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Feb 02, 2024 A88Lab.

Why and When Should Your SaaS Hire a Demand Generation Agency: A No-BS Guide

So you've got a SaaS business—great. You've got the tech, the team, and the tenacity, but what about traction? Are you getting your product in front of the right people? Are they swiping a card, booking a demo, or talking to you or about you in any capacity?

We'll spare you the long intros: we all know that no customers = no profit.

The real question is, can a (right) demand generation agency help get your product on the radar faster, more efficiently, and with better results than if you did it yourself? Can it help you grow your business if you already have an established customer base but want more? Is there anything it can do for you if you're already in an enterprise stage?

Yes, yes, and yes. Now, let's see how - without the sugar coating.

What is Demand Generation?

Are you new here? If you are, we'll give you a quick textbook recap.

Demand generation is a comprehensive strategy that aims to build long-term relationships between brands and customers. It involves various marketing and sales approaches to create awareness, generate interest, and capture demand, ultimately speeding up the sales cycle.

Some definitions call it the process of generating interest and awareness in your product or service before people even realize they need it. We believe it goes beyond just creating awareness; it also involves educating potential customers about your product and building trust in your brand.

In short, demand generation involves all the activities that drive potential customers down the sales funnel, from awareness to consideration and, ultimately, purchase. If you would like to dig deeper into the concept, you're in luck - we have a whole guide dedicated to it here.

What Do Demand Generation Agencies Do?

Whether you came armed with demand gen knowledge or just learned about it from our guide, we'll assume from this point on that you know what it entails. Now, let's jump into the main topic - demand generation agencies.

What do agencies in this space do? How do they do it? And most importantly, what can they do for you?

Let's start with "What."

If you recently started a business, and you have no idea where to start, but you assume you need some kind of "marketing" and you've stumbled upon the term demand generation - then you've come to the right place.

What can a demand generation agency do for a B2B SaaS or tech startup?

It can get that initial traction for your product, make sure it's positioned correctly, and get it in front of the right audience. It can also help you build a solid marketing foundation, and help you figure out which channels and strategies will work best for your product and target market.

If you're not starting from scratch - maybe you're a small or mid-market company trying to figure out how to scale - there's still something in demand generation for you.

Whether you have a marketing team or not, demand gen agencies can give you a hand with optimizing your marketing funnel. They can help you expand to new markets, reach different segments of your target audience, support the launch of a new product, and work on strategies to retain your existing customers.

For an enterprise-sized company, demand gen agencies are often acting as an extension of your existing marketing team. They can help with anything from groundwork, like identifying and targeting key accounts or decision-makers within larger organizations, all the way to testing new ideas and strategies and bringing a fresh perspective to whatever you're already doing.

So, what does this all boil down to? Ultimately, to the expertise, resources, and support you need to get from point A to point B in your B2B SaaS or tech growth journey.

Let's move on to "How."

This section can easily be called "Services offered by demand gen agencies," but that would result in the same list every other marketing/demand gen/lead gen/growth agency has on their website.

Content creation and distribution? Check.

SEO optimization? Check.

Paid Ads? Check.

Creating buyer personas? Check.

Email marketing campaigns? Check.

Social media management? Check.

Ok, maybe some of them specialize in certain areas, and some even have a proprietary process they swear by, but at the end of the day, these are all services that you can find in various combinations from different agencies.

So instead, let's focus on HOW a combination of these services, in the hands of a skilled demand gen agency, can make all the difference for your company. Because throwing a few blog posts into the void or blasting cold emails to leads who'd rather ghost you than reply is definitely a service you can pay for... But it's not exactly a recipe for success.

First and foremost, a good demand gen agency will sit down with you and truly understand your business, your goals, your target audience, and your capacity for growth. They work with other companies at your growth stage, in your industry, and with a similar target market, and they know that, as brands grow, they face a similar set of marketing-related growing pains.

For example, startup owners will lack the resources and bandwidth to develop and run a full-scale marketing strategy. Mid-market companies might have a marketing team in place, but they often hit the wall when it comes to scaling their lead generation efforts. And enterprise-level companies might have a robust marketing team, but they struggle with corporate bureaucracy, a lack of agility, or with creating a cohesive strategy that integrates all the different aspects of demand generation, through different departments.

