Over the last years, we have successfully helped to scale consumer-focused brands and high-growth startups in Southeast Asia with a new service offering called Digital Build-Operate-Transfer (DBOT).
Originally, BOT is a common term in the automotive industry whereas one of the suppliers helps to build, operate and eventually transfer a production facility to some of the car manufacturers. In the 21st century this concept has been adapted and applied to innovative, new companies or projects that were created from scratch by agencies or co-creation partners and were then handed over to the corporate or start-up partner.
In a nutshell, a new project (or company) will be set up from scratch from a team of experts, operated for 9-18 months before it is transferred to an in-house team. It is a risk-adjusted, time and deliverables-based project with clear internalisation of knowledge for the client.
Companies are looking for agility, flexibility and outcomes
In the past, a typical agency or service provider relationship with a brand was structured in relatively rigid form: typically in a 12+12 months retainer with a predefined set of services and deliverables. This has worked well in the past with linear client and agency relationships and expectations but it has run its course in the days of digital transformation. There has been a constant conflict between agencies who are looking for long(er) term partners and corporates/startups that want to keep flexibility of working with external partners.
Nowadays, corporates and especially start ups are looking for agility, flexibility and outcomes when working with an external partner. Agility as in the ability to change scope of work if needed e.g. from social content production to performance and CRM or moving from internal digitisation to external/consumer facing digitisation. Flexibility pending on the business performance to scale, to downscale/stop or to transfer the knowledge when the heavy lifting has been done. Lastly, outcomes-based meaning defining phases with clear objectives that are measured in business outcomes.
The Building Blocks of DBOT
The first phase is defined as the design phase. Essentially it is the co-creation of a strategic plan and alignment of objectives (such as business scorecard) and defining the consumer journey with a variety of stakeholders.
It usually starts with a one to two day workshop to work (and align) with the management team on a strategic plan including a business scorecard as outcome. We also use these sessions to co-develop a typical customer journey – a human-centered design approach. This customer journey can be developed as a customer experience journey (“CDJ”) (which showcases the emotional high- and lowlights of a day/week) or in a customer journey based on the funnel model with each of the buyer stages (awareness, consideration, conversion, loyalty). This design phase usually takes 3-4 weeks from kicking-off the project to a finalised strategic plan with a business scorecard and an improved customer journey as a result.
From there, we enter the build phase. This is the phase that consists of setting up the conversion framework including the heavy-lifting and set up of social/content calendar, performance channels and holistic tracking set up (GTM, GA, Ads/FB manager and Data Studio). Why do we include the technical tracking set up so early? Because “if you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.” Once this initial set up is done we start with testing of the initial marketing phase.
Once the building phase is done we enter the operating phase. In short, this is the phase of execution, testing & learning and eventually scaling (or closing).
This is the part when our (performance) team gets their hands dirty. Or in a professional context it is called the “increase the channel penetration and broaden the marketing mix” phase. This phase is characterised with daily/weekly incremental performance improvements and weekly testing of campaigns in close partnership with the client. E.g. in the case of deliveroo we set up a sophisticated campaign structure with more than 130,000 facebook and search campaigns and more than 250 content and message variations that were running daily and continuously tested (and adapted) over 12 months. The operating phase can be also considered the scaling for growth phase.
The next phase is one of the most important phases as it will define the long-term success of the digital scaling project: transfer. This is the key to a successful transition. Here the DBOT team creates manuals, checklists and works on a structured handover including training for the team that will take over the project.
The type of talent for DBOT is different and unique
“But why do you handover a project?” or “why do you train someone to do “your” job?” are some of the first reactions I got in the beginning.
Yes, it is painful to handover a project that you spend so hard for the last 9-12 months on but it always takes a certain type of person and expert to build up something from scratch vs. maintaining or incrementally improving the day-to-day of it. Also the risk appetite must be much higher for someone who joins a DBOT team or project so early. And with it, the rate of failure is much higher. However, for a new venture (or a corporation that wants to diversify their core business) this is one of the best, risk-adjusted and fastest way to test new business models and thus revenue streams. Or for start-ups to test new markets or territories before going “full in” (or raise the next fundraising round as it was the case for deliveroo).
Case Study: Helping deliveroo Singapore with DBOT
Results of the DBOT model can be impressive if you have a partner who is aligned with this approach. In our case it was deliveroo Singapore with its (former) GM Tristan Torres. We both knew that it would be a “marriage on time” and that we worked on specific objectives in each phase with the ultimate goal to transfer this knowledge to his team that he wanted to build up over 12 months.
Over a span of 12 months, we have increased orders 20% week on week while reducing the overall cost per order by more than +65%. Or as Tristan said about the partnership:
FALCON has been a great agency partner for deliveroo. The nature of our business requires daily optimisation and changes and the team has been extremely agile with their turnaround times.
They have met or exceeded all the targets I have thrown at them month on month and they have been extremely proactive in proposing improvements or campaigns to help boost our results.