All search marketing programs are not created equally. This rings true most profoundly in the B2B marketing arena where shifting corporate demands, streamlined staffs and reduced budgets produce unique challenges for both B2B companies and the search marketing agencies they hire.
Follow this B2B search marketing agency hiring checklist to find a long-term partner that can deliver success, get you noticed online and secure more quality leads.
Ensure your search marketing agency understands the nuances of your industry, the complexities behind the long lead cycle, and the demands of B2B corporate reporting and quarterly goal attainment.
Integrated Search Experts
Hire an integrated search marketing agency with a talented and experienced team to manage your B2B search program. For a comprehensive effort your agency roster should include technical Web design experts, content generators, SEO experts, conversion specialists, user interface experts, and link-building specialists, to list a few.
Google AdWords Certified Partner
Hire an agency that is a Google AdWords Certified Partner with a team of “individually qualified” paid search experts certified by Google — you’ll then be better connected to Google intelligentsia, and positioned to gain maximum results.
An Extension of Your Team
According to MarketingSherpa’s 2012 B2B Marketing Benchmark Report lack of resources is the greatest obstacle for B2B marketers to reaching their goals.
In order to combat the resource issue head-on, hire an agency as an extension of your team. Share corporate plans, invite them to meetings, and hold them accountable.
You’ll also want to understand the agency’s entire team from end-to-end. Meet the wizards behind the curtain who will be dialing-in keywords, fine-tuning ad placements, and securing links — all in the interest of producing quality leads for your company.
Ensure your agency has a history of credibility and success with its current customer base. You’ll want to see their proven track record, speak to their current customers, and review their monthly reporting.
What tools do they use? Understand the technology behind the agency’s products and services. Does the agency partner with leading technology companies to deliver services? Has the agency created propriety tools in order to deliver the best results possible to their customers?
Big & Small
Hire a search marketing agency that can think strategically and deliver tactically. Meet the big brains on your search marketing team to feel confident about the plan. Talk to them in terms of one, three and five year plans to ensure they see a future — a partnership — with you, and can deliver both a detailed strategic plan and the tactics behind it.
Can They Deliver?
What do they deliver? Make sure it is not ‘one size fits all’, but a custom program matched to your company’s needs based on goals, budget, and resources.
Measure, Report, Repeat
Ask for a demo of the agency’s monthly and yearly customer reports. Delve deep into how — and when — reports are provided, ROI is measured, and program adjustments are put into place, such as keyword fine-tuning, to garner improved results. I recommend an agency that hosts a customer reporting dashboard to help you easily grab data when presenting results to your C-level management or simply reviewing with your in-house team.
According to MarketingSherpa’s 2012 B2B Marketing Benchmark Report, B2B Marketers found the top methods to present results included consistent reviews of program metrics with C-level executives as well as creating internal program support by reporting results at company meetings or via a company intranet.
It’s also important to distill the metrics — pull out the marketing speak to ensure your program successes are easy to spot and easy to understand by non-marketers.
Best Friends For Life
Meet your new agency in person. Get off the phone, out of the office and meet the individuals who will become an extension of your marketing team.
If someone is going to work hand-in-hand with your corporate team to ensure your success then you should get to know the team — even like them. You want to make sure they are professional, match your corporate sensibilities, and can present to the C-level if called upon.
Do Your Homework
To find a search marketing agency that can respond to the diverse challenges of B2B marketing, sync with corporate culture, and deliver on the goods – you’ll need to do your homework — but the pay-off is potentially huge.
It’s not enough for an agency to say they know your market and can perform. The agency will need to show they are a professional team with proven B2B search marketing experience and documented results.
Your diligent homework will guarantee you’ve found a professional agency to meet your goals now, and grow with your company into the future. It also means you won’t have to repeat the agency hiring and on-boarding process yearly.
If you feel confident about your selection and work closely with your agency to help reach your goals, you’ll achieve maximum results and become the star of your marketing team!
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.