Well, according to over 50% of our partners, they say that more than 70% of their clients expected them to provide global support, even if a smaller percentage utilise that support. While 30% said around 40% of their clients expected some level of support outside their home country, but the demand has been increasing in the last few years, and they expect and want, that percentage to increase. 20% of our partners said, even where the expectation was lower than 30%; they are finding it increasingly a prerequisite on RFPs, even if there is no immediate requirement. Also, while in some countries like Japan, where they still have a very domestic-oriented business mindset with local perspectives, there is the desire to learn from global experience and case studies.
The second consistent industry driver is the expansion of technology used in B2B marketing and all the knock-on effects that come with it. Also, let’s not forget the new EU digital communication legislation, GDPR, which could see agencies needing to expand their expertise and increase the size of their technical teams to support their clients with the challenges this poses. At first, agencies saw GDPR as a potential threat to their livelihood, but it could end up being one of the most significant sources of increased workload for marketing agencies moving forward.
Other technology-based influences are the ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT) and of course the integration of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning into B2B marketing which will continue to increase this year. It is believed that AI will drive faster business decisions in marketing, e-commerce, product management, and other areas of the business by helping close the gap from insights to action, (if you understand how to use and exploit it).
Of course, there are also the underlying constants that agencies have to cope with on a daily basis. Client demand for new services and greater niche expertise will always be a driver for agencies to consider growth. Our partners have seen their businesses expanding on the back of trends toward thought leadership, content marketing, a focus on more customer engagement and in some cases combined with sustainability factors. It’s a continually evolving complex and sophisticated mix.
B2B marketers have instinctively known for some time that in today’s growing online marketing landscape it requires a solid brand. In general terms, B2B companies have never really invested in strong branding, but this is changing and will need them to invest in brand building much more. In the same B2B International survey, branding is revealed as the top strategy cited for growth in B2B businesses, and most company marketers acknowledge their brand deficiencies. 60% of the survey respondents say they are focusing on initiatives to grow their brands. However, although the importance of branding is recognised, many marketers are facing challenges in building their brands:
- Only 41% of respondents say their organisation has a strong USP (unique selling proposition).
- Only 43% perform well in assessing their brand health at regular intervals (e.g., measuring awareness, brand perceptions, brand performance).
These particular insights come as no real surprise for our BBN partners but do provide exciting opportunities. One of BBN’s strongest differentiators is our Brand Asset Management (BAM) toolkit, which has been developed and perfected by one of BBN’s expert development teams over many years. Such is demand to embed this expertise in their agencies, we are now conducting the second masterclass for BAM in Milan this year, and since our last masterclass in 2016, we’ve seen numerous instances of cross-pollination of brand strategy skills among partners, whose clients are demanding a higher focus on their branding.