All aboard the B2B train. Next stop, Central Station

Indie agency Central Station is focusing more heavily on the often overlooked, large and potentially very lucrative realm of B2B marketing in New Zealand. And it’s set up a specialist arm and partnered with B2B boffin Mike Frederickson to do it.

Josh Lock, managing director of Central Station, an integrated agency with nine staff (including in-house media), says setting up a separate, specialist arm is a natural evolution for the company, as it already already manages B2B work for clients like Panasonic, Telecom, Flexirent and Fleet Partners.

Despite B2B’s reputation as an unglamorous side of the marcomms biz, the New Zealand B2B sector is substantial: there are nearly 350,000 small and medium enterprises employing 19 employees or less and a further 1600 employing over 100 people according to Massey University, which means around 1 in 12 New Zealanders are business owners of some sort. And, as a result, there are some “pretty serious advertisers in that space”.

“Overseas studies show that business owners are typically wealthier than the average population so these are valuable people to target,” he says. “Both New Zealand and Australia share common classifications of these industries and break the sector into over 500 sub industries, from as broad as accommodation to as narrow as prawn fishing.”

To support this new move, Lock says the agency, which has just been nominated as a finalist in the Effie awards for a recent Panasonic Business systems campaign, is partnering with Mike Frederickson from specialist B2B marketing consultancy Voltage Group, who will be the strategic planner for B2B clients.

Frederickson is one of New Zealand’s most experienced B2B marketing specialists, working client side for both ANZ Bank and New Zealand Post. He also wrote his MBA thesis on strategies for targeting the B2B sector and, as a consultant, has worked for a variety of high profile clients including Telecom, American Express, World Vision and most recently Tower Insurance.

“We want to set a new standard for B2B advertising” says Lock. “So often B2B communications are just a poor copy of consumer advertising. This is not good enough.”

Compared to the slightly sexier realm of consumer marketing, which he says is more about mass media, B2B marketing is very analytical. And, perhaps as a result, he feels there is a gap in the market.

Lock says there are some unique buying behaviors and communication channels that can be tapped into by smart marketers, especially amongst the SME portion. But the key insight, he says, is passion.

“Often when talking to business owners as we do in our research, the challenge we have is leaving on time because they love talking about their sector,” he says. “If you want to sell something to a rugby club, understand who they played on the weekend and what the score was. It’s the same with business owners. If you want to sell something to business owner, understand their industry first. The passion is similar and we can help our clients tap into that by showing who to target for what offers and how.”

Lock says their research has shown that to understand buyer behaviour amongst business owners, you need to understand the individual industry sectors in which they operate.

“Each sector has a sub-culture and dynamics that can help predict buyer behaviour. Another unique factor is the existence of a large proportion of life-stylers that are not driven by growing their business. This is often contrary to an assumption that many marketing campaigns targeted at them make. For example, of those enterprises measured by Statistics in New Zealand in 2003 with zero staff, 92 percent still had zero staff two years later. Many don’t want the hassle of growing beyond a one person or family business where systems and controls are required.”

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