The business of marketing to businesses is a lot more complex than marketing to end consumers. Why? For starters, you need to determine who your client is, not just the industry, or the size of company you’re after.
Depending on what service or product you offer, you may market to a business, but your client will be a person. That’s what we call B2B2U: Business to Business to User.
For instance, you develop a software solution, say project management or scheduling for HR departments. Your product is ideal for teams of 10+ people. You need to sell to whomever manages those 10 and has decision power, while at the same time getting all 10 people on board. Imagine a director buying your solution, and only half of his/her team members using it… Chances are, the deal will not go past the first month of subscription, or the free trial, for that matter.
The difficulty in B2B Marketing may not be in generating leads (although, that’s a feast in itself) but allocating enough resources to nurturing, which could stretch you thin.
12 Reasons Why Hiring a B2B Marketing Agency Is a Strategic Decision
- Marketing Research & Business intelligence
- Tools Mastery
- Sales & Marketing Alignment
- Content Production & Distribution
- Marketing Automation & Lead Nurturing
- Monitoring & Analytics
- Transparency & Communication
- Flexibility & Adaptability
- Scaling Costs
- Direct Positive MROI
1. Marketing Research & Business Intelligence
The success of strategy, any kind of strategy, begins with the quality and usability of data. Without data, you’re left to guessing. And guess what? The “could-should-might approach” is not something you want to present to a board meeting.
B2B Marketing agencies have access to AI-powered data mining tools, unearthing about any type of information you could ever need to understand your customers and their expectations.
- Purchasing history
- Social engagement
Even if you can equip your marketing department with access to market intelligence, think of the time it takes to personalize data extraction, so you act on what is most pertinent to your goals… Think of the time it takes to translate the info collected into predictive models… You would need to potentially replace part of your staff with people in-the-know. You simply cannot afford that, can you?
2. Experience Implementing Proven Tactics
Inbound marketing is not a field you can read about in the morning and successfully launch in the afternoon. No matter how much it makes sense, how much it follows logic and methodology, mastering the art of B2B lead generation takes time. Every detail counts, and the process is more than checking boxes off a list.
Let’s say you know enough to develop buyer personas and understand your buyers’ journey. Do you know what content corresponds to awareness? Do you know what CTA is most likely to lead from consideration to decision? Does your content inventory supply enough special offers and can you create and manage the steps necessary to keep the funnel moving?
Again, you can learn all that. You can practice. What you can’t get quickly enough is experience and quantified feedback. Agency Marketers do more than create landing pages that convert and ebooks; they spend their days learning. They know what works and what doesn’t, because they’ve been there before.
3. Tools Mastery
Come to think of it, a lot boils down to practical knowledge and continued education. B2B Marketing agencies that want to stay ahead of the pack dedicate a certain number of hours per month for training, staying up to date on research, studies and certifications. Discovering new tools that help get the job done better, reading countless pages of blogs, white papers, ebooks (yes, even not their own).
No to mention the complexity of a CRM system.
Throw your staff in the arena, tell them “Here, we’re going to implement an inbound strategy. We are going to use HubSpot. You will create workflows, lead flows, sales email sequences… Goals for the next quarter are XX leads for YY closed deals. Oh, and by the way, make sure you work closely with sales and agree on lead scoring.” What you can expect next are a few resignations and as many burnouts.
4. Sales and Marketing Alignment
When you hire an inbound marketing firm, you also hire a partner that will not dismiss sales as a separate entity, with its own set of rules and processes. In fact, I tend to think Marketing and Sales are one and the same: a unified team working toward presenting a perfect solution to a perfect prospect. Your agency will work with your sales team to precisely define what a sales qualified lead is, so all marketing efforts reduce waste and friction in the funnel. This includes lead scoring, of course. But it also includes opening communication avenues that run both ways and tapping into data gathered by Sales from prospects and current customers.
5. Content Production & Distribution
Content is everywhere in smart lead generation. You can have the best content. If it’s not what your audience needs, it amounts to nothing. If you send it at the wrong time or through the wrong channels, it amounts to nothing. You would have spent all this time and money for something you THINK is great… for nothing.
