How to choose a marketing agency

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1 Marketing for Technology Businesses How to choose a marketing agency The IT Marketing Agency Guide STRATEGY DESIGN EVENTS CONTENT SOCIAL

2 The reason we ve entitled this guide How to choose a marketing agency and not Do you need a marketing agency, is because if you re a business that s serious about getting great results, growing your business, building your brand and attracting and retaining profitable customers, then actually, you need a agency to help you. Of course, we would say that, wouldn t we? But actually just finding any old agency isn t good enough. You need to find one that will match your business needs and help you deliver the results you re looking for. And there are a lot of agencies out there! So this little guide is to help you identify the type of agency you need, so that you don t have to kiss quite so many frogs in the process! There s 3 main reasons businesses choose a marketing agency. Which one is most like you? 1. You ve got a Marketing Director and a small internal team 2. You ve got a Marketing Manager and no internal team 3. You ve got a Marketing Exec / admin / someone that has a day job and tries to cram marketing on top. So often we see business that have made one of the above recruitment decisions to do with marketing and think that s all they need to do. However, whichever one of the above you are, here s why you still need a marketing agency: Why do you need a marketing agency? If you ve got a marketing director, that s great. They are experienced, qualified, expensive people. They can set a marketing strategy for your business based on your goals and run the marketing team. BUT, they won t do the day-to-day marketing they don t want to. That s what they used to do when they were a marketing manager and now they want to be (and should be) more strategic. They probably know your industry well and may be a vertical market specialist, so they can definitely ensure the messaging is properly tailored. They ll create a plan, manage the budget, work out the value proposition and messaging and oversee the creation of all the marketing work. The marketing team (if you have one) will deliver the marketing work, but usually can t do all of it in house. The reason for this is, when you are developing a comprehensive marketing plan, it will probably include many of these elements: Creating a strategy Deciding on your value proposition and messaging Agreeing who your target audience is (vertical, company size, job role, marketing personas if you re feeling really fancy) Finding data for your target audience, buying it and managing it Managing (implementing?) a CRM system Manage your brand in all its manifestations Creating, designing and copywriting branded collateral Designing, developing and updating your company website Writing blogs Managing social media Building and implementing marketing campaigns, s and landing pages Manage any marketing automation software you ve got Managing any events you do or get involved in Doing the PR Overseeing and managing any other marketing systems you re using Applying for and claiming any vendor partner MDF you might be eligible for.

3 With the best will in the world, no marketing person can be a specialist in design, copywriting, website building, PR, events, systems, databases, marketing, social media etc etc see the problem? Yet so many people think that if you can do marketing you can DO all that stuff! If you re a Marketing Director you may have some people in your team who can do some of this stuff. But not all of it. And that means you ll inevitably have to outsource some of it. You need an agency. If you ve got a Marketing Manager that s also great. It shows the business is committed to marketing and understands it can make a big difference to create brand loyalty, increase sales, more profit and customer value. However, if it s just you, you certainly can t lead the business AND do all of the stuff above you need a marketing agency! If you re someone who has marketing as just a part of your job, you probably don t even have time to read this get back to work! You need an agency just to help you get anything done at all! What sort of agency are you looking for? Now to you, we might all be called marketing agencies. But actually, there are very few agencies that can do everything. Almost all specialise in one area or another. It might be design, PR, digital marketing, social, strategy the list goes on. One thing you ll quickly discover is that most agencies can be quite sniffy about the things they don t specialise in (funny that!). Typically, and this is my experience having worked in marketing now for over 20 years (yes, I know I don t look old enough cough) you can find a great technical, digital agency, but their design skills are iffy. Or you can find an amazing designer, but they can t do anything technical. Or a PR agency that s great at press coverage but terrible at digital. It s very rare to find an agency that does a good job on everything unless you go a to huge agency that genuinely does everything in house. (That can bring it s own problems though departments that don t talk to each other and more importantly, similarly huge fees!). So first of all, decide what you really want the agency FOR. Is it to help with your strategy? Do you want a new brochure designing? Is this the year you sort your social media? Then look up agencies that specialise in the area you re looking for. The next important factor is: do they know your market sector or vertical? We come across this problem A LOT. Usually at one or other end of the spectrum a client has chosen an agency because they re big and well known. They may have some technology clients, but actually they don t really understand your space / the channel / your customers etc. This can cause a lot of frustration and expense as the agency can t produce work that resonates with you or your audience, and yet you think this is what you re paying for. Of course anyone can research, but it s not the same as having an in-depth knowledge of your market and knowing what it s like to be in your shoes. The other end of the spectrum is someone has selected an agency because a friend works there, or they re local. Again, this can cause problems for the same reason but then guilt kicks in if they can t do a good enough job! It is surprising how many people stick with an agency they re really not happy with. And often this is because they re worried about it going even more wrong with the next agency they pick! Not a great place to be and more importantly, it can result in throwing good money after bad and not really getting anywhere. Not good for you, your business, or ultimately, the agency.

