There Are 25,000 UK Marketing Agencies – Here’s How You Pick the Right One

Business is tough right now. But with adversity often comes opportunity. Share of voice in a downturn equals share of market after it – and productive B2B marketing is key to growing your business without necessarily needing to increase marketing budgets. Work smarter not harder.

Choosing the right B2B marketing agency can help deliver this advantage. Make the wrong choice, however, and it will rapidly become a false economy. 

But with 25,000 marketing agencies in the UK, how do you find the right one? As a leading construction sector B2B marketing agency ourselves, here are some pointers. 

Getting the foundations right

The first hurdle is that choosing a marketing partner often happens in pressured circumstances to fill an urgent need – the launch of a new product or service, for example, or a new sales or export drive, or a rebrand.

And in this environment, the common-sense questions you should be asking both yourself and your prospective agency can often go by the wayside.

Does the agency have the necessary sector expertise? If you’re in construction, does the agency have construction industry experience? More importantly even, is the agency a B2B specialist?
Funky B2C campaigns may demonstrate creative flair (and that’s a basic requirement for any marketing agency) but how will the agency fare in the complex B2B decision-making environment of the construction world, where you have not one decision-maker to persuade for each buying decision, but many?

What is the evidence that the agency has produced tangible results for other such clients? How did they achieve them, and how easy and productive will their people, processes, and tools be to work with?
Below, we’ve boiled down these and other questions into a checklist of five memorable key bullets for you. 
C is for comparison

Comparing like for like is absolutely critical to understanding what the agency’s offering truly looks like.

Most agencies will naturally try to steer conversations to the topics and subjects they feel strongest in, and position those as a panacea for your marketing challenges.

It’s important that you don’t get sidetracked by this. Ask the same questions of every agency you speak to, then compare and contrast.

And what should those questions be? Read on.
C is for credentials

The only people who are in a position to truly appraise an agency’s credentials and competencies are those who’ve worked with them. 

So, don’t be afraid to ask for customer references, testimonials, and case studies, and evaluate them critically. Are the customers in your sector, and of a similar size to you? Are the case studies squarely focused on B2B? 

Do they speak of tangible results, with hard numbers where possible?

Be bold enough to ask to speak directly to customers and get input from the horse’s mouth. 

Credibility can be feigned – credentials can’t.
C is for costs

How an agency prices can vary significantly. Many base it on time and so you may look to compare hourly rates, which isn’t a bad way to start. But, in reality, cost is relative. ROI is what you want and need, so basing your decision on cost alone could be detrimental.

Of course, ROI and results are never guaranteed. This is why we often encourage new clients to work on a small project or short-term campaign with us in the first instance. Try an agency out for size first.

A good agency worth its salt will be choosing you as much as you are choosing them, and will be keen to trial the partnership.

Jumping in head first, not really knowing what to expect, can be a recipe for disaster, which segues neatly on to …
C is for contract

Ask as many questions about the contract as you like – a trustworthy marketing agency will do their best to answer them clearly. But make sure you’re crystal-clear on the basics, like the contract’s duration, whether it rolls over or auto-renews at the end of its term, what the lock-in and cancellation periods are, and where the rights to any intellectual property (IP) produced will rest – with the agency, or with your company.

Also, ensure the contract stipulates agreed targets, key performance indicators (KPIs) and other metrics, and how failure to achieve these will be dealt with. 

Marketing doesn’t actively convert sales in B2B environments, because they are generally not low-cost or transactional, so in your contract there must be clear delineation of marketing involvement versus sales responsibility. (The digital universe has blurred the line between the two somewhat, which can be a real opportunity for shared effectiveness and enhanced outcomes, but expectations must be set decisively from the outset.)
C is for culture (or chemistry)

In short, culture can be a deal-breaker.

A good marketing agency delivering effective work, but with a culture your business just can’t get along with, or an absence of chemistry, won’t be one you sign up again when the current contract expires. 

A number of factors come into play here. “People buy people”, goes the saying, and so the agency people you work with must be individuals you like and trust. They’re going to be an extension of your team, so the cultural fit with that team has to be close or you’ll be importing friction into your organisation.

Find out who you will actually be dealing with on a day-to-day basis. The “bait and switch” model – senior people in the pitch to win the business, juniors looking after the account once the ink is dry on the contract – is alive and well in marketing agency land, so press the agency on who exactly your team will be.
A relationship built to last

Honest B2B marketing agencies will tell you there’s no crystal ball to perfectly predict how an agency relationship will function, or which activities will succeed, and which won’t. But they’ll also tell you that monitoring what works, and quickly doing more of it - and understanding what doesn’t, and rapidly adjusting in response - is integral to an effective working marketing agency relationship.

Here at BCM we are always very clear about the fact that we are B2B only. We specialise in Construction and Building Materials manufacture. Our specialism lies in understanding our client’s customers better than their competition and using this insight to deliver creative and storytelling that resonate and lead to more business through segmented, knowledge-based relationships.

Not all clients are right for us and when that’s the case, we try to signpost our better suited industry peers where possible. You can’t be all things to all people. But find the right marketing partner and the results will come.

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