Before anything can happen with inbound marketing, a lot is carefully woven behind the content scenes: keywords research (not just keywords, inbound keywords: the kind that your target searches AND at the same time boosts your online visibility), topics research (as per the content map), writers selection, briefs and outlines, graphic design, SEO, publication, social captions, distribution, submission to directories, submission to republishing platforms…
Again, this is where your agency is best equipped for the job: From managing content writers and producers to publishing on channels where your buyers hang out to determining the right time to do so; Using tools that parse the cyber world and regurgitate trends and patterns: when emails are most opened/clicked, what day works best for articles or videos, what the optimal length is for a webinar and the best outlets to send invites.
Once again, you can do it all, but why would you put yourself and your collaborators through that?
6. Marketing Automation & Lead Nurturing
You finally managed to assemble the A-team: certified inbound marketers, trained inside out. They know how to use your marketing software (ok, maybe up to 80%, that is better than a few months ago!). You have a content team; a content map. You found out where your leads are, and they are taking the bait.
Now is the crucial point where the nurturing process kicks off. You need to keep the level of interest high. You must engage them further, efficiently enough so they move to the next stage.
All the while working to acquire more [qualified] prospects. If you felt you were already working full time towards generating leads, how will you manage to nurture them, track engagement, gauge ripeness?
7. Monitoring, Tracking, Analytics & KPIs
Speaking of tracking… This is where we should have started, since essential Marketing KPIs should be picked at the very beginning based on your goals. At a B2B lead generation agency, key performance indicators are monitored on a daily basis, so we can spot a shift in trend and take corrective action. Positive results serve the same teaching purpose: analytics tell you what works, so you can keep doing it.
8. Transparency & Communication
Take the long way. Do the hard work, consistently and with generosity and transparency. And then you won’t waste time doing it over. Seth Godin
Trust breeds from transparency. Hard work breeds results. Do not fall for the pick-up line “Trust us, we know what we’re doing.” An inbound firm worth its name should always present hard facts, data, numbers and be smart enough to recognize when a mistake happened. We’re all human, perfection is not of this world. Here’s how to spot the best agencies from the so-so, when you hear
- Someone made a mistake (trying to assign blame on someone, preferably outside of the agency)
- A mistake? I’m not sure (reluctant to admit something went wrong, while not brazen enough to blame you)
- We made a mistake (a positive attitude)
- We made a mistake, here’s how we plan to correct it and here are the measures we take so it won’t happen again (by far the best answer)
9. Flexibility & Adaptability
Outsourcing your B2B inbound marketing efforts has another benefit: a more pronounced ability to shift gears should the opportunity arise. While we have processes in place once a strategy has been agreed upon, nothing is set in stone. On the contrary, marketing is a very dynamic field, and only flexibility sets you apart from struggling competitors. All those KPIs we’re tracking serve that very purpose: to reveal insights that allow us to refine a campaign, improve messaging, refine buyer personas.
Agencies don’t shy from a complete 180º if they believe that’s what is best for the client.
It can be difficult to attribute responsibilities when you run a marketing department in-house, not in terms of tasks, but in terms of performance. A cross-functional team makes it tricky to exactly pin-point the exact who / what / where. There is much more visibility when working with an agency. Everything is put in writing so both parties know what to expect and what is expected from them.
On the agency side, anything that potentially gets in the way of results becomes our problem, and ours to fix. Bymeasuring performance (both qualitative and quantitative), we can establish a healthy client/agency relationship free of gray areas.
11. Scaling Costs
If you are still debating in-house vs outsourcing marketing at this point, I propose a math problem. To successfully generate new business and keep your current clients delighted, you need to invest in people and tools:
- Marketing manager
- Marketing team
- Content team
- Graphic designer
- Editorial manager
- CRM system
- Graphic and illustration software subscription
- Photographic elements subscription
- SEO tools
- Market intelligence tools
- Paid advertising optimization tools
- Behavior measurement tools
- Training hours
On top of that investment, you need to set aside enough hours for analytics and KPIs tracking, strategy meetings, campaign meetings, brainstorming and deployment. Oh, and reporting to they-who-shall-not-be-named.
12. Direct Positive MROI
True Return on Marketing Investment factors in all these elements. We could argue it should also compute the amount of energy necessary to generate leads and sales, but we’ll just include that under “time” category. ROI generated through Inbound Marketing increases exponentially. This has as much to do with the increase of qualified leads as campaigns mature as with the level of energy that agencies dedicate to their success.
There are16 reasons why CMOs fail at positive MROI. I will add one more: not hiring a B2B Marketing Agency.
I rest my case.