The things we grow beyond. And the things we don’t.

December 14, 2022

35 years in B2B marketing: A retrospective

In the process of clearing the office to prepare for the two weeks it would take to stop COVID-19, our people unearthed more than 30 years of books, tools, gadgets, and guides that caused many of us, especially the younger team members, to pause and inspect. Old Pantone swatches, CDs loaded with fonts and stock art, 2-prong adapters, wired (!) keyboards, floppy disks, fax cover sheets, and even “memorandum” templates.

Most of these items went back so far in FVM’s history — and our history in B2B marketing, branding, and advertising — that they predated some of our peoples’ entire careers. In a few cases, the tools predated our people themselves.

While the purpose for most items was clear, others had to be explained. Younger employees learned how an elaborate-looking contraption helped designers cut (by hand!) a perfect circle. Or how the spray mount booth was set up, and why a creepy-looking face mask was sometimes involved. And how urgent it was to get a Fed-Ex package with a CD of images into the late pickup box… or pay the dreaded same-day courier fee.

So many of the tools we once used daily are not even items our team members recognize today. It made us think, “What does remain unchanged from the early days?”

As it turns, out, quite a lot.


The North Star hasn’t moved

As an agency, we’ve of course held strong to our core tenets of how we conduct ourselves and how we do business – we’re principled, we’re honest, and we’re inquisitive.

Doing what’s right. Getting to know our clients’ businesses, their challenges and voicing our real concerns — with ideas on how to overcome and succeed together. We still work best with professionals who appreciate our depth of research – believing that understanding “why” is always the best place to start.

The DNA of FVM is intact, over 35 years later.

B2B publishers still have the pulse… and the heart… of their industries.

In B2B publishing, digital, of course, has completely shaken up the scene. Social media, programmatic advertising, Google in general, and other tech-based targeting have become a critical piece of the B2B marketing & advertising puzzle, for sure. But B2B publishers – those that have adapted and evolved – have maintained their foothold as bastions of industry-specific knowledge, data, and audience reach. Digital has become a huge part of their offerings, in some cases now 100% of their offering, but it hasn’t changed the heart of B2B media.

While some clients assume Google grants access to every audience in a click, the reality is savvy publishers are still the most reliable conduit to receptive eyes and ears… and FVM’s strategists continue to work closely with them to draw insights, fuel creative, and shift opinion. The actual media through which end user audience members consume content may look different, but the publishers and editorial team who create the information are still driving the strategy and interactions.

The C-suite knows the strategy, but the sales leads know the customer.

The quickest shortcut to understanding and positioning a brand? Talk with a clients’ customers. Have direct conversations with the people who have already chosen your product or service. Bottle their experiences and lay it at the feet of the next generation of prospects.

The next person close to customer experience, other than customers? Client sales reps. They’re the ones interacting with prospects and existing customers every day, listening to concerns, seeing their reactions to brand marketing, and adjusting on the fly. Ask them pointed questions, and listen intently.

Giving audiences something to believe in.

When all the research has been distilled, and messaging and creative development begins is where the magic happens, every time. There is no replacement for compelling copy and beautiful design that truly resonates with a target audience – playing on a concern, hitting on an inkling that some part of their job can be done better, faster, cheaper… or simply right. And that “nailed it” creative comes from incredibly smart creative folks who are informed with the right research-based details. It never emerges the same way twice, which is what makes branding and messaging compelling and… yes, fun.

Investment. Trust. Understanding.

There’s no substitution for surrounding yourself with kind, smart people who share a hunger for learning new things, putting our talents to good use and delivering compelling work. Because we trust the skills, drive and heart of the people around us, there is no “creative challenge” we cannot overcome. It may sound a little squishy… but it’s true.

No need for these branded ashtrays.

We’re sentimental about the things we’ve moved past. Some of them, anyway. But it’s also better that there are fewer busy signals and memoranda standing between important questions and thought-provoking answers. We might use Teams for a call instead of a train-ride to grab coffee. But the core of what we learn, why, and what it means for our clients, remains the same.


Home is where the project timeline document is

We never did go back to the old office space. Today, we’re only looking forward. That means reinforcing FVM’s expertise in B2B branding, websites, and content for industries where we’ve proven our mettle, like specialty chemicals and equipment. It also means applying our deep knowledge of long-process decision-making even more acutely into educational and nonprofit work, especially for local clients.

We’re onlining more strategic SEO support, email nurturing strategy, and the latest in hyper-targeted digital advertising to truly understand prospect behavior. It’s the smartest way to generate and qualify valuable B2B leads in today’s landscape.

And, even if nobody pays for process, we’re all-in on self-improvement, getting even more efficient with website building and branding especially. That way there’s more time for industry research and creative concepting… and less time drafting memorandums and hand-drawing perfect circles.

There’s a lot to be excited about — here’s to 35 more years of FVM!