How to Choose an Inbound Marketing Agency

inbound-marketing-agency.jpgEven if you’ve only been hunting around for an inbound marketing agency for a short while, you’re probably already aware that there are a whole bunch to choose from. With that multitude of options, it can be difficult to choose just one. More importantly, it can be difficult to choose the right one.

During your search, a lot of people are going to make you a lot of promises. The trick is, not all of those people will be able to deliver. But don’t bury your head in the sand just yet—there are a few key elements you can use to identify a great inbound marketing agency that will be able to help your business rise to the top.

First off, is hiring an inbound marketing agency worth it?

Yes! While the upfront costs can seem hefty at first, a good inbound marketing agency will pay for itself. In other words, the ROI you get from the effort of the agency will definitely be worth it. In fact, because your money will be more efficiently spent on the most modern and effective marketing tactics, hiring an agency could actually end up saving you money.

Ok, that sounds pretty good. So what exactly am I looking for in an agency?

To be brief, you want to make sure that the agency you hire possesses the necessary skills and resources required to make a legitimate impact on your business’ success. A quality marketing agency will not only offer the leading inbound marketing services, they’ll be experts in them. When browsing their website, look for terms like: lead generation, content management, SEO, PPC, social marketing, and email marketing. Furthermore, ensure that they can create a cohesive strategy for your business using most or all of these elements.

The other thing to consider is that most agencies specialize in a few practices and industries in particular. For example, if you run a law firm, it may not be in your best interest to hire a B2B inbound marketing agency who has no prior experience working with legal clients.

It’s also important to know the agencies’ retention rate with their clients. Do they have longstanding relationships that prove their ability to provide success and deliver ROI? Or are their clients jumping ship once their contracts end? A host of long-term clients is a good indicator that the agency is willing to go the extra mile to provide optimal results.

So what’s the one definite, 100% gotta-have for every inbound marketing agency?

If they don’t offer SEO, run. Fast. Search Engine Optimization is one of the staples of inbound marketing that is crucial in order to generate traffic and new leads for your business. After that, I’d say PPC and content creation:

PPC – If you’re interested in running paid ads, an agency that specializes in PPC management will be able to get you the most bang for your buck. Choosing an unskilled agency can drain your funds a lot quicker than you’d think.

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Ask the agency what kinds of PPC campaigns they handle on a monthly basis, and make sure that they have the experience to competently manage successful, high-budget campaigns. For example, SevenAtoms manages monthly AdWords budgets in excess of $300,000 per month and consistently delivers three digit ROI to clients. If the agency is skilled in this area, they should easily be able to provide you with numerous real life examples.

Content – The agency you choose should have a killer content team that will not only be able to crank out content, but content that converts. Beyond blogs, this includes ebooks, white papers, landing pages, site content, infographics, email promotions, etc. (bonus points for video).

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Guest blogging on other sites with high domain authority can also be a lucrative content strategy. Andy Beohar, Vice President at SevenAtoms, wrote this guest post for HubSpot that has since delivered tremendous ROI. By publishing well-written, value driven content with an actionable CTA, we were able to generate dozens of new leads and over 70 ebook downloads on our own site.

A couple other mega-ultra-important things: the agency should be skilled in lead generation, which is vital to pushing leads through your marketing funnel. They should also know how to measure and analyze all the work they do, so they can improve their results. Without analyzing the data, you’ll either hit a plateau, or worse, your numbers will start to plummet back down.

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When meeting with the agency, you should ask a few important questions such as “What are your areas of expertise?” or “Have you ever worked with clients in my industry before?” And as a followup question, “Can you show me how you’ve achieved success with those clients?” 

Once I figure out their services, is it time to sign on the dotted line?

Not at all. First, ask them about their plan of action. A reputable agency will be able to deliver a proposal or Statement of Work (SOW) that will clearly outline the details of their campaign and how they intend to boost business. If an agency tries to skip this step, it could be a red flag.

