You’ve Hired a Demand Generation Agency. Now What? | Episode 35

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You hired a marketing agency that specializes in demand generation to level up your marketing game with a long-term approach that drives growth. It’s an exciting step! Now, you just need to sit back and let them work their magic, right? Not exactly.

Creating the most effective program requires working hand-in-hand with your agency. They need your time and input to gather background, thorough information and perspective to create a strategy designed to guide the work to come. Building a demand generation engine starts with learning about your company, identifying your ideal customer profile and surfacing your company’s unique point of view in the market. It helps you position your brand effectively against competitors with messages and content that resonates with your target audience. It’s certainly not a hands-off investment.

In this episode, the GrowthMode team talks about the top five mistakes to avoid when working with a marketing agency. Listen now to learn how a strong partnership helps you achieve the best results.

[00:23] Introduction
[01:17] Mistake #1: No primary point of contact or decision maker
[02:15] Mistake #2: Not prioritizing the marketing work and agency partnership
[09:53] Mistake #3: Not focusing on implementing the strategy vs. one-off requests
[15:58] Mistake #4: Not trusting the process and plan recommended by your agency
[18:31] Mistake #5: Focusing on quantity over quality
[22:39] Key takeaways
[23:02] Outro

Hey, everybody. It’s Jenni from GrowthMode Marketing. You’re listening to Demand Gen Fix, the podcast where our team of Growth Moders and our guests discuss the ins and outs of demand generation and why we believe it’s the key to long term sustainable growth, especially in the HR tech industry.

Hello everybody. Welcome back to the Demand Gen Fix podcast from GrowthMode Marketing. We’re excited to have you here today as we are going to be talking about how you should best work with an agency. So you’ve convinced the powers that be that your organization needs to level up your marketing and focus on long term growth. You’ve hired a marketing agency that specializes in demand generation. Good job!

But now it’s time to build that growth engine. So you need to just sit back and let them work their magic, right? No, not exactly. Hiring an agency to build out your company’s demand generation engine is the great first step that you needed to take, but it’s definitely not hands off. We’re going to outline some of the mistakes that we’ve seen companies make working with agencies, including ours, and provide recommendations to ensure that your new relationship builds momentum that you need to hit those revenue growth goals.

I think the main thing that we would love to see when working with clients is that we have a primary contact, somebody who can really make a decision, right.

This happens a lot, right. We work with these groups. They don’t really have somebody who’s in charge to make a decision and becomes consensus by committee, which never works good for any decisions, right. Or even worse, sometimes one person will say yes and then we move forward and then three days later somebody else says, oh, hold on a second, and then you have to go back and rejig stuff. That’s a waste of the client’s money, a waste of your company’s money.

I think this is an area that our clients sometimes don’t understand or appreciate coming into a new agency relationship, that if you don’t have a primary point of contact and a primary decision maker identified, that it’s going to cause problems. Because like you said, Greg, when you’re making decisions consensus by committee or there’s no clear, like, this is the person who makes the decision. Nobody makes the decision.

No one really owns this and no one really understands the full picture. And I think this can happen oftentimes in organizations that maybe don’t have an internal marketing team yet because I feel like when there’s marketing, they usually know coming in like, hey, you’re going to be the primary point person. The other issue that this can kind of create is they may say like, okay, we’re going to have our head of sales be the primary point person.

That head of sales is like, I’m so busy, can I just delegate it to this person? And then that person feels like they don’t have the power to make the decisions and say yes, this creates a lot of problems for us. Specifically, work gets delayed and we have to spend a lot of time chasing down decisions and approvals. And to Greg’s point, you’re wasting money when that happens.

And sometimes the other person doesn’t understand the full picture. Like, maybe it got delegated to them, but they don’t understand necessarily what’s the company’s goals, what’s the goal of the strategy, what’s the ideal customer profile. They’re proving things potentially that they don’t really understand fully.

And I think we’ve kind of always been in these kind of situations too, maybe as the decision maker or as the person who has been given that delegation and you don’t feel comfortable making that decision. So you really have to make sure that when you do hire an agency that you have somebody in place who really can say yes or no, who really can make a decision and not feel like they need to. Because even if we’re not chasing down answers, if you’re internally chasing down answers, it’s the same thing. Work is going to get delayed and things are never going to get done right.

And I think in some instances, it might make sense. Even if, say, the head of sales was identified to be that decision maker, if they want to delegate it to someone else, rather than just telling the agency, hey, work with this person, make sure you communicate it to that person and let them know, like, I am giving you the power of authority here to make that decision. I want you to proceed with it. You don’t have to turn around and chase me down to get that. There’s a reason I’m delegating it because I think sometimes that’s kind of lost in the shuffle of saying, well, let’s have someone else manage this for me.

