In Praise of B2B Work

Who Says Consumer Accounts Are Better?

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Maureen Hall Maureen Hall
Last week, we attended American Business Media's annual Creative Excellence in Business Advertising awards in New York City. Our agency was a finalist for Best Integrated Media Promotion for a campaign that's quickly becoming one of my favorite examples of how we, as an agency, think about all aspects of our client's business and how that can pay off for both of us.

But the truth is when we hung our shingle 22 years ago, most of our clients were business-to-business, and all we could talk about was becoming a "real" agency by landing our first business-to-consumer client. We wouldn't have believed that B2B jobs could promise good creative opportunities and larger budgets back then. It's another case of knowing now what we didn't know then. That's why I applaud Nina DiSesa, chair of McCann Erickson, who said, when she was inducted into the Creative Hall of Fame during the CEBAs, that she had done some of her best creative for B2B clients. We think she's right: B2B campaigns can be some of your best creative opportunities

But good creative is not the only opportunity. We've found that working on the B2B side of the business offers several other advantages. We're the first to get on the inside track of essential business concerns of our clients. We're right there with them discussing how to gain broader distribution, build retailer loyalty and figure out how to develop a go-to-market strategy. Some of our best client relationships started when we helped them gain access to new channels of distribution or develop sell-in programs to launch a new product. The knowledge and insight we gained working on the B2B side of their business gave us the clear advantage when they were ready to develop the consumer campaign.

Business-to-business work is about building a brand from the inside out. The brand message that we communicate to our clients' business constituents is often the same message that is carried through to the consumers in the marketplace. So even though we once thought that consumer advertising was sexier than B2B, we've corrected our wayward ways and sought out these opportunities.

We are finding that the B2B landscape is changing just as rapidly as consumer advertising is. Retailers make it increasingly hard to accomplish a comprehensive in-store brand launch these days, leaving businesses no choice but to pour resources into the Net versus creating brand ambassadors face-to-face. In a recent BtoB Magazine article, author Greg Ness points to a 21.4 percent growth in Internet spending among the top 100 B2B advertisers.

All this leads me to ponder this question; will we soon see "real" agencies kicking the wall when they win the B2C project, but not the B2B? It could happen.
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