Generating traffic is a constant challenge for many B2B brands. Given that marketers have their hands full with managing multiple initiatives and juggling a host of priorities; to supply a constant flow of leads, on top of that, can get hard. The secret is to join forces with the best B2B marketing specialists that can not only help with the strategic planning, but also tactically execute an adequately planned business-to-business initiative.
As a result, many agile businesses are now focussing on branding and strategy in-house while outsourcing the tactical execution of lead generation, customer acquisition and client engagement to the best B2B marketing firms that specialise in their niche industry. This ensures that you invest your marketing efforts only in the most pivotal and fragile parts of the business, leaving all the heavy lifting and grunt work to third-party agencies who have the right tools, personnel and expertise to execute them with the best results.
How can a B2B marketing company help?
Inbound marketing methodologies have entered the B2B picture now. Instead of continuing with the traditional outbound marketing paradigm that tends to be more intrusive, there has been a growing shift among businesses to leverage content marketing tactics for each stage of the buyer journey. But having an internal team to do that for you, might not result in a frictionless handoff from MQL (marketing qualified leads) to SQL (sales qualified leads). This can negatively impact customer satisfaction, creating a less-than-ideal and unpleasant experience for them.
A B2B marketing company, on the other hand, will have the right lead generation tools at their disposal and know exactly how to use them with precision, which will greatly improve your conversion rates. They can offer real value to your customers and build brand trust that takes time. Factors like industry expertise, agency structure, approach to client success, skill sets and service offerings play a vital role in choosing the right B2B agency for your business needs.
Some Factors to Consider in your B2B Marketing Agency Search
Most B2B transactions revolve around high costs and larger profit margins as compared to B2C. The best B2B marketing companies serve their clients with value propositions that are usually based on solution-centric models. For instance, a business manufacturing boat engines could connect with another business that builds boats. In reality, some of the most profitable B2B relationships are formed between businesses and professional marketing agencies.
To maximize your return on investing in a B2B marketing agency partner, you should be selective on the front end. If you’re not quite sure of what to look for in an agency, here are some factors you should consider in your search:
1) Industry Vertical
B2B marketing specialists often focus on one industry or a few. Avoid partnering with an agency that’s too broad, and tends to centre their marketing efforts on many verticals. Hiring a B2B marketing company focused only on your vertical will ensure a better fit. Afterall, your business needs a creative partner that has some familiarity with yours or belongs to a similar industry, so that it can draw and channel influences from outside your vertical as well. But many times a professional B2B marketing company tends to do groundbreaking work, simply because they are new to your vertical.
2) Agency Specialisation
Every B2B company has its marketing niche. One agency may be better known for its insight into the higher education sector, while another agency’s client list may be teeming with tech start-ups. In addition to their industry vertical, you must consider which channels your potential partner specialises in within those verticals. Since every agency is going to be stronger in some areas of marketing than others, you must outline the needs of your business in the beginning of the search process and choose according to your specific requirements. A successful marketing strategy takes all channels into account. So, find an agency that has a broader understanding of marketing in general, but isn’t spreading itself too thin.
3) Cultural Compatibility
More than a slick sales pitch or a business-friendly rate per hour, it is crucial for your agency partner to have a work culture that complements yours. Take time to figure out if they share your core values. But in case you don’t have a pre-defined brand image or culture, find a B2B marketing consultant that will work on your company branding first.
Remember that the marketing agency you hire, will represent you, so their professionalism, capabilities, intelligence, approach and ultimately, the success or failure of their campaigns will also reflect your brand directly. Being on the same page with your agency partner about what matters the most, will make your communications on projects so much easier. Therefore, continually ask yourself, “is there chemistry?” or if you’re not sure about that, test drive the firm before committing. There’s no harm in trying a smaller, one-off project before signing a long-term contract with them.
