Here’s a big admission for you; I’m not sure how to describe the company I am CEO of. Whoah, I hear you say, how can you not know what type of business you are running? Ok, let’s roll back one second and let me elaborate before you think I am a) incompetent, b) in the wrong job or c) just creating clickbait.
To explain the background; this whole question has been vexing me for a while now but really came to a head recently when I was on stage with two of our great client contacts, Cat Dutton, (Vice President, Marketing, Atos), and Chris Boorman, (Vice President of Marketing for EMEA and the Global Head of Marketing for Automation, CA) at the B2B Marketing ABM conference to talk about how to scale ABM.
As is normal with these kind of events, I had to do a quick intro on myself and a description of Agent3 before we got to talking about the theme of the presentation. And here’s why I hit a wall; do I describe Agent3 as an Agency? (noun – a business or organization providing a particular service on behalf of another business, person, or group). Given we build award winning software products that our customers use to help them solve sales and marketing challenges, we are not really a classic ‘Agency’. Ok, given we build software, do I describe Agent3 as a software house? Well, that wouldn’t necessarily be accurate either because more than 50% of our revenues actually come from providing ABM consulting and campaign services to our customers. So, here’s my conundrum; if we’re not an Agency and we’re not a software house, what are we?
Does it matter, I hear you ask? I absolutely think it does. For two reasons. Firstly, because given we can’t describe ourselves as either an agency or a software house we need some form of descriptor that helps potential buyers of our solutions to understand what we do. But more importantly, by creating a new descriptor for the type of business that we are building with Agent3 (combining services and technology products to solve marketing challenges), I think we are helping to define a new category of organisation that will increasingly start to emerge in 2019 as a partner to the CMO.
‘Category creation’ has long been the darling of tech start-ups looking to drive rapid growth. But I truly think the time is now for businesses that can combine consultancy services with the provision of technology products that drive repeatable, value driven outcomes for marketers. With Gartner showing that nearly 1/3 of CMO budgets are now allocated to marketing technology, the need for organisations wanting to sell to the CMO to understand, advise and then deploy technology has never been greater. And yet, the old, traditional approach of selling either services (yep, we’re back to the Agency model!) or software (and then leaving the buyer to try and work out how to use it!) still predominates.
This status quo is changing. The savvy marketing leaders I talk to today want their external partners to be capable of delivering ‘outcomes’ (typically revenue linked) and now understand that to do so quickly and predictably requires an amalgamation of services and technologies. This is where Agent3 seeks to play. We have very deliberately (and carefully!) recruited a bunch of savvy digital marketers allied with restless software innovators to build solutions for our customers that solve challenges such as sales and marketing alignment or delivering ABM at scale. By doing so I think we are better positioned and aligned to solve the pain points of many of the senior marketing contacts that we engage with compared to traditional agencies or pure software vendors.
But, as I’ve explained, the biggest problem we have is that we haven’t yet worked out a descriptor for ourselves or the category we think we are helping create. Answering this challenge is most definitely on our Christmas wish list this holiday season. And for anybody out there who has any suggestions, we’ll gladly credit you with naming this new category if you come up with something that works!