And you got to make sure that that’s somebody who has time to put into this too, because like you said, the head of sales most likely does not have the time to deal with every single issue that comes up and to review every different marketing piece that comes along. So somebody who has the time and the authority is the right kind of person to put in place.

I would highly recommend, determine up front before the relationship even starts. Like who is the primary contact person? Who will be the ultimate decision maker or approver on the things that are developed by the agency and also make sure that this person has the bandwidth to own this and that they can make this a priority.

Yeah. And that leads into sort of the next thing we run into because everybody’s busy. You don’t make the marketing a priority. Every company has good intentions when they hire a new agency, right, and you think, oh, it’s going to be great. We’re going to get all these things done, we’re going to build our brand and build our footprint, et cetera, et cetera, right? But it’s easy to let things slide when you’re busy doing your other job, right? Especially if you’re a VP of Sales or something like that. It’s like, obviously you need to be focused on that. So everybody gets busy. We get it. We can’t move without your help.

Yeah, we totally get that clients are busy, but don’t assume your agency team has you covered. Because while we try to do everything that we can to make it easy for you to manage, we can only do so much. And the problem that it creates when you’re not available is we often cannot move forward without client input or approvals. So I can’t tell you how many times we’re chugging along, we’re doing everything we can to move work forward, and then it gets to the, well, we need the client to review and approve this or give feedback before we can move to the next step. It’s crickets one day, turns to two, turns to a week, turns to three weeks, turns to a month.

A lot of time sometimes passes. And that’s to the detriment of the client. Because the sooner we can get projects moving forward and wrap them up and get that content and those programs up and running, the better for your organization.

Everybody has a back burner list, right? I mean, you have all the things that you need to get done in a day. And then a lot of times, especially if you don’t have a marketing department in your organization, marketing becomes part of that back burner list. So we definitely recommend setting time aside for this block off time on your schedule for marketing, for responding to your agency, maybe having a set meeting or something like that, and let them know what is the best way to get a hold of you? Is it email? Is it a phone call? Is it text?

Everybody communicates differently. So if you’re going to respond better to a text, an agency is going to be perfectly happy to work that way with you as long as we can get things going and move things along. And then also let them know if it’s okay to be kind of pushy, because we’re happy to be pushy. We’re happy to be reaching out to you every single day, if that’s okay with you. But if that’s going to get on your nerves and it’s just going to make things hold up even more, then we need to know that too. So just be really open and honest about how you want to communicate, how often, how much you want that back and forth to happen.

One of the things that we started doing, because this is a common problem, regardless of which agency you work with, that people are really busy. And unless you’re a large organization that has someone truly dedicated to helping move projects forward, it’s very common to have the marketing pieces get lost in the shuffle of trying to manage the 500 other things you’ve got on your plate in any given day. Right.

Sometimes I think time passes without realizing how much time has passed or that you’ve missed deadlines that the agency set for you. So one of the things that we started doing with our clients, where we have monthly support contracts and we’re continually pumping out work, is to send them a weekly overview that says, here’s what’s been accomplished, here’s what’s on the agenda to complete this week.

Here’s what’s overdue and impacting timelines that we need from you. Just that kind of friendly reminder of, hey, we actually needed this a month ago. It’s still flagged to help clients kind of prioritize and put into perspective, because I think it’s so easy for the calendar to slide by without realizing, yeah, I totally missed reviewing that piece, and it’s pretty critical to moving forward with our campaign, I think.

One thing too, just to build on what Jenni said about setting time aside. If you’re not working in marketing all the time, setting that time aside is good because you have to shift your mind a little bit, right, from what your normal day to day would be to now sit down. Okay, let me think about this and read it and make sure that everything’s making sense and making sense to my ICP, et cetera. So it’s like you’re not in it all the time. It helps to set that time so you can kind of change your mindset.

Another thing that we see happening a lot that kind of makes it difficult to work with an agency is when you are more reactive instead of following your marketing strategy that’s been put in place. Because we, as an agency, we have a plan and we’re working with you, and we feel very confident in the plans that we make for our clients. But when things keep coming up and you’re asking us to do one off projects, I mean, we’re happy to do those kinds of things, but you have to remember that that really then takes away from some of the marketing plan and your strategy. We’re here to be your outsourced marketing department, but we shouldn’t probably be order takers because you’re veering off of the reason that you hired us in the first place, which is to create a marketing strategy, stick to it, and ultimately grow your business.

This is less of an issue if you come to us, and it’s a project based type of engagement. In project based, it’s very specific. Like, let’s say we’re developing your strategy pieces, so we’re working on your ideal customer profile for who you’re going to target in that HR technology market. We’re helping you build out your unique point of view framework, and we’re building out that content marketing and demand generation plan to be able to execute on all of those things.

