How to choose a B2B digital marketing agency

[dot_recommends] July 5, 2022 Manufacturing Marketing Strategy

5 key questions to ask when evaluating a B2B marketing agency

Reads: How to choose a B2B digital marketing agency: 5 key questions and shows a cycle of research/results analysis, strategy, and tactical execution with the question "How strategic is their marketing process?"

As a business owner, you may be wondering how to choose a B2B digital marketing agency. You have industry expertise in manufacturing, and you probably know some things about marketing. However, with a few exceptions, you’re probably not an expert at B2B digital marketing.

So, as someone who isn’t an expert in digital marketing, how do you know an agency offers you the “real deal” and not all fluff with no results? Here’s a comprehensive guide to help you weed through the crowd to find an agency you trust.

5 key questions to ask when choosing a B2B digital marketing agency

1. How well do they communicate with you?

First, consider how well the marketing agencies you’re evaluating communicate with you. Strong communication between you and the agency will foster a good working relationship. Weak communication points to a serious flaw in any industry, but especially in the marketing field.

  • How fast do they follow up on inquiries?
  • Do they listen well?
  • Who will being your ongoing point of contact?
  • How knowledgeable and responsive is that person?

Many agencies hand off communication to another person once the director makes the sale. That’s fine so long as the point person knows answers to your questions and keeps you informed.

Before committing to working with an agency, ask who handles customer relationships. Find out how will you be kept in the loop about progress and results. How available will the contact be if you have questions?

If you’re not comfortable with the answers to this question, move on to look at other agencies. If you like what you see, move on to question two.

2. Does the agency take a strategic or “cookie-cutter” approach to B2B marketing recommendations?

Some marketing agencies emphasize one or two tactics as “magic solutions.” This may be because they lack capabilities in other areas. Look for a digital marketing agency with a full stack of solutions so you will get the best options for your business.

Take a look at case studies and check for a variety of capabilities

To quickly figure out whether the agency you’re evaluating offers diverse solutions, look at their case studies. If the studies feature the same solution over and over, give the agency a pass and look for one with more diverse capabilities.

Similarly, beware of agencies that push their favorite services—such as SEO or PPC—without getting to know your company’s goals and challenges.

  • The tactics they push may just be ones that they do well rather than the best ones for your situation.

For example, agencies that do SEO well will be inclined to tell you that SEO will solve your sales growth challenges whether that’s your best option or not.

  • Marketing tactics — such as email, SEO, PPC, and social ads — should be based on a marketing strategy.

Ultimately, the marketing strategy and tactics they recommend should be custom tuned for your company!

They should be curious about your business goals.

A good agency will start with asking about your business goals. Then, they will talk with you about your marketing goals. Hopefully, you know how to answer this question:

  • What do you want to achieve with the investment you’re making in marketing?

Once the agency knows the outcome you’re seeking, they should be able to present a proposal with tactics proven to help companies like yours reach similar goals.

If the agency you’re talking with seems to be missing a step or two in this process, reconsider working with them.

  • Best practices dictate the goals > strategy > tactics > measurement > evaluation approach.
  • Jumping right to tactics could be a costly mistake.

 

3. Do they base marketing strategy recommendations on research?

Just as tactics must be based on strategy to be most profitable, strategy must be based on research. Before designing a marketing strategy, the agency should be getting to know you and your target market. They should conduct research that will point to the most profitable path to sales growth.

Do they conduct internal research on your company?

Marketing research should start with an internal assessment of strengths and weaknesses. The assessment should look at the following factors:

  • How well marketing and sales work together
  • Past successes
  • Current opportunities and challenges

Remember to look at opportunities with current customers! The internal marketing research should look at customer management processes, too. For example, how effectively are you maintaining and using your customer database?

Although we often think of leads when we think sales growth, current customers provide many opportunities to grow revenue through cross selling and upselling.

What about external research on your target market and competition?

After the internal assessment data has been collected and parsed for meaning, an external market assessment should be completed. This will include looking that the market, buyer personas and buyer’s journeys, and a competitive analysis.

With a clear overview of the market, your new marketing partner will be in a position to make highly effective strategy recommendations.

  • If the agency representative doesn’t have a plan for getting to know your company and your market, then you’re not going to get optimal results.
  • Move on to other options if the agency doesn’t show an interest in getting to know you, your market, and your competition.

 

4. Do they offer realistic marketing plans and transparency on results?

Sidestep agencies that offer unrealistic promises that remind you of “Get rich quick!” schemes. Digital marketing offers no guarantees, and the marketing agency shouldn’t either.

Look for a solid process for measuring results!

Instead of being enticed by wild assurances, look for an agency with a solid processes in place to continuously track, measure, analyze, and act on results.

A monthly report provides little value if a strategist isn’t looking at it and adjusting tactics according to the results.

Although they can’t promise a specific result, they should be able to point to the following:

  • How results will be measured.
  • What good results look like.
  • A plan for ongoing communication of progress.
  • When adjustments will be made if results don’t look good enough.

No agency has a magic, unique solution!

Just as no agency can promise you the moon, no agency, not matter how great, has a truly unique solution. That’s because what works works. Best practices yield the best results.

When digital marketing gets done right, it works to help manufacturing companies grow. Any good agency will be able to partner with you to increase your sales growth. So, if an agency starts talking about their secret formula, you’re right to be skeptical.

5. Are the representatives people you will enjoy working with over time?

Since no agency has a magic solution, what does set them apart?

It’s about the people!

Each agency consists of unique people with their personalities, strengths, and motivations. So, assuming you find a pool of agencies that seem to know how to conduct marketing, your choice comes down to who you trust as a partner.

When you engage with a B2B marketing partner, you want to find an agency that’s a good fit for your team.

Do they have manufacturing industry expertise? 

Working with your marketing agency partner will probably be easier with people who know manufacturing. And not just manufacturing, B2B manufacturing, companies that make things for other companies.

  • Marketing industrial machinery differs greatly from marketing the latest consumer gadget!

Although you may not have thought about it before, there are many qualified agencies, like StratMg, that provide industrial expertise.

  • In addition to expertise, you may be looking for a good fit in terms of values or communication style.

When it comes to choosing the right people to partner with in growing your manufacturing business, you’ll know a good fit when you see it!

Key takeaways on how to choose a B2B digital marketing agency:

Communication

  • Do the people you talk with at the agency use a lot of marketing jargon that seems designed to confuse and impress you?
  • Or do they meet you where you’re at with transparent, concrete, and realistic approach?

Strategy

  • Can they give you examples of what worked for similar clients while also assuring you that your company will get a custom plan?
  • Or do they push one or two tactics at you without getting to know your company’s goals and capabilities?

Measurable results

  • Do they talk about measuring results and making continuous improvements to your marketing?
  • Or do they seem to be an overconfident, one-size-fits all, set-it-and-forget-it type of agency?

 

I hope this blog helps you as you sort through options for partnering with a B2B digital marketing agency. What other factors do you like to consider? Did I miss anything?

Let’s talk! Or, connect with us on LinkedIn or Tweet us.

–parin
Managing Partner

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