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Many B2B markets seem more robust post Covid, but have PR firms adapted to the updated requirements of business to business marketing?

It is widely reported by industry ‘experts’, that the concurrence of Covid-19 and Brexit will cause extensive economic changes globally, with industries such as aviation, tourism and entertainment to be heavily impacted. They also predict that sectors that might appear unharmed by the pandemic will, however, likely be impaired by Brexit. But our research shows B2B organisations across Europe, the UK and NA have a much more positive outlook.

B2B organisations stand firm
The research discovered that B2B businesses are dedicated to altering pipeline strategies, with some 86% of marketers ‘developing new products and testing new marketing formats’ in response to lockdowns and in an attempt secure economic recovery. Additionally, B2B organisations have taken the opportunity to look internationally, with 26% of respondents targeting new geographies and an additional 28% looking to pursue new industry opportunities.

As regards Brexit, many B2B organisations are contemplating a proactive international expansion – with the pre-requisite being favourable free-trade arrangements and low tariffs on the sale of products outside of the EU.

However, 45% of B2B organisations were compelled to cut their marketing spend last year and only 11% of marketing managers are content with the actions of their current PR and marketing agencies. When questioned further, it appeared they are just not delivering the services they need to support further campaign expansions.

The ideal agency checklist
Nearly half of marketing managers (40%) state that measuring their PR and marketing agencies overall input is difficult and, out of the marketing managers surveyed, 34% believe their agency is inefficient as they repeatedly place content in the same small choice of media. An additional 41% feel it is because too much focus is placed on high levels of media engagement with the people they already know rather than content placement metrics.

Agency fees have proven a pertinent issue – 38% of marketing managers admit they struggle to find affordable agencies that would work across multiple countries, while only 27% of businesses feel very satisfied with the value they receive in return for the amount charged.

2021 calls for a modern PR approach
It appears it is time PR and marketing agencies to embrace a fresh approach as criticism is targeted towards PR and marketing agencies and their ‘old-school’ systems. A third of respondents feel their budget is wasted through too many status calls as opposed to achieving considerable results – off-putting statistics for marketers seeking expansion. A further 21% of marketing managers experience pressure by senior management to work with well-known agencies, regardless of costs or ability to align with organisational goals.

One-quarter (24%) of marketing managers feel under-valued by their agencies as a small-spend account, which parallels the 20% of marketing managers that believe their budget was squandered by agencies falsely starting on projects that dead-end because of poor management by junior staff members.

Tightened budgets demand lower fees
Often, the cost of partnering with PR agencies is the greatest hurdle to expansion plans and whilst the research concentrated on a selection of marketing managers who spend between $5k and $40k, it found that the majority spend between $10k and $20k – but 30% feel this cost surpasses all return. Over half of respondents consider agency fees to be too high and an astonishing 88% feel that a sizeable portion of their agency spend is wasted – this does not bode well for marketing managers looking to expand their campaigns internationally with the help of traditional agencies.

It’s time to change
With many B2B organisations considering new industries and markets as a result of 2020’s challenges, businesses need justifiable budgets and as one respondent wrote, agencies must provide “a more targeted approach that is agile to emerging market needs”.

Readjust to remain
Reduced budgets mean marketers must balance cost reductions with growing campaigns into new industries or geographies – something the research has demonstrated that traditional agencies cannot offer. High costs with little return have led to severe disappointment in PR and marketing agencies and divides between regional offices point to the failure of the traditional agency model to meet today’s demand. Agencies must find a fresh approach to meet ambitious B2B growth plans in a more cost-effective and results-driven way.

For the research, IBA International surveyed 450 verified B2B marketing managers across the UK, US, Australia and New Zealand in August and September 2020.

Written by Simon Woolley, senior market analyst at PR agency IBA International

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