Inbound Marketing has become an indispensable customer acquisition channel for all businesses.
All forward-looking businesses have invested a considerable portion of their marketing budgets in inbound marketing. It’s a way of creating educational assets and marketing strategies to benefit the consumer and in turn getting business by proving your expertise to them.
Businesses have generated growth by monetising their inbound marketing strategies. This has created a swell of inbound marketing agencies all over the world leaving hundreds of options to buyers. However, before you go off on a search for an inbound marketing agency to work with, you may want to hold your brakes (what! why?). There’s a good number of agencies out there yes, but not all of them will offer what they claim.
Inbound Marketing is a slow and continuous process, so choosing the wrong firm can waste precious time and money. The thumb rule really is to stay away from an agency that would promise instant results. Determining the limitations and advantages of a firm before making your decision can be helpful since choosing an agency can be really overwhelming.
So how do you shortlist and select one inbound marketing service provider you can trust over a long time - a true inbound marketing partner. Have you found the right inbound marketing agency for your business?
In this post, I answer this question as a Founder / Owner of one. I highlight some reasons. Some reasons are very different from a typical agency assessment process. And these go beyond your usual reasons - credentials, reference check, budget, quality of team and others. If you are looking out for one, or if your existing arrangement isn't delivering, you may want to run through some of these pointers.
Talks ROI only
You may not be clear about customer acquisition metrics of your business. And that is fine. But, the inbound marketing agency you would engage or plan to, would push you hard, to get a sense of the numbers. Because of two reasons,
- Client ROI - To figure out if inbound marketing will be able to deliver ROI
- Agency ROI - Even if there exists a case for Client ROI, agency ROI is also important. The best agencies would be brave enough to decline opportunities that do not create ROI for them.
Does your agency start the conversation with ROI?
Eats Inbound for Food
My inbound marketing colleagues, who are most successful in this space, have gone beyond inbound (into outbound). That is a different subject altogether. Would you not like your inbound marketing agency to eat its own dog food? How else would it imbibe confidence in you, to take up Inbound as a serious customer acquisition channel? With inbound as the main revenue driver, this agency would have created a predictable revenue strategy. Would you not like predictable revenue?
While your inbound marketing agency isn't always working within your physical proximity, you still have to work with them on a weekly or daily basis. Check if they are cultivating a comfortable and positive work environment within themselves. If your personalities and values don’t jive at the onset of the relationship, then you may likely have issues down the road. No amount of success stories can give you a fair idea of an agency being the right fit for you. Determine if you can be true partners with the agency to achieve and excel your goals. To overcome the gut feeling that you simply can’t work together, be sure to ask some personality or cultural fit questions before you hire an agency.
Practicing Deep work
Deep work is the ability to quickly master difficult things and the ability to produce at an elite level, in terms of both quality and speed. Complex duties in marketing require clear attention and focus without any distractions. Is the team behind the agency able to practice that? Are they creating expert level content? A good agency maintains a scoreboard and is accountable to the work they are producing and keep improving on it.
Case studies give you real examples of what an agency can do for you. When you can’t find any case studies on an agency’s website, ask them for examples of how they’ve helped their clients achieve success. Look for lasting and long-term results, and pay attention to the strategy which drove those results. Was the agency thinking outside the box? Did they develop a custom strategy for the client and scale appropriately? It will be hard to trust an agency if they can't provide any examples of client success. You might find a case study that will give you an idea about how well the agency can scale up if your firm achieves exponential growth. This will help you to understand whether they will be able to move in tandem with the business growth you experience in your firm.
Iterate, don't originate
Too often we think that to come up with new ideas and innovations we need to start with a blank slate, but that is not true. We don't have to go back to the drawing board to figure out how to come up with innovation. The best ideas come from an iteration of what has already worked. Make sure the agency is giving credit to previous collateral's and inbound strategies they have used and worked with. Ask questions about previous inbound marketing strategies that have worked for companies in the same industry. Also ask, if they will use some those strategies in your inbound services.
The marketing agency you work with should have experience with businesses of your size and industry. Let them share with you the industries they cover, and some of the tools and techniques they use for marketing. For instance, if you run a SaaS business, you wouldn’t hire a marketing firm that specializes in retail or restaurants. It makes sense to work with teams that have good sense of the customer acquisition metrics that prevail in a specific industry.
The right inbound marketing agency would be finicky about the accounts it chooses. It could either be a sectoral orientation i.e. SaaS Inbound Marketing in our case or a geographic focus. Some agencies would also be excited about experimenting with inbound marketing in new areas. E.g. I am sure you would have heard about all the excitement with AI and Marketing. Does the agency see a similar opportunity in working with you?
Creativity has its value but if your marketing strategies are not converting leads, the creativity will not help. Make sure you find an inbound marketing agency which focuses on showing you results with statistics and facts. Ask questions about how the agency impacted business and overall revenue for previous clients. The work they do matters but results matter more.
Conclusively, assess if they will consider your business as their own and will go above and beyond for it. If you find a good firm with talented people who understand your business, there’s a good chance you’ll see substantial profits from working together. At the end of the day, it's important that the inbound marketing agency you choose to work with plays the role of a strategic partner and not a vendor.
Inbound marketing services have the power to grow your business faster than most marketing techniques out there. Share your needs and expectations and create an understanding with the agency. Inbound campaigns work best if all parties are on the same page about it. Plus, your agency should enjoy the freedom to make decisions that best suit your interests and budget plan.
Keep the above considerations in mind and trust yourself. You’ll be able to find a reputable marketing agency that can get you to where you want to be.
I intend to keep this post updated with more pointers and insights as we come across them as an inbound marketing agency. I would also like to make a mention of my colleague Apoorv who contributed to this post with infectious enthusiasm.