23 January 2008

The B2B block

A couple of weeks ago, a client of mine with a portfolio of B2B products and services (from one of the leading business houses in India) was lamenting about her advertising agency’s inadequacy in servicing her organisation.

My client stated that, since her organisation’s business was both B2B and technical in nature, her advertising agency did not possess the requisite skills to service her account. That, leaving aside the skills and knowledge needed to do the job, neither her agency’s creative nor the servicing team even showed any willingness to understand the nature of her organisation’s business.

To be fair to the advertising agency, it isn’t always possible to quickly pick up skills and knowledge in technical matters, and churn out amazing advertising campaigns – or sets of sales collateral which are heavy with technical product/service information. After all, an advertising agency’s job is to create great advertising and optimise on the campaign’s media spends, not become a master in every technical product/service it handles.

That is why companies that sell technical products and services need to provide relevant, and sufficient, product/service information and knowledge – and even training – to their advertising agencies prior to expecting any campaign ideas. Unfortunately, too few agencies make this clear to their clients, thereby falling into an expectations trap.

Of course, to be fair to the organisation with its portfolio of technical products and services, this sharing of information and knowledge does happen – though, in the eyes of its advertising agency, it does not happen often enough or sufficiently enough. Hence, while developing communication programmes and sales collateral for its customers and business associates, an organisation with its technical portfolio often runs into serious communication problems with its advertising agency… with one blaming the other.

However, there is one area where advertising agencies falter. And, that is in their lack of understanding of the B2B marketing process. Perhaps because advertising agencies are so wrapped up in campaigns for consumers and consumer products, they have a poor understanding of the B2B selling and decision-making processes. Agencies sometimes refuse to accept that the nature of B2B business is very different from selling directly to a consumer. And that, the B2B communication process may require a different approach.

This makes me wonder if advertising agencies actually have a mental block in creating campaigns for B2B products and services. Perhaps, that’s what my client meant when she spoke of the lack of willingness that her advertising agency showed towards her organisation’s business.

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