“The digital BtoB agency has no choice but to reinvent itself”, François Fossati (Indexel)

Digital has made marketers’ daily lives more complex, requiring fragmented and increasingly specialized skills. Certainly many tools, easy to access and useful in marketing practices, are now integrated and used by customers. More generally, companies are developing the movement of internalization of activities that were once reserved areas for agencies, even if the phenomenon continues for the moment mainly due to large groups or SMEs whose development is conditioned by sustained marketing. For two years we have been working for structures that have, for the most part, integrated talents historically reserved for agencies (web designer, UX designer, graphic designer, front dev, copywriter, etc.).

Obvious corollary: if BtoB marketing budgets are increasing overall, the share dedicated to agencies is decreasing a little more every year. At the same time, our customers often ask “faster, cheaper”. An organizational and methodological challenge. And finally, the recruiting market, as tense as ever, is forcing agencies to rethink their fundamentals for attracting and retaining new talent. A great challenge for BtoB agencies, a priori less sexy than their mainstream counterparts. How then to imagine a sustainable economic model in this rapidly evolving ecosystem?

Daring a new value proposition

First observation: our customers now express the need for advice and expertise and fewer “operators”. Already significant a few years ago, this state of affairs is now inevitable. Businesses expect their agencies to take a step back from their strategies, particularly by taking them out of their comfort zone.

Will this be enough to reinvent the digital agency BtoB? Obviously not. Our BtoB clients also require more skills in new technologies and new marketing practices. This is why I believe it is essential to complement the consultancy activity with a training activity. An agency must now be able to support its customers in a logic of permanent transfer of skills. Gone are the days when agency experts in this or that area were the only people in the know. Customers today are increasingly informed but, on the other hand, they must keep themselves constantly updated at the risk of obsolescence.

Finally, and this is rather fortunate, there remain two issues over which agencies remain in control: editorial creation and orchestration. Creation, because the BtoB universe has finally emancipated itself and dares more and more with disruptive campaigns. Our clients finally realized that it was necessary to assert their brand and promote their products using codes similar to the BtoC sphere, both in terms of creation and acquisition strategy. This is all the more true as it is time for many of them to address two goals: their prospects and their future collaborators.

The other theme is obviously the role of the agency, which is moving from content provider to guarantor of the consistency and editorial line of a protean and now collaborative production. To put their activities in perspective with the great economic and social challenges, our BtoB customers need more than ever an external and benevolent vision, but also technical and methodological rigor.

Reinvent the organization

There is no need to hide behind our little fingers: for any BtoB agency, attracting and retaining new talent is an obstacle course. However, we have no choice. The creation of a close-knit team of experts cannot be decreed. This can be done, for example, by allowing each employee to work on topics of their choice, assuming the role of product owner. This gives life to many exciting projects that are part of constant innovation.

But reviewing the organization also means simplifying the processes and the management model. To give space to a more horizontal management, with greater transparency, for example by setting up a single remuneration grid based on the impact of the employee on the company.

No, the digital agency BtoB is not condemned, indeed I would say that it is starting a second life. Obviously there are ups and downs, but it is by working first on the collective that we will be able to adapt. After all, isn’t that the essence of our work: knowing how to constantly reinvent ourselves?

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