Why the time is now for agencies to establish a B2B arm

Jason Pollock
By Jason Pollock | 17 October 2023
Valerie Beauchamp.

While many agencies are already working with clients who have a B2B component of their business, they may not be providing marketing services for those divisions - something that Valerie Beauchamp, VP, global head of agency education and development at LinkedIn, views as a huge missed opportunity.

"It’s becoming increasingly important for agencies to diversify their business – where they serve clients (eg regions, countries, cities); what services they offer; the types of talent that make up their teams; which platforms and publishers they partner deeply with (and invest heavily in) – and composition of their client portfolios can be a huge driver of that," she said.

"When you consider that many B2B companies sit in different sectors (eg manufacturing, transportation, logistics, education) and have different marketing channel mixes (eg events, heavy search, deep digital, content syndication) than B2C companies, taking on clients in this space can serve as a positive catalyst for diversification of an agency’s business."

Beauchamp said that there are a large number of B2B companies coming online, growing and going public in recent years, with each and every one of them having a story to tell and a promise to make to their existing and potential customers, and who would all benefit from having strong agencies to help them do that.

"Anecdotal evidence and experience from my last couple of years with LinkedIn tell me that there are not nearly enough agencies out there pointing their skills and capabilities at this growing segment of B2B companies, and those agencies that are investing in this space are seeing the benefits," she said.

Beauchamp said when you look at the opportunity available in the B2B marketing space, and all of the ways that more can still be driven in the context of creativity, brand building and measurements, realise that there is an enormous benefit to having a sophisticated partner and agency who can do that.

“Then if I flip it and say, ‘agencies, why would you want to get engaged in the B2B space?’, part of the thing that I think is so exciting about this space is it's growing considerably,” she told AdNews.

“The second reason is all of these emerging businesses need someone to help them identify, shape and craft their promise to the customer. They're trying to introduce themselves, establish themselves, distinguish themselves and agencies are great at that craft. 

“If you as an agency are passionate about building brands and successful businesses, the place to do that that’s ripe with opportunity right now is the B2B space.”

Beauchamp said LinkedIn is hearing from chief growth and marketing officers that more RFPs going into agencies for projects and for services are asking about an agency's B2B capability, whether that's because the company itself is focused in B2B or because the company has historically been quite focused on their B2C marketing and are now beginning to support their B2B arm with marketing.  

“The other thing I think is there a lot of agencies who see that some of the most interesting work that's happening in marketing actually should be and will be happening in the B2B space,” she said. 

“And I think the last piece of it is that we have had several agencies that we have gone into partnership with together around infusing insights, thinking, capability, training and upskilling into their organisations to help them strengthen their B2B muscles, which I read as an indication that agencies recognise that they would benefit from beginning to upskill.”

LinkedIn’s B2B benchmarking report found that Australian B2B marketers are likely to prioritise brand building in their budget allocation more than those in other markets, as four in five Australian CMOs/CFOs believe that the role of the CMO has gotten more important in recent years and 70% agreeing that there is an increased spending on growing brand awareness. 

Beauchamp said that agencies are continuing to focus on integrating their capabilities more effectively in service of their client’s needs.

“How might you bring teams together differently? How might you begin to create a seamless experience for clients as they move through your agency? That's been going on for a while now, and probably more prevalent a few years ago with a couple of the big holding companies, but you're now seeing really smart strategic thinking around how those capabilities are coming together for clients,” she said.

“And then as such, we're having a lot of really interesting conversations with agency leaders who are thinking about the opportunities that presents for them to do different kinds of work and pursue different kinds of clients and different kinds of industry. 

“Another space that I think is really interesting is the way that agencies are continuing to think about the role of technology in automating a lot of the work that they do so that their talents can spend more time upstream in business strategy, consulting and marketing strategy shaping.”

Beauchamp said she find that there’s a bit of a myth in the narrative that the creative industry is very anti-generative AI and the developments there that might be happening. 

“In my conversations and even in public forums like Cannes, I've seen the exact opposite, which is there's an enormous amount of excitement in the creative community around the opportunity that generative AI-driven tools might present to actually take brilliant creative ideas and scale them to impact in a way that's never been done before,” she told AdNews.

LinkedIn’s B2B benchmarking report said AI has caught on to a greater extent in Australia than in most other markets, with three in five marketers in the country currently using generative AI as part of their B2B marketing efforts and almost a third have an extremely good understanding of the technology.

The report also found that 51% of Australian marketers are using AI to increase their efficiency to focus on higher value work - and looking ahead, 53% agree that this will continue to be their main reason for using AI in the future.

Beauchamp said another trend she’s seen is agencies doing a lot of work around the relationship between upper funnel marketing and lower funnel marketing.

“How do they help their clients responsibly and accountably move from a place where it feels like brand building and demand generation are binary choices, as opposed to two approaches that work really well together and actually amplify one another?” she said. 

“The B2B benchmarking report also talks about a lot of optimism - and actually the most optimistic region being APAC - around the opportunity for marketing to continue to drive growth and revenue for the business, as well as optimism around expectations of an increase in budgets in the coming year.”

The report found that 71% of Australian marketers say budgets will continue to increase in the next year, with 17% saying budgets will increase substantially (25%+ growth), also similar to other markets.

Looking at how agencies can create a future-fit offering, where creative storytelling, AI mastery and marketing expertise work together, Beauchamp said that full service is becoming in vogue again.   

“There were really good reasons at the point in time that the industry separated those capabilities, but you're seeing them come back together because you get better end to end measurement and delivery, that feedback loop is closed and once that program delivers, you can quickly take the data back into the insight, the strategy and the creative idea,” she said. 

“The other thing is measurement infrastructures that are really closely tied to a client's business. In a lot of cases, agencies and clients have these amazing, trusted relationships, where clients are very, very comfortable with the integration or with the providing of data that allows agencies to help close the loop on marketing's impact on the business. 

“If I were going to bet big on a capability that I would invest a lot of money in if I started an agency tomorrow, it would be in measurement, because it's so essential to marketing moving from being perceived as a cost centre to being seen and understood as a growth driver.  

“This industry broadly is still relying on metrics and measures developed for consumer-facing businesses when we measure the impact of B2B. We're probably not measuring some of the things that need to matter, because we haven't come up with the language and the metrics for them in B2B.”

Have something to say on this? Share your views in the comments section below. Or if you have a news story or tip-off, drop us a line at adnews@yaffa.com.au

Sign up to the AdNews newsletter, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter for breaking stories and campaigns throughout the day.

comments powered by Disqus