At a time when marketing departments are reassessing strategies and adapting to the economic upheaval of a global pandemic that started 18 months ago, many CMOs are looking for ways to address marketing needs to generate and nurture leads, create the high-quality content needed, and yet work within a budget and work environment that require flexibility and a wide range of skills.
In this environment, adding to a full-time staff may not make sense, as it may be difficult to find a single individual with all of the skill sets needed to implement the strategy, and uncertainty makes it unwise and unfair to hire someone knowing you may need to cut that position if the recovery takes a turn.
This is one time when bringing in an experienced agency partner to power a shift to greater reliance on inbound marketing and online lead generation and conversion just makes sense.
Whether you have chosen HubSpot, a leader in integrating content management, inbound marketing, automated lead nurturing and CRM solutions, or another combination of services, now is the time to establish a solid inbound marketing program that fuels the current environment of greater reliance on web-based marketing and B2B purchasing decisions.
What skills are needed for effective inbound marketing?
A team tasked with implementing inbound marketing needs to include individuals who are adept at:
- Branding and strategy development
- Content creation (including writing, video production, graphic design)
- Content promotion and distribution (including social media)
- Website design and coding
- Marketing automation
- Data analysis
Do you currently have all of these skills represented in your in-house staff? Where are there gaps that you would need to fill to have all of the necessary resources to launch into complete integrated marketing campaigns focused on generating and converting inbound leads?
Why using an agency makes more sense than hiring
All of the skills listed above are essential for successful B2B inbound marketing, but it is unlikely you will find one individual who is adept at all of them. And you may not have the budget or need for multiple new hires to provide all of those skills on a full-time basis.
Instead, choosing a qualified agency partner can provide you with access to all of those skill sets, without the commitment, training time, and overhead expenses of a new hire.
Benefits of choosing an agency partner over hiring additional in-house staff include:
- There is little to no ramp-up or training time on the HubSpot system (your partner agency has experts who can guide your own in-house team).
- There is no need to reorganize your existing staff or take your best employees away from their current assignments.
- Goals and ROI are clearly defined with your partner agency.
- You have flexibility to adjust the contract as you go to increase or decrease the level of service.
Choosing the right agency, however, can take time and research. Agencies come in all sizes, often with specialties in serving specific industries or sizes of clients. But no matter whether you settle on a multi-national marketing behemoth or a boutique agency focused on personalized, prioritized service for every client, your agency partner should meet eight basic requirements.
1. Your inbound marketing partner agency should offer the right services.
There are four core services an inbound marketing agency should be able to provide for your marketing program: traffic generation, lead generation, lead nurturing and analysis.
Traffic generation is the first step in inbound marketing, and it requires an understanding of how content, SEO and promotion through channels ranging from social media to contributed articles in industry media bring visitors to your website.
Lead generation requires the creation of premium content and tools that capture leads. This level of content must offer website visitors enough value, conveyed through calls-to-action and landing pages, to entice them to convert to leads.
An inbound marketing agency should have experience in crafting targeted, relevant automated lead nurturing campaigns and workflow emails that continue to engage leads, move them through the sales funnel, and signal when they are qualified to move to sales.
Analysis of each campaign’s results is an essential step in refining and finetuning each successive campaign to improve performance and ROI.
2. An inbound marketing agency partner should have the tool, processes, staff and systems to get your strategy off to a quick start.
One of the key advantages to partnering with an experienced agency (or a certified HubSpot partner, if using HubSpot’s suite of marketing and sales solutions) is the access to a team that already knows the ropes in using the system, saving you time by allowing for the strategy to be implemented even as your in-house team is training.
Along with having the automation experts ready to get your inbound marketing strategy up and running on HubSpot or your chosen system, a full-service agency should be able to quickly deploy:
- Branding and marketing strategy development experts
- Experienced writers
- Talented graphic designers
- Video production professionals
- Content promotion and social media managers
- Website design and development pros
- Data analysis experts
- Public relations professionals
- Sales trainers
Even if you don’t need all of these resources at the beginning, by ensuring your chosen agency partner has access to provide when you do will keep implementation of your inbound marketing strategy smooth while allowing you to adjust as you go without having to search for a new partner for a specific aspect of the strategy, such as video production or website redesign.
