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Hiring a SaaS Marketing Agency - 14 Things to Evaluate

Ulf Lonegren

Hiring a SaaS Marketing Agency - 14 Things to Evaluate

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SaaS marketing pains got you down?

You’re not alone. Time and time again, growing SaaS companies decide to take the marketing reigns and have a crack at making it big time.

Nine times out of ten, they fall flat on their face.

Why?

Because SaaS marketing is a big fish to fry, and a lot of business owners don’t realize it until they’ve got the fish on the boat. Or, in the pan.

The point is, it really takes someone (or someones) with a boatload of experience to tick all the right marketing boxes and scale a SaaS company quickly.

So, where do you find these people?

Well, judging by this drawn-out metaphor, probably at some form of annual nautical convention. But if you don’t have any luck there, maybe try a SaaS marketing agency…

And if you are on the hunt for a decent SaaS marketing agency to help your company reach new heights, then there are a few things you should consider. Well, 14 actually…

Let’s start with processes.

The first step in the process of finding a SaaS marketing agency is to make sure they have a robust set of processes, procedures, and systems.

Why is this so important?

Because it tells you three things:

  1. They have a system for repeat success
  2. They’ve been doing it for long enough to have developed processes that have worked in the past
  3. They value consistency

So, what should these processes look like? Well, we wrote this blog post all about it - read on!

1. Goal Setting

Setting goals is a fundamental process in crafting any marketing strategy, and is just as important for SaaS marketers.

Pro Tip: It goes without saying that you’re trying to achieve something, but having clearly set goals helps everyone to define success.

You need to be able to look back over the last 12 months of work and assess whether you achieved everything you hoped for. That’s what goals are for.

Your SaaS marketing agency’s processes should always start with goal setting, so you should ask about how they actually go about this.

The SMART goal framework is usually a pretty good approach:

S Specific States exactly what you’ll do
M Measurable Has a numerical value, or some way of evaluating when the goal is achieved
A Attainable The goal is within your scope of accomplishment
R Relevant The goal makes sense to your business
T Time-Bound There’s a timeframe for achieving the goal

Using a goal-setting framework like this ensures that you’re not simply setting arbitrary targets that don’t make sense, or aren’t achievable.

But, you also don’t want the goals to be too easily achievable, and your SaaS marketing agency should be able to help you with that.

They should also be able to measure whether you’re on track to achieving those goals, which is where metrics come in.

2. Marketing Metrics & KPIs

In the marketing world, there are a tonne of metrics that you can track. But not all of them are metrics that you should track.

SaaS Marketing Metrics

Vanity metrics are ones that you can track, but that don’t really matter or don’t have a direct impact on your results. More importantly, they don’t have anything to do with your goals.

Pro Tip: It’s highly important that the SaaS marketing agency you choose knows how to pick the right marketing metrics, and doesn’t make themselves look great using vanity metrics.

Everyone has a different opinion on which metrics are just vain and which actually have an impact, and it kind of depends on your specific goals, but the important thing to consider when deciding on SaaS marketing metrics is this:

Does this metric align with my goals?

Once you’ve got your metrics in place, then your marketing SaaS marketing agency should be working with you to set some KPIs.

KPIs (key performance indicators) are measurable on a regular basis, usually monthly, and tell you at a glance whether you’re on track or not. This is where reporting comes in…

3. Reporting

Though you’ll probably be working quite closely with your SaaS marketing agency, you still need to be able to review a report each month to understand exactly what’s gone on in the last 30 days.

Why?

Well, because you’re spending a lot of money with them! So, you should be keeping track of your return on investment (ROI).

A monthly report from your SaaS marketing agency should include:

  • Activity from the last month
  • Results from the last month
  • Results measured against KPIs
  • Any changes or updates to your strategy
  • Key improvements to implement next month

4. Internal Processes for Marketing Activities

Aside from formal processes and systems for goal setting, metric tracking, and reporting, your SaaS marketing agency should have a strong set of procedures for each of the activities they are going to engage in.

Internal Processes

For example, one of the first things your SaaS marketing agency is going to recommend is that you form a solid blogging strategy.

