Brand Strategy B2B Marketing Agency

Do you need a B2B marketing agency?

By George Sanders, Business director

Earnest

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The Drum Network article

This content is produced by The Drum Network, a paid-for membership club for CEOs and their agencies who want to share their expertise and grow their business.

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October 4, 2022 | 8 min read

What are the sorts of problems a B2B marketing agency can help you fix? In the first of a mini-series, George Sanders of Earnest goes back to basics.

A life-saving ring on a wall

What can (and can’t) a B2B marketing agency help you with? / Matthew Waring via Unsplash

When you’re thinking about employing the services of a B2B marketing agency, one of your first questions should be, “Do I actually need one?” Frustratingly, there’s often no one to ask, so here’s a guide on what to consider for B2B brand marketers left feeling stranded.

The right agency can do incredible things for your brand by providing experience and expertise that supplements, augments and amplifies your own, and solving the problems that you can’t internally. But you need to know what those problems are first; you don’t want to approach an agency with a vague, “how can you help me?” If you say to a car salesperson, “I think I need a car,” they’ll probably reply, “here’s our fastest, most expensive and reddest one.”

By first understanding and defining your goals, requirements, priorities and budgets, you can ensure you find the suitable agency partner to meet your needs efficiently, effectively and enjoyably – and avoid succumbing to greasy, glad-handing hustlers.

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Defining your objectives

What are your needs and objectives? Think about both business objectives and marketing objectives. The former should already exist as a commercial strategy, and the latter should be captured in a marketing plan, defining opportunities, challenges and requirements to define the agency brief.

If you don’t have a marketing plan, create one yourself or employ the services of a freelance marketing consultant. To progress without one risks directionless activity, no clear line to commercial objectives, and wasted time and budget.

Business objectives

Business objectives are too often overlooked, forgotten or unknown by marketing teams. You should find them in company strategy presentations or board/investor reports, and might focus on international expansion, improving profitability or growing product lines.

By clearly connecting them to marketing strategy, marketers can ensure their work is more visibly and meaningfully contributing to actual business success, and that the metrics provide value outside of the marketing department.

Marketing objectives

Marketing objectives should be part of a marketing strategy and plan that helps make the business objectives happen. If your business objective is to grow revenue in the US market by 50%, your marketing objectives should work to make that happen (for example, by increasing brand awareness in the US by X%, provisioning for demand generation and providing local sales teams with tools and assets).

By defining these objectives, you can then determine what’s possible internally, and where you need external support. It may be that what you’re looking to achieve isn’t something that an agency can help with (sometimes businesses need to ‘get their house in order’ before they go outside).

For brands without a marketing strategy, marketing consultants can be invaluable. The right consultant will develop a picture of what you have, what you need, how to achieve it, and where (if at all) agency support would be most valuable. A common objection is, “Christ, they charge how much per day?” But the upfront cost of a marketing strategy could save the cost of going with the wrong agency. This is the architect before bringing the builders onsite.

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Define your agency needs

Next, determine what kind of agency is required. This depends on objectives, your teams’ expertise and your work capacity.

B2B agency services range from strategic big-thinking (brand story and identity, campaign strategies, creative ideas, full-funnel development and production – this is where we at Earnest mostly sit), to more tactical and production-only (tactical or business-as-usual content and asset production, digital marketing, event production).

There are agencies that provide both ends of the spectrum; others specialize in one or the other. Understanding what you need and where the agency provides the most value will help you decide which one is right for you. Another clumsy house-building analogy: a handyman can do a bit of everything, but for a swimming pool you’ll probably want a specialist. The task dictates the service, not the other way around.

It’s important to realize what agencies cannot help you with, such as selling the need for external agency support to stakeholders; promoting the role of marketing internally; securing budget; and developing strategies and objectives. They can offer guidance and support, but these typically wouldn’t be in their remit.

Defining KPIs and the brief

Next, how will you measure the success of your work together?

Project KPIs should align with marketing strategy, determined by the task. That could be ‘increase visitors to the website by X%’ or ‘deliver a new brand identity by the end of December.’ This will help you find the right agency, help agencies determine if they’re right for you and inform the brief.

The importance of the written brief to agencies can’t be overstated. The quality of work from an agency is directly related to the quality of the brief; incorrect information, missing details and changing direction will lead to work that’s inaccurate, irrelevant and eventually costly.

Once the above are in place, determine what the engagement process looks like. Is it a request for proposal or a full-on strategic/creative pitch?

Engaging with an agency can supercharge your marketing with robust insight, informed strategy and inspiring creative. But don’t run into the unknown without foundational elements in place. The reality of the working world (aggressive deadlines, demanding stakeholders and tight budgets) make it difficult to have these in place when you need them, but taking a step back and communicating the importance of planning and objective-setting can pay off disproportionately.

For more guidance, get in touch.

Brand Strategy B2B Marketing Agency

Content by The Drum Network member:

Earnest

Earnest is the award-winning B2B marketing agency that’s chasing out the humdrum in London and New York.

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