3. Your inbound marketing partner agency should be goal oriented with a clearly defined delivery process.
Know before you sign on what you should anticipate from your partner in terms of timelines, communications and reporting.
A partner agency should work with you to set goals for your inbound marketing program that align with overall corporate goals and objectives. The agreement should include defined expectations, including timelines and resources needed for each step in the inbound marketing process.
While constant meetings can be a waste of time (yours and the time you are paying your partner agency to provide), there should be set expectations for regular check-ins, a quick response when you reach out to your agency partner, and two-way communication in which the agency staff feel empowered to seek information and feedback to do the best job possible for your company.
And while it may seem counter-intuitive, you should find an agency that isn’t afraid to tell you “No.” Their expertise and experience in inbound marketing may provide insights into which tools or channels are unlikely to benefit your brand.
4. Your partner agency should be able to provide the needed volume of high-quality content.
One of the biggest challenges of implementing inbound marketing is the need to develop both quality and quantity content in order to reach audiences and spur improved SEO for your website.
You should expect an agency to be able to provide content that:
- Matches your overall strategic goals and inbound marketing campaigns.
- Speaks directly to your customer personas and is personalized wherever possible.
- Highlights sound research and responsible sourcing and citations.
- Is free from grammatical and spelling errors, along with following your brand’s specific style, messaging and usage and meeting your industry’s standards.
- Is delivered on time and on target, every time.
5. Your inbound partner agency should thoroughly understand how to promote content effectively.
It isn’t enough to create the content. Especially if your company or brand is new to content marketing and inbound marketing, it is essential that your partner agency be able to develop the right channels for getting that content in front of the audiences you need to reach.
This means being fluent in:
- Social media (paid and organic)
- Thought leadership and media outreach
6. Your inbound marketing partner agency should emphasize lead conversion and nurturing.
Lots of marketers are great at generating traffic, but struggle to convert that traffic into leads. Some capture a lot of leads but lose those leads before they can become customers.
Inbound marketing agency professionals should understand how to nurture leads through the entire sales funnel by developing targeted lead nurturing workflows that leverage additional content to continue engagement with leads. They understand how to develop lead qualification criteria that indicate when a lead is ready to be transitioned to sales. And they provide the sales team with additional content and marketing collateral materials, as well as information about each lead gleaned through closed loop marketing and progressive forms, to improve sales conversion rates.
7. Your inbound marketing partner agency should analyze data to continually improve marketing tactics and document t ROI.
Proving the ROI of marketing activities is a key challenge CMOs face as they develop budget requests each year, and it is something your partner agency should be prepared to assist you with.
By tracking metrics on all content and channels, your agency should be able to review data to identify:
- The most effective channels in driving leads.
- The most effective channels in developing closed sales.
- Keywords or topics that drive the most traffic, leads and sales.
- Where gaps in your content or nurturing process are impacting conversion rates.
8. Your inbound marketing partner agency should provide reporting based on established goals and objectives.
This step actually requires upfront work at the very beginning of the process that many marketers—agency and brand managers alike—overlook, which is the importance of going into a strategy with a shared understanding of specific goals.
Your agency should “do the data-work” at the beginning to identify precise goals for traffic, lead generation and sales conversions, by working backward from corporate revenue and sales goals. The reporting provided should reflect how well the inbound marketing strategy worked to achieve those benchmarks, and should be ready to share with marketing management, sales management and the executive suite.
Choosing the right agency partner for your marketing team can be the boost that gets your inbound marketing strategy and implementation of automated solutions like HubSpot off to a great start.
Find more resources on choosing a partner agency, implementing HubSpot’s inbound marketing solutions, and getting the most from your relationship with an agency in these blog posts and downloadable resources:
- READ: How to Get The Best Results From Your Content Marketing Agency
- READ: Agency vs. In-House: Pros & Cons And How To Make The Most of Outsourcing
- DOWNLOAD: HubSpot Agency Checklist
- DOWNLOAD: HubSpot Implementation Timeline & Planning Template
If you’d like to chat about how JONES meets the eight criteria listed above, and what services you need from an inbound marketing partner, schedule a time on my calendar for a no-obligation consultation.