Accountability, integration and account-based marketing

Behind the scenes at a fast-growth B2B agency

B2B Marketing’s Joel Harrison and The Marketing Practice’s Matt Harper discuss current trends in B2B marketing and TMP’s status as one of the fastest growing agencies in the US.

In the three years since starting a business in the US, The Marketing Practice, Inc. has grown exponentially. Starting out with one client and three staff, they now have seven clients and close to thirty marketers—and they’ve just been named the 9th fastest growing agency in the US by B2B Marketing.

“Key to our model is the whole integrated story,” Matt Harper, EVP and Managing Director of The Marketing Practice, Inc., says. “We’ve started to figure out what that means in the US market.”

The market, both in the US and internationally, appears to be clamoring for this approach. In addition to being one of the fastest growing agencies in the US, The Marketing Practice is ranked sixth on the list of top international B2B marcomms agencies.

What’s the secret to our success? Below, read Harper’s interview with B2B Marketing’s Joel Harrison.

JH: What can you point to as a driver of your success?

MH: I think that broader demand generation, and particularly account-based marketing and partner marketing, have been real areas of success for us. Our integrated model resonates a lot to people when you start to relate that to different areas of demand generation. For example, account-based marketing becomes not just the strategy, technology, and creativity – our inside sales function is able to align closely with the client’s account execs and build a genuine degree of sales and marketing alignment. Or in partner marketing we’re not just doing great creative campaigns or campaigns in a box that you hand over to partners—we can directly support partners with driving sales opportunities.

JH : Lots of B2B agencies have talked about going global, but only a handful have really managed it. Why do you think you’ve succeeded where others may have failed?

MH: Like any business, we needed a strong blend of the right clients, the right people, and the right operations. We haven’t done any of it perfectly, but we are lucky to have a group of clients that see us as long-term partners. This gives us a great foundation. As did the fact we found 7 people willing to relocate from our UK HQ out to Seattle to help set up the business – they brought over invaluable experience and understanding of the business and our value proposition to clients. And since then, they’ve been able to work closely with the talented team we’ve recruited locally to find the right blend of “TMP-ness” with new, fresh thinking that’s US-relevant.

The operations bit is the unsexy part – but we’re fortunate to be part of an incredibly well-run, commercially astute agency.

JH: Where do you stand on the specialist/generalist debate, for agencies?

MH: Agencies need to have a very clear understanding of what they’re brilliant at, and never move away from that. If you can identify that and articulate it, it will be specialist enough to be stand-out to clients, but generalist enough to present growth opportunity.

Using TMP as an example – we don’t focus on a particular marketing service or type of marketing. But we do specialize in B2B technology and services marketing, and we know we’re at our best working towards long-term commercial goals for clients. That could be a number of different types of work – ABM, partner marketing, positioning, etc. – but we’ll rarely be the best agency for a tactical, short-term campaign, or for re-branding.

I like to focus less on the agency’s capabilities, and more on the types of clients that we work best with and deliver the best work for. That’s what I’d encourage all agencies to do – be less concerned about services or sales, and more focused on finding the right clients for your business.

JH: Thinking about the wider market, what other trends are you seeing?

MH: Small agencies have more of a niche, and I think a lot of clients are turning to that. You have this juxtaposition of huge brands and multi-million dollar budgets being invested in smaller agencies, and I think that will continue. It’s really good for the market to have more B2B specialist agencies.

I think accountability is the other thing. Even in the couple of years, I’ve been here, I’ve noticed a change in how much is expected of our clients to deliver revenue results for their businesses, and therefore they’re projecting that onto the agencies they work with. It’s why there’s quite a lot of change in the market at the moment—because they’re really demanding a lot from their partners with regards to being accountable for tangible results.

JH: What are your hopes and expectations for the next twelve months. Are there any big themes or issues you expect to be facing?

MH: Obviously we hope for growth, for us and for our clients. Given we’re going into year three, we’ve had relationships with some clients for a number of years now—it’s really about showing those clients and new clients that we’ve added value over time. I still think there’s work to do in the US around belief in the value that B2B marketing can add to a business.

Download a copy of The B2B Marketing US Agencies Benchmarking Report 2019

This interview has been condensed and lightly edited for clarity.


17th May 2019


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