ample market share on a silver platter.
A word of caution
All amped up and ready to turn your STM up to 11? Glad to hear it! However, every digital marketing company and agency needs to be cautious when stepping on the gas. In many situations, producing things faster can lead to cutting important corners, and decreasing the overall quality of the product. Sure, you could get a product from prototype to launch in a few short months, but would it be something that clients actually want? That’s the kicker.
There’s no use in bringing a poor quality product to market at breakneck speed, just like there’s no use in offering a high quality, yet completely obsolete product.
How to improve your speed to market
If you’re still reading, it means that you want to be the innovative thought leader of your industry and take your STM into FTL territory (faster-than-light).
Solving a poor speed to market is about more than just acceleration too—it also involves proper product pipeline management (holy alliteration, Batman!)
Shorten the go-to-market cycles
Using third party products to shorten specific areas of your go-to-market cycle can drastically improve your speed to market. Collaboration is key, both internally between teams and externally with third parties!
Improve cross-team communication
Keeping open channels of communication is vital in product development to avoid bottlenecks and feedback loops. Cross-team communication will help you achieve objectives with more agility and transparency, and minimize downtime through the production cycle.
Rock the roadmap
A good roadmap will reduce the amount of grey areas in your project timeline, and provide guidance at kick-off so you don’t get caught on little nuisances further into development. Follow roadmapping best practices, and leave your team a little wiggle room to stay agile and flexible.
? Tip: To test the success of your digital marketing product, leave room for pilot launches in your roadmap. E.g 3 markets and 30 reps to test the waters before rolling the solution out to the entire market.
Create an organizational environment
Bumps, bottlenecks and blockages (oh my!) thrive in disorganized environments, so the best way to avoid a slow speed to market is to make your product’s path to launch as smooth as possible. Optimize the assembly line by automating the processes you can afford to automate, and have a dedicated project manager tweaking and correcting along the way. There are even a few project management tools worth checking out that could help save you time and sanity. Have a single source of truth for all documentation so nobody gets lost down the Google Drive rabbit hole looking for one thing or another.
?Tip: Use multi-solution vendors or marketplaces to minimize vendor clutter in your workspace, and reduce launch “tripping hazards.”
Utilize a curated marketplace
These puppies are like FTL speed to market in a box. Chock full of pre-vetted, proven and world-class products, a curated marketplace allows you to pick what’s right for your clients without having to deal with a lengthy production and launch plan for each digital solution.
The Vendasta Solution
Vendasta’s Cloud Marketplace provides agencies a full spectrum of best-of-breed third party solutions, so you can skip the slow product development timeline and sales ramp cycle all together. Marketplace enables you to increase your revenue and deliver incremental value to customers and prospects.
The fun doesn’t end there, though. Marketplace is also a dynamic sales tool built to assist agencies in selling by furnishing them with seamless product provisioning, robust sales training materials and integrated marketing automation to generate warm sales leads whenever customers engage with solutions that you’re provisioning.
It typically takes large media companies and Agencies nine to eleven months to go to market with new products. [Marketplace] is Instant On. Everything’s packaged, negotiated and ready to go.