B2B My Sexy Face.

“I came across your consultancy and I was really impressed, it occurred to me that the conversations we’ve been having in-house is how we make our b2b cloud “sexy.” Please let me know if this is something you can help with.”

“I’m exhausted. You’re the 5th B2B agency I’ve seen today. And the last one thankfully. Back-to-back meetings all day. I’ll be glad when this is all over.”

“Oh. I’ll try not to take up too much of your time, but now that I’m here, how can we help?”

“God, I’ve said this stuff so often today it feels like I’m going round in circles repeating myself. Don’t know what I’ve said and what I haven’t…”

“Right, but I haven’t heard it, so… maybe there’s a brief…?”

“I didn’t bother with a brief. I’m just telling people what we’re looking for and asking them to respond.”

“Ok, eh, what’s that then…?”

“Well, the first thing is, whatever I ask for, you’ll have to give me more.”


“I’m telling everyone that up front. We’ve got a tight budget so you’re going to need to throw in campaign extras to boost our brand awareness.”


“Yes. You’ll need to throw in free infographics or emails or whatever because we’re going to need more and we get our existing B2B agency to do that.

“Your existing agency?”

“Yes – they’re great. We love working with them. I don’t actually want a new consultancy. I don’t think we need one but our US headquarters say we should have a look, so [sigh] I’ve asked five of you to pitch.”


“Anyway, the budget’s 60-80k. That’s dollars. US dollars. Whatever you were thinking, [laughs] it’s worth about 25% less than it was.”

“So, about 50-60k – pounds.”

“Yeah, but that’s for the whole B2B marketing strategy and campaign, you won’t get all of that.”

“Ok, so tell me about the campaign? What’s the product?”

“Right, well I’ve got some slides but I’ve used my battery on the other four agencies so look at these quickly…”

“Sorry, I didn’t really have time to see those, maybe you can send them to me?”

“Don’t worry about them, they’re really boring. Most of this stuff came from a US B2B campaign last year. Complete disaster. This whole project’s a complete nightmare. Product’s boring, audience is boring, marketing’s boring.

“Yes, I can see that.”

“That’s why I’ve asked all the agencies to make it sexy.”

“And you think that’ll work?”

“Dunno, but that’s the brief. I’ve asked all the agencies to go away and have a think.”

“A think.”

“Yes, then come back next week and talk to the technical team – they can tell you what the product does. Not that it matters because I don’t want technical, I want sexy. But you need to meet the technical team to tick that box.”

“Tick the box…”

“Yeah. Then I want your creative marketing ideas. I’ll have to give the US a load of options to find the thing they like.”

“So the campaign’s not actually approved?”

“Well, it’s my budget. But they’ve got to approve it.”

“So the campaign’s not approved, and the budget’s not approved, and you’re asking five agencies to pitch?”

“There’s a good chance it’ll probably happen.”

“A ‘good chance’?”




“Yeah, so you come back next week, then you go away and do some more work, then come back the week after with your ideas and a content strategy. I’ll look at the ideas and see where we go from there. How does that sound?”

[Long pause]

“You have a boring B2B product you can’t tell me about, an audience that doesn’t care and a budget that may or may not exist…”

[Whistling sound of tumbleweed rolling across meeting room floor…]

“Have you allocated a pitch budget?”

“Why would I need to do that…?”

“You’ve asked five agencies to pitch. That’s a lot of work. It costs money. How are you proposing to pay for it?”


“Actually, I think we can stop now.”


“I’m going to speak frankly. I apologise if it comes across as blunt. I know you’ve had four other agencies in here smiling and waving and tugging their forelocks because that’s what they’re paid to do, but that’s not me, and someone has to say this.”


“Thank you for your interest, but we respectfully decline your invitation to pitch.”


“We decline it on almost every conceivable level, but primarily commercial and ethical grounds.”


“Commercially, this is non-viable. Not just for me, for any of the agencies you’ve dragged in here – whether they realise it or not. A small business will net about 10% on a project like this. Sometimes a bit more, sometimes a bit less, but in round numbers you’re offering me a £5k maybe £6k opportunity.”


“You’ve offered that opportunity to five agencies, so I actually only have a 20% chance of a £5-6k ‘opportunity’. That’s if the project ever gets the green light from the US. So it’s not really much of an opportunity at all.”


“You have a boring product you can’t tell me about, an audience that doesn’t care and a budget that may or may not exist and in any event is insufficient to support the questionable brief of, ‘make it sexy’. You want me to visit you multiple times at my expense, interpret your technical team because you can’t or won’t, at my expense, provide you with ideas, at my expense, and ‘throw in’ extra undefined ‘stuff’ at my expense. At which point you may or may not select my agency to provide services to you, which you don’t have the money to pay for. It’s a wholly unattractive proposition.


“That’s my first point. The other, is that I object, ethically, to your business practice. You have revenues of over three billion dollars and profits of over 150 million dollars. You employ around 20 thousand staff and you’re asking not one, not two, but five B2B agencies who can probably ill-afford it, to speculatively pitch for, at best, a 20% chance of a small profit on an underfunded project.


“When a company like yours asks a company like mine to undertake any work of any kind whatsoever, the very least you can do is pay us. There’s no doubt we’ll be helping you to maintain your $150 million profits. All you’ll be doing is helping us put shoes on the kids’ feet. Do you owe us a living? No. But you asked me to come here, remember? And why was that? Because we’ve got the two things you so evidently need in your marketing – heart, and soul. If you’re going to yank our chain, you need to pay for it.”


[More tumbleweed]

[Loads more tumbleweed]

“Well. I… Well. I think we better leave it there.”

“Yes. I think we better had. Sorry.”

[Not sorry]

Scot McKee