While implementing your inbound marketing strategy have you ever caught yourself thinking; where do I find time to develop all this content? Who are my core personas? How do I get marketing and sales to play ball? Or, which metrics are best?

If you have, don’t worry. Implementing an inbound approach requires meaningful commitment, and this commitment takes time – as well as a diverse skillset.

An inbound agency could be the game-changer that you’re looking for. The right agency can help you answer the pressing questions above, put your inbound strategy on the fast track and increase your bottom line.

The hard part is picking the right one for your business.

That's why we’ve developed The marketing professional’s guide to choosing the right inbound agency. The 6 lessons below will ensure you’re put on the path to inbound success.

1. Does the agency practice what they preach?

The first step is to assess an agency’s current inbound efforts. This is important because if they don't practice what they preach, they're not going to implement a strategy well on your behalf.

So where do you begin?

Start by reviewing their website and current content. Ask yourself, is their website visually appealing? Well-structured? Is it mobile responsive? Also, how often are they posting content? Do posts feature call-to-action buttons? Do they get mostly positive or negative comments on social media/their blog? Does their blog feature areas of expertise that are relevant to you?

During this process listen to your gut instinct. If, after reviewing an agency's website and content, you’re still unsure about them, listen to your instinct. Your first impression indicates whether their services are relevant to you, described well and/or whether their brand experience is an effective one.

If you’re happy to take things to the next level, sit down with them and ask the following:

  • Do they use personas in their inbound marketing strategies? If so, how?
  • How many marketing-qualified leads they get per month? How many did they plan for?
  • What is their process for managing leads through the sales cycle?
  • What is their process for producing quality content and who have they produced it for in the past?
  • What metrics they use to measure success, and why.

These questions should give you a good idea of the agency’s inbound experience and methodology.

2. Does the inbound agency understand your business?

Next, determine the level of experience the agency has with your industry. Industry experience is hugely valuable for a few reasons:

It lessens their industry and product or service learning curve, which speeds up your time to value
It means they have a track record of getting inbound results for a company that is similar to yours
In the b2b context, it usually means the agency is good at turning complex concepts relevant to your industry, into high-quality content that is read and understood by your audience.

Lastly, check out some of the content your agency has written for other businesses in your industry. Is it good quality? Does it show sufficient depth and understanding? Is it well-written and enjoyable to read? Does it look appealing and draw you in?

Content production is a big part of the agency’s remit, and, particularly in b2b, it can be tricky to get right. Make sure upfront that you’re shortlisting only the agencies that you’re convinced can write with authority about your product or service area.

3. Does your agency have a solid grasp on marketing and sales alignment?

The whole point of inbound marketing is to drive sales. An essential step in any successful marketing strategy is to ensure that marketing and sales are aligned. Aligning these two teams can increase annual revenue by 20%.

This requires creation of common goals, underpinned by clear agreement of who is responsible for what, by when.

Look for an agency that understands the importance of a sales and marketing SLA and, more importantly, knows how to create one. A successful plan will include agreements on:

  • Goals
  • Lead categories
  • Lead handovers
  • Sales process
  • Team KPIs

Secondly, determine whether the agency has a successful track record of integrating CRM and marketing automation tools. This is crucial to an alignment strategy as it makes everything visible to the two teams and clarifies who is doing what.

With this in mind ask the agency what software they would recommend, and why, and whether they have implemented an SLA between sales and marketing that lead to a successful integration.

4. Does your agency have a client onboarding process?

For an agency to implement an inbound strategy within a defined time-frame they will undoubtedly have a process in place. You need to determine how they assess, define, develop and ultimately implement an inbound marketing strategy.

In other words you have to assess their plan for you.

Wait, what?

Don’t worry this isn’t as difficult as you think.

The point is to understand how the agency delivers their services and creates results.

Simply, ask the agency to provide an overview of the onboarding and implementation process. Be on the watch out for agencies that overwhelm you with data. They should be able to explain the process concisely and even better, supply you with a simple diagram. If they can’t, it could be that they are not experienced enough to have a well-defined process.

5. Does your inbound agency understand the metrics?

One of the great things about inbound marketing is that everything can be measured through metrics. This means you can tell what’s working and what's not and tweak your efforts accordingly.

However, while there are a wealth of metrics at our disposal, it is about choosing the right metrics to measure specific goals, and these can vary depending on whether your goal is measuring top-of-funnel goals, middle-of-funnel goals or bottom-of-funnel goals.

Ask an agency when and why they tracked metrics such as: traffic growth, number of new leads, qualified leads, customer revenue, shortened sales cycles, improved margins, incremental revenue growth and/or return on marketing investment. Did it make sense to you? Was it answered in the framework of an inbound methodology?

Lastly, find out how the agency decides which metrics should be tracked, and also how regularly and in what forum metrics are reviewed during your engagement.

6. Do you have a strong working chemistry with your agency?

Last, but definitely not least, don’t underestimate the power of a strong working chemistry.

You want to ensure that you’re working as a team in an open and trusting way. Look for an agency that has authentic people that seem genuinely interested in your success, and is excited at the prospect of working with you.

Similarly, an attitude and communication style that matches the way you do business should be valued. Testing how an agency copes with a last minute change of meeting time, or a cheeky curve-ball challenge in a sales meeting situation is a good test of their ability to be courteous, professional and responsive.

Lastly, don’t be afraid to talk to some of the agency’s previous customers. These are the clients who have experienced the agency’s services well beyond the pitch. Did they think the agency was fine, great or completely awesome to work with? Was the agency reliable? Good at managing expectations? Goals? Budgets? What else would these clients say about the agency/client relationship as a whole?

Your choice of an inbound agency is an important decision. A good one can get you great competitive advantage in your industry in a very short space of time.

Brand chemistry is a b2b marketing agency winning your customers' hearts and minds through inbound, brand, content, lead generation and digital strategy. Our marketing specialists achieve stellar results with the latest lead generation techniques.

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