Marketing + Communications

The complete guide to hiring a B2B marketing agency

There’s no getting away from it: businesses are time-poor when it comes to their marketing. On the face of it, this is pretty surprising considering the importance marketing plays in a company’s bottom line.

The cold hard truth is that the majority of people didn’t go into business because they wanted to be marketers. Their passion lies in their product or service and that’s where the lion’s share of their effort goes.

However, there’s a rich vein of prospects out there in the world just waiting to be mined. To gather those resources, a marketing strategy optimised for B2B is the perfect pickaxe.

The question is, who has the time and marketing muscle to wield it?

We’re going to give you the lowdown on how to spot the whiz kids from the marketing cowboys, what to look for in an agency’s credentials deck/portfolio and what you can do from your end that increase the effectiveness of your outside marketing support.

The danger of amateurs

You could have a go at fixing your car when it breaks down. You could watch a few YouTube videos, borrow some tools and get the old banger back in working order. However, the amount of upskilling you’d need to do to be capable of doing so would be a huge time sink. Even when you do invest the time required, you run the risk of your exhaust dropping off on your next journey.

Likewise, you could have a go at running your own marketing, but you’d better have a lot of spare time both to learn the rules of the game and to implement a winning strategy. As we’ve already discussed, excess time is not a commodity available to many business owners.

When marketing goes wrong, it wastes resources and doesn’t bring you leads. What’s more, it can be damaging to your brand, your business and ultimately your bottom line. For a cautionary tale of how doing it yourself can go catastrophically wrong, check out these logo design fails.

Remember, there’s a danger in the work of amateurs. It might seem cost-effective at first, but in the end, you’ll end up paying professionals to fix the mistakes you made.

You need the right tools

Because the marketing game is scientific in nature, you need access to the right equipment.

To go back to the car analogy again, it just doesn’t make sense for you to install a pit in your garage nor to purchase the array of tools you’d need to fix up motor vehicles. Your trusted mechanic has all those facilities and tools so you needn’t concern yourself with them.

Similarly, you needn’t go about purchasing and learning to use the array of software you’d need to orchestrate a successful marketing campaign. A science-led B2B marketing agency should be using all the tools at its disposal to deliver the best results for its clients. It simply isn’t feasible to purchase these tools if your business is in an industry other than marketing.

Quite rightly, you should be prioritising your funds and skillset on the tools of your particular trade.

The importance of picking the right B2B marketing agency for you

It’s a saturated market out there so you’re spoiled for choice when it comes to picking a B2B marketing agency. As with anything, sometimes too much choice can present its own problems. So, in a crowded marketplace, how do you pick the right agency for you?

Look for specialists in your industry

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to marketing. Different strategies lend themselves to different industries and a tailor-made plan will always outperform a cookie-cutter one.

For that reason, it makes sense to seek out a B2B Marketing Agency that specialises in your industry. Some agencies will cover a broad range of businesses, while others will take a more fine-grained approach.

For example, Luma specialises in companies working in property, the built environment and professional services. That means construction companies, architects, town planners and more all fit into our target market.

If you’re selling accountancy software, seek out an agency specialising in finance. If you’re a supplier of medical equipment, seek out an agency specialising in healthcare. You get the picture.

Shop around and pick someone you connect with

It should go without saying, but before making a significant outlay on marketing services, you should speak to a few different agencies to see what and who is available.

Not only will it be important in terms of you being able to make a comparison between different price points and offers, but it also gives you an idea of whether you’d like to work with an agency. As with everything B2B, relationships matter and if you hire an agency you click with, you’re much more likely to get the results you want.

How to spot the cowboys

Now the important bit.

The worst-case scenario when hiring a marketing agency is being landed with an agency that can’t deliver the work you need. Like every industry, there are chancers out there who’ll promise you the world and deliver you nothing but disappointment.

It’s situations like this when a bit of knowledge goes a long way. By understanding a little bit about marketing in general, you’ll be best placed to call a devious agency’s bluff when they talk up the strategies they want to implement. There isn’t an exact science to this, but bearing the following in mind should be useful.

2. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is

The internet is chock full of companies making huge claims about what they can do for you. From YouTube video ads to PPC campaigns, we’re bombarded with messages whose primary purpose is to tantalise us with grandiose claims of increased revenue.

Take the example of a YouTube advert that guarantees it can turn you into a profitable Forex trader with a single video campaign. You know as well as I do, that if it were that easy, we’d all be currency traders living the high life out on the French Riviera.

Now let’s look at an example from B2B marketing. Some companies will ‘guarantee’ getting you to the front page of Google for an SEO campaign. These claims should be viewed with a high degree of suspicion. Like Forex trading, there are so many variables to SEO that it’s virtually impossible to guarantee to get a page to the front page of Google for a term with search volume and relevance.

