Transmission founder Chris Bagnall on digitally transforming the customer experience

Bagnall believes agencies can play a strategic role in helping to connect up client organisations, meet the challenge of changing customer expectations and transform views of marketing’s value

Transmission founder Chris Bagnall on digitally transforming the customer experience

Long before he founded Transmission, Chris Bagnall dreamed of being an architect: designing state-of-the-art structures and transforming living experiences. It was when a friend tipped him off about the six years of study involved that he switched his attention to marketing. Having built his B2B agency from the ground up over the past eight years (it was Transmission’s 8th birthday the day that we spoke), he’s found himself putting in the time anyway. He’s now being rewarded with a similar opportunity, albeit in a different industry, to design new ways of doing things.

Despite the many challenges of the last couple of years, Transmission has flourished. The agency doubled in size during 2020, and Bagnall is predicting growth of 50% over the next 12 months. It’s a period of success that’s come with redefining the scope of what a tech-savvy, data-led B2B agency can do for its clients. Bagnall believes that this could be the most profound impact of the last few years.

“Organisations need agencies like ours to do many more, interconnected things for them,” he says. “That creates an opportunity to be more useful in more places. Our client relationships have become stronger and more strategic because marketing teams don’t have all the answers internally for the questions that are emerging. When they have needed to accelerate digital transformation, they’ve come to us.”

Transforming marketing through connectivity
An immediate focus of that digital transformation has involved finding new ways to generate the business pipeline that once flowed from in-person events. “A lot of our clients are big, publicly listed businesses – and they can’t afford to just turn the tap off,” says Bagnall. “Where they’ve depended on events and in-person experiences, in the past they’ve had to pivot to driving the same outcomes digitally. We saw virtual events skyrocketing, but we also saw a lot of clients taking their event budgets and putting them into digital marketing.”

The real significance of digital transformation for marketing goes far beyond a switch to digital channels, however. Like a well-designed modern building, the potential is in the way the elements work together as a single cohesive unit. For Bagnall, the key to competitiveness going forward will be the ability of businesses to develop fully connected organisations – and translate those organisations into fully connected customer experiences.

“The sales cycle is so digitally oriented nowadays that any customer or potential customer has the ability to be influenced very quickly and turned on or turned off by the experience that they have,” he says. “Five or 10 years ago, we didn’t have the technology infrastructure to monitor the component parts of the customer experience. Now we do – and it’s a case of applying that technology. Some organisations are quite well set up for it, others need to catch up very quickly. Customer experience has to be a board-level conversation. If it’s not a priority, then you’re probably not going to be in business in a few years’ time.”

Designing organisations around greater internal connectivity doesn’t just enable them to deliver value. It also allows them to track that value more effectively. “Without connected systems and data, proving the value of marketing is often extremely hard,” says Bagnall. “In larger organisations, marketing teams can sometimes be too isolated to connect the impact of everything they’re doing. The transformation to modern marketing makes things easier. It also provides a better view on customer engagement and how activities influence the end-to-end journey. It’s this area that most businesses need to double down on – and they often need help reconstructing themselves in order to do so.”

Taking ownership of the revenue path
In helping marketing organisations to reconfigure themselves, agencies also have the opportunity to expand the scope of the ‘traditional’ marketing function. “Within progressive organisations, you tend to find CMOs who are digitally advanced and recognise the need to own the entire revenue growth path – not just the marketing function,” says Bagnall. “The digitisation of everything has made sales and marketing alignment more important – but it’s also helped to enable it. Our data sources available today mean that we can be specific not just about the prospects we’re going after but what their intent is and how we talk to them. When you talk to salespeople, this is music to their ears because they’re not fishing in a swimming pool anymore – they’re fishing in a smaller bucket of interested individuals.”

Connected organisations deliver connected customer experiences – and benefit from a connected view of how those experiences flow through to the bottom line. Whether you’re an architect or the founder of a marketing agency, the satisfaction that comes from designing those connections is something you crave more of. “Businesses like ours are constantly trying to break the norm and reinvent the wheel,” says Bagnall. “It becomes addictive in terms of where you can take it.”

For more insights from visionary Marketing Leaders check out LinkedIn’s CMO Corner.