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‘It’s time for a new model agency’: As B2B broadens its horizons, what needs to change?

By on September 15, 2022 0

As competition intensifies in B2B, industry leaders expect growth and change in shape. We sat down with nine bigwigs, including major independents vying for pole position, to ask what needs to change as B2B shifts gears.

Changes are afoot in the business-to-business (B2B) landscape – and as we’ve recently heard from industry leaders, many of them believe it’s time for the age of B2B gold as work becomes more creative and seen by more people. But what needs to change to make this dream come true? At a recent roundtable for space leaders from The Drum Network, we asked them.

Chris Bagnall, Managing Director and Founder, Transmission

From an attribution, channel unification, and customer journey perspective, the whole historical view of agency structuring has been flawed. And the whole historical view of how clients were set up was not conducive to success. If you’re trying to collect as much data as possible along a long and complex customer journey, across a group of different people, across a plethora of channels – that relay passing between departments, between data sets and between agencies, is simply not set up for success.

Niche, specialist agencies that are only good at one or two things that are part of the longer-term equation: those days are over. You can’t afford to have 20 agencies doing 50 different things. You need five agencies all connected, all talking together, connecting all the data together.

Fran Gibbs, Director, Brand Strategy, Gravity Global

It’s time for a new modeling agency. The looping team model does not work. We need separate P&Ls whether you are in ABM or branding. We need to stop fighting for budgets above or below the line. We must work together as a united and cohesive group.

And we need to help our customers understand the need for brand awareness and admiration in order to build confidence in your ability to deliver. Familiarity motivates consideration, and it motivates all the perceptions that underlie consideration. Familiarity and fame are the lubricant throughout the funnel; they are not upper funnel functions. We need to give our clients the confidence, the ammunition, and the data to advocate internally for a rebalancing of brand name marketing investments. I’m not saying all the money goes to the brand from demand. Absolutely not. But it was neglected. And yet it is so powerful at every point of the funnel.

Chris Wilson, Managing Director, Earnest

Agencies can provide the most help by working with our clients to address the need to effectively make the branded piece, the top of the funnel piece. We need to help them find the right metrics that matter to the board and help them build a business case. It’s in our interests, and we have access to a lot of data points on that.

Mirza Fur, Executive Director, The Marketing Practice

What we need to emphasize is that B2B, more often than not, is team-driven. They are humans, individuals and personalities – but they hunt in packs. We need data and analytics, but it’s about accounts, not leads.

Know the buyer’s journey, in terms of people, IT teams and places. Start there. This is not a sales journey.

Hannah Thompson, Group Media Director, Tug

In B2B marketing, we often target CFOs and GMs – or that’s the brief given to us by our clients. But in reality, the people researching these products and preparing RFPs are assistants and executive assistants, junior managers, and IT managers — those whose job titles are often overlooked in B2B. Few business owners download a white paper to understand what a product will do.

Many brands are starting to survey and survey their customers; ask their sales teams to collect more data. We get more feedback from our customers, and our advertisers learn more about their companies and user journeys. We are now getting huge client documents at the briefing stage, instead of just “targeting FDs”. We receive 50-page presentations on customer profiles and journeys. If we can get that jump start in data collection, then we can do even better.

Jennifer Webb, Director of Strategy and Planning, TrunkBBI

It’s time to talk to your customers and focus on the brand experience. This is where the differentiation lies. Try not to think about brand strategy and positioning, think about the experience you’re going to provide your customers, and then work back.

Barbara Bottini, Managing Director, Experience Consulting, EPAM

We have to think about the value exchange: what proposition, other than messaging, is going to improve your customer’s situation? How are you going to make people more intellectually stimulated, more entertained, more educated? Think about value exchange in terms of experience design and customer journey.

Modern marketing, whether B2B or B2C, is not just about what we do as a result, but how we do it. It is as important to allow our customers to do their marketing better than to reinvent their brands, their campaigns and their content.

John Barham, Managing Director, Roast

Ironically, B2B is better organized for the next two years than B2C; its data maturity is much more robust. The panics we get from some B2C customers are not there in B2B because they have the first party data. This is a good opportunity for them to be bolder in the market and with their creativity. They have the underlying architecture to capture impact in a much better way than some of the biggest B2C advertisers have historically.

Katie Roberts, Marketing Manager, Freedman International

We must remember that markets are humans; people. Think about the markets you want to run your campaigns in, and consider your strategy to ensure your brand connects with people in those markets, and not just in one language in one place. It should feed into the whole experience – it should feel applicable and relevant to different markets and different people within those markets.

These interviews have been edited for brevity and readability.