This post will address Key Questions, Considerations, and Decisions Before Hiring a Digital Marketing Agency for your B2B company.
Hiring the Right Digital Marketing Agency For YOU
In today’s virtually borderless world, hiring the right digital marketing agency can be a tremendous challenge. It can often feel like the Wild West — loaded with buzzword wielding snake oil salesmen and SEO desperados promising untold riches (using questionable methods).
And if you don’t already have a fully-staffed digital marketing department, you’ll find yourself in a bit of a Catch-22: You don’t have the complete know-how to tell the frauds from the rockstars, but if you did, you probably wouldn’t need a digital agency in the first place.
So before you get on another sales-call with an eager agency that promises the moon (but can’t explain, in simple language, how they’ll get you there), here’s a guide to help you tell the difference.
Strategies & Services Needed for Digital B2B Marketing
It’s important to know about the services and strategies you should be shopping for BEFORE you commit to engaging an agency. This will save you from wasting time on calls and consultations, and give you a strong foundation for using this guide.
If the services or concepts listed in the next section come as a complete surprise, you should consider taking a step back to learn more about digital sales and marketing strategies for B2B before you start taking agency calls.
You can find more on this by reading our blog or downloading our inbound marketing blueprint.
Check Out Our Inbound Marketing Blueprint
Use the links below to jump right to our blog and learn more.
- The Optimal Enterprise SEO Strategy for Growth
- What Can You Expect From a Growth Driven Design Agency
- An Expert Agency’s B2B Marketing Framework to Capture Qualified Leads
- The 4 Core Components of a Successful B2B Digital Marketing Strategy
A High-Level Overview of Strategies that Should be on Your Radar:
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
SEO is a set of processes and strategies used to get your website found on Google Search Results. Your core service pages should be ranking on top of Google Search Results for keywords that have buying intent.
If your location plays a major role in driving sales, you should also have a Local SEO strategy included in your planning.
Powerful SEO also uncovers data about how people search for your service and enables you to make strategic decisions using target market data that is unique to your business.
Content marketing is the creation of content that supports the sales and marketing process. This includes blogs, ebooks, videos, etc.
Content can be used to drive the target audience to your site, generate leads, develop trust, and build thought leadership for your business. Content has other functions for marketing, but in general, you’re trying to get leads from across the funnel.
Content also supports sales operations. It gives your sales team resources to use during the sales process, have less ‘salesy’ discussions, build relationships, and accelerate prospecting.
Social Media Marketing
Social media marketing informs and delights your audience, drives traffic to your site, add value to the audience community, and subtly persuades your target market toward trusting and preferring your brand.
You can gain audience insights and supercharge the traffic to your site with the right approach.
Design and Development Services
The right design elements can drive dramatic improvements in audience behaviour and conversions. Clean design can clarify a message and build trust with the audience. The way your audience thinks about your designs will shape their perception of your brand.
If it looks polished and professional, your brand will be perceived as competent and trustworthy.
Website development doesn’t need to be flashy, but it does need to be quick, user-friendly, and mobile optimized. You want to eliminate all the hidden friction that blocks your audience from converting.
Paid Digital Advertising
Advertising supports both sales and marketing efforts, but it’s easy to go overboard on advertising – wasting money and time on nonsense.
You need an advanced audience targeting strategy that captures visitors who don’t convert on your site the first time, but that keeps your costs to a drip.
Creative advertising support can also supercharge your offline efforts like outbound sales and trade shows, but for a fraction of the cost of traditional advertising.
Lastly, advertising can be used to test assumptions and ideas before committing your entire organization to a specific effort.
Advertising will give you quick results, but the costs can add up very fast. You need surgical precision and tactical decision making on how and when to spend money on advertising.
A relatively new strategy in digital marketing, sales enablement (often known as ABM), is a concerted effort that leverages focused strategies powered by content marketing and several other tactical processes to accelerate sales prospecting and outreach.
Without getting into too much detail, you can easily double or triple the output of your sales team, waste less time on bad prospects, build relationships faster, and get your sales team into a structured process that aligns your sales and marketing efforts for powerful results.
Data Integration, Marketing Automation, and the Sales Tech Stack
You need data to make smart decisions, and you need to automate as much of your sales and marketing as you can.
