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The Ultimate Guide to Finding a B2B Agency
Finding a B2B agency is like finding the perfect suit. It’s tailored perfectly to you, makes you stand out, and is well worth the investment.
But just like the perfect suit, finding a B2B agency isn’t always so cut-and-dry. No two marketing firms are exactly alike. And good B2B agencies, in particular, can be tough to come by. They’re wildly different than B2C companies, or even hybrid agencies that do both types of marketing.
The business-to-business sales cycle and buyer’s journey are dramatically different than in business-to-consumer marketing. Frankly, you can’t even compare the two. In more ways than one, finding a B2B agency is far more difficult than finding a B2C agency.
Luckily, you know just the marketing agency that can talk you through our guideline for finding the perfect B2B agency for you.
(That would be us. Just saying.)
#1: Look For a Pure-Play B2B Agency
Our guide to finding a B2B agency starts with looking for a pure-play agency.
This is key, particularly since so many agencies currently do both B2B and B2C marketing.
There are similarities, sure, but it’s an entirely different thing to support. On the B2C side, you’re looking for a quick conversion nine out of 10 times. It’s usually one of those “buy now” purchases or talking to an individual for a bigger sale, like a car.
It’s quick. One person doing one thing fast.
B2B doesn’t roll like that.
On the business-to-business marketing side, there are usually at least 4-6 stakeholders in the process. You’ll almost never get an immediate sale on a big-ticket item.
It’s a little like winning the lottery.
More typically, you have to go through multiple layers and departments, and deal with billing terms and contracting and purchasing and a plethora of other fun stuff.
A good B2B agency isn’t about one-time things and quick conversions. They need to know how to support the whole shebang, from the marketing and sales cycles to everything that happens post-sale. B2C agencies and even hybrids won’t understand that as well as a true B2B agency does.
That’s why it’s important to work with a company that knows B2B like the back of their hand.
(By the way, does anyone actually know the back of their hand? Look at it. Is it just like you pictured in your mind?)
Anyways, moving on.
#2: Can They Put Themselves in the Buyer’s Shoes?
This is very important.
A B2B-only agency often has the ability to understand and put themselves in the shoes of a buyer.
We buy B2C products every single day. There’s a 100% guaranteed transaction there. But on the B2B side, it’s a whole different ball game.
It doesn’t really matter if I like something if who I’m targeting is a high-end PhD-level scientist. There’s obviously a big gap between our interests and knowledge. With B2B, targeting is about more than gender or HHI. It factors in education level, industry, and tons of other niche data.
What tends to happen when you hire a B2C or hybrid company for B2B tasks?
They produce things they like, not what the buyer wants. They can’t relate.
Getting in the head of a B2B buyer requires a deeper level of research and understanding that B2B marketing folks have been mastering for years.
They just don’t – and won’t – get it like we B2B experts do.
#3: They Have a Strategic, Data-Driven Approach
Numbers in B2B are lower than numbers in B2C.
That’s why with B2C, it’s relatively easy to mask a mistake. Just crank up the volume. Buy more media and drown out a failure in pure numbers.
B2B is different.
Our target markets are significantly smaller. There are only so many buyers for niche software products or manufacturing equipment. That’s why top B2B agencies use a strategic, data-driven approach. We need to have a good reason to do something.
Errors aren’t really an option, because we really don’t have a margin for error.
And don’t forget the pure expense of business-to-business advertising. For example, look at Facebook ad clicks. B2C companies can easily filter those by socio-economic credentials, gender, age and interests at maybe a buck a click.
With B2B, you can connect better and become more target-specific on LinkedIn. But all of a sudden, it’s $6-8 per click. Targeting is inherently going to be more expensive because it’s hard to come by relevant job data.
You need to have a good strategy and good reason to believe your tactics will work, because there’s a lot of money on the line.
#4: They Align Marketing Efforts with Marketing Goals
Someone in the B2B space will have a more complex set of stakeholders and oftentimes have more minute and different business goals than in the B2C world.
In B2C, the goal is usually “sell more.” Simple.
But in B2B, growth and end goals are usually more complex. If you’re trying to find a B2B agency, they need to know how to support everything from channel programs to complex partnerships to M&A.
Simple isn’t in the cards.
#5: Look at Their Industry Focus
Let’s say you’re a manufacturer. There are tons of manufacturing-specific agencies out there to choose from to suit your needs. Pick your fancy.
… Here’s why that’s a bad idea.
First of all, an industry-specific agency is going going to bring a specific set of interests to the table. Since they don’t stretch outside the scope of one space, it’s hard for them to compare and analyze best practices.
Yes, it’s good that they know their space. Some brownies points can be credited. But it’d be better if they knew other spaces too.
You know how NASA tech informs everyday life? It’s kind of like that. Cross-pollination and diverse backgrounds yield creativity, innovation and results.
That’s why an agency that’s hyper-focused on one industry is rarely your best bet.
#6: The Makeup of the Team
There are plenty of 100- and 200-person agencies out there.
But at the end of the day, it shouldn’t matter to you how many people they have, since only a few of them would be working on your account anyway. If you get enamored with a huge agency in which only five folks are giving your account any attention, you’re probably paying them more than you need to. For things you’re not getting, either.
What we’ve found is that small and mid-sized agencies with depth will be a few dollars cheaper and eons more effective. They don’t need the office space or the overhead that goes along with being massive. And you get more attention, too.
Moral of the story: All that matters is the team on your account.
#7: Examine Their Philosophy
And no, we’re not talking about those wise guys you learned about in your Intro to Philosophy class.
Ask yourself this when you’re finding a B2B agency:
If they only focus on only one thing, they’re not what you need. A flexible B2B agency has expertise across the board. They can build a marketing strategy that suits your goals and resources exactly.
In other words, are they willing to tailor the suit to fit you perfectly?
Maybe for some clients, simple PPC is the answer. Or PR. Or trade shows. Sometimes it’s even a mix of those things. But if you’re looking at one-trick-pony agencies, that one trick is the only trick you’re going to get, whether it truly helps you or not.
8. What’s Their Tech Stack?
The next thing to consider in our guide to finding a B2B agency is their technology.
Obviously, the HubSpot shop will sell you on HubSpot stuff. Same with Pardot. Same with INBOX25. But wouldn’t you be better off with an agency that looks at different technology and integration solutions and that creates a tech stack specifically fitting your needs?
You want someone hyper-focused on the overall wellbeing of your company, not just on their affiliate cut.
9. They. Get. Results.
Results are everything for a B2B agency.
And sure, this seems kind of obvious. If you found them, obviously they did something right.
If they’re top-ranking when you looked up “B2B marketing agency” “on Google, surely it means they know what they’re doing.
But dig a little deeper. Do they offer case studies? Client testimonials? A free needs analysis, a competitive assessment, and other useful resources?
The answer better be an astounding yes.
When you’re finding a B2B agency, they need to be able to show that they’ve taken on projects like yours, succeeded with flying colors, and now have the ability to help you grow.
Because just like that one-of-a-kind suit, it may take some digging to find – but you’ll know when you’ve picked out the perfect-fit B2B marketing agency for you.