Throughout the years, I have noticed how my fellow marketers can hardly tell if the digital agency they are working with is any good. But since B2B customer journeys can be long and complex, the need for consistent marketing activities provided by a great digital agency comes to the fore. Buyer personas need a lot of help in moving forward on their buying journey. This further highlights the need for long-lasting partnerships.
So how do you even define what is a “good” agency? After 10+ years of working with several digital marketing agencies, I have gathered a checklist of my own. I have used the list as assessment criteria for what I think makes a great B2B digital marketing agency. Now, I’m finally sharing that list with you to help you assess yours as well.
Understanding your business
I have sat through too many sales pitches with agencies that had no idea what business my company was in. These agencies tried to sell me massive yearly contracts but didn’t even bother to learn about my industry or my business, wasting everyone’s time with that sales pitch.
A great digital marketing agency does thorough research of your company and its industry before meeting you. And the research never stops. Your digital marketing agency should constantly try to understand your business and industry better. That’s how you know they value your cooperation.
Action step: Ask the agency for industry-specific skills and case studies. If you are a B2B company, ask if the agency has worked on B2B cases before. What results did they get and can they show any references?
Performance is one of the key criteria when you assess the success of your digital agency cooperation. It is extremely important that your agency works together with you to set realistic and measurable KPIs that are directly related to your revenue.
Action step: Ask the agency for case studies that reveal both the process they followed and the results they got. Look for agencies that measure business metrics like marketing-driven revenue. Some agencies may in fact focus on so-called vanity metrics like clicks and views.
Fulfilling those goals is of course a sign that the agency can do its job. But a good digital agency does more than just deliver the results you are looking for, right?
Most agencies expect the client to tell them what to do. But if you’re a Marketing Manager or a CEO in your company, you don’t have time to hold anyone’s hand and always tell them what to do next.
One of the best qualities of a digital agency is proactivity. Your agency should proactively come to you with new ideas and recommendations on how to improve your results. Great digital agencies act without having to wait for your next command or request.
Action step: Ask the agency what the working process will look like in the next 3 months. How often will you meet? What type of interaction can you expect? How can you get the most out of the agency’s experience and creative ideas?
Keeping a backlog of things to do is something that many marketers and agencies don’t even think to do. Personally, I find backlogs extremely important.
If you work with a proactive agency, the odds are that not all their suggestions or recommendations for further action are urgent. Instead, you can focus on some things and schedule other ideas for later. Keeping a backlog of to-do’s makes it easier to keep track of them. You can then prioritize those tasks when they become topical again.
Action step: Ask the agency about their project management methodology. If they don’t work with sprints and backlogs, chances are your cooperation will be random, and not proactive.
Total transparency is not a common practice in the agency industry. That makes it one of the key criteria that sets many digital marketing agencies apart.
The whole scope of your cooperation from reporting the hours to reporting results should be transparent. So if your boss asks you what you got for your money last month, you would know exactly what to answer.
Action step: Ask for complete transparency and accountability from the agency. Demand that you maintain ownership of all data and advertising accounts. Request monthly reports for actual work hours and media spend.
Daring to challenge you
One of the qualities I have personally appreciated the most in agency cooperation is challenging the things you do and take for granted. A great B2B digital marketing agency will give you direct feedback if there is a problem with the way you work. Your agency will help you with your KPIs, your budget, whatever the issue may be. And that is exactly what they should be doing – instead of just waiting for those orders from you.
After all, you are paying for their knowledge and expertise. Part of that service should be advising you and your company to improve and develop your ways when it’s needed.
Action step: Research how skillful the people assigned to your project really are. Are they challenging you already in the introductory meetings, or simply going with your ideas?
Last but not least, you know you are working with a good agency if they are constantly educating you and your team. And I’m not talking about organizing workshops or anything like that. It can be as simple as always explaining the reasoning behind their recommendations or optimizations. This way, your understanding of the topic increases as well. All in all, a great agency will make you feel like you know more thanks to them.
Action step: Ask the agency to proactively involve your internal team in planning and execution. If and when your cooperation ends, your team should know how to continue from there.
Now that you have read through this list, is it easier for you to evaluate your current digital marketing agency? I believe that all of these things need to be in place in one form or another to build a true partnership that lasts. At the end of the day, that’s what you should be looking for in a B2B digital marketing agency.
Are you looking for a new B2B digital marketing agency? Do not miss out on marketer’s checklist for digital agency cooperation.
And if you are happy with what you have just read, you know who to contact.