Commentary

Media Brands Need to Raise Their B2B Marketing Game

Getting that big advertising deal is fast becoming an all-or-nothing proposition.

For starters, the RFP, which invites a big crowd of competitors, appears to be going away. Fully 54% of advertisers using RFPs say so, and together, they predict it will happen in 2.1 years.

Already, RFPs apply in only 41% of media buys, according to what more than 300 advertisers (60% agency, 40% marketer) told us last month. Now that a number of agencies, most notably Omnicom’s PhD US, are openly downplaying RFPs in favor of expanded advertising and content conversations with media, you can expect this trend to accelerate.

Plus, the industry-wide move to zero-based budgeting is prompting advertisers to consolidate their business with fewer media brands. The labyrinth of audience connection is getting so vast and complex, it requires making a broader investment with the best media brands.

The result is renewed pressure on a marketing fundamental that most media brands have largely ignored over the past 15 years — B2B positioning.

Before you scoff, consider the combination of factors that have made media brands scramble in other areas. The rise of new tech platforms and the related siphoning of audiences have forced them to expand their footprints while absorbing subscriber losses. And the intensifying rush of RFPs has put media in perpetual response mode, diverting available marketing resources to the pitch of the day. 

Understandably, sustaining audience amid the new competition preoccupies CMOs. There is nothing to sell without it. But given the struggle to get people to pay premiums on new platforms, advertising money grows more critical. The people who can focus on advertisers tend to be the very midlevel marketers who get pressed unrelentingly into sales support — when they’re not managing the wave of promotions aimed at audience development. 

As the late Jack Trout used to admonish, people can only keep a limited number of brands in mind. One favorite, one “acceptable” brand, and maybe a few “also-rans.”

Today, it's never been more important to be first in mind. In many, if not most cases, advertisers first call on the one media brand they believe fulfills a certain need, and by the time an RFP is drafted and makes the rounds to the rest, the big deal is done. Most importantly, those first in mind get a chance to create with an advertiser.

A brand needs to stand for a tangible benefit to be first in mind. The storytelling around content that excites consumers is simply a starting point with advertisers. Increasingly, they want to know how the audience translates into an impact vehicle — the story of the conduit, not the content.

As audience fragments, more media can claim similar subject matter, reach and targeting. So the impact story needs to transcend the simple equation of content and audience. It needs to capture the imagination of the advertiser.

That takes a combination of magic, meaning and momentum. The magic and meaning is a visceral priority in the audience’s life — a vehicle for life and expression, not an information resource. The momentum is the media brand’s escalating importance in the culture. 

The right positioning makes sales conversations about possibility rather than practicality. It creates the chance to cultivate advertisers that are right for the media brand, rather than constantly trying to prove you are the right one for the project at hand, over and over again. 

Companies make things a priority by making them someone’s job.

Sales can’t do this. Editorial can’t do it. Marketing as sales support (aka, RFP factory) can’t do it. Media companies need experts with the creativity and experience to define, direct and explain the simple advertiser advantage of a complex brand — then marshal the reputation building that can attract the right advertisers.

That’s the stuff to inspire committed, cross-platform conversations that transcend RFPs.

 

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