There are many reasons why a business may want to engage a specialist B2B Marketing Agency - be it for brand awareness, improved reach, or better search rankings - but is the focus in the right place? Let me ask that question another way...
If your chosen agency delivered you all 3 of those objectives; better brand awareness, reach and rankings, but you weren't able to attribute any more revenue to those efforts, would you be satisfied? Furthermore, would you be satisfied enough to retain them, or even to invest further time and money to the marketing effort?
Things have changed
The digital age has brought with it far greater transaprency and traceability when it comes to attributing not only traffic, but leads and paying clients to specific sources. By marrying social insights and web analytics data, any business could now easily tell whether their efforts in marketing via a specific platform such as LinkedIn or Twitter are providing additional revenue to the business, and exactly how much.
So the age of axcuses is behind us. If businesses themselves can access this information at little-to-no cost, then why can't a B2B marketing agency do the same? The simple answer - that there is no good reason. Here, then, are the 3 main metrics you should be asking your chosen agency to deliver to you, and which should satisfy you that their efforts, and the investment you're making in them, are justified:
Perhaps the easiest metric to track, but we're not just talking about the quantity of traffic arriving at your business's website, but also the quality. Where is traffic being sourced? What geographical regions provide the highest volumes of traffic (are you able, even, to serve customers or clients in these regions)? In addition, what is the behaviour of the visitors you are attracting? High bounce rates or little time on site would be indicators of a mismatch between the content provided and the resultant visitor - that or a failure to meet the expectations set at the source, and what was actually delivered. Garbage in, garbage out. Do not under-estimate the importance of quality traffic from the start, and ensure your agency can deliver such evidence.
Traffic is only worth something to the B2B business if it results in leads, so your agency should be ensuring that visitors have every opportunity to express their interest, and to become part of the customer acquisition journey to which they were invited. Visibility of lead volumes, sourced via the website, gives you further insights into which communities and platforms offer the greatest conversion rates, as well as the opportunity to optimise conversions from the new baseline you'll establish. Know where you stand, so that you can continuously improve your position from there on in.
Depending on the type of business, you may have to rely on internal process, or at least some form of CRM (Customer Relationship Management) to be able to confidently report your successes in onboarding new clients, and to tie them back to a particular lead source. This "closed loop reporting", however, can be a massive asset to your business in the long term. By recording leads source, and following the contact's jourrney to sale, you're providing yourself with key marketing data that even some large corporations would be envious of. Not only that, but you'll finally be able to tell whether your B2B agency are delivering real, tangible results.
If your agency isn't offering up this information to you currently, ask for a review. It's only when companies start to demand this level of reporting that the whole industry can be held accountable for their continuous professional development, and more win-win, agency-client relationships can be established!