So you keep hearing about 'inbound' — the methodology that's rewritten the marketing rule book, taking the exact opposite approach to old-school strategies like cold-calling and bulk mailouts. Or maybe you've been using inbound marketing methodology within your own business for some time, but have decided it's time to outsource this work to an agency — and free yourself up to focus on other aspects of your business.
The good news is there's a huge number of inbound marketing agencies that would love to take you on as a client. On the flip side, they're not all what they claim to be. So how can you compare agencies to work out which one’s right for you? Here's some tips on finding that perfect team...
Do they walk the talk?
The first thing to look at when considering an inbound marketing agency is the quality of their own inbound efforts. What does their website look like? Is it easy to navigate? Attractive? Does it contain any broken links (or even worse, multiple landing pages that say 'under construction)? What about their blog — does it provide quality content that’s regularly updated?
If an agency doesn't invest their skill-set into their own brand, it’s a warning to be sceptical as to what they could realistically do for your business.
How big is their team?
There's no reason why you have to hire a large agency as opposed to a small, boutique one. The choice relies purely on the structure of your own business and how compatible it is with the agency itself. For instance, if you're specialising in a niche product or service, you're likely to perform better by going with a smaller inbound agency who has the time and understanding of your market to offer a more personal service. For the same reason, you might decide to go with a local agency to take care of your inbound campaigns.
That said, beware of any agency that claims to do everything despite having very few staff or freelancers working with them. As a bare minimum, a skilled inbound agency should comprise marketing strategists, IT experts, designers, copywriters and someone dedicated to social media/content promotion.
Listen to the 'voice' of their brand
Even if you've identified a qualified, highly recognised inbound marketing agency, they might not necessarily fit your brand or style of work. Everyone works differently, so it makes much more sense to surround yourself with likeminded people than it does to force yourself to work with those who you don't really connect with. After all — you're the client, so you're in control of who you'd like to team up with.
To get an insight into the 'voice' of an inbound marketing agency and the types of personalities who work there, look at the style of their website, the tone of their blog, and the images they use. Also check out their social media posts for a less formal indication of their interests and how they prefer to communicate.
Ultimately, you'll be spending a lot of time working with your chosen inbound agency in the future — so make sure you choose one that aligns to you and your business, and you're comfortable to approach.
Don't be afraid to ask questions
Don't be intimidated by agencies just because you might not understand the digital marketing industry as well as they do. Any decent inbound marketing agency should encourage you to ask questions, and provide you with the answers you're looking for directly. They should be able to communicate without the overuse of jargon and without isolating you from the decision making process (if you choose to take a closer involvement in the strategy process, that is).
You might want to ask a potential inbound team if they can:
- provide you with detailed case studies of their past work. Look to examples of what the agency has done to tackle a task, what strategies they put in place, and what the outcomes were.
- Give you the contact details of a former client so that you can have a chat about their experience. It's much like checking someone's credentials or references in a job interview.
- Provide examples of their own favourite blogs, content, and inbound campaigns. Anyone who cannot do this easily off the top of their head is obviously not up to speed with the latest inbound marketing practices — or even worse, may simple be disinterested.
- Offer you services that you can't or don't have time to do in-house already.
It's also important that you ask how an agency will go about researching your industry in order to correctly target the audience you wish to connect with. While this seems like a simple concern, it's actually something that some people don't consider until it's too late — in which case they end up with marketing material that's not relevant to their business, or waste time and money while an unprepared agency tries to catch up and learn about their industry.
If you're the kind of person who likes to take a hands-on approach in business, it's essential to find an inbound marketing agency who's enthusiastic about working with you rather than leaving you out of the loop.
Ask agencies whether or not they’re prepared to educate you in the processes of inbound (this is something we're really big on at You & Co, because it means we can communicate better with our clients and help them to help us build better campaigns). Tell them if you're keen to be involved in meetings and see how they respond — anyone who isn't willing to collaborate with you now could prove frustrating in the future.
Check out the technology they're employing
Pay close attention to the technologies an inbound marketing agency uses. Do they work across multiple platforms and devices, and are they up to date with the latest apps on the market? With such an enormous range of tools available, ask why they chose to use their current technologies.
Also be sure to look at the systems and metrics an agency employs to measure the success of inbound campaigns (for instance, by using the Hubspot platform). Are they willing to set up and teach you how to use these platforms as well, so that you can track your business's progress?
If you're on the hunt for an inbound marketing agency who you can trust to take care or the hard work for you — but who will always include you in the decision-making process ― contact us at You & Co. As a Hubspot certified and Inbound accredited agency, we love teaching our clients how to grow their own businesses. So if you're ready to take advantage of what an inbound marketing agency can do for you, let's tee up a time to do coffee. Then you'll have an opportunity to grill us for yourself and see if we're the right fit for your business. If nothing else, we'll at least show you where to find a good latte.