What’s the number one reason that a business hires a marketing company? In my experience, it’s to improve sales. Often we hear from companies that say they have intermediary goals like ‘enhance our brand’ or ‘develop sales collateral’. But the end goal, their ultimate reason for wanting to work with a marketing company, is always the same – to IMPROVE SALES!
An experienced VP Sales and Marketing recently said to me that a previous experience with a marketing company had felt like ‘being tortured’. His comment sheds light on what it’s like for B2B companies when they’re working with the wrong marketing partner.
The reason for that feeling of 'being tortured' is misaligned expectations. B2B companies don’t always have an understanding of how the many parts of marketing add up to enhanced revenues – especially in B2B, where the sales cycle is long and the payoff on good marketing takes time. Equally, there are many marketing companies who don’t have experience in B2B, don’t understand the differences between B2B and B2C marketing, and don’t know what it takes to improve sales.
If I think of all the executives I’ve heard lament about a previous marketing relationship that didn’t succeed in improving sales, I think there are three types of marketing companies who cause the majority of misaligned expectations.
I want to be clear that these companies can be excellent at delivering on other goals, but they are not necessarily good at consistently improving B2B sales. Here are three types of marketing companies to be cautious of, if your goal is to sustainably improve your B2B company’s sales:
There are tens of thousands of marketers and marketing companies in Canada and the US who are ‘creatives’. They usually have a graphic or visual design background. Some of them are brilliant business strategists. And many have no business knowledge at all. These creative marketers can help you design a visually stunning logo, sales collateral that has ‘wow’ factor, and a website that your teenage kids think is spectacular.
Their efforts may help your business improve sales for a period, based on bringing your company’s image up a notch (or a leap). That’s great. But typically, great creative work does not sustainably grow revenues for B2B companies. What’s important to B2B buyers is that their vendors have expertise and experience. Whether the vendor looks good is secondary (as long as it’s above a certain level).
If your main goal is to improve sales, be cautious about hiring marketing companies whose only skill is creative work.
Single-tactic Marketing Specialists
The secret of good B2B marketing is to integrate marketing tactics. There’s almost never a ‘silver bullet’ tactic that will make the phone ring off the hook with prospects calling to demand your services. Instead, B2B companies who use a combination of marketing tactics, like thought-leadership development, PR, events, digital marketing and social media, will consistently and sustainably raise awareness among target customers and generate leads.
There are many marketing companies who have deep expertise in a particular tactic. This is common for PR companies, event planners and SEO firms. These companies offer a depth of knowledge in their specialty that is incomparable. You should engage these firms if you have a need in their specific area, and only that area.
If your goal is to improve sales, be cautious of working with a marketing company that does only one thing. You may achieve a bump in sales based on their efforts, but that bump may be difficult to sustain.
Project Marketing Companies
Building a B2B marketing machine is a strategic, long term initiative. It isn’t something that can be pulled off in a quarter or two. Most of the successful Chief Marketing Officers our company has interviewed say that it took them 3 years to create a solid marketing function within their company.
There are many marketing companies who work on a short-term basis to deliver a specific project or campaign. This makes perfect sense for companies who know the particular work they need delivered, and are looking for a finite-term, contract relationship to access the skills and bandwidth needed. Project marketing companies are the way to go here.
However, if your B2B company is looking for a marketing partner for the long-term that will help you sustainably improve sales, then a project company won’t be effective. The structure of the relationship doesn’t foster long-term commitment, and sets the stage for a mindset around completion of the project, as opposed to delivering revenues.
Creative agencies, single-tactic marketers and project companies are all great options in the right situation. But if your goal is to improve sales over the long-term for your B2B company, think carefully about whether they’re the right fit.
For more tips on how to choose the right marketing company, download the free guide How To Choose The Right Marketing Company.