BY: KATE MADDOW | BTOB
Whether launching a new brand, repositioning an existing one or entering a new market, b2b marketers say they want their agency partners to understand their business and help formulate sound marketing strategies.
Marketers say their top criteria in selecting agency partners include solid b2b experience, knowledge of the client’s industry and business, responsiveness to the client’s needs and good chemistry (see box, previous page).
However, the processes marketers use to select agencies, the types of services they’re looking for and the people involved in their reviews vary widely.
“Agency searches tend to get tied to how the client is internally structured to handle agency relationships,” said David Beals, president-CEO of R3:JLB.
“If a client has a fairly robust marketing department with specialized expertise, and has bigger budgets to hire internal people and multiple agencies, those companies are much more likely to be looking at multiple agency relationships and specialized agency services. They may have one roster of agencies doing traditional work and other agencies handling social media and other specialized services.”
Beals added: “On the other side, marketers with smaller staffs and budgets are more likely to look for one agency or a small handful of agencies to provide multiple services and multiple areas of expertise.”
Cretex Cos., a 95-year-old diversified manufacturing company, is in the latter category, with a small marketing staff and limited advertising.
Last year, Cretex started looking for an agency partner to help it reposition its Cretex Medical division, which had recently acquired four companies in the medical device manufacturing space: Juno Inc., Meier Tool & Engineering, Pacific Plastics & Engineering and RMS Machining.
“No one recognized us as a big player because the individual companies went to market independently. There was no visual consistency and nothing connected the subbrands. We needed to have a brand story we could go to market with,” said Steve Ragaller, VP-CFO at Cretex, which does not have a corporate marketing executive.
“I’m a finance guy. We have a COO-operations guy, and our CEO is not a marketing guy either. We are not marketing experts. We were looking for someone to help us think through our brand strategy.”
Cretex, based near Minneapolis in Elk River, Minn., did not have a previous agency of record at the corporate level. Its individual business units hired agencies for specific assignments, primarily for marketing collateral, Ragaller said. The company historically has not done much advertising.
Ragaller, who headed up the review process, did some research on local branding and marketing agencies to come up with a short list of potential candidates. “Having someone local was important,” Ragaller said.
But the most important factor in the review process was finding an agency that understood Cretex’s business and its target market of OEMs in the medical industry.
“We are manufacturers. We are not flashy. Sexy is not in our vocabulary,” Ragaller said. “We were looking for people who understand what we do.”
Cretex selected Minneapolis-based Spyglass Creative to handle brand strategy for the Cretex Medical brand, as well as some other brands in the Cretex portfolio.
“What ended up winning the day was that they spent a lot of time asking questions, and listening and trying to figure out what we were trying to accomplish,” Ragaller said. “Other firms tried to sell to us, and that approach did not seem appropriate for the unique requirements of our business.”