“Captivate. Then capitalise.” This is the mantra at Ebow, the Irish-owned digital agency that collaborates with clients in a broad range of sectors to deliver high-quality digital projects.
Ebow specialises in digital positioning for brands. Its work spans strategy, creative and technology across all digital and traditional touch-points.
Established in 1999, the agency has been working with clients in sectors including retail, travel, finance and health, for two decades.
This longstanding experience means that Ebow has a solid understanding of how project management varies across all platforms and how hard it can be to manage technology expectations, whilst keeping everyone happy.
According to Alison O’Reilly, account director at Ebow, managing people’s expectations is a vital part of getting these projects off to the right start.
“It can be one of the hardest parts of any project to manage, but it is also one of the most important,” said O’Reilly.
“People want to know what we can deliver for them from the outset, about what it can do for their business and what impact the project will have on their bottom line. All this prior to a detailed project specification.”
An important part of this process is deciding on the right benchmarks and targets.
“You sometimes get people who want a project to generate a certain number of online leads,” said O’Reilly.
“They have a number in their head, but it’s based solely on their spend, and may not necessarily be in line with the standard cost per acquisition for businesses in their industry. Ultimately, it may not amount to the best approach.
“Getting around challenges like this really comes down to managing expectations at the outset in terms of what will be included within the scope of the project, the key deliverables and what these deliverables can do for their business, as well as what is possible given the market size.”
Communication and stakeholders
Communication, and involving the right people at the right times, is key to ensuring that a project is successfully managed.
“One of our priorities is to bring the right stakeholders on board at the right time, because there may be different people and teams involved in the project at different stages,” said O’Reilly.
“We’ll ask about that upfront, so that we can facilitate the process of ensuring that we can bring together the right people from the outset if that’s what’s needed. We also try to gauge the level of technical experience and understanding.”
This approach is, said O’Reilly, one of the key benefits Ebow can bring to clients as an outside agency.
“It can be much harder to manage that process internally, to pull all those elements together and facilitate conversations and brainstorming,” she said.
While digital trends continue to evolve - with new technologies, such as voice search and artificial intelligence, emerging all the time - quality content remains king to your customer.
“Clients want content that resonates. They want content that tells a story, that’s relatable and that people can get on board with easily,” said Sharon Murray, operations director at Ebow.
“It isn’t just about what we call ‘broadcast’ - messaging that’s pushed in someone’s face - but that’s nothing new. It’s been the hardest kind of marketing to get right for as long as marketing has been around.
“I think, along the way - as digital became such a big part of our lives and how we do business - direct response marketing took over a bit from the more narrative marketing we would have seen previously.
“People are starting to realise now that it doesn’t really matter what channel it’s on, you still have to tell a compelling story if you want to spark people’s interest and attention,” said Murray.
In response, Ebow is championing a return to “traditional brand sensibilities” and an ethos of quality and individuality.
The agency is adapting to deliver high-quality and compelling content across not just digital channels, but also other platforms, including corporate films, press, out-of-home, radio, web and mobile.
Ebow takes a collaborative approach to the briefing process. “Clients often want to know if there is a checklist they can use at the start of a project. The answer is no,” said Alison O’Reilly.
“A template or ‘to-do’ list actually increases the chances that you won’t be able to define their expectations at the outset, because there isn’t enough room for them to share their own insights and expectations - their preferences, likes and dislikes.”
According to O’Reilly, a more effective approach is to work collaboratively with clients to, effectively, co-write the project brief.
“Workshops, and nailing down strategic intent as part of a consultative process, is what really helps us to come out with a really strong brief together,” she said.
Murray said this approach really appealed to clients, because it delivered clarity and purpose.
“They love it, they enjoy the process. It’s a really effective way to kick-start a positive and productive relationship as well as get the unknowns out and known,” she said.
“It gives everyone involved clarity at the outset, which is reassuring, and they can agree plans and proposals with their board of directors and other internal stakeholders.
“They can tell you what their needs are, but going through a process like this means that you understand the ‘why’ and get the rationale behind the brief, which is really important.”
A key driver for Ebow is managing brand reputation for clients, including Peter Mark, Kerrygold and the HSE.
Getting this right comes down to understanding clients’ goals and objectives at the start of any project.
“A lot of people will want to jump straight into projects, but we always take a very measured and strategic approach, so we can make sure we get it right,” said O’Reilly.
This process can take up to a month and involves consultation with clients and discovery and strategy workshops, but it’s a month that will save you a lot of heartache.
“This helps us to find out more about the project, what it needs and what expectations are, so we can agree a clear picture of what we’re going to do,” said Sharon Murray.
“Our priority is to ask the right questions and to explain how we work as an agency, including our creative processes, briefing and design, how we manage change requests, proofing and testing.”
Ebow uses strategic intent diagrams to outline the vision or mission of the project, values and expected outcomes. Project documentation is then compiled, detailing how it will progress once work begins.
“There are so many different processes involved in taking a project through to completion that it’s really useful to give a client a really good understanding of the time it will take, the people involved and how the whole process will work,” said O’Reilly.
“That, again, comes back to managing expectations, because it will impact content, timings and even the format in which we send and receive information.
“Now, with the new ways of working around Covid-19, it is even more important to have clarity and experience driving any project. During these times the web is getting even busier as people turn to it even more than before. For some it will work, for others it will throw up more challenges.”