But a blog strategy isn’t just about deciding on a few post topics and then getting to writing. That’s not a strategy, it’s barely even a plan.

Your SaaS marketing agency will know this, and if they’re worth their salt, then they’ll have a well-documented process for creating this strategy, which probably follows steps like:

  1. Perform keyword research
  2. Content audit
  3. Content gap analysis
  4. Topic planning
  5. Content calendar

When you’re assessing different SaaS marketing companies, you should enquire about their processes. Don’t expect them to spill all the beans, especially if you haven’t hired them yet, but it’s worth asking the question as it gives you an opportunity to judge their reaction.

If they seem evasive, that’s a fairly good sign that they don’t even have any…

Once you’ve assessed their processes and systems, it’s time to evaluate their specific experience.

That means checking out their previous work, and determining whether they can help you achieve the goals you have in mind.

This will also help you evaluate whether they are even a ‘SaaS marketing agency,’ or if they only have experience with non-SaaS customers. This is an all-too-important decider, because if they don’t have SaaS experience, then you could well be right back where you started.

5. Case Studies & Clients

Case studies are the perfect starting point for evaluating a SaaS marketing company’s experience.

A case study is an in-depth report on an agency’s previous success with a past or current customer. They tend to follow a format something like this:

  1. The problem their client was facing
  2. The solution that was proposed (and followed)
  3. The outcomes they achieved

By reviewing case studies, you can not only determine if the agency has solved problems that are similar to yours, but you can also find out just how successful they were in solving them.

Sometimes, you’ll find these available on their website. Often, though, you’ll have to request access to them, as they contain sensitive customer information that needs to be shared diligently.

So, don’t freak out if your SaaS marketing agency doesn’t have a huge list of case studies on their site, and just ask them the question or check out their profile on industry websites.

6. Brands They Work With

Many SaaS marketing agencies will display somewhere on their website the companies that they currently work with, and those they’ve worked with in the past.

Whether that’s in a logo section at the bottom of their home page, or in the form of client testimonials, you should be able to identify one or two customers they work with.

If you can, then you should dive into the websites and marketing activities of each of those companies, and do a little assessment of their work. This will help you to determine whether their style and feel aligns with what you’re trying to achieve.

Like with case studies, some SaaS marketing agencies may be unable to display or highlight certain customers due to non-disclosure agreements, so it is worth keeping in mind that if they don’t have logos on their site, it doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t have any clients!

In the absence of this, you should check out review sites like UpCity and Clutch, which will give you a feel for what their previous clients have to say about them.

These are authoritative websites that allow clients to post detailed reviews about their experiences with the agencies they have engaged, and are great places to learn about a) the types of clients an agency is working with, and b) the results they are generating. 

7. Time In The Game

This is one of those “take it or leave it” kind of factors.

You see, it may or may not matter to you how long the agency has been operating. Some of us like to work with companies that have been around for several years, whereas others don’t mind working with new companies, provided the fit feels good (we’ll talk about fit soon).

Either way, it’s generally a good sign if they’ve been around for a while. Of course, it means they have a wealth of experience, but more than that, it means that their systems and processes have been refined over the long term, and over the course of a number of small industry changes that require procedural edits.

But it’s not just an agency’s experience that matters. In fact, in many cases, expertise is more important than experience, per se.

That’s because not all SaaS marketing experts are specialized in the same tactics and methods.

Think about assessing a SaaS marketing agency’s expertise like this:

Whatever line of business you’re in, whether your SaaS is a B2B sales CRM or a consumer-focused photo-sharing app, there’s someone else out there doing something similar.

But your SaaS is different, you cater to a slightly different market, you have different features that cater to different pain points… You get the gist.

SaaS marketing agencies are exactly the same. You might have a big old list of agencies that you’re considering, and they probably all have a decent amount of expertise to back them up. The thing is though, they’ll all have specific expertise in different areas, so you’ll want to make sure their individual skill sets cater to your overall business and marketing goals.

Let’s outline a few common marketing methods and tactics that your SaaS company may (or may not) have specific expertise in.

