Finding the right B2B marketing agency for your business can be challenging. The marketplace is incredibly crowded and it can be a daunting process to sort through thousands of advertising and digital marketing agency websites, profiles, and content to determine if they are the right agency for you. Add how much time it takes to set up a phone call or meeting, and the time spent searching for an agency can quickly spiral out of control.
It's even harder if you've gotten subpar results in the past. Hiring a marketing agency can be a significant investment and one that you want to be a thriving ongoing partnership. You need to outsource your marketing services but are wary that you could be wasting money if they don't deliver. If you've been burned by an agency before, you may be wondering how you can avoid making the same mistakes.
Here are our tips for what you should do when you're on the lookout for a new marketing services agency partner.
Red Flags to Lookout For When Selecting a Marketing Agency
It's a good idea to articulate what went wrong with the first B2B marketing agency you worked with: did they overpromise and under-deliver, was communication poor, or did the platforms they specialize in just not sync with your stack or overall online presence? Make a list of the ways that prior agencies burned you so you can keep watch of these bad omens for anyone you decide to work with in the future.
But in addition to asking the right questions when scoping out marketing agencies, these red flags are also reliable indicators that you hired the wrong marketing service. They are surefire signs that the agency is going to cause nothing but headaches.
Too Good to Be True Pricing
Research how much industry standard pricing is for the services that you need. If the agency offers pricing that is extremely low in comparison, it's often an indicator that the work is rushed and subpar. Lowball prices are signs that the agency is outsourcing work to freelancers who are inexperienced and thus not charging high prices for their services.
Shopping based on price may be fine for a weekend trip to the thrift store, but it's the absolute last thing you want to do when you need a full-service digital marketing agency.
True marketing experts who have years of experience in their field, along with the appropriate tools and knowledge in how to allocate their clients' marketing resources, will come with a larger price tag that is worth it. You are paying for their years of experience, skills, certifications and education, professional networks, and for them to constantly stay up to date with industry changes and software updates. Full-service digital marketing agencies have employees to pay and digital infrastructure to maintain.
Professional marketers may enjoy the agility of remote work and strong demand year-round, but like any other career, agencies and individual marketers have significant overhead that is going to be reflected in their fees.
An agency that promises they can deliver the same results for less than half the cost is only going to produce poor quality work you can't use.
Promised Results in an Incredibly Short Timeframe
Quality digital marketing plans take time to craft. They don't magically appear overnight.
A reputable B2B marketing agency will inform you of this fact. A bad agency will sell you on the false premise that you can get top placement in Google results right away, SEO simply does not work that way.
This is not only impossible, but bad SEO practices can end up stonewalling your SEO efforts. Having a solid content strategy and frequently producing quality content that gets clicks and engagement is the cornerstone to legitimate SEO, and it takes AT LEAST six months before you start to see genuine results.
Other digital marketing methods, like advertising (the SEM side of the SEO coin), also take time to truly produce results for your business. Research needs to be done before ad and SEO campaigns are run, then your marketing strategy needs to be periodically reassessed and tweaked accordingly.
Digital marketing agencies that promise results that are too good to be true, just like their pricing, are ones to run far, far away from.
Your Point of Contact is Ready to Offer a Proposal After Just One Meeting
There are rare cases of marketing agencies being prepared to send you a proposal after just one meeting. In most cases though, digital marketing agencies meet with potential partners multiple times to gain a strong understanding of their needs, pain points, how they can solve their marketing problems, and if your company's attributes and industry make you a good match for their skills, experience, and stack.
Rushing a proposal when you need more than a small one-time job is often a sign that they're desperate for business, or trying to suck your business into a bad deal.
The Agency Does Not Specialize in Your Industry or Business Sector
There are B2B marketing agencies and individual marketers who focus on specific niches and marketing areas, while others take a more generalist approach. While generalist agencies can fulfill some companies' needs, particularly if they are small businesses with little marketing knowledge, they often don't have any industrial specialties and just a cursory knowledge of digital marketing.
