B2B Advertising and PR Agencies, New Media,
and Changing Business Models
By Alex Romanovich
Chief Marketing Officer at EuroSpaClub International
Some B2B companies have recently complained that many PR and advertising agencies don't want to spend a lot of time running social media campaigns. It seems the business model doesn't allow for short-term, brisk projects, amplifying content written specifically for that campaign.
Indeed, many traditional PR and advertising agencies are used to a different model of managing their clients—long-term contracts, relationship-based, with some level of measurement and analytics and a fairly high-level definition of metrics and ROI. On top of everything else, their clients are asking for more information and with a deeper level of understanding of the outcomes and success rates.
Enter the world of social media marketing, where tools and metrics are many, and the understanding of the outcomes is still questionable. The B2B segment makes it even more complex, basing many assumptions on the successful content management and distribution strategy, or knowledge-sharing engagement.
A B2B agency should start by listening to its clients and learning more about their business models. B2B marketers are different, even if some of their tactics resemble B2C environments—especially in the product marketing segments. B2B agencies are actually in the best position to take their legacy clients to the new frontiers of integrated digital media and communications, once they realize it. Here's how:
- Look for points of integration among more traditional ways to communicate the clients’ message (ink, radio, TV, events, etc.) and the new digital pathways (online marketing and advertising, webinars, social media profiles, blogs, podcasts, tweet-ups, and other online channels).
- Agree on the metrics that will bring client success. They can range from reactions to blog posts, clicks, white paper downloads, product or service inquiries, and questions on Twitter or LinkedIn.
- Extend the ink and event feedback to online, and amplify it at the appropriate time and with the appropriate level of maturity. Hiring interns to do this may not work.
- Become armed with tools that can measure tangible results. Facebook mentions or "likes" may not cut it in this particular case, since more granular information may be needed, requiring integration with Google Analytics, social media monitoring tools, and search engine rankings.
- Either hire expertise full time (as a consulting engagement) or partner with an agency that does all of this already. You are still in charge of developing content and helping your clients to get this content out there—distributed, recognized, and acknowledged by the target audience.
- Start tracking ROI on integrated campaigns, which can easily be done by including the cost of online campaigns and addressing the results. With the agreement on the above metrics, clients will feel better about the accomplishments and the success criteria, and they will receive tangible results, even if not immediately.
- Communicate client success or failure by constantly adjusting expectation levels and concentrating more on the outcomes for the business and less on the actual delivery of the service. Doing something and achieving something are two different things.
This prescription is only a short list of items that any B2B agency can start with. Most importantly, the business model needs to be reviewed and adjusted to the client's business model.
In the end, B2B PR and advertising agencies can continue to be successful, because they still have the relationships, creativity, and subject matter expertise. They simply need to diversify and extend their digital reach through better skills, analytics, and partnerships.