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Where's the plan

Over the last 5 years or so there has been a wave of change sweeping through the B2C world as Communications Channel Planning revolutionises how clients and their range of agency partners approach planning. It is resulting in a battle for supremacy between agencies as they compete for this all important role. It's an ugly sight, but it is resulting in more cohesive, more innovative and they would argue, more effective marketing. Why isn't B2B followig suit?

It's fair to say that the early adopters in B2C tend to be the clients with budgets much larger than the average B2B budget, but a large budget is not essential, in fact I argue that the smaller the budget the greater the potential effect. It is indeed time for B2B to follow suit.

Communications planning is essentially a higher level approach to integrated marketing. It involves the development of a strategic plan and strategic idea for how your brand is going to engage with your audiences. How messages and media will combine throughout the buying process and the customer lifecycle. It removes the silos and the barriers that exist both within client departments and agencies and puts the audiences first.

Within the B2C markets we have seen Media agencies, Ad agencies and BTL specialists each arguing that they are the best people to take on this role. And we have also seen new entrants - consultancies and communications independents trying to wrestle in on the act.

But in B2B this is less likely to happen.

Most B2B clients have a lead agency already. Typically, integrated marketing is the norm because of the complexity that comes with the buying process, the integration with sales and the higher levels of involvement post sale. So for us it should be easy. However, it doesn't appear to be happening and I believe there are 3 main reasons that we have to work together to try and resolve.

Firstly, most clients are not aware of, or do not understand the need for communications planning and are therefore not willing to pay for it.

Secondly, most agencies do not have the range of skills sets or experienced senior people capable of developing an idea based strategic plan.

Thirdly, the mutual inherent focus on results this quarter, rather than the three year commercial and marketing objectives, mean that neither clients nor agencies spend the required time thinking at the highest level.

I believe that now is the time. We are experiencing a dramatic change in the way Buyers find, assess, and select potential suppliers. B2B media consumption is changing. The challenges of retaining and developing our customers in an efficient and effective way are as real as ever. And competition for all of us is increasing whilst true differentiation is diminishing. That's why the need for and the demand for the creation of a brand is increasing whilst at the same time, the wish for effective digital and online marketing along with the acceptance and experimentation with experiencial marketing are all growing.

But it needs a cohesive plan. One that starts with a segmented analysis of your audiences, an understanding of their media habits, their needs, wishes and fears, an appreciation of the market and competitor strengths and weaknesses and most of all a clear statement of marketing objectives for the next three years or more.

There's an army statement that has worked it's way into civilian life - Prior Planning Prevents P*@% Poor Performance - and I think we should all remember that!