With all the things you must think about when hiring a B2B marketing agency, it’s easy to overlook the relationship aspect. Sure, you may consider references and personal impressions of the individuals pitching for your business, but do you really dig deeper into what working with an agency really looks and feels like?
When engaging an outside resource to assist with any of your marketing efforts, you’ll need to develop a close working relationship. Here’s what you should expect from your new agency, and what they will expect from you.
What to expect from your B2B marketing agency
A partner from the start
From the very first conversation, you should get the sense that the agency is genuinely interested in you and your business. Initial conversations should be less about marketing tactics and more about your business objectives. A good B2B marketing agency starts with seeking to understand your business problems and determining whether they can help you solve them.
A prospective agency should ask what you want to accomplish and set clear expectations. Whether you are an owner or president hiring an agency to develop and deliver a strategy, or a head of marketing or sales outsourcing pieces of your marketing plan, sharing your objectives clearly will help set the relationship up for success.
A get-to-know-you period
Taking on any level of responsibility for marketing your business is challenging (as you already know). No one can do this successfully without first taking the time to learn all about your organization: including your plans, your value proposition, your competition, and your differentiators.
Expect to spend time at the start of the relationship (we call it the “immersion phase”) answering questions about your products and services, processes and procedures, target markets, buyers, how you engage prospects, what your sales process looks like, how you deliver, and what your customers need and expect.
A lot of talk about your buyers & customers
It is impossible to succeed with any type of marketing — from content development to social media to website design — without an understanding of the people who need and want what you sell. No matter what type of marketing agency you are hiring and for what service, they need to understand who your typical buyers and ideal prospects are, and how they make purchase decisions.
I’m sure every agency will ask you about your buyers. The problem is, we always find that even the people who deal with customers every day (such as your sales and customer service staff) don’t know enough, especially about the purchase process. The better way to find out what drives prospects and customers to a purchase is to ask them directly. This is called persona research and it’s the key ingredient to successful marketing, sales and customer service.
A clear process
Nothing is worse than signing an agreement and then realizing you have no idea what is going to happen and when. A B2B marketing agency without a clear process is a sure sign of a disastrous relationship. An agency may not be able to share specifics of their plan at the outset (especially when research is needed to determine the strategy), however they should be able to share their process well enough to make you feel comfortable with where they are going and when you can expect to see results.
For example, at HELLO Marketing our process begins with a discovery workshop to understand who you are, research to uncover specific details about your buyers, and a findings and recommendations presentation. From there we move into delivering on a data-driven strategy that lays out very clear deliverables, outputs, and expectations.
Early in the relationship, you’ll spend a good deal of time communicating and discussing things with your new agency. However, once the honeymoon is over you should continue to expect consistent contact from your B2B marketing agency (the frequency will depend on the level of service they are providing).
Expectations should be set from the beginning, and should include appropriate scheduled check-ins. Minimally you should be in contact at least once or twice a month to review current objectives and deliverables, and discuss ideas and feedback.
Additionally, there should be a monthly reporting meeting that should not focus only on what the agency has done (outputs) but more importantly, share the results (outcomes).
A good agency relationship will require your time and attention
There is no “set it and forget it” marketing agency relationship that will deliver results. In my conversations with business owners, I hear about many marketing engagements that have failed. In every case, the company:
- signed on with a marketing agency
- spent thousands of dollars a month
- never heard from them
- received no results
To make a significant impact on your business, your marketing agency relationship must be a two-way street. You must consider it a partnership that requires accountability from both parties. A good agency should be communicative and responsive at all times, and a good client needs to be invested and engaged in the process.
Ready for a better marketing agency relationship that delivers results?
Our free, 20-minute consultation will give you a good idea of the kind of relationship (and results) you can expect from HELLO Marketing. Reach out to me (Lauren Canning) anytime at 973.214.5942 or firstname.lastname@example.org.