Onboarding a dedicated inbound marketing agency is a big and necessary step for any growing B2B company. It’s a milestone not dissimilar from a young married couple buying their first house or an up-and-coming indie band purchasing a van that won’t break down—it’s an important investment in your future and the potential it holds.
But like those analogous examples, committing to a B2B marketing agency only comes after careful consideration (well, maybe not in the band example) and deliberation of the benefits, costs and goals involved with forging such a partnership. Do your due diligence to find a content marketing partner that’s a good fit for you. But, because it is a partnership, you must recognize that the agency has needs, too.
Working with a B2B marketing agency is a two-way street. Though it may not come up in the getting-to-know-you stage preceding and immediately following you bringing them on board, an agency wants you to be aware of certain things. You should know what agencies need from you and the overall experience in order for these professional marketing experts to do what they do well.
Here’s a handful of things you should know as a current or potential client of a B2B marketing agency:
Be prepared to discuss things—a lot
Hiring an agency doesn’t mean offloading all the work. When bringing on a B2B marketing agency, you first must set shared goals. Both you and the agency need to be on the same page as quickly as possible, discussing strategy and tactics well ahead of time. It’s rarely perfect from the start—expect some minor hiccups in the process of making your marketing vision a reality at first while you and the agency get to know each other—but the easiest way to minimize early difficulties is to have frequent and detailed conversations.
Always keep an open line of
dialogue with your agency — if they’re
asking for more information, it’s so they can better accomplish their work for you.
The need for constant communication doesn’t go away once an agency gets the hang of your brand voice and growth aspirations, either. This is a relationship that will continue to require care and attention from both sides to keep fostering growth and prevent your joint efforts from becoming stale and ineffective. Always keep an open line of dialogue with your agency—if they’re asking for more information, it’s so they can better accomplish their work for you. Stay focused on the goals you want to achieve.
A partnership runs smoothly when there is trust
On that note, there’s more to building this agency-client relationship than mere communication. Those meetings and planning sessions have to be full of transparency—on both sides—regarding both practical details and loftier aims.
It’s about building trust. A good B2B marketing agency sets clear parameters for the work ahead, providing realistic timelines, reasonable costs and cogent answers. A good client is clear about what they want but understands and trusts an agency if they say it cannot be done a certain way or within a certain time. Openness and honesty make the dialogue mentioned in the previous point more effective while building a foundation for a long-term partnership.
A partnership, like any relationship, works best when there is alignment. In today’s B2B marketing landscape focusing on achieving sales qualified leads takes precedence over the creative and drives content messaging decisions. The right B2B content marketing agency sees themselves more as sales enablement than flashy brand promoter.
An agency brings more than niche expertise
A lot of savvy agencies have a wide view of the marketing industry. In addition to being experts of the ins and outs of inbound marketing, the cumulative experience of the individuals in an agency provides you valuable insight to what has and hasn’t worked for others in the recent past in addition to other useful details. They also use data derived from your company’s visitors and other clients to tweak campaigns and achieve more sales qualified leads.
When you’re setting up a marketing partnership for the long haul, there’s more value to be derived than simply having an external team to craft content and campaigns. A good marketing agency has a firm ear to the ground about emerging best practices and new techniques for getting the most out of your efforts. The longer you continue a relationship with your agency, the more attuned they will be to using the data for picking out beneficial next steps that fit your company’s goals, thus making the partnership even more fruitful over time.
Don’t be afraid of (the right) radical change
A recurring theme in both what we and other agencies have been writing about is restructuring the organization of B2B companies. Marketing today is not done in a bubble—it relies on collaboration with sales. In order to maximize the abilities of both departments and the agency, you may have to rethink how you assign personnel to projects.
Your ultimate goals must be their goals and they must recognize that their success is directly and inextricably tied to your own.
An experienced marketing agency will know the right level of change to improve your lead-gathering, nurturing and closing operations. Use plenty of communication to ensure no change will go against the fundamental values and aims of your business, but be open to suggestions that may seem extreme at first but are supported by the collective understanding of your agency based on data.
In the end, everyone wants the same thing
If your company doesn’t improve in tangible ways—higher-quality leads, better conversion rates and increased sales—then your marketing agency hasn’t done its job. They must want you to succeed as well, since your improvements should work as living proof of their ability and acumen. Even though it may seem at times like you and an agency have different metrics, your ultimate goals must be their goals and they must recognize that their success is directly and inextricably tied to your own.
Always keep this in mind when you’re working through your umpteenth strategy session or answering another detailed list of questions from your inbound marketing agency: Your end goals are the same. By remembering that you and your B2B marketing agency are teammates playing the same sport of improving sales through effective marketing, greater trust is built and communication flows more easily. As a B2B company, knowing this forges a better partnership with your agency and goes a long way towards ensuring joint success down the road.