Things like behaviour tracking, automated lead nurturing, heat mapping, and real-time dashboards are critical to optimizing your sales and marketing efforts the right way.
Data integration eliminates opinions, feelings, and bad decisions. You need a comprehensive toolset that gets your entire team speaking the language of ROI and results.
Tough Questions You Should Ask Any Agency
And what to look for in the answers.
In order to find the best agency for you, we’re equipping you with every tough question you need to ask during a consultation to ensure that this partnership is the right fit.
Take a Look at Strategic Competencies and Specialization
These are the initial questions to determine whether you are confident in the strategic capabilities of the agency and if you should even bother continuing your dialogue with the agency in question.
1. Determine if the agency offers and specializes in the kinds of services your business needs.
- “What services does your agency offer and specialize in?”
- “What specialists do you have on staff?”
- “What’s your experience with other B2B organizations like mine?”
- “Is any portion of my strategy outsourced, or completed by non-staff contractors?
Make sure the agency has experience and competence in delivering specific services that will enable your B2B business to excel in lead generation.
Look for things like SEO, Content Writing AND Copywriting, Strategy, ABM (account-based marketing), Paid Media, Design (UI / UX), and Web Development.
Make sure the agency has dedicated experts in each area. Some agencies flex their true competencies in order to land a sale. They’ll close a sale with promises, but will outsource the delivery of a service to a third party.
This is OKAY if you’re looking for a very simple and low-cost campaign, and your needs are very simple.
This is a RED FLAG if you’re expecting a high degree of quality in any given area.
Be Cautious – some agencies have their account managers wear many hats, like strategists that also manage your SEO, your paid media, your writing, and/or etc.
This is essentially saying they offer a ‘jack of all trades, master of none’ type of solution, and your campaign success hinges on which person you get as your actual account manager, and the assumption that this single person can deliver results in every area you pay for.
To maximize success, you want an agency that has dedicated experts in the functional areas that matter to your business. At the very least, dedicated experts should be managing your Paid Media, SEO and Content Writing.
These questions are designed to immediately weed out the agencies who are – at a high level – not the right fit for your organization and don’t offer the kind of competencies you want to add to your sales & marketing operations.
Additionally, these preliminary questions aid in finding agencies with the right experience in your industry. If you are a B2B organization, you need an agency that understands you deal in complex sales cycles with long-term contracts.
2. Determine if the agency can provide the quality and depth of strategic support you need for your industry and type of operation.
- “Who is my point of contact? Can we speak to them directly right now?”
- “Can you explain how your strategists develop my strategy?”
- “What can I expect from you within the first 90 days?”
- “What happens after the first 90 days, how do we keep driving success?”
Make sure to try and get an opportunity to speak directly to the strategist overseeing the success of your campaign – don’t just let a skilled sales operator woo you with shiny things.
Drill deep to ensure there is a strong process for strategy development. Don’t let an overzealous strategist throw your campaign together. Look for a data-driven research process that will ensure you can be confident in your campaign.
The first 90 days of a campaign are critical. You should be able to start seeing results within 3 months.
There should be a defined SLA which outlines exactly what will happen during this sensitive and high-touch point of the relationship. Ideally, you want to see a roadmap and Gantt chart.
Make sure there is a defined brand research process & messaging framework that ensures they know your brand inside and out.
After the kickoff, any B2B digital agency should be able to showcase how they’ll take your marketing into maturity phases.
Here are some tips of what you should be looking for in their response:
- Documented quarterly strategies with milestones, SWOT, and strategy overview, and specific deliverables.
- Buyer persona planning with a comprehensive understanding of how the efforts will deliver results from these personas.
- Strategies for engaging your marketing team, sales team, internal experts, and even your customers for insights that direct marketing.
- An outline of KPIs for the quarter, including detailed reporting for full transparency of all efforts. Ideally, your team should have some measure of access to real-time data and reporting.
Be Cautious – In order to scale as quickly as possible, many agencies resort to using cookie cutter strategies. They’ll recycle designs, strategies, and communications.
If you start to suspect cookie cutter strategies, you MUST dig deeper. Take a look at what goes into persona planning, content planning, strategy development, paid advertising strategy, and etc. When in doubt, look for where the data will come from for decisions to spend your marketing dollars.