8. SaaS Web Design and Development

Your website is at the heart of your SaaS marketing plan, and there are an endless number of strategies that web designers implement to create high-converting SaaS sites.

This should be your first consideration when judging the expertise of a SaaS marketing agency - do they have a good background in SaaS web design and development?

 

Image Source - https://voicefront.ai/

Now I know you might be thinking “I don’t need a new website, I only just had one built.”

Okay, that might be true, but don’t rule out the possibilities of:

  • Needing a new website down the track
  • Important changes to your site to support your marketing strategy (like building landing pages)
  • Needing significant UX and content edits to maximize conversion and support SaaS lead generation

Even though you might not be in need of a full website development right now (don’t rule this out though), your SaaS marketing agency will still need to be able to access your site and make regular changes, update links, and publish new blogs posts.

So, you should find out what platform or platforms a given agency is familiar with. If they only work within a certain platform and that doesn’t align with how your website has been developed, this may cause issues. Or, it may mean your new website will need to migrate to a new platform!

Landing page design is one of the biggest factors for consideration here, as it’s what will drive your lead generation. A decent SaaS marketing agency should know just how to create landing pages that convert, and will have endless experience when it comes to SaaS website design inspiration.

9. Content Marketing

Content marketing is basically the backbone of any SaaS marketing strategy. It’s pretty rare to find a SaaS company that doesn’t have a blog (only 15% of the world’s biggest don’t), podcast, or downloadable eBook.

Content Marketing Meme

Why?

Because content marketing is basically the king of inbound lead generation methods.

When you’re seeking to grow your SaaS, the biggest issue is actually being found. This is especially true for early-stage companies that have a solution that people don’t even know exist.

If customers don’t know a solution exists, then they aren’t going to be searching for it, are they?

That’s why you need to dive deep into a blog strategy that utilizes content that is:

  • High-quality
  • High-frequency
  • Long-form

With a well-formed content calendar that is grounded in accurate keyword research and topic ideation, you’ll slowly but surely start to see your written content rise through the search results. But it’s a competitive space, whatever vertical you’re working in, and it takes some significant expertise and experience to make it work - that’s where your SaaS marketing agency comes in.

Content marketing isn’t just about blogging, either.

Some would say there are over 100 different kinds of content marketing, though you’ll probably find a fair bit of overlap in these. The major point to investigate is whether a SaaS marketing agency creates and manages content across the entire customer journey.

If they only focus on blog writing, then you’re likely only hitting top-of-funnel opportunities. If you’re nurturing leads with email marketing campaigns, mid-funnel content like whitepapers and eBooks, and have a well-automated and monitored process for doing this, then you’re far better placed to convert those leads into customers.

Lastly, you should ask about their approach with regard to writers. They may have in-house writers, or they may use contractors for certain projects. 

The latter approach tends to work better for SaaS companies, as it means you’ll have people creating your content that have specific industry expertise, rather than a jack-of-all-trades writer.

10. Inbound vs. Outbound Focus

Have you considered whether an inbound or outbound marketing methodology suits your business better?

If this is all news to you, here’s a quick summary of the inbound vs. outbound debate:

Inbound Marketing Outbound Marketing
The goal of inbound marketing is to educate customers about their challenges (and your solution) The goal of outbound marketing is to persuade prospects to buy
Inbound is permission-based (the power of decision is the customers) Outbound is interruptive
Attention is earned (best content wins) Attention is bought (biggest budget wins)
Growth opportunity is exponential Growth opportunity is linear (you get out based on what you put in)
Inbound marketing is about the customer Outbound marketing is about your company
Generally two-way communication between the company and prospects Generally one-way communication (talking at prospects rather than with them)

Of course, there are times where either method may be appropriate, and many marketers take a hybrid approach, implementing both inbound and outbound tactics depending on requirements.

Regardless, you should investigate a SaaS marketing firm’s opinions on the whole debate to ensure that their vision for marketing aligns with yours, and importantly, your company’s.

11. Other Marketing Specialities 

Aside from the outbound vs inbound marketing paradigm, there’s one more thing you should consider:

Does this SaaS marketing have any specific marketing specialties?

