The Age of B2B Marketing Agencies: Are We Approaching The End?

As someone who is currently employed by one, I’ll admit that I’m a little biased in this discussion, but let’s see if I can defend my bias:

With all the expenses that your b2b business has, isn’t it slightly ridiculous to pay another company to do your marketing? After all, can’t you just do all your marketing yourself? Not always.

time is running out for b2b marketing agenciesMarketing has exploded in the last ten years.

The b2b marketer’s job used to end with creating pretty graphics and catchy tag lines, but not too long ago everything on the internet became measurable, and in the blink of an eye marketing became just as much a science as an art.

With the rise of marketing science, jobs and industries like search engine optimization, social media marketing, blogging, conversion optimization appeared out of thin air.

These new offshoots of marketing have done nothing but grow.

There is an extremely successful software and consulting company called Unbounce that only deals with optimizing landing pages to get better conversion rates. They are a major force in the marketing world, and all they do is find ways to get more people to fill out forms and click buttons. That’s it pretty much it! They aren’t the only company that makes its bread and butter from doing one small aspect of marketing that didn’t really exist a few years ago:

Hootsuite = social media management software

Ahrefs = link building (one aspect of SEO)

And the list goes on…

None of these marketing tactics alone will produce results.

In order to get tangible results in today’s marketing, you should have:

  • a graphically pleasing website
  • compelling (and lots of) website copy
  • smooth UI/UX
  • active social media presence
  • a healthy link profile
  • conversion rate optimization
  • compelling and relevant emails (workflows, lists…)
  • Marketing Automation
  • optimized on page SEO
  • webinars and videos
  • and much much more…

Frankly, the amount of things I need to keep up with and still need to learn is enough to make my head spin, and this is what I do at work all day. Check out my post The T-Shaped Marketer: The Importance of Being Deep and Wide that discusses the skills that are needed in the world of SEO.

The point…

Time is money. With everything you have to do to stay on top of your job, I’m going to bet it will be more cost effective to hire an agency to do what they do best: keep up with all this marketing stuff.

Agencies aren’t for everyone, and here are some good reasons not to go with a marketing agency:

1. B2B marketing is about relationships

Today’s marketing is only partly about how many eyeballs you can get. It’s more about attracting the right people to your business. Also, the b2b sales funnel is notoriously tedious. When people make purchasing decisions for their whole company, they deliberate a little more than they do about buying a candy bar. With these things in mind, relationships are an indispensable factor in closing a deal in the b2b world. As Mark Schaefer points out in this blog: do you really want to outsource relationships?

While no agency in the world can build real relationships with those “right” people for you, a good agency will help facilitate those relationships and show you how the best ways to build them.

2. B2B marketing has to be relevant

No one knows your audience and customers like you do. Also, no one knows you like you do. Bringing in a third party to do your marketing, if not done with the proper research, can create irrelevant, clunky marketing that resonates with no one.

The best agency relationships happen when you and your agency work as a team. For an agency to be effective, they have to “get” you.

3. Today’s b2b marketing happens in real time

In the world of social media things happen instantly, and marketing has to be able to maneuver quickly enough to keep up, or it will fail. Unless communication and action can happen quickly between you and your agency and inside both businesses, an agency can slow things down.

There is no one size fits all answer.

An agency relationship will be helpful for some and not so helpful for others.

Just as there are different software companies focused on just one aspect of marketing, the same is true of agencies. There are SEO agencies, PPC agencies, content agencies, PR agencies and more. If you have a clear understanding of your marketing weaknesses and they all lay in one area, one of these specialty agencies will probably work. 

As I said before, no one marketing tactic alone won’t drive results. Most of the time, a company that understands the big picture and how to create a comprehensive strategy where different marketing disciplines work together to drive results will be the most helpful. 

At least for now, I my answer to this question is no; while the role of marketing agencies has changed, they can still be an indispensable tool for business growth.


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