Moreover, once the content is published and on-page implementations are completed, there should be a defined data-driven approach to review past performance, augment previous strategies, and ensure that some portion of your resources is committed to reviewing things done in the past. Many agencies will keep running forward – this is a major red flag.
Take a Look at Specific Deliverables
At this point, you’re confident that this agency has made your short list. Now it’s time to dig deeper into how your money is going to be spent, and if you are happy with the specific services you’re being promised.
Questions To ask SEO agency:
- “What is your approach to SEO? Please be specific”
- “Do you have in-house SEO specialists?”
- “Can you explain why your SEO capabilities stand out over your competition?”
You want to look for some specifics on how they’re going to deliver their SEO.
Here’s what you should be hearing:
- Comprehensive keyword research and client consultations to ensure all possible opportunities are outlined for future planning.
- Strategies for both local SEO, and traditional SEO.
- A per-page planning process to ensure that things like overlaps don’t occur. If they don’t have per-page planning, ask how they could ensure your content won’t overlap.
- An Outreach strategy to generate high quality trusted links to your site.
- A Review process to look at results from previous SEO efforts, and continue augmenting over time.
Make sure that if you are paying for SEO services, there’s a dedicated person or team of SEO experts working on the SEO items outlined above.
Look for things like proprietary processes and non-cookiecutter strategies to ensure your site will outrank competition on even the most competitive keywords.
Be Cautious – Almost every single digital agency will say they offer SEO services. The vast majority are using some kind of built-in tools like Hubspot SEO planner or Yoast SEO in WordPress. This is a red flag if you’re paying for SEO and expecting results on your most important keywords.
Jumpfactor started as an SEO agency, we guarantee that SEO is a dedicated process that requires constant honing of skills, testing of assumptions, and optimization of past content. If the agency says your strategist handles the SEO, don’t expect a high calibre of SEO services from them.
Everyone knows links need to be built for quick movement on SEO. If they can’t give you an overview of their process, they might be leaning on natural links to just happen, or even worse, they might be buying cheap links from Fiverr or others – if you see this, end the conversation.
Questions and Considerations for Contracting Content Creation Services:
- “How do you ensure my content will meet the needs of my target audience and outperform the competition, what is your process planning and creating content?”
- “Do you have dedicated copywriters on staff who handle writing services?”
- “What do you do with content that is not performing as expected?”
Make sure that there is an analysis of the competition, and a defined strategy to ensure your content outperforms the competition.
Content can’t start without research, make sure there is a defined process for outlining content to your buyer’s journey.
Dig deep on how they map out your buyer’s journey. Any resources you spend on content must be backed by a sound strategy.
Look for whether they’ll use interviews with your experts or your clients for technical topics.
If you want high-quality content, look for dedicated writers and a watertight review process that ensures your content will be designed to delight and convert visitors.
Always look at content on your site as an investment. Previous content should always be reviewed for performance, with some allotment of your resources dedicated to reviewing and optimizing past content.
Ask the agency:
- “What do you look for in your previous content to gauge the performance?”
- “What do you do if you notice that previous content is not performing?”
Check for the types of content your agency has experience creating.
Here is a checklist to gauge against. Remember – Ask for samples, don’t just check the box.
Be Cautious – Many agencies will contract out writing services, this should be a red flag. You want to have a writer who will continually learn about your business, and become an expert in writing for your business.
There are things you should see in all content. Things like links to sources and references, data, clear high-value research, simple clear writing, calls to action, interlinking with other assets, and integrated data monitoring to gauge success. If you wouldn’t read it, neither will your target audience. The best advice here – ASK FOR SAMPLES.
Questions to Ask When Contracting a Social Media Services:
- “Which channels do you post within, and how will you ensure my audience is reached?”
- “How do you ensure a constant flow of promotion as well as curation of content?”
Every piece of content you create needs to be promoted. Look for a defined promotional strategy for each piece of content.
The promotion of content needs to align deeply with the buyer persona. They should not just be blindly posting on Twitter. Look for how the strategy will target the specific audience.
There should be a defined strategy to gradually increase social posting over time. As you create more content, both old and new content need to be regularly shared.
