Why Agencies Screw Up B2B

Michael Fischler is a tech copywriter who has been involved in B2B marketing his entire career.

I’m a B2B marketer. A lot of the agencies that try to win my business are like lazy auto mechanics. Agencies often pitch me without knowing anything about my markets, my products, my sales strategy or my customer’s buying cycle. To me, that’s one lazy agency.

Say I take my car into the shop. The manager shows me his great set of tools and a video of fine autos they’ve repaired. Then he says, “What I do first with my new customers is go over everything. What kind of engine, the oil you use, the wear on your valves, your type of suspension, your driving habits, your DMV record, who else drives the car, whether you text when you drive, your tire pressure — the basics. Also, I’ll need the technical specs on your current rotors; they’re new to me so I’ll need you to tell me all about them. We can do it in under an hour, and once it’s done we can get started right away on your car.”

Basically, he’s saying, “Here, it’s easy; all you have to do is complete this questionnaire.” To me, that’s one lazy mechanic. I’m not leaving my car there. Would you? I know my products are arcane and specialized. It’s not reasonable to expect a marketing agency to be expert at marketing and (let’s say) genetic science. But I’m not looking for an agency that knows genetics; I’m looking for an agency that knows marketing. Marketing to genetic scientists is not the same thing as practicing genetic science. It’s still just marketing — and I’d like my agency to have a working understanding of my market before it tries to win my business.

I’ve already done all the work for you. My website may stink (no doubt why we’re talking), but all the information I want my agency to find out on its own is up there. Too often, though, that doesn’t seem to happen. Agencies visit the site, but they don’t come away with any apparent understanding of what they saw there. They saw my resource page; they downloaded a white paper and a data sheet and a case study. They’re ready as a rabbit to tell me about white space and column margins and “telling a story.” But they know no more about me than they did before their research. I’m much more interested in the agency actually reading my Web content — and understanding the basics — than explaining to me how they’ll punch up the colors. Just because it’s tough shouldn’t mean they get the day off.

If I publish case studies on my website, why are they asking me who my users are? I know the agency saw the studies, because they told me how bad they were. If I list my distributors, or identify my sales offices and the people that handle each region, why are they asking how I sell my product? Why are they sitting there — eager, clean, empty vessels — waiting to be filled with my knowledge about my markets, when a few minutes at the Mantas and Wikipedias and Googles and Genetic Scientist Blogs of the world spell it all out?

The research I’m talking about takes me about 15 minutes. In that time I’m able to build a profile of my prospect that’s never perfect but always very good. The information is all out there waiting for you — but beware. If you do it–if you take the time and gain the knowledge — you open a can of worms. You’re going to raise expectations that you’re an agency that really does understand the prospect’s business.

Image via Shutterstock 

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