As B2B buyers evolve, so does their buying process. Learn how B2B marketers can evaluate and refresh their strategies to meet changing needs.
Rocky Gunderson, formerly a founder of digital place-based media company SeeSaw Networks, recently opened a consulting company called SierraRock, where his many projects include bringing an innovative new healthcare application to market; helping a content management company expand its U.S. presence; and working with a manufacturing applications company to more effectively define its business strategy.
Throughout his career in digital media, Gunderson has seen many agencies that are challenged by their traditional infrastructures. He believes that these hurdles can prevent agencies and their clients from focusing on an integrated and comprehensive digital media experience.
“There’s a lot of talk about creating the right experience for the client,” he says. “The discussion centers on trying to understand all the advantages that specific media bring to the client – finding the optimal ad for a particular product’s lifecycle. The whole notion of an integrated planning system for a client and product is a dream that no one is making happen.”
Like many digital media service providers, Gunderson has attempted to articulate the concept of “a day in the life of a consumer” to agencies. “We presented this idea and tried to create a dialogue around it, to position the right media to reach the consumer,” he says. “The trouble was, we had difficulty finding individuals who could make decisions across multiple channels.”
Brand managers are often asked who they are trying to connect with, and how best to engage that person during the course of their day; however, when it comes to putting together an overall, integrated plan and discussing that plan with a buyer, the conversation stops. “Most buyers are highly specialized,” Gunderson says. “We had a hard time finding people who were willing to look at the comprehensive experience. Instead, they wanted to simply negotiate a deal in a particular media type. We did not see a blending of channels, which would ultimately have been a better solution for achieving the brand’s objectives.”
In the past two to three years, third party logistics providers like SeeSaw and Centro have started to offer a greater array of digital media services to agencies. “Logistics providers now offer a multi-media experience that includes planning, buying and execution,” says Gunderson. “We see many challenges the agencies face in campaign execution and reporting. These agencies have fewer resources and less money to spend, and yet have to meet a growing client need for reporting and results.
“A key value proposition that we brought to the market, in terms of planning, buying and logistics, was that we could provide a more complex and creative solution. We had the resources and processes necessary to deliver on that promise.
“Over time, there has been a change, an acknowledgement, of this expertise. Agencies have come to realize that digital media logistics providers deliver an overall stronger experience, optimized metrics, and better back-end tracking. Agencies realize now, I think, that these providers give agency planners a better opportunity to be more interactive with their clients; since we are doing much of the heavy lifting for the planners, they have more time to collaborate with clients.”
Many agencies that attempt to plan and buy digital place-based media for their clients have 10 or 12 solutions that they have used in the past, such as cinema, malls, elevators or airplane seats. “You can ask, who is the target client and where are they spending their time, choose one or a couple of these ‘go to’ solutions and then check off the box,” Gunderson says.
However, trying to connect with a business professional throughout his or her day involves more than buying ads in airplane seats or elevators. “You have to connect with that busy professional several times, in different environments and moods, with compelling creative that, if it is going to be engaging, must accommodate changes that occur over the campaign,” he says. “You have to be flexible and embrace change that the client requests during a campaign. You have to be transparent and report on performance. In the past, as we delivered results in complex campaigns, agencies gained more confidence that logistics were effective. That is a positive trend in the industry.”
But can a third party provider really be trusted with logistics that will impact brand? “Trust is built on proof,” Gunderson says. “The agency is spending the client’s money and is on a short leash; agencies can be very sensitive about what they do not control, like new approaches and methodologies. With a third party partnership they need to know they can trust you and that you will be responsive to their (and their clients’) needs.
“As a provider you have to understand the metrics going in and have the ability to report on attribution based on the media mix. The agencies are taking a risk. You have to be able to prove you can deliver, typically by executing a small campaign first. If you deliver to spec, you can become the trusted partner of the media planner. Then, hopefully the larger accounts will see the benefit of complex media plans, which agencies would typically be challenged to execute, and you’re now the ‘go to’ partner.”
Agencies stuck in the traditional model, and resistant to leveraging a logistics provider, are treading water right now, and delivering what they can.
“They execute at some level, planning what is easy and familiar. They can check off the box for their clients, and think they don’t need a logistics partnership. But for those agencies that want to deliver a much better plan – with more flexibility and client collaboration built into the process – they need a logistics provider who can deliver an interactive planning environment.” This scenario makes the clients happier too; when they can see the full value of a complex, cross-platform approach, they often invest more in the campaign the next time.
Gunderson predicts that as the next generation of planners and buyers emerge in agencies, they will bring with them a love of multi-platform media. This will create even greater change over time, and more logistics partnerships to qualified providers to ensure the best media plans for clients, rather than the most manageable plans. “The next generation will trust that the experts can and should do the heavy lifting while they, the planners, forge better relationships with clients and vendors,” he says.
“The notion of understanding the whole media landscape, and in particular the key metrics, is becoming more important for media companies and brand managers,” he says. “If I were a CMO today, I would spend a lot of time understanding media so that I could explain it to internal leadership. I would look at a blend of multiple media, with digital at its core for better targeting and tracking. Then I would set realistic, fact-based expectations with everyone in the organization to establish a certain comfort level. Finally, I would report on results transparently across the different media. The knowledge gained from that campaign would be the starting point for the next one.
“There is a real need to understand how the individual is going to act in a digital 360 environment. Advertising must be a knowledge-based, integrated brand experience. The right logistics provider can optimally manage that experience for agencies and brands. That is the key; that is the opportunity. If I were a CMO that is what I would be looking for.”