The purpose of the proposal is to ensure that the agency understands your business and has a solid plan to help you achieve your goals. Furthermore, it helps you to decide if their inbound marketing abilities are enough to actually move the needle. A good agency won’t be afraid to tell you which areas of your business need improvement. In fact, the proposal you receive should show that they are prioritizing those areas.

Be sure to ask the agency important questions like “Why have you chosen these strategies?”, “How will these strategies address problems A, B, and C?” and “Do you have a timeline for how long it will take you to achieve these goals?”

Even though they’re not in my industry, is the agency’s own inbound marketing success an important factor?

100% yes. You wouldn’t hire a pet-sitter who can’t keep their plants alive, would you? Alright, maybe that’s not the best example—I’ve had pets my whole life and yet I can’t seem to have a porch plant for more than a couple of weeks. But I digress…

An inbound marketing agency is supposed to be good at, you guessed it, inbound marketing. So it’s probably not the best sign if they’re not administering those practices for themselves. Root around their website a bit, beyond just the sales pages. Take a look at their social media, Calls-to-Action (CTA), and content. Do they have an active following? Do they have well-crafted and clear CTAs throughout their site? How often are they publishing new content?

Don’t be afraid to ask them to show you how they’ve used inbound marketing tactics to improve their own business. A great agency will be able to use themselves as proof of what they can do for you.

They say they’ve helped clients like me before. Do I just take their word for it?

Not quite. An agency worth its salt will provide detailed case studies to prove how they’ve impacted the success of those clients.

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In the example above, SevenAtoms’ provides a case study that shows exactly how we were able to increase the client’s sales qualified leads by 630 percent. In addition to proving our ability to impact the success of our current clients’ businesses, it tells new leads exactly how we did it and how those same strategies could be applied to their own campaigns.

Think about how you would prove yourself to one of your own potential clients. Would you ever expect them to take the offer without you first providing a little evidence of your skills? Case studies allow you to see exactly what the agency was able to achieve, how long it took, and what resources and strategies they used to get there. If they can’t show you exactly how they did it, it’s probably pretty unlikely that they’ll be able to repeat those results for your business.

What about client testimonials? Isn’t that enough?

Testimonials are great, but they only give you so much information. While a raving review is certainly promising, you need to know the numbers too. Make sure the agency juxtaposes client testimonials with the specific details that made their clients happy in the first place. What was fantastic for one client may not suit your own needs.

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Jeez Louise! This is a lot of information. Anything else I should know?

Two more things: project management skills and team members.

Project management: A quality inbound marketing agency will be able to handle most of the agenda on their own, at least once the dust has settled. They should make an effort to understand your needs, your target audience, and your business so that ultimately they can take the reins and keep the project moving without bugging you 24/7. However, this is not to say that they shouldn’t check in with you regularly to give you updates about your campaigns or to ask intelligent questions.

In order to help with this transfer of responsibility, be sure to give the agency access to all the elements they’ll need. For example, they’re going to need to use your social accounts, website editor, and your calendars. Put them in touch with members of your own team who can help with any questions or requests along the way.

Things to ask your potential inbound marketing agency: What will you need from me before we get started? What will you need from me on an ongoing basis? Do you use any project management platforms that I should have access to?

Team Members: It’s unlikely that the person or people you meet with will be the only ones working on your account. Be sure to ask to meet or speak with your account manager and find out who else will be on your team. You should never assume that all agency services are in-house. A number of agencies outsource certain efforts—such as graphic design or video creation—from a trusted partner, which isn’t a bad thing. However, you should always be aware of the skills and expertise of those you entrust with your business.

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Conclusion

Well, I hope we calmed most of your curiosities about how to choose an inbound marketing agency. Of course, we’re happy to answer any other questions you may have.

What’s that? You’re interested in working with SevenAtoms? Stop, you’re making me blush! Contact our team today to set up a free consultation and find out how we can help your business start increasing leads and maximizing ROI.

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