A skilled demand gen agency doesn't just perform market research and identify the pain points of your target audience. It also identifies YOUR pain points and works as your strategic partner to tackle them.

Yes, by hiring an agency, you save money and time on recruitment, training, software licenses, and so forth. You know all that. But more importantly, you can come to them with a problem, go do other things, and come back to find a set of solutions and ideas you didn't have to micromanage.

When Should You Hire a Demand Gen Marketing Agency?

Some companies look at agency support as a short-term solution; hire it for a website revamp, one campaign, or a single product launch, make some noise, and then pause the contract until you need it again.

While you can certainly approach them for one-off projects, the value and the core of demand generation in the first place is more about continuous, long-term efforts rather than one-off tactics and quick fixes.

The most successful demand generation strategies we've built were highly collaborative, with the agency driving initiatives such as content creation, SEO, and paid campaigns while the client's team focused on product development and sales.

Things like A/B testing, messaging refinement, and SEO optimization can deliver some immediate impact, but to truly raise the bar for your business, they will take some time, and you should maybe think twice before going with an agency that suggests otherwise.

So before you hire a demand gen agency, here are some things to consider:

Do You Have the Motivation and Commitment to Build a True Partnership?

Demand generation agencies can do so much more than just perform outsourced tasks. Technical know-how, analytical skills, creativity, business knowledge, and marketing expertise are all attributes they bring to the table.

But for a partnership to truly work, both sides need to be motivated to build and maintain it. Are you willing to delegate strategic responsibility, collaborate on processes, and share information and feedback? If not, maybe it's not the right time for a partnership.

Do You Have a Good Product-Market Fit?

Even the most skilled demand generation agency can't perform miracles if there's not enough market interest.

Before investing in an agency that promises to take you from zero to a hundred in record time, make sure your product or service is actually something people want and need.

Ask yourself:

  • If demand generation activities are successful, can you deliver at scale?

  • Do you know who your customers are, where to find them, and how to engage with them?

  • Have you proven there is a market need for your offering?

If you can confidently answer these questions, it might be better to invest in a little more groundwork before seeking outside help. If there is too much uncertainty, an agency might struggle to develop effective strategies, work with limited data, and deliver results that meet your expectations, which brings us to the following:

Are You Willing to Do the Groundwork?

Many companies, especially startups, have never worked with any kind of external agency before.

This could mean a few things:

  • They don't have established processes, frameworks, or guidelines for how to work with an outside partner.

  • They might not have the necessary data and insights to get the most out of a partnership.

  • They may not be familiar with the different aspects of demand generation, such as content marketing, social media advertising, or email campaigns.

  • They may lack an understanding of KPIs, targets, and benchmarks for measuring success.

  • For what it's worth, they may not even have a functional website.

For example, if you don't have a CRM system in place, sales processes defined, or even a set of emails to send to prospects, you're risking losing leads due to poor communication. Similarly, if your tech stack is not integrated or optimized for demand generation efforts, it will mess with your ability to track and analyze results.

Now, not having these things set up doesn't mean you can't work with an agency, but it does mean you'll need to be willing to put in the time and effort to get things up and running. Things can definitely be worked on as you go, but without a solid foundation in place, the partnership will be less effective and could lead to frustrations on both sides.

Can You Commit Resources to Back up Your Ambition?

Demand generation isn’t purely cost per lead, and anyone who tells you otherwise is not giving you the full story. It takes resources to make it work, whether that be time, budget, or personnel, but simply due to the sheer number of factors and work that play into a successful demand generation campaign, you often get what you pay for.

Putting the infrastructure work that may need to be done aside, there are still day-to-day tasks that require attention and investment. This can include content creation, social media management, email marketing, SEO, managing (and investing in) paid media campaigns, and more.

Of course, there are always ways to work within budget constraints, but it’s important to have realistic expectations. Investing 1K probably won't get you 60K ROI (unless you get extremely lucky), but it can still lead to a positive return and be a good starting point for future campaigns.

If you're worried about the budget, sit down with your agency and discuss ways to prioritize and optimize spending. They should be able to provide guidance on which areas will have the most impact and how to make the most of your resources.

