But it’s a major challenge to identify which marketing partner to collaborate with. The agency landscape is fragmented and complex. With so many niche players, it’s nearly as overwhelming as the marketing technology landscape.
The agency landscape also lacks differentiation; too many agencies try to be everything to everyone. This occurs, in part, because smaller firms that may once have had a unique claim to fame are being consolidated into large global holding companies. They’re becoming part of one big fuzzy story that’s difficult for CMOs to discern when trying to determine the services a global agency provides.
CMOs that turn to global marketing agencies often discover they consist of multiple agency business models that have been merged as smaller agencies were acquired. The global scale thus comes with a myriad of challenges—including a general breakdown in cultural coexistence. The internal cultural divide among silo practice groups and a disconnect from driving ROI through integrated solutions are real issues at many global agencies.
Mid-Market Agencies Proving Their Mettle
Among mid-size marketing agencies, however, integrated models are not new. Full-service independent agencies have always had to wear multiple hats and offer the combination of understanding business drivers and creative thinking, the ability to create and execute on a strategy, and the skills to both build and run marketing technology.
While global agencies work through their issues of misaligned business models and cultural integration, smaller and independent agencies have put a stake in the ground—honing competitive capabilities, taking market share of brand budgets, and evening out the playing field in terms of agency options. Mid-size and small agencies also tend to embrace the core capabilities of consulting, creative and technology.
Being smaller is often billed as being more nimble, responsive, and agile—and with good reason. Without the red tape of operating under the direction of holding companies, competing P&L structures, and “frenemies” among sister agencies, independents are increasingly on the rise. Mid-size agencies can do this because they operate outside of holding company and global network constraints.
The success of smaller agencies has been demonstrated through engagements by enterprise brands—like Microsoft, the American Cancer Society and Under Armour. These agencies see the value, the delivery of capabilities, and a commitment to not just winning the business, but also building the relationship. These same agencies are awarded for their creativity and their ability to grow channel partnerships. They also help advance the marketing maturity of their clients.
Tips for Selecting an Agency Partner
Forrester’s Q1 2019 Overview of 39 B2B Marketing Agencies1 report emphasizes how businesses can increase their marketing capacity and proficiency by partnering with a B2B agency. CMOs can look to B2B agencies to shape strategy, elevate creative and messaging, and augment overall marketing capacity. Core capabilities offered by mid-market agencies today focus on content, data enrichment, insights and technology proficiency.
For CMOs looking to leverage the agility and integrated programs that a mid-size digital marketing agency can offer, the Forrester report aksi provides key advice for assessing potential partners:
• Select your marketing agency based on B2B scale and capability: create an agency shortlist by first determining the extent of the specific B2B expertise you require, or if a combination of B2B and B2C capabilities would be a better fit.
• Align individual agency solutions to your needs: Specific areas to check for alignment include the top capabilities the agency delivers, its data management maturity, and its support of emerging technology to help you innovate and experiment outside of traditional marketing approaches.
• Confirm an understanding of your customers: The best-fit agency will demonstrate an understanding of your audiences through creative strategy, campaign and content execution, sales support, and marketing technology prowess.
The Forrester report is a great tool for CMOs who need to partner with a B2B marketing agency to supplement their internal resources with leading expertise. The report also helps identify the value a CMO can expect from a B2B marketing agency and how to select a partner based on size and functionality.
Look for Transparency and a Personal Touch
As you begin your journey to partner with a marketing agency, you will find that the leading firms will help you elevate creative and content while also driving value from data, analytics, and technology investments. Strive to collaborate with a partner who feels personal—where transparency is the norm and where they can help you differentiate from your competition. These are common characteristics to look for in a digital marketing agency, and it’s within this landscape where CMOs have decisions to make.
1. B2B Marketing Agencies, North America, Q1 2019 Forrester’s Overview Of 39 Service Providers Serving B2B Marketers by Jay Pattisall and Laura Ramos; February 8, 2019, updated March 4, 2019.