Advertising, or at least the traditional sort, is far from new – we pretty much all know exactly how it works.
This comes as no surprise, given we are consistently subjected to a barrage of adverts through every media outlet possible and, courtesy of the rise of social media’s ever-growing popularity, today it is virtually impossible to make it through a single day without being on the receiving end of some sort of targeted marketing.
As successful as this conventional form of marketing is, its obtrusiveness and “hit and miss” blanket approach has long called for an alternative means of marketing – a means of reaching a more targeted audience and of actually helping businesses find you. Brian Halligan, CEO and Co-Founder of HubSpot, summarises this sentiment perfectly, alluding to the fact that inbound marketing is necessary in today’s age of marketing:
“People shop and learn in a whole new way compared to just a few years ago, so marketers need to adapt or risk extinction.”
Given inbound marketing, a method of marketing centred on creating sales leads through valuable content, is heralded as a much-needed change in the world of marketing, it is understandable that many companies are tempted to outsource to agencies that are all too willing to market themselves as “Inbound Experts” without any of the proof necessary to justify such claims.
To help you ensure you steer clear of inbound agencies that cannot deliver the results they promise and that you get the most out of your prospective agency, we outline below some of the considerations you need to make when making your decision.
1. Know What It Is You Need
To paraphrase renowned self-help author and life coach, Tony Robbins, failure to clarify what it is you are looking to achieve invariably makes it more difficult to achieve or monitor your progress toward the desired outcome. The same holds true for inbound marketing; you’ll need to make sure you know exactly what you are looking for in an agency before committing to that retainer fee.
For instance, to what extent do you need the agency to handle specific aspects of marketing? Can you handle blogging and content creation responsibilities in-house? Do you have the time and capital to train someone in SEO best practices or is this a role that the agency also needs to assume? Under the assumption that your agency delivers high-quality sales leads, do you have the requisite sales team to convert these into customers?
These considerations are important as they will naturally help you hone in on the agency that is best suited to help you realise your aims. Essentially, what you are looking for is an agency that has the skills you need specifically, as opposed to an agency with the broadest range of services.
2. Don’t Fall For False Promises
After identifying what it is you need from an agency and finding those that offer the services you require, the next step is examining exactly how the agency frames its promises of how it delivers results – don’t be fooled by the B.S.
Prior to even considering signing a contract with an agency, you’ll need to assess the metrics it uses to measure success and the methods through which these are monitored. You’ll also need to ensure both parties are clear on the agreed frequency with which success will be reported.
In the case of inbound marketing agencies, there is perhaps no more suitable metric than the number of quality sales leads generated for your business – this is what should interest you most. Remember, exactly what constitutes a “quality lead” should be decided prior to the business relationship taking place – again, it is all about managing expectations.
To help you steer clear of the trap of falling for promises that cannot be delivered against, ensure the agency also provides you with a realistic idea of what can be achieved with a specific budget. A good agency will avoid providing you with specific quotes prior to an in-depth analysis of your business and its unique needs and challenges – failure to adequately audit your business is yet another tell-tale sign that you’re in for a generic solution from an agency that views you as just another income opportunity. This sort of business dynamic naturally leads to diminishing returns in the long-run and you should actively steer clear of being involved in such a relationship with your agency.
3. Search For Proof
Prior to the above steps, we suggest you look through the portfolio of any agency that you are considering – proof is the best weapon against selecting an agency that is not compatible with your business and its aims.
Any agency worth your time should be able to back up its claims through testimonials, case studies and examples of awesome work for its roster of clients. Although some work can be subject to confidentiality agreements, in the world of inbound this is often rare – besides, there is nothing stopping you from contacting an agency’s client to assess whether they are worth your time. If they are happy with the service they are receiving, this is a good sign that the agency will be able to extend the same level of superior service to you – happy days.
Finding The Right Agency
Though outsourcing your marketing can always carry some sort of risk, adhering to the simple steps outlined above can heavily reduce your chances of inadequate results. As the self-proclaimed kings of inbound marketing, HubSpot also offers some advice to help you better assess the suitability of any agency you are considering:
“The first core service of inbound marketing is an agency’s ability to generate traffic to a website through SEO, blogging and social media sharing.
Second, agencies should be able to tell their clients they can develop the premium content needed to capitalize on that traffic by building landing pages and managing online lead generation efforts.
Third, agencies need to be able to construct targeted lead-nurturing campaigns aimed at converting those leads into customers.
Finally, in order to iterate and improve, analysis and measurement needs to be present at every step in the process.”
As a HubSpot Gold Certified Agency, not only are we at Catalyst particularly well positioned and equipped to offer advice with regards to what constitutes a great agency, but we can actually prove it.