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B2B Brands Are Working With More Agencies

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Jonathan Balck, managing director of Boston-based creative agency Colossus, didn’t start his business with B2B work in mind.

Founded in 2020 during the Covid-19 pandemic, Colossus worked with consumer brands like Jack Daniel’s and Best Buy before it made a pitch for Athenahealth—a cloud-based network services provider for health care companies.

Marketing in Athenahealth’s category was homogenous, and Colossus wanted to speak to buyers with “hearts that beat and minds that have emotion.” 

It won Athenahealth’s business from incumbent MullenLowe with work so compelling that Athenahealth’s then-CMO Simon Mouyal referred Colossus to ZoomInfo CMO Bryan Law.

Of the marketers that participated in Integrate’s April 2023 “State of B2B Marketing” research, 40% said head count cuts posed a challenge. To respond to those staffing changes, 34% of marketers reported they’re relying on agencies, and 36% said they’re tapping into contractors. To meet new demand, agencies that grow B2B clientele are simultaneously developing new B2B-specific service offerings and partnerships. B2B clients are flocking to agencies like Colossus and others that understand that B2B marketing is surging with creativity.

“If you remember that storytelling is a path and distinctiveness is all that matters, then the world can keep changing, but [you’re] going to keep telling compelling stories,” Balck said, adding CMOs need to convince their boards, CFOs and CEOs that marketing is an investment that will pay off.

Where the growth is

Indie agency Colossus eventually worked with Mouyal’s new employer, identity management software company CyberArk, and built a B2B portfolio around distinct, emotional campaigns that diverge from the B2B template. Balck estimates that half the agency’s revenue now comes from B2B work.

Holding company agencies are seeing a shift, too. Stagwell agency Gale is experiencing a similar phenomenon with B2B clients now making up 40% of its business. Its roster includes Dropbox, H&R Block, Aetna, Rocket Software and Harvard Business School. It’s a recent development, given that president and CEO Brad Simms attributes between 50% and 60% of Gale’s 2023 growth to new B2B clients. To broaden its new business strategy, Gale’s business development team is preparing a selection of B2B case studies and strengthening its relationship with B2B pitch consultancies like Tenx4.

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