About connection: Sprout’s Agency Partner Peak fosters what it preaches

23 Oct

It’ s that time of season, where a global community of company partners, experts and transformative business pros join Sprout Social in a single inspiring space. We get to the very center of the buzzwords, get to know one another, plus ultimately, walk away with the knowledge to assist our organizations thrive.

Last year’ s Agency Companion Day was such a success that people decided 2018 needed to see more— more speakers, more partners, a lot more food, more drinks, more space .

Partners traveled from far and wide with this one.

In case you skipped it, or if you just want to re-experience all the goodness, we’ ve put together all the biggest takeaways from our 2018 Agency Partner Summit.

Day 1: It’ s the human to human world

Our industry has never been simply a B2B world or a B2C entire world, it’ s always been a human-to-human world. No community understands that greater than agencies.

This event put that concept. The big themes during the day were connection, trust and advancement. We heard it from our loudspeakers, we saw the words lit facing the backdrop of the Art Institute, several importantly, we felt it within the camaraderie of coming together to talk about in the talent, intelligence and mankind behind the work we accomplish daily.

The big idea among so many of the speakers was connection— it could be a buzzword, but what does it truly mean to agency professionals?

Diana Helander, Head associated with Marketing, Twitter Data & Business Solutions, broke it down having a simple example for us: Serena Williams— yes, the tennis record-breaker— a new moment with Twitter that exemplified why connection in the social surroundings is so important.

Williams missed her daughter’ s very first steps. And the first place she considered lament was Twitter. A true time of connection everyone can connect to— moms, dads, sons, children reached out to the tennis champ to talk about their encouragement, not because she’ s Serena Williams, but due to the fact she’ s a mom.

A worldwide moment of individual connection. That’ s the power associated with social.

For companies to put that concept into activity, Helander advises to start with the people on their own. People on social aren’ capital t passive passengers, they’ re energetic, driving the conversations that form culture.

The value of the social audience lies in their impact, their receptivity, and the results they will drive for brands. The discussions are already happening out there. The information you can glean are what link your business to them.


Thinking about the power associated with networks

In the girl presentation on navigating the complicated landscape of social, LinkedIn’ ersus Ty Heath, Global Lead associated with Marketing Development, built off several of Helander’ s points, noting that trust plays the most important role in what we do.

The most successful individuals build networks. B2B success is marked by how strong and authentically connected your employee network is.

Heath drove home one salient point— If you want to go far, build a team. Broaden your horizon and connect beyond the c-suite.

How did Warren Buffet get so fantastically rich? Undervalued assets. Marketers aren’ t exactly investing in assets, but rather in audiences. Are there undervalued audiences? Yes. They’ re individual contributors— 55% of current tech buyers are individual contributors.

Ignored audiences influence buying decision. It’ s those ICs that will be making the buying decisions of tomorrow. And all this time you haven’ t been talking to the customers of tomorrow.

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Flywheel > funnel

The good old marketing funnel. Have you ever thought it needed an update? Our speakers did.

Both Sprout’ s Director of Customer Success, Claire Schlafly, and HubSpot’ s Worldwide Marketing Director, Angie O’ Dowd, had strong opinions about how today the funnel we know and live by more accurately resembles a wheel, with customers at the middle.

Customers and customers today have all the power. They’ re at the center of your strategy. The flywheel reminds you your customers aren’ t just an output, they’ re a part of the engine.

Other speakers and panelists echoed this thought throughout the day, reinforcing the importance behind “ customer-centric” marketing.

O’ Dowd identifies as a full-funnel marketer, but didn’ t want us to forget that the funnel isn’ t the whole picture. That seam between marketing and sales is where opportunity lives. It’ s the handoff there that is the most important place to focus, yet so undervalued.

Are you aware 69% of buyers expect an Amazon-like experience? And 70% of customers say connected processes— like seamless handoffs or contextualized engagement during early interactions— are important to winning their business.

O’ Dowd is intimately knowledgeable about the untapped value between marketing and sales. The marketing director admits that five years ago she, as a marketing manager, didn’ t know her sales team well and didn’ t realize how important it was to work alongside with them. This is illustrated with a photograph of her and a sales person she didn’ t know during the time in the same frame, completely unconnected.

“ That sales person turned out to be my fiance, ” O’ Dowd said. “ But I didn’ t meet him until I was leaving my company. ”

“ Easily had been better aligned with my sales team I could be married chances are! ”

Getting real with agency and brand leaders

In the midst of such great speakers, we featured two panels where brand experts had a minute to pull back the curtain on agency culture, partnership and how to avoid surprising your clients.

To kick the panels off, Sprout’ s own Kelly Marberry moderated our agency owner panel, featuring Marie Hale, Co-Founder and CEO of @revenue, Elissa Nauful, Founder and CEO of Ballywho Social, and Beth Newton, Partner and Chief Content Officer at alpha | BRAVO.

“ You have to be professionally in deep love with your clients, ” Hale said, stressing the importance of seeing the manner in which you play together before producing a strategy.