And then let’s say we hand it off to you and you’re actually going to proceed with that and build it out. We don’t usually get distracted when that happens, right? Because if you came up with something else and you said, hey, can you write this article? It’s out of scope, that’s easily defined. Where we see the reactive versus strategy approach is when we work with clients on a monthly basis and what we will do is work with them to do a 30 day sprint to say, okay, this is what we’re going to focus on in the next 30 days.

Typically when we start an engagement with a client, we do a strategy plan as the first step. The goal of the monthly support then is to execute on that strategy plan. But sometimes what happens is as the client is proceeding month to month, they start to think of other things like, oh, it’d be great if the agency could help me with this. And because it’s not like a project scope, it’s more of where your extension of your internal team or we’re your outsourced marketing department, we start to be the go to, right?

Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing because we’re here to help you. But if it takes away from being able to execute on that strategy, one, you paid for the strategy and there was a reason behind doing that, right? And two, everything else that you’re doing that’s outside of that strategy takes away from the mission at hand, which is to help you build a demand generation engine and to really focus the marketing efforts.

And this becomes a problem because you’re reducing the effectiveness of your investment because suddenly it becomes random acts of marketing which add up and don’t necessarily equate to the optimized results you’re going for. And so while it may be like, hey, I thought of this idea for an article, can you write it? And hey, how about we do an infographic? Oh, let’s go do some stuff on YouTube. All of it is said with good intentions, but at the end of the day, from the outside we see it and we can see the random acts of marketing starting to pile up and ultimately what happens.

We’ve seen this happen in our own organization and we’ve seen it happen with other agencies that work with clients. The client gets the perception, like, I just feel like we’re not being very strategic. It’s like, you’re right, we’re not. Because you’re asking us to do these things that are not part of the strategy that we had built out and agreed to, which means we don’t have time to work on those things and instead we’re doing these random acts of marketing.

You see it a lot too, right? Because technology is always changing, right? So hey, YouTube has this new feature, we should do something with that or whatever the platform, right? They’re always changing. They always have something new to try. So do we try it just to try it? Or is it part of the strategy. You got to take a step back and say, yeah, that looks really cool, how do we use it? That makes sense.

And if we’re going to do that, what are we not going to do? In its place, you can’t possibly do everything right because there’s something new every week. So it’s like you really need to be careful about how you approach all these other options of what you can do.

Be sure to ask yourself, if you’re about to ask your agency to do something, is it something that aligns with the strategy and will move the needle? Or is it something that will distract away from the mission at hand? And if the answer is it’s not going to move the needle, maybe think twice before you change the direction of the work that’s being done or take away from it.

You have to remember that when you hire an agency, the reason that you did was for the strategy, for the guidance and the recommendations. So let your agency be that expert for you. That’s the reason that you hired us or whatever agency you work for. So let them work honestly. Every agency has their clients best interests in mind. They’re not going to lead you astray. Keep to the strategy. Be sure that if you are asking for extra work, that it aligns with the strategy and that it’ll move the needle in the long run.

And trust the recommendations and guidance. Because you hired an agency for a reason, right? They’re bringing the expertise to the table that you’re looking for. So at the end of the day, believe what they’re saying when they say, this is where we need to focus. It’s fair sometimes to poke holes in ideas and question it. Absolutely. I think that’s part of the process and making sure everyone’s on the same page with it. But once you agree on that strategy, get out of the way and let the work happen.
And when I say get out of the way, that doesn’t mean sit back and not be a part of it. As we already said, you need to be a part of it. But trust the process.

Trusting the process and being patient, that really is important as far as working with an agency, because you might not see immediate results. When an agency has come up with a strategy for you, especially with demand generation, it takes a while for it to ramp up. When you don’t want to focus on building that because you’re not seeing results immediately, that makes it hard for an agency to really put a strategy together.

Your sales pipeline might be healthy right now, but you need to think about the future and what’s coming up down the pipeline. So trust that and be patient and think about the future.

I think there are absolutely the companies that are like, but we need leads now. This is where we need to focus. But I think what we often see sometimes, honestly, this is a great spot to be in is organizations that are like, we’ve got a healthy pipeline, our salespeople are busy, we can’t handle more leads right now. And so the pushback becomes we know we built the strategy, we know we agreed to the strategy, but we don’t need to focus on building out our demand engine right now because our sales pipeline is healthy. At times we’ll hear our clients say, can we actually hold off on campaigns? I think we should wait.