4) Company Size and Personnel
From the number of employees an agency has to how many of them will be working on your project- everything determines the success of your partnership. Try to find out if they have ever worked with a company of your size. Besides, a lot of big agencies will continually hire and lay off workers, depending on their client load. While this may be common, it is not always the best practice. Ideally, you want to partner with a B2B marketing agency that is flexible, adaptable and has an experienced core team of designers, writers, project managers, developers, technical and marketing specialists that will be managing the day-to-day operations on your project.
5) B2B to B2C Clientele Ratio
A B2B business experiences longer sales cycles, handles more complex products and services, speaks to a different set of buyer emotions, and often has a niche or very specific target audience than B2C. As a result, it is crucial to team up with a B2B marketing company that can provide business insights and intelligence you trust. A study by Gallup shows that 71% of unhappy B2B customers wanted to take their business elsewhere in 2016. So, before hiring an agency partner, it might be valuable to know what percentage of its revenues come from working with B2B organisations as compared to their B2C clients.
6) Industry Experience
Before choosing an agency partner, you must take a look at their previous track record and success rates. Find out how long they have been around and if they have ever worked on a project like yours, with a company like yours before. Look for measurable results and creative problem solving in their previous endeavours, not that they “created a more attractive company logo”. The people assigned to your project- are they brand new or experienced? Knowing the answers to all these questions is a must. The reason being that market experience in your vertical can maximise profits and minimize risks along the way.
7) Command on Martech Softwares
Today’s marketing is impossible without using the right softwares and automation tools. So, you might want to know which software your potential partner works on or has the most experience using. Conduct a research on what softwares you want to incorporate in your projects and use it as a criteria for choosing your next B2B partner. The agency you work with must have a robust ecosystem of intelligent marketing softwares in place that will not only increase operational efficiency but also continue to maximize your ROI consistently.
Every B2B marketing agency will have softwares that they prefer and tools that they are unfamiliar with. For instance, if you would like your company website to be built on WordPress, but the agency you are in talks with has never used WordPress for website building, they likely aren’t the best-fit for your job.
8) Data-Oriented Practices
A B2B growth partner should be focussed on delivering measurable business results. Be it content marketing, sales enablement, qualified lead conversion, B2B strategies, website design and improved traffic – your B2B partner in marketing should have a data-driven approach for all of their efforts. A reliable agency partner builds marketing programs that help clients improve their opportunity pipeline in a measurable way. Their result-oriented operations are backed by a team of expert analytics that offer real-time intelligence on the next best actions to take for client success. Ultimately, you should be able to count on your agency partner for solid, measurable B2B growth that positively impacts your bottom line.
The search for the right B2B marketing company can be like finding a needle in the haystack. Apart from helping you redefine your value proposition, a veteran B2B digital marketing agency can provide candid insights into the gaps of your existing business model. The aforementioned factors will help you narrow down your search for a B2B partner and help in arriving at the right choice measurably.
The Merits of Working With A B2B Marketing Services Provider
The world of B2B marketing is quite complex. But working in partnership with an external agency has many benefits for all businesses, the most important of which is their deep-rooted knowledge and expertise in B2B lead generation. The time it takes to appeal to multiple prospects, often at various levels of the buyer journey and in different roles, requires a dedicated out-house, specialised help. You are often selling to a mix of subject matter experts and c-level executives, who require a very sophisticated marketing plan to win over.
Joining forces with a B2B marketing services agency will help you:
A) SAVE TIME-
Rather than having to learn and master the various marketing techniques and channels internally, you can work with a reliable B2B partner to handle all of that for you, giving you enough time to work on other important aspects of the business that drive revenue.
B) ACCESS EXPENSIVE SOFTWARES AND MARKETING TOOLS-
Marketing and automation softwares can be extravagantly costly. Instead of buying a paid-subscription to those tools in-house and not knowing how to optimally use them for the best results, you can work with an agency that will already have the access and advanced knowledge of using them.
C) WORK WITH INDUSTRY SPECIALISTS-
The sheer level of expertise and specialism an agency will have is one of the main reasons to outsource your marketing. It’s always cheaper than hiring in-house, as they will know the ins and outs of complicated advertising methods, from paid search to display advertising and so much more.
