Opinion: Network platforms are the future of marketing organizations

Network cables

John Winsor is CEO of the agency Victors & Spoils

The lines are blurred today between different marketing organizations. Brands are building their own organizations to not only create content but publish it directly. Media companies are getting into the marketing content business by working directly with brands, using their editorial content creation expertise. And agencies are stuck in the middle, competing with both. All three are not only working together but competing every day. In this confusing world of digital democratization, customers are also suppliers and competitors. Currently, there is a lot of friction in the marketing ecosystem.

A new business model is emerging that crosses all traditional boundaries between brands, agencies and media companies. The best are creating and running network platforms with a goal of reducing the friction in the system.

In their upcoming book, “The Network Imperative,” Jerry Wind and Barry Libert outline the power for becoming a network orchestrator. In their research on public market valuations of organizations, values vary widely from asset builders (such as hospitals, hotels), at 1x sales valuation; service providers (consultants, agencies, insurance) valued at double sales; technology creators (software, pharma) at four times sales, and network orchestrators (credit card companies, stock exchanges, social networks), valued at eight times sales.

But, how do you become a network orchestrator to capture the value that the financial markets are placing on these new business models? It starts with building networks, networks of talent, networks of suppliers and networks of collaborators.

To become a network, agencies must first create a platform. There are five platform principles to build a powerful network:

Understand each participant’s energy sources.
What does everyone in a network want to accomplish? This includes, creators, readers, brands, and facilitators.

Identify the core processes to support.
How do people do the work they do today? Understand the details of how each participant gets their jobs done and accomplishes their goals.

Develop design principles.
What are the commonalities between the way different people in the system work.

Create tool sets.
From the design principles, what are the common set of tools that everyone in the network needs to get their jobs done with less friction.

Establish the rules of interaction.
Platforms support evolving networks where interactions between participants constantly evolve. As relationships evolve, so too do the rules of engagement.

Building a platform is not an end goal; it is a journey with both success and bumps along the road as collaboration happens. In the end, the organizations that create the best architected platforms — even in the service of self-interest — will facilitate the most collaboration. And be rewarded in the financial markets.


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