Of the 70 agencies that feature in this year’s B2B Marketing Agency League, 10 show no or negative turnover growth. In past years this could be explained away by a recessionary environment. However, the UK economy is once again growing and this is feeding through to B2B marketing budgets. In Q3 2014 the B2B Barometer study found that 56% of B2B marketers have seen their budget grow in the last 12 months, with an average increase of 19% (you can find the full results of the B2B Barometer here).

So why are these agencies struggling?

Well, more intense competition is probably part of the problem. Three years ago 40 agencies featured in the league table, now there are 70. But I think a bigger issue is that some agencies haven’t evolved to a new reality. If we compare the 10 fastest growing agencies with the 10 under-performers, three clear differences emerge.

High growth agencies focus on clients who themselves are high growth, especially those in the technology and professional services sectors. In contrast, a minority of under-performing agencies target the technology sector, and are much more likely to see industrial and manufacturing clients on their books. Growth is hard to come by if you couple yourself to industries in long-term decline. In 1997 manufacturing accounted for 18.7% of the UK economy, but in 2012 this had almost halved to 10.1%.

High growth agencies tend to specialise in three service areas – marketing strategy, web related services, and content marketing. Whilst under-performers also have a strong focus on marketing strategy, they are much less likely to provide web related services or content marketing. This means they are missing out on many opportunities and seem set to miss more in the future. For example, digital and content now account for 46% of client-side B2B marketing budgets. These are also the areas where budgets are most likely to increase in the future (source: B2B Barometer).

And high growth agencies are more likely to embrace marketing technology. Five of the ten in this year’s League are certified in marketing automation, and five in CRM systems. Although some under-performers are also using marketing technology, the majority do not. This means that they are simply not an option for a whole swath of clients seeking to embrace or utilize new technologies.