Are digital marketing agencies worth it for B2B?


Many B2B organisations begin as start ups with few resources. So when a business finally has some capital at their disposal, for example in the form of funding or revenue from several big clients, working out how to maximise its potential can be daunting.


For companies looking to scale up and grow quickly, digital marketing is likely to be high on the list of priorities. Channels like paid advertising can easily be ramped up and offer instant results, whereas other strategic elements like SEO help build brand awareness and trust. 


Often, businesses at this stage will not have a digital marketing expert in-house - so a common route is to seek out the services of the digital marketing agency.  


However, a quick search on everyone’s favourite anonymous forum, Reddit, reveals mixed views on whether agencies are worth the investment.


First thing first, I want to say that there are amazing agencies out there that can provide excellent results for businesses of all sizes and industries. 

This article explores the advantages of hiring an agency, as well as the disadvantages. 

It looks at some things that businesses do wrong when briefing and communicating with their agency, and tells you how you can prevent this to maximise your success with an agency.


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Advantages of hiring a digital marketing agency

Let’s consider why going down the agency route would be a good choice for businesses in the late start up or scale up phase.


Outsourcing = Low commitment

An appealing factor for small businesses when it comes to outsourcing marketing is the lower level of commitment vs hiring someone in-house. If budgets are running low, or you don’t like the work produced, you can simply not use the agency again.  


Wealth of knowledge

In most cases, agencies are composed of individuals who each specialise in a different discipline within digital marketing. This means as their client you have access to this wealth of knowledge, which would not be the case if you hired a digital marketer in-house. 


Aware of latest trends in digital

Generally speaking, having an awareness around changes in the digital marketing landscape is high priority for agencies. They are self-professed experts, so it is in their interest to have their finger on the pulse when it comes to developments that may impact their clients’ results. For you, this avoids any nasty surprises when you go to launch your campaigns (for example, a new Google Ads policy that means your ad gets rejected).


Experienced with different clients

Often agencies have worked with a range of clients and take their learnings from each one through to their next project. This means you as the client benefits from all this experience. This is especially pertinent if your chosen agency has worked with another business in the same industry as you.


Easier to find direct testimonials and case studies

Agencies know the importance of social proof, and so will often showcase their testimonials on their website. More in-depth case studies should include key KPIs and other statistics demonstrating success.


Disadvantages of hiring a digital marketing agency

Of course there are always downsides to every approach. Below are a few to consider.


Can be expensive

Compared to the per day cost of having a dedicated digital marketer in-house, agencies can seem very costly.


But how much do digital marketing agencies cost? Here’s some estimates:

  • Around £500 per day for work like SEO or paid social and around £850 per day for marketing strategy (UK, Expert Market, 2023)
  • Between £395 - £725 per day, depending on the type of work (UK, Statista, 2021)
  • Between $50 and $500, with an average of $150 (US, SEMRush, 2022)


Another thing to consider is, depending on the overall size of your project, your work could be delegated to somebody quite junior - even if the person your business has been liaising with is more experienced. 


💡Top tip
Project based pricing is a good structure if you want more clarity on how much you will spend in total. Make sure you have a clear list of work you expect to be completed for the price quoted.


Lack of control and vision alignment challenges

Outsourcing requires that you relinquish control of your marketing, at least to some extent. This can cause a misalignment between your vision for your business’ marketing efforts and what your marketing agency produces. 


This can result in feelings of disappointment on your side and frustration on the agencies, especially if they have not been provided with materials to help them meet your expectations.


💡Top tip
Provide your agency with guidelines on branding, tone of voice and imagery before they begin work. Make sure you agree on your vision for particular campaigns and be as detailed as possible in creative briefs.


Murky reporting of results

As I mentioned previously in this article, there are many agencies that operate transparently and openly when it comes to reporting on results. However, there are a number of agencies who will either fail to keep clients updated with results or will use the clients’ gaps in digital knowledge to attempt to mask poor results.

Screenshot 2023-08-04 160954

Above: Just 15% of businesses say their trust their digital marketing agency (source)


Some agencies also fail to let clients know ahead of time what “success” looks like (for example by using industry benchmarks). This leads to confusion and disappointment further down the track.


Where businesses go wrong with digital marketing agencies

Sometimes, the fault for poor performing campaigns via an agency can sit with both the agency and the client themselves. At the end of the day, agencies are not mind readers or miracle workers and cannot magic results out of thin air when they have not been given important information from the client. 


This could include:

  • Failing to do the auditing and research needed. As a result, strategy is misinformed or doesn’t exist at all.
  • Failing to provide critical data points like sales cycle, average ticket value, conversion rates.
  • Failing to give the agency critical information on ICPs.


💡Top tip
If you are lacking the above but are keen to hit the ground running with digital marketing, you can bring in a digital marketing consultant. They will be able to audit your existing practices and tell you how to maximise your chances of success with an agency.


What businesses can do to prevent outsourcing mistakes

Important steps can be taken before and during the time you select a digital marketing agency to ensure you select the right one.

  • Due diligence on auditing: What digital marketing has your business tried before? Where is your business falling behind? What are the key things you are looking to achieve? Does your entire buying funnel, including sales and re-engagement, ensure no prospects slip through the cracks?
  • Come to the agency with a strategy ready: Although some agencies do offer strategy planning, it may be wise to seek out the services of a consultant first. They can perform a deep discovery and audit of your business and come up with a tailor-made strategy based on their findings (as well as your business objectives). Then you can use a marketing agency to execute the strategy, with clear guidance on what needs to be done.
  • Research and prospect several agencies: Don’t be afraid to shop around when you are looking for an agency. Set up initial consultations with a few and make sure you are asking pertinent questions. Do they have experience with clients in your industry? Can they show you case studies?


🚩Agency red flags 🚩

As someone heavily invested in the success of your organisation’s marketing, you will probably be on the lookout for early warning signs that an agency is not what it seems. Here’s some key things to look out for:

  • No case studies with statistics and KPI reporting.
  • Promising unrealistic results with great certainty. This is especially important for SEO-related elements, for example “We can get you to #1 on Google for [insert key commercial term here]”. The very nature of Google is so multifaceted and changeable that any SEO worth their salt knows such a promise is disingenuous (although being ambitious or optimistic is of course absolutely fine). 
  • Cannot or will not tell you exactly who will be responsible for your account, and how experienced they are. 
  • Poor communication in early stages.
  • Poor digital marketing practices for their own company, for example an unresponsive website with bad UX.


Did you know
90% of B2B buyers use online channels as their main way to identify new suppliers. Check out 13 more statistics on B2B digital marketing that start ups and scale ups MUST know here.


Maximise your success when dealing with digital marketing agencies

A digitally-minded 3rd party can not only help with auditing your business and putting together a strategy, but also in managing the relationship with your agency. They can ensure that briefs to the agency are robust so that campaigns are executed effectively in line with the company’s vision. They can also monitor results and confidently hold agencies to account, backed up by their digital knowledge and experience.


If you are considering hiring an agency but are overwhelmed by the process why not book a free consultation with me today? During your consultation we will discuss how I can help you navigate the path ahead and explore whether steps like auditing need to be taken beforehand.

Book a free consultation now and accelerate your business growth.

Digital Hydra

For the last 10 years I've been driving results in-house for B2B companies within a variety of industries. I'm a full stack marketer with specialist knowledge in SEO, paid advertising, content, data analysis and strategy. Whilst the majority of my experience has been in SaaS, I have also worked within the life sciences and publishing industries.