B2B snapshots: OgilvyOne Business' James Myers gives us his take on life agency-side

James Myers, ‎head of strategic services at OgilvyOne Business, reminisces about a successful marketing campaign, makes the case for workshop collaboration over pitching, and bemoans the flip-flopping client

To me, B2B marketing is all about… marketing. It sounds obvious but too often we – by which I mean both agencies and clients – default to conversations around communications. Most clients need marketing solutions not just communications. You can’t and shouldn’t avoid experience, metrics, pricing, service and sales enablement.

I can tell a campaign’s succeeding when… two things happen. Firstly, the business totally embraces the idea inherent in the campaign. It creates a new language inside the business. IBM’s smarter planet is the most obvious example. It adds a layer of cohesion. Secondly, sales directors want to speak to the agency, to get ‘their input’. Business performance results help.

The best and brightest B2B brands are… whatever I say here I'll be accused of sycophancy. Justifiably. However, I do like the work and thinking behind IBM, CAT, General Electric and Adobe. 

"The process where agencies lock themselves away and second-guess what clients really want, presenting in an eight-way pitch fest, just doesn’t feel like the smartest approach"

James Myers, OgilvyOne Business

The most successful campaign I've worked on in terms of ROI was... a search, content and email programme for a national utility company that cost £100k at most, and generated £45m incremental revenue in the first year and was still running, in a slightly different guise, five years later.

In B2B land I’ve never really understood why… OK, this isn’t just a B2B thing, but you don’t see many marketing plans. I’ve seen spreadsheets with KPIs but not marketing plans. Just saying.

B2B marketers tend to get distracted by… sales people.

The biggest cliché about the industry is that… B2B isn’t any different to B2C; you’re still communicating with people. This is a neat default position that allows marketers and agencies to justify ‘creativity that cuts through’ as the only thing that matters. It’s a difficult argument to disprove until after the budget has been spent. It’s never that simple, but yes, you do need communication strategies built on insight, and you do have to differentiate yourself. The trouble comes when you confuse creative strategy with communications strategy.

The next tech trend to hit the sector will be… It’s not quite a new tech trend but technology will get better and better at linking social and account-based marketing. The micro-targeting opportunities provided by social will change how we build brand and drive sales. Targeting key accounts with a discrete programme will soon be pretty commonplace. The marketers will be able to focus on quality not quantity.

The piece of martech I can't live without is... the internet. It’s extremely useful, and I’d definitely recommend it. There are so many digital training courses available for free, and most of them aren’t trying to sell you something. The legal profession is good at keeping itself up to speed with the latest cases and precedents; perhaps marketers could do better. We shouldn’t wait to be educated. Also, I have a spreadsheet that lists every tech platform and insight tool I can think of, and I use it most weeks.

Sometimes I think B2B marketers forget to... explain to their business their belief of how marketing works. It’s easy to assume that the rest of the organisation understands and often they don’t.

A strong brand is one that… often plays to the defensive mindset. Even if end customers suspect it isn’t the best solution, they feel it's less risky and an easier sell to their organisation. The brand has done its job.

Sometimes I think B2B marketers forget to explain to their business how marketing works... it’s easy to assume that the rest of the organisation understands and often they don’t

James Myers, OgilvyOne Business

The best thing about life at a big agency is... this is selfish I know but… clients pay for strategy, and accordingly they value it more. Plus, I’m surrounded by lots of smart people with specialist, as well as generalist, skills.

The worst kinds of clients... flip flop.

The best kinds of clients... create a vision and a marketing plan, are consistent and clear, collaborate and don’t expect free lunches – metaphorically speaking. They do actually get free lunches, of course…

In an ideal world, pitching would... involve selling the approach rather than giving away ideas and free consultancy, then hoping the clients like it. I’m not convinced clients get the solutions they want through the traditional pitch process; instead, they invest time with multiple agencies and collectively the agencies burn a lot of unnecessary time. But, as they say, you get the children you deserve. Personally I think workshops and collaborative projects provide a better environment to establish rapport. The process where agencies lock themselves away and second-guess what clients really want, presenting in an eight-way pitch fest, just doesn’t feel like the smartest approach.

It really irritates me when… I would never describe cars, cat-food, make up or ready-meals as all B2C. So why are we so determined to classify defence, accounting services, SCM and building supplies as B2B? I suspect the common factor in B2B is often the clients don’t have so much money to burn and accordingly we have to be a bit smarter in how we spend marketing budget. (I’m not sure I’m supposed to say that.) The other thing that irritates me is pitch briefs landing in the third week of December or fourth week of August.

This time next year we'll be... I don’t think it is any secret but the fundamentals of any B2B marketing communications strategy are ABM, social, content, search, and MA. As an agency we’re investing in getting better at integrating the experience across the touchpoints, yes you guessed it, through more tech platforms. Customer experience will, I suspect, continue to be a big theme for at least a couple of years.