Social media is about engagement. The proposed strategy should outline plans for engaging your audience with more than just self-promotion.
|Be Cautious – Many agencies will just fire off a blast of social posts every time a new content piece comes out. Your older content investments need to be regularly promoted as well. If agencies don’t have a defined and ongoing promotion plan, you should reconsider their Social Media Services.|
Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Web Design & Development Agency:
- “Our website needs a total overhaul – can you provide examples of past websites your agency has designed?”
- “What is the process of making sure that the website aligns to our branding?”
- “Do you outsource any part of the website development?”
- “How do you ensure the designs are oriented for conversion optimization (UI/UX)?”
- “What happens if my website goes down, how much support do you offer?”
Bad design can lead to a loss of conversions. You need to ensure that the agency has designers with a background in conversion optimization and design.
Many agencies will outsource website development to a 3rd party. Be very careful about this. You want to ensure your website reflects your branding.
Ask the agency to explain to you how they know a certain set of designs and elements are oriented for conversion. They should be able to quickly explain. This should apply for everything from your website to advertising design.
Websites will always have issues. The site goes down, gets hacked, hosting can be overloaded, and etc. Try to find out how this agency is able to respond to an urgent issue. They should have a full stack developer available for emergencies.
If they have no capacity to respond to issues, they are likely outsourcing services or don’t have reliable in house talent for web dev.
Be Cautious – As your efforts ramp up, so will traffic. You will increasingly become a target online. You need to be sure that your agency will be capable of jumping in and assisting.
Be 100% sure that your agency can have your back. If not, consider having another backup plan for this, like hiring an IT person with full stack capabilities, or hiring an IT company.
Questions to Ask a Paid Advertising Agency:
- “Do you have a dedicated digital advertising expert or department in-house?”
- “Which digital advertising channels do you support?”
- “How do you ensure we are hitting my target audience?”
- “Can you support my other B2B channels with ads, like trade shows, and please explain how you support other B2B channels?”
- “How do you gauge the success of a campaign, what will you do to improve any advertising campaign over time?”
Effective advertising is complex and expensive, and there are entire companies dedicated to just paid digital advertising. If you are paying for digital advertising services, you must ensure that a dedicated expert is implementing and managing your advertising.
If a jack of all trades is managing your paid ads, don’t pay for advertising services from this agency.
Your agency should be able to target all digital channels. This includes the Google Network, Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin.
If you’re paying for ads, you want hyper-focused targeting.
Look for targeting competencies in the following areas:
Buyer Intent Mapping
Dynamic Search Intent Ads
Your agency should be integrating all data sources on your site to ensure that they have full visibility. You want to see that they’ll be integrating your Google Analytics, Google Adwords, Search Console, and other platforms to tightly identify opportunities to optimize performance.
Make sure the agency can support your entire business. Sales efforts should be supported by behavioural retargeting, and trade show efforts should be supported by geofencing. Ask how the agency supports all channels.
Be Cautious – Every campaign should have some element of advertising, especially for campaign testing and retargeting. Your agency SHOULD be pushing you for a small bit of resource allocation to allow for low-cost high-value advertising to site visitors who did not convert – retargeting.
You should allow for a bit of advertising in this manner. If an agency doesn’t offer this type of support, or if they don’t push you to get this type of advertising – they are missing the easiest wins you can ask for.
Questions and Considerations for Contracting Sales Enablement/Support Services:
- What do you do to support my sales team, other than just lead generation on the website?
- Do you provide Sales Enablement or Account Based Marketing (ABM) support? What exactly do you do to enable this?
Many agencies won’t offer sales support services, so this needs to be part of your decision criteria.
If an agency tells you that all your leads are now going to come from inbound and your sales teams will be plenty busy – watch out. Traditional sales are greatly enhanced by digital marketing, there should be a defined process for how digital marketing efforts will directly assist the sales team as well.
Look for prescribed methods to target different types of potential customers. ABM typically has multiple tiers of strategy, and you target your prospect list with different degrees of resources. ABM is not a one size fits all strategy.
If the agency sells you Sales Enablement Services, look for prescribed processes that enable any, or ideally all, of the following:
- A process for identifying target prospects & list building.
- A process for finding emails and contact details of the prospects.
- A process for accelerating prospecting.
- A process for email and phone communications, including scripts.
- Voice mail and objection handling techniques.