The best marketers your money can buy are the ones who specialize in a niche. Niches can be based on an industry, like construction marketing. They can also be based on a specific type of marketing, like email marketing or social media marketing.
Some agencies choose potential clients based on a sector, like B2B or B2C. Regardless of how they differentiate themselves from other marketing agencies, the professionals within these agencies will communicate that they specialize in certain niches and thus have a very deep understanding of their clients' needs and what the agency can do for them.
Marketers dedicated to these niches will have a deeper comprehension of their clients, trends in their industries and sectors, and other important aspects of their ongoing marketing needs than a generalist that can only gain a rudimentary understanding of these things.
How to Vet a Potential Marketing Agency Partner
In addition to looking out for the red flags we just mentioned, and shortfalls that you've personally experienced, we also recommend the following tactics for vetting a potential advertising and digital marketing agency before you agree to work with them.
Look for Reviews and Talk to Others
Just like with researching a new blender before deciding to buy it, the same goes for marketing agencies (though perhaps with more time put into it than a new appliance). Look up reviews about the agency on sites like G2 Crowd: this particular website makes users upload proof that they are or were clients so that you don't need to worry about reviews being fake or sponsored to provide good PR.
If they're listed on Google, did existing or former clients leave reviews of them?
Reviews are a powerful way to build your business since people want to see what the actual users have to say rather than a curated statement from the company. Bad reviews don't necessarily mean the agency is bad since people tend to speak up more when they've had a negative experience. But take a close look at the actual content of the reviews. If they're overwhelmingly bad, listing reasons why the agency was terrible to work with, it's a sign to steer clear. Negative reviews with little content can be indicative of a review site hit job.
A genuine and thorough review will list the real pros and cons of working with the agency. However, you should also be wary of reviews that seem TOO positive with no substance. If there's no explanation of the services, tools, and methodologies used-- along with those aforementioned pros and cons of working with them-- there's a strong chance all those glowing reviews are plants from the agency's owners or employees, if not purchased through some shady fake review service.
Once you've looked at reviews, talk to peers in your industry. Ask if they've heard of this agency and what their impression is. If they worked together before, ask what they did and didn't like about it.
Observe How the Agency Markets Itself
There's an adage about the shoemaker's children who don't have shoes. You want durable yet fashionable shoes that fit your personal style here, metaphorically speaking at least: what good is a marketing agency that can't actually market itself? You ABSOLUTELY want to judge this book by its cover.
Be on the lookout for standout marketing features on the agency's website. If they have a website that looks like it was built in Geocities before Bush was in office, this is not a company you want to work with. Their website is the first impression but also looks deeper within it.
Do they have a regularly-updated blog? Does that blog show any traction, like coming up in Google results or lots of comments if they're enabled? Do the agency's owners and/or employees post related content on reputable websites, such as the Content Marketing Institute, HubSpot's blog, and other known quantities for the marketing field? A huge social media presence? Pay attention to the quality of their web copy, blogs, social feeds, graphic design, and other indicators of how their work would look if you hired them.
Look for at least one of these indicators that demonstrate knowledge and authority in the field. A full-service digital marketing agency should be able to easily portray that they know what they're doing with all of these different platforms. The sales representatives you are in contact with should also be able to easily explain their services and handily promote the company, communicating the benefits of a partnership to you. If they can't answer your questions, you're probably not going to be a good match.
If the agency has testimonial and case study content readily available, it also doesn't hurt to reach out to brands they worked with to get a feel for how they operate and why they liked working with the agency to the point that they created the testimonial.
We're Here to Help!
Even if you don't choose us as your B2B marketing agency partner, LAIRE wants you to succeed and find the agency that's the ideal fit for your brand.
We take the time to see if we're a good match for prospects and if it turns out that we aren't, we're happy to help you find an agency that's a good fit for your needs.
If you want to level up your brand's online presence, contact us today for a FREE 20-minute digital marketing assessment.