Finding the Right Demand Generation Agency for Your Company

If you ever found yourself in a situation where you've hired a freelancer to design your website, a Fiverr or Upwork copywriter to write your blog posts, and a consultant to handle your SEO or PPC campaigns, you've probably felt the headache of managing multiple contractors and struggled with getting them all focused on the same goal. (Not to mention the likely inconsistency in quality and results.)

Working with experts should be an exciting and rewarding experience, not a headache-inducing nightmare, which is why finding the right partner with all the necessary skills and expertise takes some careful consideration.

Here are some key things to keep in mind when searching for a demand generation agency:

What is Their Portfolio Like?

Have they worked with companies similar to yours? Do they have experience in your industry? What results have they achieved for previous clients?

These are all important questions to ask and research when evaluating an agency's portfolio. You want to work with a team that has a track record of success in your specific market, as they will have a better understanding of your target audience and how to engage them.

What Services Do They Offer?

What can they help you with? Some agencies only specialize in certain aspects of demand generation, such as social media marketing or email campaigns.

If you need a designer, copywriter, or SEO expert, can they provide those services in-house? Can they scale up the operations if you end up launching a new product, expanding into a new market, or experiencing unexpected growth? These are all important questions to consider when evaluating an agency's services.

What is Their Communication Approach?

Which channel do they prefer to communicate with, how long does it take to connect with them, how often do they report the progress, and how do they handle issues?

Without clear and consistent communication that works for both parties, it's difficult to have a successful partnership. Make sure you understand how the agency communicates and if their approach aligns with your needs to avoid any miscommunication or delays in your projects.

What is Their Process Like?

Do they have a discovery process that they follow to understand your business, requirements, culture, and goals? How do they come up with a plan for your demand generation efforts, and how often do they reassess and adjust their strategies based on data?

A well-defined process shows that the agency has experience and knows what works. That said, if their process is fundamentally different from the way you work, if they don't involve you in decision-making, or if their methods seem outdated, it might be a sign to look for another agency.

What is Their Pricing Structure?

Last but not least, money.

It's important to understand how the agency charges for their services and if it aligns with your budget. Some agencies may charge a flat fee, while others might have hourly rates or retainer fees. If you're looking for a performance-based agency, the ones we mentioned likely won't fit your needs.

Ask them about their pricing structure, hidden fees or costs, additional services, and cancellation policy. It's better to have a clear understanding of the costs upfront to avoid any surprises or unexpected charges down the road.

What Do We Do at A88Lab.?

Now, before we wrap up, we'll take a minute to humble brag about the things we do here at A88Lab. Don't worry, we won't go down the cringy road of revolutionizing, transforming, disrupting, cutting-edge, or innovating.

We're not selling supercharging, game-changing, or synergizing anything. We take the biggest pride in the fact we have a good team of experienced professionals who know their stuff and work hard to deliver continuous results for our clients, most of whom come to us through referrals and stay with us long-term.

Our clients include tech and SaaS companies of all sizes, from startups to enterprises - we've helped startups get from zero digital presence to first-page rankings within a few months (and we have case studies to prove it), and we've helped enterprises get out of their corporate bubble and connect with their audience through creative digital marketing strategies.
We even worked with other agencies when needed and collaborated with them on various projects because, at the end of the day, we'll do what it takes to deliver results for our clients, without the cookie-cutter approach, but through actually listening and understanding what they need.

So, if you're looking for a no-BS digital marketing partner who gives you not just pretty reports (not going to lie, we try to keep them pretty) but actual results and ROI, there you have it. Reach out, and let's make cool things happen in the digital world.

Conclusion

The right agency won't try to sell you high-value services that you're not ready for or don't need. They won't hide their processes from you. They won't point fingers or lock you into a long-term contract without transparency around costs and services.

They will come prepared with strategic support, they will involve you in the decision-making process, and they will help you get started on the right foot. This could mean anything from setting up CRM or HubSpot, building your website, or working on a specific project or campaign.

Take your time to research and compare different agencies before making a decision, and trust your gut alongside their credentials and track record. And if you're here because you're already hunting for a new agency and you want to see what A88Lab. is all about, just shoot us a message or give us a call. Ask us about our results, pricing, and services – we'll be more than happy to share all the details with you!

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