That is to say, are they particularly good at any particular channel, tactic, or method. Website design and development and content marketing are two “gotta haves”, but you also might be in need of an expert in a given field.

For example, if you’re a B2C SaaS with a target audience of 18-20-somethings, you’ll probably have a strong need to advertise on Instagram. A SaaS marketing agency with a hefty focus on social media marketing channels might be a good place to start, then.

Specialties to consider include:

  • Social media marketing
  • Search engine optimization
  • SaaS sales
  • Email marketing
  • Influencer marketing
  • HubSpot certified partner
  • Referral marketing
  • B2B or B2C focus
  • Google Ads (AdWords)

12. Marketing Personas

Read any resource that talks about creating a marketing strategy, and the first step is always to develop customer personas.

Buyer PersonaThat’s because using personas increases the effectiveness of a website by up to 5x, and the same goes for the rest of your marketing activities.

It’s often not a task that is as simple, straightforward, or speedy as you would like, which is why it’s important that your SaaS marketing agency has a good handle on how to create effective marketing personas.

Ask about their process for creating personas, and see if you can take a look at their own ones! This could give you a good indication as to whether you fit with their ideal customer persona.

That might seem like a bit of a laugh, but wouldn’t want to know whether you’re their ideal customer or not? It’s kind of like dating, and finding out what the other person is looking for in a relationship. If what you’re looking for doesn’t align with what they’re after, then it probably isn’t going to work out in the long run.

Speaking of digging into their own marketing…

13. Their Own Marketing

Perhaps the greatest indicator of a SaaS marketing agency’s abilities, expertise, and fit for your company is the marketing activities they are engaging in themselves!

Consider how you came across the agency in the first place. Did you stumble across a blog post of theirs? (hint, hint).

Perhaps you found them in a Google search for “marketing agencies near me”.

Whichever avenue it might have been, it gives you an indication as to how well they can pull off individual marketing tactics for themselves.

Dig deep and ask the questions. If they are SaaS website and development experts, how does their website reflect this? Are they backing themselves as content marketing experts? Then check out the content they are creating, and make sure they’re walking the talk!

14. Their People

So they’ve got the experience, their processes seem sound, and their specific niche expertise aligns nicely with what you’re trying to achieve as a company.

But what about their people?

This is something that’s often overlooked in guides and checklists for choosing a SaaS marketing agency, but it’s way more important than it seems.

There are three key questions you need to be asking of every SaaS marketing company you’re considering working with:

  1. Do I get along with these people?
  2. Do I trust them?
  3. Do they understand me (and my SaaS business)?

You see, there’s nothing more tiring than working with someone you don’t get along with. That doesn’t mean they have to be your best friend, by any means, but you should consider the fact that you’ll be working quite closely together (hopefully).

If you get along with them on a personality level, you’re going to have a much easier time doing business together, and there’s a better chance you’ll be aligned on most important decisions.

As you go through the process of deciding on an agency to work with you’ll be asking a lot of questions. Pay attention not only to the information and answers you get in response, but to how they respond. Trust your first impressions, and if you don’t feel like you can trust them, walk away.

Pro Tip: Make sure you assess and determine whether they really get you, your brand, and your company’s mission. Literally ask them to explain it back to you - that will give you a feel for how deeply they understand what you’re trying to achieve.

If there isn’t a deep alignment there, then it’s going to be tough to achieve your goals.

Conclusion - Choosing a B2B SaaS Marketing Agency

Now you know exactly how to assess a SaaS marketing agency, it’s time to rule out some options, narrow it down, and make a decision.

Tick these 14 boxes, and you’ll be seeing massive growth in no time.

Need some more help deciding, or looking for a SaaS marketing guide to navigate those treacherous waters? Roketto is an inbound marketing agency that helps ambitious SaaS companies achieve their growth goals. Let’s talk.

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Ulf Lonegren

Ulf Lonegren

Ulf is one of the co-founders here at Roketto. His passion shines brightest when tasked with increasing business growth through inbound marketing. If you want to talk strategy, give Ulf a shout and you’re likely to see him spark with excitement.