Instead of selecting agencies based on wild claims of what they can 100% deliver, look for the agencies that lay the cards on the table, treat you with respect and tell you the truth. Everyone’s SEO can be improved, but not everyone can get to the front page of Google for the terms they want.

3. Beware of companies that want to own your accounts and control your logins

When it comes to feeding back data on impact, you must have ownership of these accounts. Through platforms like Google Analytics and Search Console, you can see the raw data and analyse the impact your newly appointed marketing agency is having.

By giving control of these accounts to the agency themselves, you might think you’re delegating effectively. After all, you’re paying them to look after this stuff, aren’t you? The problem is, when an agency has complete control over these accounts, they have all the licence they need to be economical with the truth or to completely bastardise it. A further worry is that you could be held hostage by the agency having all the access to the accounts with your involvement.

For marketing activities such as PPC, the stakes are even higher. You should always manage your payments to your PPC account and never let the agency make the payments to the provider. Unscrupulous agencies have been known to say they’ve been spending the agreed amount on PPCs when in reality they’ve only been spending a portion and pocketing the rest.

By all means, an agency should have access to data from these accounts. In fact, you should expect a good agency to ask for access. But they shouldn’t be the owners and you should always have oversight over their use of these accounts.

4. Check their credentials deck and portfolio

Every agency of note has a bank of past work to back up its credentials. Whether it’s their online portfolio or a credentials deck, it’s a great opportunity to see what kind of agency you’re dealing with. Here’s what to keep an eye out for.

5. Social proof

Any portfolio or credentials deck worth its salt should be showcasing the great work the agency has done for clients. In particular, it shouldn’t just tell you, “We worked with x to help them y”, it should highlight the problem or task posed by the client and how the agency went about solving/completing it. The more data they can provide to back up their claims, the better.

Committing to this level of detail is a great indicator that the agency understands the need for a rigorous scientific approach to marketing, using data to inform strategy.

Another thing to look out for is the age of the case studies. In the world of marketing, the rules are constantly shifting and updating. Things like SEO are completely different beasts from what they were a decade ago, so if you’re looking at case studies from the early 2010s, you’re not looking at an agency keeping up with the times.

6. Do they talk about themselves too much?

If you get a credentials deck from an agency and all they do is talk about themselves, proceed cautiously.

Yes, a credentials deck should be about selling a service, but that shouldn’t be done by talking about yourself. A good potential agency should be talking about how they’ll go to work for you, highlighting their process and backing up their claims with their previous work.

This is also a good indicator that the agency knows how to run an effective marketing campaign for you. Whether it’s B2C or B2B, people don’t care about you or your business, they only care about how you can improve their life or their business. Leading with a focus on you, shows that they understand the key to persuasive, benefit-rich copy.

7. Try to have an understanding of what you need

When you commission a B2B marketing agency, it goes without saying that you’ll want their input on how they can improve your business. It’s tempting to think you can just leave it all to them and have them tell you exactly what you need.

In an ideal world, this would be a risk-free approach. Unfortunately, there are many agencies out there ready to try and sell you services you don’t need, so vigilance is key. That’s why it’s important to have a basic understanding of your business’s needs going into an initial meeting.

An added benefit of knowing what you need is that you’ll be better placed to engage with a good agency by briefing them effectively on your expectations and key performance indicators.

8. Keep it results-based

Remember, marketing is not just pretty colours and flowery words. The best results come from a scientific approach based on evidence and the testing of hypotheses.

Before commissioning a B2B marketing agency, investigate what their reporting practices are. Many agencies display their process on their website which should give you an idea of how diligent they are about gathering data and acting on it.

In your initial meeting, you should also make a point of quizzing them on their approach to data, reporting impact and what platforms they use to measure these metrics. They should be completely transparent about this and be open about you having access to the data.

At base, they should be making use of free programs like Google Analytics and Google Search Console. These programs offer free accessible and important data metrics to guide strategy and measure marketing efforts.

For more specialised services, they should be employing other programs and software to track progress and guide strategy. This might include things like heat mapping software for landing pages, scheduling software for social media management or even a type form platform for media impact.

Once you’re working relationship is up and running, ensure you have monthly meetings to discuss progress, evaluate strategy and reposition efforts where needed. These meetings should be offered as standard by any worthwhile agency so you really shouldn’t have to ask for it. As a client, you should be kept fully updated at all times and given room to ask questions, give feedback and get value for your investment.

The bottom line

Investing in your marketing is one of many sure-fire ways to grow your brand, widen your audience and increase your revenue.

By outsourcing your marketing needs to an expert B2B marketing agency, you free yourself up to do what you do best while bringing in those with the passion and expertise to help your business stand out from the crowd and reach the right people.

Are you a B2B company looking for marketing support? Luma is a full-service marketing agency specialising in property and professional services.

To learn more about how we can help you grow your brand, expand your audience and increase your revenue, get in touch today for a free consultation.

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