4 How should the relationship work? Some people want an agency that just does what they re told. Some people expect the agency to have all the answers and become overreliant on their advice. Realistically, it s got to be a blend. You employ an agency because they have skills you don t have in-house and because they should be good at understanding your business and coming up with ideas. But they will never understand your business as well as you do. They don t know the politics, the personalities and haven t sat in a meeting with your board. So the relationship should be one where you help each other. It sounds obvious to say this but again, I ve worked with clients who seem to like to catch agencies out, or highlight when they get it wrong. This is just counter-productive. The agency is there to help you. Therefore they re on your side. If the agency makes you, the client, look good internally, then they ve done a good job. So pick an agency that works in the same way as you work. With similar values, experience and outlook on life. We all spend a large proportion of our day (and our lives!) at work. It s a much better experience when you enjoy working with the people you have to work with. When you re choosing an agency you re choosing who to spend your time with. So make sure you meet the team you ll be working with, not just the new business person who you ll probably never see again! Size matters. Or does it? In actual fact, most agencies are small. In the B2B Top Agencies list, the vast majority of the top 70 agencies turn over less than 1m. They are, in the main, small businesses. We re a small business. But we work with some huge clients. That s usually fine as we ve got a team of people involved, all who have different skills and bring different strengths. But when choosing an agency, if they are a small business, then please bear that in mind and understand what it means for them. Pay promptly, set up systems to help them manage resources and deliver effectively to you. I know this should seem like it s their job and not yours, but if you want continuity of service and staff, offer the agency security and help them to deliver it to you. If your work is very spikey with very busy periods and then periods of no work, give them as much notice as possible otherwise you risk them not being able to deliver the right work with the right resources at the right time (i.e. when you want it!). How should you manage your agency? It s worth putting some time into this upfront, too. Do you want a weekly call, a monthly review, an annual customer service questionnaire? Do you want to see them face-to-face? How often? You ll need to build in the time at both ends of the relationship to manage how you work together. You ll also need to understand that time = costs for an agency. Whether you get billed it as account management, or it s loaded onto projects, one way or another an agency has to cover its investment in a client. (Yes, seems weird hearing that doesn t it. But you must do the same with your customers? If you ve got a customer who takes up a lot of your time, you need to ensure it s worth it for you, too.) Many agencies only work on a retained basis, to ensure they have the time and commitment to put into developing a really strong relationship with their clients. Usually as you work more with an agency, they can understand your business better, add more value, come up with better ideas and streamline how they work. Equally, if a client won t work on retainer, to an agency it can mean they re not prepared to put in the work at their end of the relationship and this can make an agency wary. Just as in any relationship in life, sometimes things don t go according to plan. But if one of you isn t committed from the start, the likelihood of this happening can only be increased. So again, consider what you re looking for. If you just want some occasional project help, make that clear from the outset. These sorts of relationships can work well too but often need more thinking about and planning.

5 How do you check they re any good? Well a good place to start is how did you come across them? Were they recommended to you? Who by? Is that person someone you like/trust/respect? Then that s a good place to start! The second obvious point is do you like their stuff? Did their website make you chuckle, or if you re not a chuckling type, did it make you nod seriously while looking thoughtful? If an agency uses lots of terminology are they just showing off or hiding behind a fluffy cloud? Is their offering clear? How do they demonstrate expertise in their field? There should be case studies and testimonials on their website. Are these from people you know and respect? Does their work look interesting and like the type of projects or campaigns you might have them working on? Can they offer client references that you can speak to? Have they won or been shortlisted for any awards that indicate they should be good at what they do? Is their blog interesting and up to date? Do they share any expertise, run events, talk to you for free at the beginning? And lastly, what about the results? The most important point here is making sure you know what results you are actually looking for. That sounds crazy but think about it for a minute. Are you looking for more leads, a fuller pipeline, more business from existing customers, or net new business? Increased brand loyalty, increased awareness? All of the above? In which case you need to understand two things: 1. Where you are now 2. What success looks like However you intend to measure the success of your agency relationship, it s imperative that you give this proper consideration. So, if you want more leads how many more? How many are you getting now? What would you consider fair? How much budget are you prepared to commit to getting more leads? Again, remember that the agency is on the same side as you they only succeed if you succeed. But they can t turn a sow s ear into a silk purse. You have to give them the time and budget to get the results you want. Don t be like a football manager and expect goals from a brand new team in the first game. Be in it for the long term, commit and the results will come. How to measure ROI If you re looking to increase leads, revenue and profitability, here s a good way of measuring your investment in a marketing agency. You have to work backwards. What s your average customer/deal size? So if a customer stays with you for an average of 3 years and spends 2k a month with you, your average customer lifetime value is actually 72k (not too shabby, huh?). How many new prospects do you have to see to win a new customer? This is your conversion rate. A hit rate of 1 in 3 or 4 is about average. So you have to pitch to (say) 4 new prospects to win 1 new customer. How many proposals do you have to produce to get an appointment? Perhaps you don t do this stage, or perhaps proposals come for you after an appointment. This stage is when yourv lead is a sales qualified lead. In other words, it has passed from marketing to sales. It s worth bearing in mind that a marketing agency can t influence your conversion rate, so measuring sales qualified leads could be a good approach to take. How many warm leads do you need to get a sales qualified lead? Well this is where it gets tricky, but you ll probably need at least double the number of marketing qualified leads to get to your required number of sales qualified leads. Then back up the funnel, you probably need more than 5 times the number of prospects in your funnel to get the right number of marketing qualified leads.

6 So, here s an example for you: 5000 prospects in your sales funnel 500 marketing qualified leads (just over 40 leads a month, or 10 a week) 250 sales qualified leads 62 new clients 72k x 125 = 4, Now I m not saying all the above will definitely happen, but it s worth doing some test maths with your own calculations in using the same principles as above, to see just what your returns from marketing investment could be. Suddenly seems more interesting, doesn t it? In conclusion Our conclusion is pretty straightforward. It s likely that you ll need a marketing agency to help you deliver some or most (or even all) of your marketing. So choose carefully. Make sure you know what you re looking for, what success looks like and then it s just a case of finding the agency that s the best fit for you! Take your time when making a choice and make the right choice slowly rather than the wrong choice quickly! It will work out better for you both in the long run! Of course, if you re looking for an agency that specialises in marketing for technology businesses, really knows their stuff, have lots of recommendations and experience and are great people to work with, then of course, you could just get in touch! Want to talk more about choosing the right agency? If you d like to have a chat about how we could help you, then drop us a line at and the coffee s on us!

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