When marketing your B2B SaaS product, more often than not companies call their solution a platform. Here's what to consider as potential downsides.
How to find the right B2B SaaS marketing agency
Finding a B2B SaaS marketing agency that delivers on all marketing services is difficult because they aren’t one-size-fits-all. While you can learn a lot about a firm just from the way they market themselves, what else should you look for? And how can you make sure the marketing firm you pick is the right one for your company and won't set you back?
Why hire a B2B SaaS marketing firm?
If you already have a VP of Marketing, do you even need a marketing firm?
There are a lot of upsides to hiring a SaaS marketing agency. First, you don’t have to spend the resources and time finding candidates and filtering out who is best suited for the positions you’re looking for. If you’re looking for a Marketing Director and an associate to support them, you’re going to spend a lot of time and money looking, and you’ll be adding $150,000 to your annual expenses for their salaries.
The average ROI for a bad hire is almost -300%, and that’s far more expensive (and permanent) than a marketing agency.
What to consider when picking an agency:
Decision-making is never as easy as it looks. With over 300,000 marketing firms across the country, all with great marketing, how are you supposed to see through the facade and pick the right company for your needs?
Luckily, we’ve been in this situation and we know how to weed out the potential candidates from the ever-growing pool of marketing firms. Here are the 6 metrics to use when identifying the best fit for your SaaS company:
1. Goals and Objectives
Determine your company’s short- and long-term goals. Ask yourself where you want to be in 1 year, 10 years, and 50 years. If you hope to generate 50MM ARR in 5 years, that goal will take a much different investment than increasing the renewal rate from 80% to 85%.
If you want to generate more SQLs, consider contacting a few full-service SaaS marketing agencies about their outbound sales capabilities. This type of objective will bring quick results and boost you within the first few months of practice. However, If you’re trying to improve digital presence and generate more organic website traffic, this takes a much longer timeline and while the results are slower at first, they will generate more revenue in month six than your outbound sales leads from month one.
2. Full services v. specialty
Depending on why you’re looking for a marketing agency, there might be some that are more fit to meet your needs than others. If you’re looking for a few skilled digital marketers to improve your search rankings, you might consider reaching out to a few agencies or freelance professionals within that arena of work.
On the other hand, if your B2B SaaS company needs more than just one or two marketing professionals to take you to the next step, you should consider a full-service marketing firm with the right people to get the job done. A full-service SaaS marketing agency should offer everything from outbound sales to inbound and digital marketing, from ABM to organic SEO. If you’re doing this, you might as well do it right!
Pro tip: For most B2B sales teams, the best approach is to use Account-Based Marketing (ABM). This requires identifying the companies you want to turn into customers + targeting them because of firmographic, psychographic, or other elements of the company. To learn more about B2B SaaS ABM, check out this webinar on finding product-market fit and segmentation strategies for account-based marketing.
This goes hand-in-hand with the point above. If you know what’s important and you’ve clearly defined your company objectives, use that as a roadmap for determining the maximum amount you’d pay for services. Keep in mind what’s most important for your growth, long-term and short-term results, and the stakeholders of the company.
Consider how much the marketing agency will cost, but also how much the secondary expenses will be that come with purchasing space for ads and other marketing channels. An agency will typically get a discounted rate for these services, and then build that expense into what you’re paying them already. But you should know that the better the marketing firm, the more expensive it’ll be. While there’s a bigger up-front cost, the long-term ROI will cover their cost many times over. The hardest part is being patient and waiting.
4. Current state of marketing
Look at your employees and assess their different skill sets. If you don’t have someone that’s currently working as your VP of Marketing, Marketing associate, CMO, or another senior marketing position, you could consider putting resources toward screening and selecting someone to run your marketing efforts. If you have someone in-house, what are their strengths and what do they need support with? While it doesn’t make sense to hire an ad agency if your own marketing associate is already working on paid ads and SEO, you probably still need an agency to develop the marketing strategy and long-term goals.
Keep in mind that while the average CMO tenure is an average of 44 months, it’s even lower for SaaS companies (coming in around 24 months). That’s why most companies now opt out of spending the resources and energy finding an executive-level marketing strategist to stick around for a few years and instead choose the option of outsourcing this onto SaaS marketing agencies.
5. Technology compatibility
First things first, you need to make sure that everything will be sustainable in the long-run. That means no overpaying for technology you don’t need (or can afford), and making sure that the technology your marketing firm uses doesn't clash with your current IT infrastructure.
From SAP and Salesforce to Oracle and HubSpot, there are many different ways to approach the same problem. If your company has used HubSpot for the past 10 years but your new marketing agency uses Salesforce, it doesn’t make sense to transfer the entire company’s data into a new system - the ROI just isn’t there.
Additionally, consider any specific industry regulations or requirements that make your technology processes more complicated or different from other industries, and assess a marketing firm’s ability to adapt around that. If your company has used HubSpot for the past 10 years but your new marketing agency uses Salesforce, it doesn’t make sense to transfer the entire company’s data into a new system—the ROI just isn’t there.
If you DO consider picking an agency that uses different solutions than your company, make sure that there are third-party integrations or built-in adapters to connect your data. Nobody wants to experience a data lock-in in 2020.
6. Experience level
If you need a company that knows how to scale B2B SaaS growth, picking an agency that specializes in consumer goods and retail probably isn’t the best fit. Everything from segmentation methods, channel strategies, and digital marketing will depend on who the consumer is and what you’re selling. The agency of your choice may have 18 awards from around the globe, but if they’re primarily marketing B2C goods, it’s probably not the best marketing firm for you.
By listening to how a marketing agency talks about themselves, and what others say about them, you can learn a lot. You can also measure how trustworthy or effective a marketing firm serves its clients by looking at a company’s portfolio and experience - what do their typical clients look like, and do you match their attributes? Check out each marketing agency’s testimonials, reviews, and overall trustworthiness when it comes to delivering what they promise.
Feel good about your decision.
While evaluating your own marketing objectives and using the metrics above to identify what SaaS marketing agencies you should be looking at, you might also consider the location of the firm (if you’ll meet in-person or remotely), the agency’s size and age, and matching company philosophies or values. Above all, you should not just get along with your team, but also enjoy it.
And if you decide that it’s not the right time to scale your marketing efforts, after all, any research you do will still come in handy. There is no “right time” to take a big step like this, so it’s ok to anticipate the future. Just trust in your decision-making skills, and the skills of the marketing agency you pick, to steer you toward growth and success.