We're all acquainted with the phrase: "You get what you pay for." In many ways, it's a bit of a meaningless one. After all, you can pay over the odds for a sub-par product or service or, on the other hand, land a complete bargain.
It's likely that your agency charges you on a retainer basis. For instance, you pay £X a month and, in return, they do XYZ, which generally amounts to an estimated number of hours of work. This might include writing and publishing blog posts, sending out email campaigns, creating eBooks and other cornerstone content, optimising your website, and so on.
Lots of agencies offer this kind of pricing. But you need to dig a little deeper.
For instance, one agency might take two hours to write a blog post, while the other takes three. On this basis, the former seems like the better option – otherwise you're just paying for the inefficiencies of the latter. However, the first agency may be writing formulaically, while the second is taking the time to fully get to grips with the subject matter; to ensure the post is targeting exactly the right audience. In other words, the second agency is delivering more value.
Of course, there's a balancing act here. It's no good partnering with an agency that produces brilliant content but overlabours on projects, misses deadlines, and simply doesn't gain the traction you need to power up your marketing efforts.
Nevertheless, your focus should be on output. What do you want to achieve through partnering with your agency and are they delivering to these expectations? Are they producing high-quality work that fulfils the inbound and content marketing plan they have devised with you? Ultimately, is your agency prepared and willing to go the extra mile to help you connect with your future customers, and fulfill your business goals?
What's the ROI?
It's notoriously difficult for marketers to prove their ROI. If that sounds like an excuse to skirt around the point, it's not. According to HubSpot's 2016 State of Inbound report, 43 per cent of respondents said that proving the ROI of their marketing activities is a top challenge.
However, there are numerous metrics you can draw on to determine the ROI of your partnership. For instance, how many leads is your agency helping to generate? And are they the right leads, which fit with your buyer personas?
To help you understand the progress you are making, your agency should report back to you regularly – for example, on a monthly basis. Using analytics tools, they should be able to show you several key metrics, including:
The number of:
Visitors to your website
Blog post views
Landing page conversion rates
The more information you have at your disposal, the easier it is to ascertain whether you are getting the value you seek. And this way, there's no smoke and mirrors. If the metrics are poor, your partner needs to tell you why – and, more importantly, exactly what they're going to do to improve them.
How does your agency overcome obstacles?
While you want your relationship with your inbound and content marketing agency to progress as smoothly as possible, real life tends to have other ideas. But how your agency deals with these setbacks when they occur is the true test of the value the provide.
Does your partner move to resolve issues quickly? Are their lines of communication always open to you? Are they proactive about suggesting alternative courses of action? The best agencies will always be striving to offer you the best service possible and to achieve the outcomes you desire.
Defining value is a complex process and there is no definitive answer. When it comes to judging whether you're getting value from your inbound and content marketing agency, it comes down to determining whether they are creating work that supports your marketing and wider business goals, evidence of ROI, and their ability to stay on track even when things go wrong.