6 B2B SMB problems and how to fix them - no. 3 Not enough leads - part 2

At Usher & Spur, we've identified six major problems B2B SMBs have. The third problem in our series is "We're not getting enough leads", which is another way of saying that you can't manage to grow your sales. In part 1, we examined the role of digital marketing and what to consider before bringing an internal resource on board. In part 2, we look at the pros and cons of hiring an external agency to stimulate sales growth.

In part 1, we established that if you aren't prepared to invest in multiple technology tools and outside resources, as well as an internal digital marketing manager, your best bet is a specialized digital marketing agency. When you have a limited budget and don't really know how to proceed, external experts can make a big difference in a short time. But it would be a mistake to hire any agency without knowing what to expect and clarifying what they can and will provide.

WHAT CAN a digital marketing agency DO FOR US?

A digital marketing agency can cover a lot of the same ground as a digital marketing manager. But an agency might claim to do digital marketing when what it actually does is SEO. And, as this great article from MarketingProfs says: "Your SEO investment is wasted if it doesn't bring the right visitors to your website and convert them into leads or sales."

A good digital marketing agency will do just that. As well as bringing the right visitors to your website, they'll help you maximize sales from traffic already at your website, i.e. convert better. SEO will be one of the tactics they use, but they'll also improve the on-site user experience, as the article advocates. Here's a quick guide to what you can expect from a good digital marketing agency. They should help you:

Understand how easy it is for customers to find you

Through an audit of your website, an agency should assess how easy is it to find your company currently and become a customer. Think of it as taking stock of your current situation. Before you can get results, it’s essential to understand what needs to be improved. But the audit will also provide a basis for improving it, and give you the benchmarks against which you can measure your success.

An SEO audit includes using multiple search combinations to see how well your website ranks; ascertaining the quality of your links and where they’re coming from; investigating your URL structure, the quality of your page title tags, and the quality of your meta description tags, to understand how they influence your current ranking. A digital marketing audit will go further. On your website, they'll evaluate the quality of your content and the overall usability, in terms of navigation, conversion and how fast or slow your web pages load.

At the same time, the agency will research what people in your industry are looking for. This includes what keywords they're using to search for products or services like yours, what trends are current, who your competitors are and what they are offering. This will help them optimize your website in the next step.

Make your website search-engine and user friendly

Based on the results of the audit, and the research and analysis the agency just carried out, they'll come up with a plan of action for your website. On-page optimization, as it’s called, aims to make sure search engines can go through your site (“web crawling”) more easily, and push you up in rankings. The agency may also recommend corrections to practices that have been implemented on your website but that will penalize you in rankings.

To meet your objectives, they'll also recommend changes in content, structure (information architecture), and navigation to improve the user experience and increase the chances of conversion. This will include such details as improving page load times, so that once a potential customer clicks on a link to your site, they won’t leave again because it’s taking too long to appear on their screen; or where a form or conversion button is placed so it's more obvious to the user, and therefore more likely she'll click.

Put up signposts to your site

This can be off-page optimization, which means seeking links from other websites (“inbound links”) that cause search engines to rank your website higher. It can also be promotional efforts to create inbound traffic. It’s like pointing the way to your site, and these virtual signposts can take the form of content hosted on another site to yours, or distributed via social media posts or online PR, or a blog. They can also be forum posts, directory listings or search engine submissions. Finally they can take the form of advertising.

Advertising includes paid search, which is advertising in a search engine's or web crawler's listings or its partner sites; and display advertising, which is advertising on a partner site or in a portfolio of sites that make space available. Usually you pay for this advertising when someone clicks on it, (PPC - pay-per-click), or when it is displayed (CPM - cost-per-impression).

Understand what you're getting

A good digital marketing agency will make it clear what goals they set, and will offer monthly reports, showing their results against these goals. They will keep you up-to-date on scheduled actions and help you understand exactly what their actions aim to do.

WILL A DIGITAL MARKETING AGENCY HELP US GROW?

For an agency to bring you results, you need to be clear about your objectives for growth, and go beyond just "getting more leads". You also need to know in advance who your buyers are, what your market is and, most especially, what problem you're solving. If you're not solving a problem, you don't have a market, and if you don't have a market, you can't expect results from marketing, digital or otherwise.

Remember also that because digital marketing is operational, it won't necessarily generate good, sales-ready leads. And it won't necessarily help you bring the ones it does generate to a sales-ready state. If you're focused on maximizing sales-ready leads, the digital marketing agency will create content only for customers at the supplier evaluation stage, and won't be creating content for customers who aren't so far advanced in their buyer journey, thereby limiting your potential for growth.

Additionally, you should be aware that to maximize the number of virtual signposts, you need a lot of content. To keep costs down, digital marketing agencies pay very low rates to copywriters, which results in low-quality copy. And this will hurt your brand image and, ultimately, your development.

There is no growth without strategy

If you don't have any of the basic information we referred to above, you'll need to find an agency that offers a strategic, customer-centric approach to help you figure it out. There are some out there. But you'll still need a clear vision and overall strategy to ensure your company continues to see the forest despite the trees, as we highlighted at the end of part 1. And you will still need the internal managerial framework and competency to align Sales and Marketing and get the full benefit of the digital marketing agency's services.

You should design your customer-centric strategy to move each of the participants in the buying decision, through each stage of the buying journey, towards the purchase of your product or service. Content has a key role and the types of content you need should be carefully selected and created. Outsourcing this creation, whether to a digital marketing agency or any other communications service provider, is an understandable decision, but ensuring you manage the process attentively will get you the highest quality results and provide real value to your customers.   

Finally, the digital marketing agency's focus on performance measurement will provide you with precious data to inform your strategy for the future, which is not to be sniffed at. Decisions based on facts are more likely to get results.

Want to get your strategy clear before you embark on digital marketing? Contact Usher & Spur.

Like this post? Check out our other posts in the series "6 B2B SMB problems" by clicking on the tag at the top of this post.