If you're a B2B or startup that's ever hit stagnated growth, you've asked the question: should I hire an agency?
It seems like an easy enough solution. An agency can take a lot off your hands, especially if you don’t have a huge marketing team. Personally, I’ve worked at three agencies, and I’ve had great, long-lasting relationships with clients. But if I’m honest, some of the relationships weren’t that long-lasting.
It was never because these clients lacked ambition or drive. They were hungry. They wanted results. There are merely growth stages, personality types, and attributes that don’t seem to align with an agency partnership, and unless you know what they are, it’s easy to assume an agency is the answer.
How To Know If You're A Fit For An Agency
First, what you don’t want to hear. When you work with an agency, you’re not always going to immediately get results. By the time some companies come around to hiring an agency, they’re already behind. There's a period where we need to work our magic and get us back on track, and it requires hard work, time, and patience.
Because for us, it's all about deserving growth. If you deserve growth, you'll get it. We elaborate more on this core belief on our services page, but overall, our strategies and processes set our clients up for long-term success, not quick wins that lead to nowhere.
If you’re looking for this type of growth, and you’ve got a few of the following characteristics going for you, hiring an agency is probably a good call.
Do You Have Have Problem-Solution Fit?
I’ve worked with companies with a great product, solution, or platform. They knew precisely what they were selling and who they were trying to sell it to. If you have not achieved problem-solution fit, however, which means you know that problem that you’re going to solve for an audience and that it’s a solution that audience wants, do not hire an agency.
Because no inbound marketing agency in the world that can decide what your product is or what you're going to sell to your customer. If you have this expectation, you’re going to be disappointed. And honestly, your agency is going to be pretty frustrated.
Do You Know Your Numbers And Goals?
It’s awkward to admit this, but I’ve worked with a company or two that had a very rough or limited idea of what their numbers were. In one case, there wasn’t even an idea of what their goals were.
“Isn’t that your job?” they asked when they were asked to provide their business objectives.
No, it’s not the agency’s job to decide what your goals are. While we can provide feedback and show your potential for growth, we can’t run your business for you.
Alternatively, if you know your numbers and have your goals planned out, but you’re not willing to share them or be transparent, working with a content marketing agency isn’t going to work.
How are we supposed to help you grow if we don’t have a clear idea of what we’re starting with?
How will we ever be on the same page about what the priorities are?
Can You Admit You're Not The Expert?
I've had an experience or two (not naming names) where a client felt they were the subject matter expert about almost everything. While feedback is always good to get, sometimes, the advice would directly contradict with our strategy. Other times, companies were too focused on their ideas and perspectives to let us have any say at all.
When you’re hiring an agency, you’re not only hiring them to do the work; you’re hiring them to help get you on the right track. You need to be willing to let us do our thing. If you can’t, you’re better off hiring someone in-house or working with freelancers.
Are You Online?
At Lean Labs, we use Slack, Monday.com, and Zoom to keep up with clients (and each other.) If you're not willing to get on those platforms and communicate with us, having a relationship is going to be a challenge. And for our relationship to work, you need to be online regularly and active on those platforms, which does not mean once or twice a week.
As someone client-facing, I don’t expect to talk to you multiple times a day, but when I have questions or feedback, I need to know you’re going to see it and respond quickly. Otherwise, you will miss critical project updates, and it’s a lose-lose situation for everyone involved.
Sometimes, a client is willing to be online and will communicate very well, but has in-house tools, systems, and platforms they want to use. While everyone works differently, and we can be flexible in some cases, we’re not going to ditch our project management platform and proven processes completely.
Do You Trust Our Strategy?
An inbound marketing strategy isn't a get-leads-quick scheme. It's an investment in a long-term system and process to grow and scale your results. At every one of my agencies, we had a great understanding of realistic growth and how long it was going to take to get results.
For instance, it can take months to get organic traffic from Google.
One of the reasons I've seen client relationships end is because that company had very unrealistic ideas about performance. They wanted to see results immediately and grew impatient when they had to wait.
It was similar to signing up for a professional trainer to get into shape and expecting to be marathon ready in a month. I don’t care what you’re doing; that’s not how you gain success with anything in life. If you're in for the long-haul, as in, you’re not going to quit after three months because you do not see results, an agency is probably a good match.
Do You Have A Sales Process?
If you’re already getting leads from the inbound marketing process, that’s great. An agency can probably help you. However, if you have no system in place to do anything with those leads, a lead generation agency isn’t going to be a good idea.
I’ve worked with companies who had no problem getting leads, but no idea of what to do with those leads once they came in. If you do not have a process for reaching out to leads, getting them on a call, and making a sale, or the process is broken, you may want to find someone to help you with sales enablement before you hire an agency for marketing.
Are You All In?
I’m going to use my running metaphor again for this one. While the results of a long-term training program are incredible, such as running a six-minute mile or winning a race, the actual day-to-day work required to participate in a triathlon isn’t that fun. It requires You need to be willing to sacrifice a lot and dedicate yourself to a healthier way of living.
That’s why if you get a proposal or a strategy from an agency, then decide that you only want to do half of what they recommend, you will probably end up leaving that agency. You can’t put in half of the work and expect the same results. Most agencies don’t recommend strategies blindly; they propose specific solutions and approaches for a reason.
Getting The Most Value From An Agency Relationship
Over anything else, the best indicator that an agency partnership is going to work for you is a willingness to change. I’ve worked with so many companies who were too fixated on the past or too proud to accept the help and guidance from an agency. When you work with an agency and put your full trust in them, it’s a mutually beneficial relationship that can be excellent for both parties.