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Evolving Agency Roles: Why Outside Help Is More Important Than Ever For B2B Brands

Posted on Sep 5th, 2022
Written by Nick Nelson
  • Blog
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  • Evolving Agency Roles: Why Outside Help Is More Important Than Ever For B2B Brands
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    The growing importance of B2B agency partners group of marketers waving at video call image

    I know: it probably sounds self-serving for a guy who works at a marketing agency to talk about how agency partners are becoming more indispensable than ever for B2B brands.

    But it’s simply the truth, and the numbers bear it out.

    According to CMI’s latest B2B Content Marketing Benchmarking report, around half of all respondents report outsourcing content marketing activities. Of note: 57% of the companies categorized as “most successful” use outsourcing, compared to 36% of the “least successful.”

    CMI Image

    “Regarding large companies,” CMI wrote in the report, “61% indicated last year that they outsourced. This year, the figure was up to 75%. This suggests that in the early phase of the pandemic large companies pulled the reins back on outsourcing but are now back to the practice. In fact, more large companies are outsourcing now than in 2019 (75% vs. 71%).”

    “According to @CMIContent research, 57% of the most successful B2B organizations outsource content marketing activities, compared to 36% of the least successful.” — Nick Nelson @NickNelsonMN #B2BMarketing Share on X

    New research from the World Federation of Advertisers and The Observatory International found that, globally, marketers express less intent to shake up their agency rosters than they did four years ago.

    It’s not so much the fact that big B2B brands are increasingly turning to agencies that energizes me, but why they are doing so. The role of B2B agency partners is evolving, and the ways in which we can help clients are becoming more powerful as we enter a critical time for businesses.

    The Evolving B2B Agency Partner: Key Trends

    “I think we’re seeing yet another facet of the massive shift in how we think about work and the workplace,” Shama Hyder wrote recently for Inc. “Countless brands are realizing that marketing and PR don’t need to be in-house. In fact, these functions have undergone such a dramatic evolution, in terms of responding to what customers and clients want, that it makes more sense to have an agency team of marketing and PR experts working on their campaigns.”

    Hyder cited two key trends driving this shift:

    • Fast-changing client and customer expectations
    • Increasing recognition of the value of branding relative to lead gen

    I think these are both on point, but there are a few other timely factors that I see contributing to the growing role and impact of agencies and outsourced partners.

    “Countless brands are realizing that … in terms of responding to what customers and clients want, that it makes more sense to have an agency team of marketing and PR experts working on their campaigns.” — Shama Hyder @Shama Share on X

    Marketing teams are being asked to do more with less.

    This is a common refrain in the marketing world today. In the CMI research cited before, 67% of respondents agreed that over the past year, their content team had been asked to do more with the same resources.

    To their credit, many marketers are answering the call by continuing to produce great work and results through these circumstances. Technology certainly plays a role. But at some point, extra help is needed in order to maintain and grow momentum. This is especially pertinent right now because…

    The talent war is making it harder to adequately staff teams internally.

    Hiring high-quality talent can be an expensive proposition, and that’s if you have the budget for it. Right now, even those with the financial flexibility are often finding it difficult to acquire or even retain the right experience and skill sets.

    The Gartner 2022 CMO Spend Survey found that 61% of chief marketing officers report that their teams lack the capabilities required to deliver their strategy.

    “Marketing is experiencing a historic surge in talent demand in 2022,” said Ewan McIntyre, chief of research and vice president analyst in the Gartner for Marketing Leaders practice. “Prioritizing the proper mix of resources should be a mission-critical priority for CMOs in order to attract and retain the capabilities they need to deliver against their CEO’s goals, such as focusing on brand and customers.”

    Marketers face a growing need to demonstrate impact and results.

    It’s no secret: the business world is bracing for a looming recession. And it’s also no secret that during tough economic times, marketing tends to feel the heat, with heightened pressure to show its worth or lose budget.

    “Any time there’s economic turmoil, I think there’s much more of a desire and interest to […] get better insights around results and closed-loop attribution,” OpenAP CEO David Levy pointed out in an article at Marketing Brew.

    As you might guess, agency marketers tend to specialize in being accountable and results-driven. We’re constantly working to win and retain clients who have many other options at their disposal. Brand marketers who want to demonstrate impact and protect their budgets can get a big boost from partnering with agencies that can help maximize the ROI on that budget … and show it.

    “As our clients prepare for a recession, we are focused on tying the work we — and they — do back to material business results, such as risk management, revenue and shareholder returns,” said Jim O’Leary of Edelman in an article at The Drum. “Amid the current societal issues landscape, the communications profession has seen a significant change in its influence on these metrics.”

    Marketing technology is growing more complex and costly.

    Technology is routinely cited as the largest source of budget allocation source of marketing budget allocation. Research finds that martech is a $122B industry, with 70% of CMOs increasing their investments in it. The problem is that so much of this marketing technology is not utilized optimally – if it’s utilized at all.

    MarketingCharts Image

    Agency partners that have expertise with various platforms can in many cases help organizations get more out of their technology investments, and sometimes they can even negate a need for certain expenses in this area. (For example, if you work with an agency that offers influencer tracking and reporting services, you might not need to pay for a platform to do it yourself.)

    “Outsourcing your martech to a marketing agency can be a good decision compared to hiring an FTE (full-time equivalent) since you get to benefit from varied skills with added skill sets in CRM and sales, along with marketing automation,” Brian David Crane, founder of Spread Great Ideas, told CMSwire.

    Agency Partners Will Play a Pivotal Role at a Pivotal Time

    Managing evolving technologies (including the transition to Google Analytics 4). Navigating an economic downturn. Embracing the creative brand-building movement that is taking hold of the B2B marketing industry.

    Juggling all of these challenging demands – amidst a pervasive marketing talent scarcity – is made much easier and more effective with the help of seasoned agency partners that can bring deep expertise and a broader perspective through their work across many industries, platforms, and audiences.

    Now is the time to set yourself up for everything that lies ahead with trusted agency partners who can help solidify your strategy and set your B2B brand up for powerful growth.

    I’d recommend one to you but … you know, that’d be self-serving.