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GUEST POST | Keeping up with the Martecs

14/11/2017

When Joe and Miriam invited me to take a NED mentoring role with their ambitious, growing agency, it made me focus on what role such an agency should play in today’s complex B2B scene.

It had to be “Keeping up with the Martecs!”

Martecs Law defines technology changing at an exponential rate, while organisations change in reaction to this at a logarithmic rate. So, if clients are always struggling to deal with change, how can B2B agencies provide optimum support?

IT AIN'T NEW!

I reckon, since I commenced my career in B2B in 1962, I’ve been involved in several eras of change. And what I feel is crucial, is for the agency to ‘change manage’ the pioneering processes – by constantly keeping their clients focused on the principles of B2B Marketing. More on them shortly…

We’ve come a long way since then, but throughout each of these eras, there’s a clear cycle I’ve identified. The rationalists seize the advantage as pioneers, with new techniques and technologies. 

Nothing wrong with being a pioneer. In fact, I’ve been one all my life: satellite TV in the ‘80s, solar panels the last seven years and an electric car to be fed by them! 

The real problem is, the success of new techniques and technologies. They create windows of opportunity for the pioneers – but this creates the illusion that it’s the technique itself that brings the success. 

As we wrestle with the implications of marketing automation, moving from pioneering to foreseeable saturation – with the inherent implications of data integration requirements – please remember the four most dangerous words in the English language: “It’s different this time!”

When you’re the only guy with a gun, you tend to bag more pheasants than the people with bows and arrows. But when everybody else gets a gun, you have a problem. You need to become a better shot; get a prime position; make friends with the gamekeeper…  

Even before my time, we dealt with the move in selling from referral and the hand-written letter, to mobile salesmen armed with the new invention: The motor car.

In the ‘50s and ‘60s we saw the integration of sales teams ­– with awareness generating trade press advertising.

The ‘70s saw us managing the change to integrated marketing, combining the sales teams with above and below-the-line campaigns. Most significantly, lead qualification – and what a struggle it was!

Then came the challenge of direct marketing and the possibilities of database utilisation. Next were the associated theories of a pink mailing on a Monday outperforming a blue one on a Friday! And so on.

But did the organisations (clients) keep up? Some did, but most needed help:

Often in dealing with internal resistance to change from the IT and Sales Directors, or external vendors claiming their particular hardware or software was the optimum solution. The wars around the integration of sales and marketing were raging.

The dawn of the internet firmly put websites at the centre of the relationship mix. The move away from ‘interruptive advertising’ tested organisations to the full.

Personally, I’d been desperately coaxing clients through this period, as the need to apply analytics to actions was paramount. Not just for optimum marketing productivity, but also for the Marketing Director to prove his point to the rest of the board!

With some clients, we (IASb2bmarketing, the agency I founded) succeeded; Altro and ABB to name two, mainly due to a total commitment from the top to keep up with the change, confidence in us and a commitment to the principles. Still the major problem was the integration of sales and marketing – linking marketing DB with what was referred to as CRM ­– which was actually Prospect Relationship Management.

I’d pioneered ‘Contact Strategy’ in partnership with Brand and Business Strategy at IAS and, when I sat down with Steve Woods, founder of Eloqua (now part of Oracle) in the early 2000s in Helsinki, we confirmed a solution to integration, control and analytics was possible. Marketing Automation was born.

Not much more than 14 years later, a majority of B2B companies in Europe and the USA have adopted this technology, as competitors to Eloqua popped up everywhere.

OK, ‘boring history lesson’ you’re thinking – but something happened in each of these challenges. Many people forgot the principles of B2B Marketing. It’s the role of the partner Agency to know, understand and effectively guide their clients with them.

These are what I define as the principles of B2B:

PRINCIPLE 1: Process Efficiency

The more efficient your process and system the more chance of success. BUT… “The technology/process is the enabler, not the solution.”

PRINCIPLE: The 4 Cs

In 1960 Philip Kotler came up with the 4 Ps: Product, Place, Price and Promotion; in 1988 Bob Lauterborn substituted the 4 Cs for B2B: Not Product, but “The Customer's wants and needs”; not Price, but “The Cost to satisfy the customer's wants and needs”; not Place, but “Convenience to buy” and, finally, not Promotion, but “Communication with”. Seems obvious 30 years later doesn’t it?

PRINCIPLE: Relevance

“Successful brands are those that know their prospects and customers better than anyone else.”

PRINCIPLE: Relationship Timeline  

Every prospect is on a timeline where they move from unaware to aware, to interested to trialling, to customer and, ideally, to advocate.” Obvious, you say. So why do you get emails from sellers who address you as a prospect, when you’re actually a long-serving customer (annoying you in the process)?

PRINCIPLE: Creativity  

“A B2B relationship timeline averages one to two years to move from unaware to customer.” Relevant and brilliant creativity will shorten that timeline considerably.

PRINCIPLE: Brand Strength 

“Your ability to attract and convert enquiries is directly proportional to your brand strength.”

PRINCIPLE: The Sales/Marketing disconnect

If you think it doesn’t exist within your organisation, look closely again!

I guess the real problem today is, you need to be a 60-year-old Millennial to take everything in. But there aren’t many of them about, so we have to make sure all views and areas are covered by these rules.

 

Tim Hazelhurst founded IAS (now SteinIAS) back in 1973; in 1980, he founded Brit Am to introduce UK clients to the USA, and in 1987, he created BBN, The Global B2B Network. Tim was a founding member of ABBA (since evolved into BMC) and the first recipient of Business Marketing’s Lifetime Achievement Award.