I have long been of the opinion that business marketing needs to be better served – by the creative industry in particular – and by the marketers setting the agenda. Recent experience brought this back to me, in our quest (as providers of occupational pensions and benefits schemes) to find the perfect agency partner.
For example, a while back we refreshed our ‘shop window’ the company website, to find that when agencies pitched to us, they were either convincing creatively and had great ideas for presenting our brand, or they were convincing technologically. We couldn’t find a partner with equal strength in both the creative and the pulling it off disciplines. This makes me wonder ‘are we asking for too much’ or is there in a gap in the market waiting for an agency to fill it – that combines the best thinking from the consumer world, with passion for the complex and intangible?
In contrast, consumer brands seem to be well served, by any number of established big name outfits or fashionable boutique agencies, who set the pace for new techniques or who tackle marketing campaigns with humour, imagination and implementation skill.
But when we go looking for strong support for our business, we find the consumer agencies don’t want b2b work (and can be sniffy about the size of our hard won business budgets) or don’t have the passion for our subject matter. Whilst business agencies (to encourage dialogue, I am making a sweeping statement!) are generally good at engaging with the complex nature of our world, they can lack the creative vision that we so keenly seek and don’t push us to our limits. We seem to be able to buy the passion and the understanding of our material or ideas, not the two things together.
So here’s my plea to the agency world. Help me understand what the barriers are to exploiting our full potential – the clients or traditional thinking?
Q What’s your perspective on the attractiveness or otherwise of b2b work?
Q Can you convince your creative team that it is just as interesting to do imaginative, ground breaking work for a service business as it is for a bar of soap?
Q Or are there some real barriers to entry?
Q Do business marketers lack the vision, and play it safe creatively?
That said, I can’t help thinking that for b2b to truly fulfil its potential, that we need stronger, innovative support from the creative industry overall, and that there is a gap waiting to be filled.
What we want is simple – the ideas and encouragement to push the boundaries, to experiment and not be afraid of treating our buyers as human beings as well as the professionals they are. They are busy people, hard to reach but just as attracted by a novel and relevant approach. And they need us to fire up their imagination and show them how we can help them achieve their goals.
And ideally, we want the convenience of being able to buy these services from one shop rather than several, which make our lives easier. Is that too much to ask?