- Strategies for content heavy and sales heavy communications.
- Different strategies for high value vs moderate value prospects.
- A process to continue engaging prospects who are not in the buying window.
Be Cautious – Sales Enablement is a relatively new element of inbound marketing. Many agencies are recognizing that success involves alignment with the sales team, and supporting sales team efforts.
As more agencies start selling Sales Enablement, or ABM services, it is critical that you can recognize the difference between an agency selling snake oil, and one with a proven and prescribed ABM approach that you can trust.
Use the above questions, and bring in your sales team to make sure they have buy-in.
Questions and Considerations for Contracting Marketing & Sales Automation Services:
- “Which types of automation services & technology do your agency offer as part of your MarTech and Sales Tech Stack?”
- “Are you locked into offering just one solution, or can I use the technology I want to use?”
- “How much support do you offer for technology?”
- “Which KPIs do you use in order to make augments to my campaign over time?”
Technology is critical to driving scale and efficiency to your efforts. Your agency should have a suite of technology that they offer to you for insights and automation.
Some Key Digital Marketing Tools to Look For:
Automates lead nurturing and tracks behaviour with all communications
Keyword Position Tracking
Gives you real-time data on your current rank for keywords
Real-time performance dashboards
Gives you a single source for data pulled from all tools to review the overall performance of the site.
One place where you can compare leads by source and type, as well as the details of that lead in a single clean view that is easy to scan.
Resource spend tracking
Gives you a way to monitor where and how your marketing resources are being spent.
Accelerates sales enablement and prospecting, while protecting your domain from potential spam filters and blocking.
Integration of critical systems (analytics, AdWords, search console)
This is a must. Google has 3 major platforms, and connecting them together will give you incredible insights across all operations.
Google Tag Manager with coded conversion tracking across your site
This is how you connect the above 3 major platforms to your site and implement conversion tracking to enable advanced performance insights.
Site heat mapping & behaviour tracking
An absolute must, this tool will give you data on how people behave on your site. You can find little details that can unlock major increases in lead generation.
Identified Visitor Tracking
An advanced tool that helps you identify the company details of visitors to your site even if they don’t convert.
A competent agency would leverage every one of the above tools in order to have full site visibility with comprehensive decision criteria.
If an agency does not mention any one of the above, push deeper and ask how they intend on tracking and optimizing without data from that tool.
Make sure the agency is providing you with the best quality tools, not just ones where they are secretly getting a side benefit for selling it to you. Tools are a cost centre that enables opportunities, not a chance to make more money from you.
Depending on your needs, make sure the agency can offer varying degrees of support for the tools being provided to you. For example, they should be able to offer full management of automation, lead scoring, nurture track creation, etc.
The agency should be able to showcase exactly how they intend on using each tool to benefit you, and the decision criteria from all that data.
Be Cautious – Some agencies are locked into using just one type of tool, and you should dig deeper to find out if the tools recommended are for a genuine benefit or not.
As an example, some agencies will say they won’t take you on unless you use Hubspot. To be clear, Hubspot is a great tool, but it’s not the best in every instance.
Things like this should be a red flag. If an agency demands that you use one specific type of tool with no flexibility, they are likely getting some side benefit at your expense.
The next time you consult with an SEO audit agency, take these questions out for a spin and level the playing field for a fair and honest discussion about what they can and cannot do for you.
Partner with an Agency that Can Truthfully Meet Your Needs, and Support Your Business.
Interested in trying out the questions right now?
Try the questions on us and see if Jumpfactor is the right fit for you.
Jumpfactor is a demand generation agency for medium and enterprise B2B organizations. Our clients span industries like technology services, SaaS, Healthcare, Manufacturing, Engineering, Professional Services, and Finance.
Our demand generation strategies help big brands clarify messaging, position against competition, get found by the right audiences and accelerate lead generation across all B2B sales and marketing channels.
We directly manage or provide consulting on Inbound Marketing, Sales Prospecting & Nurturing, Digital Advertising, Website Development, and Brand Strategy. The Jumpfactor team is entirely in house, with none of our services outsourced to 3rd parties.
Jumpfactor began as an SEO agency during the mid-2000s. Client needs and market forces transformed Jumpfactor into a full demand generation agency, with an advanced SEO foundation driving data-driven decision making.