After careful thought and consideration, your company decides it’s time to hire a B2B marketing agency to help accelerate your campaigns, growth, and ultimately, your business. Hiring an agency is a big decision that shouldn’t be taken lightly. After all, you’re allocating a significant budget, not to mention time, resources, and trust, to that agency. You want to make sure that you’re finding the right partner, one who will work with and for you, and be a true team member.
But, how do you know which B2B marketing agency is the right one for you? How do you know what questions to ask during the vetting process? This topic is the focus of Season 2, Episode 1 of Agency Balance, a podcast that dives into all things marketing, technology, business best practices, self-improvement, and what makes people happy. So, what insights did our co-hosts Dave and Lisa share in the season kick-off?
Prefer to watch than read? Check out the full podcast video.
The first thing you want to consider is what it is that you really need from the agency. This will help you determine what kind of agency to look for, as there are lots of differences between types of agencies and their capabilities. Do you need help with lead and demand generation? Are you looking to update your branding and messaging? Do you need a new website or technology support? Are you looking for a martech-driven agency? Or do you need a full-service B2B marketing agency that can handle everything from branding to website development to CRM integration and management to campaign execution?
Sidenote: If you are a podcast listener, Jon Miller, CMO at Demandbase, provides great insight into what type of agency to consider hiring based on your marketing strengths and gaps in episode #82 of the Exit Five podcast.
Along those same lines, consider the service level you expect to receive. Do you need a vendor who will come in and just hammer things out? Or do you need a partner who will take more of a CMO approach, providing both strategy and execution? SmartAcre operates as a partner so we can immerse ourselves in our clients’ business, and use data-driven recommendations to drive your business towards your goals.
Mentality, approach, and process are key to both a successful agency-client partnership and a successful marketing program.
An agency shouldn’t just do things for the sake of doing them or do a lot of things quickly. Rather, they should be taking a strategic, thoughtful approach to everything in order to do things right and tell the client’s story in a unique way. They should be taking time to understand your positioning, voice, ideal customer profiles, historic campaigns and data, platforms, and tools. And their approach should be proven to work. SmartAcre’s proven process lets us learn your business fast so we can drive results in less than 60 days.
Once the process is in place, the B2B marketing agency should be reviewing the data, KPIs, etc., and adjusting as needed. If you’re in a multi-year contract, or at the start of your renewal, each year you and your agency partner should be looking at your positioning, your voice, and your ICPs to see what and how things have changed and how to respond to those changes. After all, if outside factors change but you don’t, your marketing efforts won’t be successful.
Before deciding to sign with a marketing agency, you need to consider the terms of the agreement. How long is it? Is it for a specific amount of hours or a certain project? How are things billed – hourly or by project? What happens if you go over the allotted hours or budget? Can you start with something specific and then change it if your needs change? If an opportunity arises to grow the agreement into something larger, can you do that?
SmartAcre prides itself on being flexible and we offer a range of year-long retainer packages to meet you where your needs are. You can start at one tier but move to another one as time goes on if you find the program isn’t the right fit for you. If a year is too long of a commitment, we can discuss quarterly retainer options, or you can start as a project and upgrade from there if needed.
It’s important to know if the agency builds long-term relationships with clients or if clients come and go. It’s a good sign that they know what they’re doing if the agency has a lot of long-term clients as opposed to one-off or short-term engagements. The agency should provide references during the RFP or sales processes. If they don’t, that could be a red flag. Why wouldn’t they want clients telling you about their experience and trying to convince you to work with the agency? If they don’t provide references, ask for them. Ask to talk to current clients, see case studies, and review testimonials. The more proof the agency can give that shows they have solid client relationships, the more trust you can have in them.
You’ll be working closely with your marketing agency’s team so you want to make sure you jive with the team. That first interaction sets the tone for what the entire relationship is like so you want it to feel right. Up until this point, you’ve likely been communicating with the sales team, so now’s the time to ask to meet your team.
During that meeting, take time to understand the team structure. Does it include specialists who can understand your challenges and lean into their knowledge to alleviate those challenges and provide strategic recommendations? What fields, technologies, and platforms are they experts in and how will that help you? What is leadership’s role, if any, in the partnership? What experience does the team have in your industry? Do they know it well and will be able to hit the ground running, or do they need some time to ramp up and learn it? You want someone who knows your industry well so you can see results faster. At this point, you’ll also want to ask what your time investment will be; how much time does the agency need from you and your internal team to be successful?
You’ll also want to ask about communication with the team. Do you have a main POC who you’ll interact with or what’s the best way to get in touch? What communication channels do they use? Email? Slack? Basecamp? Teams? How often will you hear from the agency?
When you partner with SmartAcre, you’ll meet your team at the onset of the partnership with a kick-off meeting. Your team is put together based on your needs and their areas of expertise, so you know your team can support your specific needs and goals. Our kickoff meeting provides the opportunity to set regular check-in calls and walk you through Basecamp, where you’ll hear from us on a daily basis.
Similar to communication, you’ll want to understand how your chosen B2B marketing agency will support you. And, since just like a relationship, a partnership can (and likely will) change, how is that change handled? If your scope of work or needs change, can they take on those changes? Do they have the staff and expertise to handle that? Does that change impact the hourly rate or budget and is that communicated upfront with you? Will it cause frustration or friction, and if yes, how will that be managed to smooth out the relationship and get it back on track?
What if the agency’s team changes? How will that impact your contract and contact with the team? If the agency has a high turnover rate, that means new people are learning about you and your projects and there will be a learning curve as they ramp up. Will the existing team members be able to manage your marketing campaigns and other needs without a huge change in timelines, deliverables, etc.?
You want to know that you’re getting ROI and the agency is doing its job. So, how do they prove that? Ask them for examples of reports to see their structure and how it differs from your current reporting structure. Work with them to establish a reporting cadence and tell them what you expect from each report. For instance, some of our clients want weekly campaign updates, while others want monthly. Some prefer bi-annual account reports instead of our usual quarterly recaps and reports. We work with our clients to provide reports when they need them and that matter to them.
If you’re looking for a few more insights into what to ask a B2B marketing agency when vetting them, listen to the full episode on Agency Balance.
If you’re ready to move forward with learning more about how SmartAcre can be your marketing technology partner and accelerate your efforts, set up a time to talk.