10 Things to Look for in a Marketing Partner

December 12, 2018

Written by Sam Hoffman

Sam Hoffman is a Pittsburgh-based marketing professional with a BSBA in Marketing Management and an MBA from Youngstown State University. With nearly 10 years of marketing and sales experience, Sam understands good marketing principles and how to apply them to real-world business situations.

Why should a tech company consider hiring an external marketing partner? One of the most important reasons is that an agency will be made up of team members with years of combined expertise in diverse marketing skill sets. Finding a single person or building an internal team with all of this experience will cost far more than partnering with a marketing agency.

Not all marketing agencies are created equal though. Companies should be on the lookout for certain qualities and abilities when evaluating which agency to go with. While not a complete list, here are ten ways you should evaluate marketing teams. These characteristics will not only help your tech company grow but make your relationship more enjoyable.

1. A Marketing Partner with a Proven Track Record

First and foremost, marketing companies should have a history of success. There is nothing wrong with hiring a new agency and everyone should be given a chance at some point. However, if you go with a less experienced marketing company to save money, it may end up costing you more in the long run. The fact is, newer companies are still figuring stuff out and will make mistakes that more established companies have already sorted through.

Also, you should pick a digital marketing agency based on their ability to meet their clients’ goals and expectations. If you are evaluating whether or not to bring a marketing group on board, be sure to ask for customer references and some type of work samples. This will ensure that 1) they have a good relationship with current or past clients and 2) that the work they do can measure up with what your company needs.

2. Creative Ideas

Be sure to check out as many different work samples as possible. When looking through the portfolio, try to see if they have a cookie-cutter approach or if each solution is customized to the client. Essentially, if the marketing firm does the same thing for each of their clients, chances are, they are short on creative ideas. The issue here is that if this marketing agency is working with companies in the same industry, all of the work they do for you will appear to be the same as your competitors. Avoid this situation by asking questions and learning the agency’s approach.

See what the onboarding process will look like and evaluate if their approach will lead to unique strategies for your company.

3. Marketing Expertise

A marketing agency’s level of expertise is very important. The key is to find an individual or agency that has enough knowledge and experience to get your business where you want it. This means you will need to ask the right questions.

Better yet, they should proactively answer the questions you didn’t think about. There are numerous marketing activities any company can do, and a true marketing expert will understand your business, your industry, your opportunities, and challenges. Only then can he or she advise which activities are effective for you.

4. Technical Expertise

When evaluating marketers, be sure to take their technical expertise into consideration. Full-service marketing agencies should be able to offer graphic design, brand development, web design, and website development and maintenance. It wouldn’t make much sense to hire a marketer who has recommended major website upgrades, structure changes, and more, but doesn’t have the skill to do so. This could lead to additional costs if unnecessary changes are recommended.

Also, having one marketing group to fully manage all marketing activities (including website updates, design, maintenance, etc.) prevents competing or conflicting priorities and inconsistent brand messaging.

5. Responsiveness

In general, people don’t like waiting hours for answers to questions. This is especially true in business—time is money and decisions need to be made quickly. While searching for marketing companies, try to gauge how quickly they respond. If during the initial conversations, certain teams aren’t responding to questions and emails quickly, chances are, they won’t be much different when they get your business. Make sure to choose a marketing partner that will put your business and your needs first.

6. Great Marketers Communicate Clearly

Another very important factor in choosing the right digital agency is their team’s ability to communicate. Clear and frequent communication is very important to any successful business relationship. Without the proper level of communication, it is very easy for projects and tasks to fall apart. Therefore, check with the marketing teams you are evaluating to see how they communicate. Again, if they are slow to respond and give limited information in the early stages of negotiations, it is probably better to cross them off the list of viable options.

7. Process for Project & Campaign Execution

Having an outline or general template for various marketing activities is essential. Without a clear plan in place, it is difficult to succeed in marketing or in business. Therefore, make sure the marketing partner you select has a defined process for various marketing activities.

Ask for work examples where they have used these processes and evaluate if they are legitimate. You should ask specific questions on how they implement each process and how they will measure the results of your projects and campaigns.

8. Good Marketing Teams Are Not Order Takers

While many marketing people will blindly follow orders, the best marketers help strategize and plan. You may be wanting specific marketing material, but knowledgeable marketers will know what’s best for you and will advise on the best use of your resources.

The best marketers are able to listen to their clients, understand their needs, find solutions and make recommendations.

The best way to find out if your potential partners have this skill is to see how well they respond to your questions and comments during the evaluation process. Also, if you do more than one round of interviews, be sure to listen and see if the agency addresses concerns that were previously discussed and how well they recall different aspects of past conversations. That’s one way to know if they are learning your challenges or applying a canned approach to every client.

9. Long-Term Commitment

In all honesty, once the decision to hire a third-party marketer is made, quite a few weeks are needed to really get the ball rolling. There will be a slight learning curve as they learn more about you, your work style, and your company’s products and services.

Choosing a marketing partner who is willing to make a long-term commitment is imperative. You don’t want to select a firm that will quit on you as soon as another project comes along or if the work becomes challenging. This will lead to greater long-term costs for you and will cause greater headaches. Before making a decision, check with the marketing firm to see how long they’ve worked with their clients.

10. Proactive Leaders

Perhaps one of the greatest assets a B2B marketing agency can possess is the ability to be proactive and lead the marketing strategy. This involves a combination of skills, experience, and qualities listed above. We can’t stress enough how valuable it is for the marketing agency you partner with to be able to take the reigns and truly drive the marketing strategy for your company.

After all, you are hiring this agency to get results and to make your life easier. However, being able to come up with a plan is only part one of this trait. The marketing partner you select should be able to also detail how to implement the plan and how to measure results.

Partnering with a marketing agency that understands your space in the tech world can deliver faster results and faster ROI.

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