“ If you’ re begging them to finish content month after month, simply say, ‘ no, we’ re maybe not in love with you. ’ ”

The spirit of the conversation turned to the importance of digital education, with Nauful making the principle point that the rapid and constant change in social means agencies have to be 15 steps ahead to hire for positions that didn’ t exist before.

Newton touched on the idea that there comes a point where it almost feels like do or die with agencies, and that’ s where a blended workforce model is available in handy— to strike a balance hiring carefully and creatively, it’ s good to have freelancers.

Hale sees agencies ultimately moving into full-service, doing all the implementation and being there to be accountable for the results you’ re seeing.

“ Once [clients] start to get it, they see the possibilities and turn to someone they trust to execute, ” Newton said.

Lizz Kannenberg, Director of Brand Strategy at Sprout, uncovered similar takeaways during the brand panel, where we heard from Pooja Van Dyke, Associate Director of CreativeWorks at ESPN, Kamilah Jones, VP of Marketing at New Teacher Center, and Becky Chandler, Senior Director of eCommerce at U. S. Cellular.

From high tech to digital UX to ecommerce, the panel came together from varied backgrounds and disciplines and made it clear that brands are looking for agencies who cut clutter and are willing to partner.

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The group agreed that a lot of what agencies do lies in digital education.

“ You need to be a trusted source. Nine out of ten times you’ re going to have people that don’ t speak the digital language, ” Van Dyke said of her experience.

There’ s a strong theme of partnership threaded throughout the conversation, as each panelist spoke to the theory that the client and agency relationship can feel “ othered” occasionally, as though the client is just a problem to fix. But there’ s an appetite for true partnership. The only complicated agency partnership is perhaps working with other agencies.

“ The dirtiest word in agency life is ‘ inter-agency team, ’ ” Kannenberg said.

That said, the panel stressed the significance of diversity of thought. You won’t ever know what you’ re going to study from other agencies that support the brands you work with.

“ A successful piece of content isn’ t the most impressive part of the client agency relationship, it’ s how exactly we got there, ” Van Dyke said, emphasizing process.

Chandler cites setting clear guard rails and finding how each agency’ s skill set compliment one another as solutions toward success whenever using other agencies.

The panel was finally asked if there’ s anything on their mind they haven’ t solved yet.

For Jones, certainly one of things they’ re moving toward is having a diverse organization with both promotion and development strategies. She hopes that agencies will start to think about how they’ re really increasing the diversity of staff, voices and structures.

Happy hour, happy partners

Partners kept the momentum going at Sprout HQ after day one. But not before they fit in some quintessential Chicago sights.

And amidst the nice food, good spirits and good conversation, we were all awaiting one thing: Partner Value Awards!

Sprout’ s second annual agency partner summit saw a new batch of talented submissions with this year’ s awards. From the ‘ Cultivate’ award to the coveted ‘ Social Campaign of the Year’ award, our winners spanned every type and size of agency, hailing from across the globe.

Cultivate: This award is for somebody that went above and beyond on behalf their clients.
Winner: Firebelly

Always Be Growing: This award recognizes somebody who has taken advantage of the partner program’ s resources and has seen or laid the foundation to see remarkable results.
Winner: RyTech, LLC

Sprout Partner MVP: This award will go to a Partner who excelled at their advocacy efforts.
Winner: 123 Internet

Social Media Campaign of the Year: This award is fond of a partner who submitted one of their or their clients’ campaigns that has been creative and strategic in attaining the clients’ stated objectives.
Winner: Chatterkick

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A big congratulations to everyone else! You’ re changing an industry of course you like.

Day 2: Putting learnings into practice

One day wasn’ t enough. On the second day of the summit, we came in inspired and refreshed, ready to put our learnings into action on behalf of our customers and our agencies. Agency practitioners and owners were ready to go all in to build better social strategies and client services.

But first, donuts.

Rules of engagement

Willie Mullen, Sprout’ s Senior Manager of Agency Sales, and Lindsay Mullen, Co-founder and CEO of Prosper Strategies— both a few in real life and a dynamic duo in the agency world— spoke to the rules of engagement when finding a fit during client discovery.

The trick to locating the right fit is in understanding the power dynamics from the beginning and leaving yourself the room to adapt.

Lindsay made it a point to state that when it comes to budget, money shouldn’ t be uncomfortable to speak about. Embrace the conversation to assess fit.

“ What this really comes down to, ” Lindsay said, “ is that I have not been stressed in regards to a client in a year. ”

That’ s how you know you’ re getting the right customers through the door.

One-on-one time

Finally, the speakers and panels and fireside chats came to a close. But there clearly was still work to be done. Sprout set aside some 1: 1 time in the afternoon for partners for connecting with their dedicated success and channel managers, or just generally chat with the Agency Partner Program team.

Among many things, Sprout’ s second annual Agency Partner event was an opportunity to see how vastly differing people, with different professional experiences, philosophies and goals along their journeys work toward the same finish line.

That’ s real connection.

Interested in learning more about the Agency Partner Program? Let’ s chat .

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