D) GET A FRESH PERSPECTIVE AND EXPAND YOUR OUTREACH-
Your internal marketing team will benefit from a fresh pool of ideas and perspective that they might overlook while working on the same projects so closely. Hiring an outhouse agency will provide you with fresh eyes and new blood that can breathe life into a tired campaign. Working deeply in this industry, a B2B marketing company will share their networks, attend conferences and will always seek greater opportunities that will boost your lead generation.
E) QUANTIFY MARKETING RESULTS-
A professional B2B marketing agency will make use of relevant data metrics and KPIs to track your marketing results that will flesh out the source of your true ROI. They are well-trained to capture the right data and turn it into actionable insights, fine-tuning your strategies based on scientific merits. This eliminates the risks associated with an out-of-the-box approach and limits the possibilities of inefficiencies.
The nature of B2B deal size tends to be bigger and longer and more complex than any other business. Hiring the right B2B marketing professionals can help you find the best marketing program for your needs and save you from making expensive mistakes. Losing even a single deal will be a huge blow to your business. So, make sure to choose a B2B marketing company that will offer you all of these benefits and more.
Spotting The Red Flags in your B2B Marketing Partnership
Once you have courted your agency partner for a bit and are confident in their capabilities as a B2B specialist, it’s time to minimize the risks in your search by keeping an eye out for these giant waving red flags, during the vetting process:
Is the agency just focused on making a sales pitch?
As a stakeholder in your firm, your needs are very different from those of a B2C client. Your overarching objective is to reduce risks and also drive marketing profits simultaneously; and your B2B marketing company should be on the same page as well. In the first meeting, if you notice that your potential agency partner is harping too much about itself and how they can help your organisation, instead of asking the relevant questions that give them a deeper understanding of your goals, operations, challenges and industry, you can be confident that they are more interested in scoring a sales deal. The mark of strong B2B partnership lies in their utmost focus on your organisational needs, by putting client success ahead of their own.
“A sales pitch that begins with how much money the [client] organisation will make is pretty unlikely to work. Instead the amount of profit has to be tied into one of the larger needs of your business- like avoiding risks and preventing hassles.”
(marketing specialist, American author and former business executive at Dot Com)
Does the agency provide an economical solution?
Make sure to take a closer look at the compensation structure of any agency partners you are considering. A complicated compensation formula is one huge red flag to avoid. For instance, if a B2B lead generation company lowers its retainer fees but then charges separate commissions for media placements or marks up unnecessary or outsourced services, it’s focus might not be in the right place.
In order to avoid any hidden costs later, be transparent about money matters with your agency partner from the get-go and consider evaluating their billing structure. Does the agency use a pay-for-performance billing structure or do they offer a monthly retained services engagement? Are they asking for an advanced payment of a certain percentage of the overall contract before they begin any work? There are so many types of fee structures out there, make sure your B2B partner uses the one that works the best for your business.
Does the agency focus too much on its accolades?
Industry awards and recognition always have a certain appeal, but in our day and age, when everything can be boiled down to a number, the proof is the pudding. Analytics are the new trophy mantle, as aptly referenced by Olive & Co., so if an agency exerts too much effort on highlighting their awards, dig a little deeper into their real-time results and ROI- the true measures of a business’s success. Try looking for a B2B marketing consultant who understands the relationship between execution, engagement and return- one who can glean actionable insights from your data.
Ultimately, the goal is to find out whether they actually practice what they preach. For example, if they are going to be running a dynamic social media campaign for you but haven’t touched their own Twitter in six months or will be creating your B2B web design from the scratch but their own website has several broken links or missing images- those are glaringly obvious signs that one should steer clear of that partnership.
The bottom line is when you come across some potential B2B vendors through your own research or as a consequence of someone’s recommendations, you’ll need to carefully analyse if hiring them would be a good fit for your business. This blog attempts to provide you with a starting point for building strong B2B partnerships, in hopes that you will move forward knowing full well that an agency relationship can be a fruitful association- one that bears low risks and high returns, provided if you choose the right partner.