The process for onboarding and training a new hire – while expensive and resource draining – is pretty straightforward. But this time, you’ve hired a B2B marketing agency (and all of the personnel and skills it has to offer), and you’re not so sure what to expect. In this post, we’ll paint a clear picture of what it’s like to onboard and partner with a full-service, integrated agency.

Why Should You Hire a Marketing Agency?

meetings are a big part of onboarding a marketing agency

Your organization has an awesome B2B product, but your internal team of marketers – or the lone marketer who can’t do it all – needs more support. If hiring another team member or two just isn’t on the table for the kind of brand awareness and lead generation lift you need, recruiting a B2B marketing agency is your best bet.

With an agency, you now have access to a full account team and a complete spectrum of marketing expertise – all for what amounts to the cost of one full-time, in-house marketing professional.

In the sales process, high-level goals, communication preferences and a general overview of how the engagement will work should have been addressed. But if you’ve never outsourced marketing services before – or if you’ve been burned by a bad experience in the past – you may want a little bit more visibility into how an agency operates.

Of course, not every B2B marketing agency is the same. What we’ll describe in this post is how we onboard new business-to-business clients here at Altitude. However, these steps are pretty universal.

Marketing Agency Onboarding Steps:

  1. Knowledge sharing & discovery
  2. Initial recommendations & strategy development
  3. Tactical execution

Step 1: Knowledge Sharing & Discovery

Before any work can get done, you and the marketing agency have to get to know each other. No, this isn’t a first date. You need to dive deep right off the bat. You’ve already vetted the agency in the buying process – now it’s time to kick things off by sharing as much information with each other as possible to ensure future success.

Schedule an all-day or half-day meeting. Meet in person if possible, or at least host a video conference. Ahead of the call, send the marketing team links to your website and social media accounts. Send any files you have about your mission statement and values. Send your sales decks. Send anything and everything you have that the marketing team can “study” before the discovery meeting.

At the meeting itself, expect to talk – a lot. While the marketing team will carry the heavy load of work moving forward, in order for them to get started, they have to hear your goals and expectations first. They also need to understand exactly what you do.

B2B companies tend to be more complex than B2C ones, so it might be difficult for you to explain your product simply. But that’s the marketing agency’s job. They are there to communicate your product in a clear way that can capture the right audience. All and all, they need to be able to boil your product or service down to the crux of the problem it solves, so they can properly tell your story – but they need to hear from you first in order to do that.

You can expect to cover:

  • Your short- and long-term business goals
  • The state of your market
  • Your ideal sales target
  • Lifetime value of a customer
  • Past marketing strategies and tactics
  • How you’re perceived in the marketplace
  • Your “wish list,” particularly if you’re building a new website

Of course, this outline of items will be different depending on the top priority needs you identified in the agency buying process.  

Note that the knowledge sharing process needs to go in both directions. You’ll be looking to accomplish two goals:

  1. Teach the marketing agency everything they need to know about your company history, brand and offerings
  2. Learn everything you need to know about how the marketing team plans on accomplishing your business goals

Step 2: Initial Recommendations & Strategy Development

After the discovery meeting, your agency will debrief internally and develop a few deliverables to formalize everything you covered.

This step is all about building a solid foundation, and it’s critical to your long-term success.

A front-loaded process, your chosen agency will take what they learned at the discovery meeting and complete even more research offline in order to craft recommendations for branding, messaging, web development and more. Depending on your needs, scope of work and agreed upon division of labor, this step will vary in terms of content and timing. But this process is necessary to setting the stage for a fruitful relationship.

B2B marketing agencies must address the foundational elements long before diving into tactical execution and advertising. Here are deliverables you should expect from your agency following discovery:

  1. Initial recommendations: A document containing key findings, recommendations and additional competitive research. This shows you that your marketing agency was listening during discovery and that they “get” your company. It also shows you a first real look at the agency’s methodology.
  2. Brand messaging toolkit: This document also demonstrates how well your agency understands your company, products and offerings and how they solve a specific, niche problem in your industry. In this document, you will find key items including a tagline, key terms, key phrases, overarching messaging, product specific messaging and audience specific messaging.
  3. An annual strategic marketing plan: This should break down everything you’ll be doing with the agency, what it will cost and what you should expect in terms of results.

Step 3: Tactical Execution

You’re at the starting line. Great! Now it’s time to get moving.

After the higher-level messaging and positioning analysis and recommendations are complete, it’s time for the B2B marketing agency to break the strategy apart into actual tactics. We call this “Phase 2.”

During Phase 2, you’ll be looking to proactively execute the strategic marketing plan your agency created. This often includes creating a new website, ongoing content marketing, working on your SEO and digital ads and pitching stories and sources to industry publications.

Of course, marketing plans are evolutionary by nature. New ideas pop up. Needs change. Opportunities arise. Ongoing dialogue with the agency is needed to make sure your budget and bandwidth support what you need to be doing. (Figure you’ll be talking to your primary point of contact at least weekly to prioritize efforts and weigh opportunities vs. costs.)

Conclusion: Onboarding a Marketing Agency

You might be a little surprised at the length of this post. But it’s the truth. Onboarding a marketing agency isn’t an overnight process. It’s not even measured in weeks. To do it right, you’ll need to invest some time and effort up front. But this investment can have a massive payout if you find the right B2B agency partner.