Bluewolf gives IBM iX a stake in non-IBM deployments.
Besides being a big Salesforce partner, Bluewolf also manages deployments from vendors including Marketo and Oracle, said Corinne Sklar, global CMO and managing director of the marketing services practice for Bluewolf.
While Bluewolf has CRM and mar tech systems integration expertise, IBM iX brings depth in UI/UX design and experience, cognitive analytics and mobile experience – skill sets Sklar sees as complementary.
“Most traditional agencies are coming at this from a creative or media standpoint but they don’t get how business gets executed at the corporate level,” Sklar said. “You can make tools do anything these days, but we’re looking at business plans and strategy, with deep experience in data and BI behind it. We call ourselves a consulting agency.”
Unlike other systems integrators/consultancies acting as sales channels for large enterprise stacks, Sklar said Bluewolf takes a different approach.
“Our clients are paying the bills, so I feel like I’m a voice for the customer,” Sklar said. “I don’t think things like agency retainers or billable hours will go away in the short term, but we’re definitely looking more at business outcomes.”
IBM iX and Bluewolf say their hybrid agency model can benefit from macro forces impacting the larger agency community.
Factors like downward pressure on agency fees could indicate future marketing org cost-cutting. By offering both tech and agency services, IBM feels it’s immune from the broader belt-tightening in the media agency space.
More marketing organizations are aligning their projects with larger business objectives, IBM’s Bishop suggests, so C-suite executives like CEOs and CFOs are now brought to the table for CRM, analytics or data management platform selections.
The C-suite is thinking about "through-life engagement," what Bishop describes as an emphasis on customer lifetime value (retention and loyalty) versus pure acquisition or campaign-based approaches.
"If you’re in a domain that’s losing money, it can feel like costs are being cut, but people are moving budgets to places that drive returns," Bishop said. "I see elimination of waste as a driver, but it's a different motivation than taking costs out. It's, 'I want to drive better outcomes.' It's driven by the ability to provide better service."