There are many ingredients that go into a good working relationship between a B2B company and its marketing agency. Some factors are on the agency’s side, and some are on the client’s side. Just like in dating, both partners have to participate in order to make the relationship a success.
As a marketing agency, Mezzanine has had lots of experience with a broad range of clients. Some are wonderful, and we’ve enjoyed long-standing relationships that last years and are highly successful for both us and the client. Other client relationships don’t work out, despite good intentions on both sides at the outset.
So what makes for the difference? We still don’t have a crystal ball on which relationships will end up working well and which don’t (just like in dating!). But we have identified a few factors that indicate whether a client is well suited to working with a marketing agency. Here are some factors to consider before jumping into a relationship with a marketing agency:
1. Are you ready for marketing?
Many small and mid-sized B2B companies can reap tremendous rewards from investing in marketing. If your business has a solid product or service, a proven track record delivering to an installed base of customers, and a sales force that is actively soliciting and securing new clients, then you’re probably ready to accelerate growth through marketing.
Conversely, if your company’s products or operations are weak, if you have few or no past customers who can attest to your ability to deliver, or if you don’t have anyone out selling and connecting with B2B buyers to convert prospects into customers, you’re likely not ready for an ongoing marketing investment. In this situation, you should invest in marketing projects that will help build your company’s go-to-market foundation (website, sales collateral), and then focus on building out your company’s operations and sales functions. Once those are in place and succeeding, it will make more sense to invest in marketing.
2. Do you understand what it will take to be successful in B2B marketing, or are you open to learning?
We recently had a call from a prospect who asked me within 5 minutes of the start of the conversation what kind of ROI we’d be able to deliver in 3 months if his company provided a $100,000 marketing budget. My answer to his question was, “I have no idea. And anyone who gives you an answer to that question is lying to you.”
The prospect wasn’t happy with my answer, he wanted a commitment to some kind of number or range. This gave me enough information to know that this wouldn’t be a client we would work effectively with, because he didn’t have an understanding of the journey to success in marketing, and he wasn’t interested in listening to someone who does.
Many small and mid-sized B2B companies are new to the journey to success in marketing, and the majority choose to work with an outside marketing agency because they want an expert ‘sherpa’ to guide them and help them accelerate their learning curve, and avoid costly mistakes. If your business has a tendency to think it’s smarter than everyone else – in every aspect of business – then it will be better for you to work independently on your marketing.
3. Do you have the necessary internal resources available for marketing?
Even if you hire an outside marketing agency, you’ll need internal resources to work with your marketing partner. Your engineers will be needed to approve whitepapers and other technical content, your senior management team will need to be involved in overhauling the corporate identity and the new messaging, the CFO will be needed to review the budget. If your team is already at 150% capacity, adding marketing will only exacerbate the situation. There will be a pay-off in the long-term, but the short-term reality will be very difficult. You’ll spend money to work with a marketing company, but if you don’t have time to work with them to provide your input and sign off on key decisions, then your marketing won’t get far. Consider carefully how stretched your management team is before working making an additional commitment to a marketing agency.
These 3 factors are the main ‘flags’ we ask clients about when considering new relationships. We want our clients to be as ready for putting marketing in place as we are, so that we can all enjoy a successful and enduring relationship.