Choosing an inbound marketing agency is tough when you don't know what questions to ask.
Most companies outsource their marketing after they’ve tried doing it on their own for a while and found they are not getting the results for the time they are putting in. Whether this sounds like your organization or not, you will need some good questions in cue when it’s time to start vetting potential partners.
There are many moving parts in an inbound strategy, and it’s important for the agency to explain how it all fits together. Here is a list of services to look for:
It’s not critical to find a marketer who has experience in your industry, but it sure doesn’t hurt.
Some agencies focus on a few niche industries they know really well, and you may find one that specializes in your business. B2B companies often make a better fit for inbound services because they have longer buying cycles and larger budgets, plus their buyers invest considerable time into research before making a purchase.
If you find an inbound partner you like that hasn't worked in your industry before – don’t despair. There is always a learning curve with agencies and clients. If they are good listeners and researchers, they will get up to speed quickly.
One of the biggest reasons companies don’t invest in a serious marketing solution is because they are skeptical about seeing proven results.
They may have dabbled in digital marketing in the past and gotten nothing more than a report with a bunch of vanity metrics, like clicks, likes, and impressions. These stats do nothing to show people they’ve made a good investment in their business.
Just look at all these sad, disillusioned professionals:
An inbound agency that uses industry-grade automation and analytics – the kind you get from HubSpot, Marketo or InfusionSoft – can measure real ROI. Using these tools, they can track your leads and enable you to see how your content is generating customers, not clicks and impressions.
When you do ask about performance, there are a few things to keep in mind:
An experienced marketer knows how important the planning process is.
Before starting a campaign, they should have an intimate understanding of your goals, buyers, sales cycle, customer lifetime value, and other important details.
At the very least, they should schedule a few discovery meetings with you to get these insights, and follow up with a plan of action. This plan should include a detailed strategy and content calendar that shows the dates each content piece will be submitted for approval. If a potential partner does not talk about this exploratory process early on, chances are good they will gloss over the details and jump right into campaign mode, almost guaranteeing you won’t see the results you want.
An inbound retainer typically runs $3,000 to $10,000 a month, depending on the breadth of services provided, agency resources, and automation capabilities. Some may charge more or less, but this is the ballpark you are in.
People who assume inbound marketing is just a fancy way of saying “blogging” are often surprised by the cost, but there’s a lot more to this work that just writing posts. A good inbound strategy will include a combination of the services mentioned above.
Getting the full measure of the resources and experience an agency has is a good idea before asking about cost. Otherwise, the conversation may get skewed by your perception (positive or negative) about what they charge, and you might miss the opportunity to work with a team that would make a great fit for you.
My last piece of advice – pay attention to their questions. Do they seem genuinely curious about your business and challenges, or are they asking generic questions without exploring your needs at a deeper level. Good marketers are curious. They want to know about you and your customers. A relationship that doesn’t start with good questions isn’t a relationship worth starting.
This post has been updated in 2019.
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