Marketing Automation tools are so powerful they can help you efficiently overload your sales team, spam your market, publish lots of content no one will read, and then get accurate analytics on how your marketing investment has been wasted. If you think this might be happening don’t feel alone.
B2B strategy and execution is just starting to catch up to the potential of the software. The mix of skills and expertise needed to create success crosses different marketing disciplines from content, to web development, to campaign planning, to email marketing, to analytics and more.
This post reviews the different available service options, what to look for, and how to identify what you really need.
Different Service Options
Because marketing automation technology is so new there are very few agencies with the specific combination of expertise needed for success. Most are specialists in another marketing discipline who have incorporated marketing automation services into their offering. Here is a quick list of different service models offering marketing automation expertise:
- Marketing Automation Solutions with great support
- B2B Advertising Agencies
- Email Marketing Firms
- Tele-Sales Companies
- Sales Agencies
- PR Firms
- Consultants & Freelancers
All of these options have strengths and weaknesses depending on what you really need. Solution vendors like Eloqua, Marketo, Silverpop, Hubspot, or Pardot offer terrific guidance about the features of their product but their focus is on selling software not providing marketing services. (BTW they often have partner programs and that can be a great place to start your search). Advertising Agencies have terrific design and short format copy-writing but often lack technology expertise. Email marketing firms, tele-sales companies, PR and Sales Agencies tend to focus on specific channels and often over-emphasize strategies and tactics based on their specialization. One common option is to assemble a team of agencies and service providers to deliver a customized set of expertise. But the first step in finding the right approach is to identify what to look for.
What To Look For
While many tools vendors have been busy convincing the market that marketing automation success is easy to achieve, success takes more than technology. It requires a best practice combination of content, programs, and tools. Here are 4 important capabilities to look for:
- Marketing Strategy & Planning
- Content Development Including Repurposing, Curating, and Creating the Right Assets
- Programs & Tactics Including Inbound Marketing, Nurturing, Social Media, and Website Optimization
- Reporting That Provides Visibility Into Business Results and Pipeline Performance
The most successful approach is to find a partner who can combine these capabilities into one service offering. This will reduce costs, improve communications, and give you a single point of contact.
Identify what you really need
Some firms can help you identify and fix what is missing or not working. This includes doing an audit of your current activities, your market, and your analytics. Get ready for some constructive criticism but the end result should get you better results. You pay less for standalone advice but you will also have to implement their recommendations on your own.
An alternative approach to hands-off advice is hands-on implementation. This includes auditing your existing marketing, making recommendations to fix what is missing or not working, and then hands-on help to implement the recommendations. While this approach can cost more in fees, it will often save you time and money and get you faster results.
Support can be structured as an on-demand service for internal resources or as an outsourced extension of your marketing team. You can support your whole program or just fill expertise gaps like content development or program execution. The benefit of agency support is the ability to tap into several different areas of expertise and rapid activity scaling.
Getting The right Fit
Finally, success requires a cultural fit between you and your agency. Fit is hard to define but but look for their ability to understand what you are saying and to deliver what you want. While they don’t need to be experienced in your industry to be successful they should have experience in working with styles and company cultures similar to yours. For example, agencies specialized in consumer marketing rarely succeed on B2B projects while agencies targeting Fortune 500 brands often struggle with the speed and informality of more entrepreneurial cultures.
When you find an agency who feels like a good fit, discuss with them how to ensure a successful relationship. Come to clear agreement on expectations, scope of work and compensation.
Hiring an agency is not a simple task. It takes time. A bad decision can set your marketing automation initiatives back or derail them altogether. To succeed make sure you go through the discipline and hard work of determining what to look for and what you really need and you will setup your relationship for success.