Let’s prioritize other things for now. The problem with that is that building out demand in the market for your company and your technology takes time. And the goal is to build an audience. And quite frankly, that doesn’t happen overnight. Leads are not going to immediately come flooding in the door in full transparency. It takes six to 18 months for your demand generation engine to really make an impact.

So it’s short sighted to say our lead pipeline is full, we can’t handle leads right now. Dear Lord, I wish it worked that way, that you turned on everything and the leads just start pouring in. I know very few organizations that have had that type of experience. It takes time. And really the very best time to start building out your demand generation engine is when you’re in the position to say, our pipeline is full, we don’t need more leads.

I always think of it like if you’re building a campfire, right, you start with the little twigs in the beginning and then you build up more and more and that’s kind of the way the demand gen works. So if your leads are already up here, then you start your demand gen fire, right? And then that’ll start to take over and then they’ll just work together. But then you have to keep putting logs on the fire once you get that campfire going.

Another issue that we see commonly is focusing on quantity over quality. I think it is natural for there to be a dip in the numbers as you make the transition from lead generation to demand generation, especially if you are refocusing your audience and trying to attract more of your ideal customer profile. Maybe you’re creating content to target a higher level decision maker. If you’re making changes, you can’t expect that there’s not going to be some level of change temporarily in the results that you’re seeing, right? You’re doing all of these things with the intent that you’re ultimately going to drive higher quality leads and it’s going to be a catalyst for high growth for your HR tech company.

However, if you’re moving, for example, from a model of marketing qualified leads to a much higher quality threshold for those leads to go to sales where they have to demonstrate real buying intent, you’re not going to get as many leads. And that is not necessarily a bad thing. But I think it’s really easy to kind of get wrapped around the axle with the numbers because if you’re watching the numbers, there’s probably this moment of panic of, oh my God, we went from 200 leads a month to nothing.

We stopped our lead generation programs. That was what was bringing things in the door. How are we going to get through this? I think there needs to be a balance as you make the transition. Like, don’t just shut off one when you start the other until the demand gen is starting to perform, but you are going to see a drop and that is normal and it’s temporary. And at the end of the day, if you know what to focus on, I think you can put better perspective around it and not be so reactive and panicked over the potential drop in the numbers.

I mean, that’s part of the problem with looking at year over year. If you’re changing your plan from one year to the next and doing something totally different and you go, well, how did we do last year? It doesn’t really equate. It’s like, I just got a brand new I didn’t personally, but I just got a brand new electric car. Okay, so how’s my gas bill this year versus last year? It doesn’t make any sense. You’re changing the vehicle that you’re using or the methods that you’re using.

It comes back to patience. Again, we talk about it all the time, but you have to expect that this change will temporarily impact the metrics and you have to have the patience to give the program time to get traction and start delivering results.

I think also a lot of times what we see is that the numbers do dip a little bit. So maybe your website traffic is down compared to what it was before, right? Because you’re not like trying to jam all these people to your website that aren’t going to buy from you, but you still get them to your website with your ads and whatever. But then you do a demand gen campaign and that starts getting some traction and all of a sudden you’re getting much better high quality leads.

They’re not as many, but they’re higher quality and they’re easier to turn into sales because they’ve already done all their homework, they’ve done their research, they know who you are. Random number. We got 100 leads last year and this year we got ten. But we got nine that actually bought this year and nine that bought last year. So with less effort, we’re making more sales out of it.

Quality should always be prioritized. I mean, yes, you still want to get quantity of leads, but if you put the quantity over the quality, that’s where the issues start to happen. When you look at metrics, don’t get hung up on vanity metrics because quite frankly, if traffic were down on your website but you are starting to get better quality leads coming in the door. I mean, longer term, you’re going to have shorter sales cycles and better close rates, and this is a win.

Ultimately, it’s a true measurement of success to have better quality leads with a higher close rate than it is to have a ton of leads that don’t ever go anywhere because there’s a lot of time and energy and resources that are spent by organizations chasing after leads that actually aren’t in market to buy right now.

We’ve covered a lot of really good topics here about working with an agency. You’re making a big investment when you are deciding to work with an agency to build out a demand generation engine. But you have to be a good partner too, to make it really work. Be sure that you make it a priority. You’ve hired experts. Work closely with them, trust them, align with them. That’s how you’ll achieve the best results.

And if you’re looking for a partner to help you build out or expand your demand generation engine, GrowthMode Marketing is here for you.

Thanks for joining us on the Demand Gen Fix, a podcast for HR tech marketers brought to you by GrowthMode Marketing. We sure hope you enjoyed it. Don’t forget to subscribe for more perspectives on demand generation and B2B marketing strategies. Plus, give us a like, tell your friends, we’ll see you next time.

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