Solving the B2B Middle Market Mess: Part II of II Third Party Marketing Resources Misfires

by Debra Andrews | March 18, 2016

In Part I of “Solving the B2B Middle Market Marketing Mess,” I spoke of the highly competitive worlds that most middle market B2B companies operate in and the urgent need for effective marketing to stand out from the crowd, attract prospective buyers who are becoming increasingly sophisticated online researchers, and nurture leads so that sales professionals can shift from hunters to closers. Unfortunately, instead of hitting the bullseye with effective marketing plans, collateral, and campaigns, B2B middle market firms, misfire again and again. Why? Non-marketing executives who don’t fully understand or know how to leverage modern marketing are largely making the decisions about marketing direction, hires, budgets, and third party partners. The last scenario can be especially damaging. Selecting the wrong marketing partner can have serious budget repercussions and cause paralysis among senior management fearful of making another expensive marketing mistake. Looking closely at typical third party marketing resources – advertising agencies, public relations firms, and freelance subcontractors – it becomes easy to see why many, if not most, are not ideal partners for the B2B middle market.

Here are how third-party marketing resources often result in middle market misfires:

Advertising Agencies

Prior to the Internet and advances in digital technology, middle market B2B customers relied on the marketing and sales efforts of companies for information about products and services. In an effort to have the most attractive brand, messages, ads, and collateral, these companies would partner with traditional advertising agencies – often referred to as creative agencies – to get their marketing “stuff.” Companies viewed these agencies as a necessity since they held the key to communicating with prospects.

Today, traditional advertising agencies typically employ a stable of graphic designers, media buyers, web developers, copywriters, and others to create their print and electronic marketing pieces. That translates into heavy overhead passed along to clients via price tags that can range from hefty to downright exorbitant. (We shudder at some of the bills our clients once received.)

Here’s why most traditional advertising agencies are not ideal partners for middle market companies:

  • Middle market companies often grossly overpay for marketing “stuff” because non-marketing senior management and tactical marketers don’t know what marketing materials should reasonably cost.
  • Advertising agencies push this “stuff” because that’s what they know – the creative side – and what earns them the most profit. A pile of expensive brochures and flyers leaves well intentioned but inexperienced executives and/or tacticians who commissioned the work with little left in the marketing budget for critically important outreach.
  • Middle market companies often do not have a strategic marketing road map and/or Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) to leverage large investments in advertising agency products and services.

Public Relations Firms

Leveraged well, quotes, news, profiles, and bylined articles placed in national, regional, or trade publications can have real value for middle market B2B companies. That’s why public relations (PR) firms typically charge big bucks on a monthly, retainer basis. Historically, these firms held the golden ticket – strong relationships with key reporters. PR executives just had to pick up the phone and boom! Client exposure. Companies viewed PR firms as intermediaries necessary to reach and persuade journalists.

Today, PR is basically a “self-serve” discipline. Want to build a relationship with a reporter? Follow him or her on Twitter and build rapport virtually. Need a list of reporters in a certain region or within a specific market? Subscribe to Cision or other media contact databases and create targeted lists in a matter of minutes. In-house or outsourced marketing professionals who know how to pitch subject matter experts and stories make PR firms and their big retainers obsolete. Need more proof? Here’s a story about the industry: Star Group Communications Shuts Down.

Here’s why most PR firms are not ideal partners for middle market companies:

  • A PR firm retainer only covers one marketing tactic — PR — and tends to gobble up a disproportionate share of a marketing budget.
  • PR firms might open doors for middle market companies, but those doors often lead nowhere. Those intrigued by PR placements are often directed back to lackluster websites and/or social media profiles that aren’t set up to convert anonymous visitors into prospects or, better yet, customers.
  • Many middle market companies lack original thought leadership and true subject matter experts, two of the foundational elements of a successful PR campaign. PR firms get paid regardless of whether they get placements. Without these foundational elements, precious dollars can be used up in no time.
  • As with advertising agencies, middle market companies often do not have a strategic marketing road map and/or CMO to leverage large investments in PR campaigns.

Freelance Specialty Subcontractors

Social media marketers, graphic designers, search engine marketers, content creators, and web developers… The list goes on and on. There are solo practitioners for every specialty area of marketing. Who do you hire? In what order? For how much? With what goals? Some are experienced, top-notch professionals. Others talk a great game, just as traditional strategists often do, but they fail to deliver on promises. The challenge – especially for middle market companies – lies in vetting freelance subcontractors, negotiating their fees and scope, and integrating their efforts into an overall program that delivers results. Non-marketing executives and/or inexperienced tacticians trying to oversee multiple, independently operating subcontractors can easily become overwhelmed and are often surprised at how quickly projects can go over-budget and over-scope.

Here’s why attempting to hire and manage multiple freelance specialty subcontractors is not an ideal strategy for middle market companies:

  • Middle market companies typically don’t have in-house personnel qualified to source subcontractors and know what to pay them.
  • Without a knowledgeable CMO who understands how to pace and integrate the efforts of multiple subcontractors and tie those efforts into an overarching strategic plan, the efforts can easily become disjointed and ineffective in delivering desired outcomes.

Marketri: The Middle Market’s Ideal Partner

No frustrating dead ends. No trivial outcomes. No doors leading nowhere. No hodgepodge of stunted results.

Marketri isn’t an advertising agency, PR firm, or freelance specialty subcontractor. We are charting our own course in the marketing industry as a B2B Strategic Marketing Consulting and Fractional CMO firm backed by a formidable Outsourced Marketing Network. We deliver start-to-finish, integrated modern marketing solutions that won’t leave clients asking, “Nice brochure. Nice article. Now what?” And because we are a one stop marketing shop with all necessary resources under one umbrella, we can do all this while offering unsurpassed value for the marketing dollar. If you’ve been struggling with your marketing and/or marketing function, learn more about Marketri and see if we can help you build a solid road map and lead your marketing journey. No more misfires! Download our marketing landscape guide for middle market companies today:

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