The decision to boost your sales and marketing efforts by hiring a SaaS marketing agency is a smart way to stay focused on running your business when you start to grow past your internal team’s capacity. Deciding you need agency help is a good first step, but getting the right agency is an important mission that requires a little bit of marketing knowledge, a fair bit of self-assessment, and a good amount of diligence as you research agencies.
Your Own Marketing Knowledge
While you don’t need to become the world’s biggest expert on every single marketing tactic and technology, it does help if you have a handle on some general best practices that can help you determine whether or not the agency you’re considering knows it’s PPC from its API (that’s a little marketing humor). Good agencies will speak to you from a place of discovery, understanding and strategy. Individual tactics and acronyms come later. If you’re not already working on marketing on a daily basis, it can be easy to get overwhelmed by jargon. The key is to have a foundational knowledge of marketing before entering into your agency search.
(Note: If you’re a Marketing Manager or Marketing Director, you may want to skip to the next section, because you’ll already know a lot of this stuff).
Unless you have a competent, well-resourced in-house marketing team at the ready, you’re likely not looking just for an exceptional relationship with a marketing agency that specializes in SaaS. At your level, you need a partner who understands the vertical, and works with you to ideate a smart strategy tailored to your particular needs, target market, and problems.
As you consider hiring a specific marketing agency, consider a little bit of knowledge about the following, so you can better understand their potential value.
- Marketing Metrics: Be prepared for a two-way conversation about important metrics like your current customer acquisition cost, churn rates, prior advertising results, current app usage, and web traffic.
- Buyer Personas: Knowing who is currently using your solution and who you want to use it will help hone your marketing messages to speak to the users you want to attract. The way your app is designed, the places you market it, and how your team makes user decisions all stem from well-defined personas.
- Market Parameters: Look for questions from your potential agency like “What is your total addressable market size?” or, “What are your specific goals around growth?”
- Current Strategy & Process: Discuss your current marketing strategy and processes in detail with your potential agency. Know what the roles and capacity of your marketing staff and internal resources will be in relation to what you’re aiming to accomplish with an agency. Convey what has and hasn’t worked with the current strategy.
- Marketing Tech Stack: Your marketing technology stack is simply the collection of software and SaaS you and your team use to execute marketing, sales and service initiatives. Because modern-day marketing is so technology-intensive, the agency will want to see the full breakdown of all the tools and technologies you’re currently deploying, and how the tools are currently connected to each other.
Assess Your Current Situation and Goals
Once you feel you have a pretty good handle on a few of the key concepts in marketing, you can start diving into some research on potential agencies. The idea is, you have to know a little bit about what type of marketing goals you’re after before you can properly find and vet an agency. And, marketing is only one piece of your research, because you also need to clarify your own needs and plans.
Clarifying your own needs and plans can start with simple things, like which CRM you currently use and whether you intend to stay on it. Or, your needs might be more nuanced, as in knowing you’d like help solving the issue of lack of organic search traffic, or sharing your company’s goal of decreasing the percentage of unqualified leads from the social media ads you’ve been running. That is great for a potential agency, because it gives them a chance to truly work with you to try and solve a problem or meet a goal. This is where a great agency team will shine through in your research process.
Ask and answer these questions in your research for the best SaaS marketing agency for your company:
- What is my current goal, and who are the agencies who have met similar goals in the past? Do they have the social proof to back up their claims?
- What is my current tech stack (CRM, content management system, analytics tools, etc.), and which agency specializes in it?
- What is my marketing budget, and what are some agencies potentially in my price range?
- What are some choices of agencies with experience in my company’s specific sub-vertical within the SaaS field?
Searching for Your Best-Fit Agency
When it comes right down to it, you have to choose an agency you can see yourself actually working constructively with. Sure, this determination can (and should) come with quite a bit of objectively good-fit characteristics. You’ve got to find an agency team with the hard skills to make your marketing operate and grow successfully. However, if an agency seems to have all the requisite hard skills but you still don’t have a great feeling about them, it might be smart to consider why.
As you search for the agency that best fits your needs and working style, make sure you do your research, and vet the team you’ll be working with, starting with objective criteria like whether or not the agency has a positive client history. This process is about making sure you’re getting reinforcement that what they are saying they do is what they can really do for you.
Make sure to vet your potential agency by looking for the following:
- Client Reviews
- Case Studies
- Team Backgrounds
- Longevity of Client Relationships
- Client Referrals
Once you’ve vetted your potential agency’s hard skills using resources available on its website, and enriched your findings with a discovery call, it’s time to dive a little deeper into the subjective aspects of choosing an agency partner. There may be several choices that seem to fit with your general needs and budget, but it does matter that you could see yourself and your colleagues being happy with the agency long term (or at least for a few months, which is how long it normally take to see any kind of meaningful marketing results). So, how do you do that?
Many times, you can book a quick individual call with your potential key contact at the agency, usually a Project Manager or Account Manager. This allows you to get a feel for personality fit, and ask questions about how your potential contact likes to work. If you can’t see yourself respecting that person, getting along, or for any reason not jiving with their work style, it might not be the best agency fit for your SaaS business. Using subjective elements to help choose your marketing agency is not irresponsible or over-emotional. It’s essential to select a team that feels most right for your company.
Hiring a SaaS marketing agency can be one of the smartest ways to reach your goals, though it can understandably seem like a big task trying to find and vet the right one for you. But it can be worth the effort; hiring the right SaaS marketing agency might just be the next step toward your company’s future. Make the process easier on yourself by starting with a clear understanding of your needs and goals, then look for partners that do those specific things, and vet your choices with concrete data. If you’re still unsure, try a test project on a fixed-scope basis. Many agencies offer options that can get you started, without being locked into a year-long retainer contract. Use these tips, and you’ll be well on your way to finding your best-fit partner.
Originally published Jan 2021, updated Oct 2021 for completeness.