Ogilvy & Mather (O&M) is a firm believer of the fact that as business in India grows, so do trade and trade related activities. In the process, the B2B space needs more attention – both from clients, in terms of ensuring that the right people are taking marketing decisions, and agencies, in terms of helping clients in training their people to take the right decisions. Ogilvy Business Network (OBN) is a service in that direction.
OBN is Ogilvy’s B2B Business Practice Group, which kickstarted in India from Bangalore in 2004. Ogilvy has now embarked on the second leg of OBN’s launch phase, wherein the service will be launched in Mumbai, Chennai and Delhi. In a keynote address titled ‘Are the right people making your marketing decisions?’ Bill Merrick, B2B Practice Group Leader and Director, Asia Pacific, spoke about the growing importance of B2B services and challenges that the sector faces worldwide.
Bringing the Indian context first, John Goodman, CEO, O&M India, said, “The feedback we received from the industry in the past one year has been encouraging enough to begin the services in other cities. We see B2B as a key driver of the growth that the Indian industry is witnessing. Despite the fact that business services – whether in the IT sector or any other such high prominence areas – are going to be the engine of future growth, this is a completely neglected area and OBN is an attempt to address that issue.”
Taking the point forward, Merrick chose to highlight instances wherein decisions from managers in various communication activities had resulted in no translation to revenues – in effect ending in low returns on investments (RoI). A point he continually reiterated was that even as various advertisers had excellent processes in place, the big question really was whether the people at various points in these processes were adept enough to take the right marketing decisions and treat the management’s monies as their own monies.
The answer in most cases today is ‘No’ and hence, the need of the hour is to look at the sector closely. Giving a slightly clear picture of B2B practices, Merrick explained that any situation which required a company to communicate with another company in order to grow its business was classified as B2B company. These could range anywhere from technological services, hardware, software, telecom, couriers and so on – each of these segments seeing substantial overall communication budgets from various clients.
Does B2B include mass media or is it an extremely direct kind of interaction as is seen in direct mailers or events? “A mixture of both,” replied Merrick. “Examples of the usage of mass media can be seen in cases like IBM, DHL and so on. But at the same time, this is not an easy client to target. Resultantly, there are a lot of other marketing exercises like direct that are undertaken in B2B. The trick is to be able to get the leads here and to see how much lesser you can spend in getting more leads. That would ensure higher RoIs,” he added.
Replying to whether Indian clients were equipped with the concept of the B2B sector and the need to focus in the area, Merrick said, “A lot more are added to the list everyday. As an agency, Ogilvy is also a B2B company, as most of our clients are corporates and suddenly you wake up to the entire sector. It is true that clients have taken B2B for granted, but they do realise now that they have been wasting too much money in generic marketing and sales.”
How does OBN come in the picture? “At OBN, we have a huge base of 4,200 case studies where marketing decisions that have worked and not worked are showcased. This is the knowledge that we can share with our clients and help them in taking better decision on their communication needs that can actually convert into measurable outputs,” said Merrick.
He further said, “At the same time, as I said, there is a problem of relevant expertise in the sector. Clients need to train their people in being able to take the right decisions in this space. We can play a role in addressing that as well.” That said, Merrick is clear that the relation that OBN India intends to develop is only that of partnerships with its clients.
Speaking more on OBN India, Shenaz Bapooji, VP and Practice Group Head, OBN India, said, “For over the past year, we have done quite a bit of spadework. We have spoken to many clients, developed our knowledge base and tools and in the process even picked a steady inflow of clients.”
She explained that the more important aspect of the period was to speak and educate clients on the space, gauging their feedback at all times so that when the company is in the process of expanding footprint, there was a differentiator that it could offer and talk about to the industry.
“Not that there are any other players in this space in India at all, but we are giving true value to our clients and that is one reason why there has been this kind of a gap between the launch and the second leg of the launch of OBN India,” said Bapooji. Some of the clients that the agency already handles include ITC Infotech and Cable & Wireless.
Giving a slightly larger picture, Merrick said, “This will be a focus segment for Ogilvy in coming months and we have established suitable resources and finalised investments to support its growth. I am also happy to announce that from our launch in Bangalore we have already recorded business wins in B2B in the last few months. The B2B group will help people learn how to learn from their mistakes.”
OBN will aim at harnessing the existing strengths of the agency to provide clients with best of breed solutions driven by strategy and insights. Existing services such as Ogilvy Public Relations, OgilvyOne, OgilvyInteractive and Ogilvy Activation will complement the new initiative in their respective countries.