How to choose the right inbound marketing agency

Written by Keith Errington  |  26, January, 2016  |  0 Comments  Subscribe

DoorsBlue440x330RevSo we’re an inbound agency – what are we doing writing a post on how to choose one? How does that work?

Well, core to the inbound philosophy is the creation of useful content – unbiased, helpful content to support those that might be researching what you do. So it makes perfect sense for us to write an article helping you to choose the right inbound marketing agency (it’s called ‘practise what you preach’ and you will find it under the fourth heading below).

What relationship do you want with your agency?

Before we look at the other factors, one of the first things you should consider when choosing an agency, is to think about what sort of relationship you want. Do you want to do most of the content creation and management in-house with help from the agency, or do you want them to do most of the work? Or somewhere between these two approaches. If it’s the latter, then you will need to check that the agency has a sufficiently large team of content writers to create all the content you are likely to need.

If you are looking to create some – or all – the content yourselves, is the agency happy with that, do they offer training and can they support you?

Are they specialised?

One key factor to consider is whether the agency specialises in Inbound Marketing or whether they are a general marketing agency with an interest in inbound. Given the unique nature of inbound and the difference in its approach, an agency with a clear focus on inbound will definitely be a better choice.

Do they understand your business?

This is another key factor – do they understand your business, your products and services, your market? It’s not so important that they have previous experience with a client exactly like you, but that they ‘get’ your business within the first meeting. Do they ask questions? Do they follow up with further questions that demonstrate understanding?

What is their own marketing like – do they practise what they preach?

Do they practise inbound marketing? Do they have a regular, frequently updated blog and are they helpful in their blog posts? Do they offer eBooks and other content offers via landing pages and effective calls to action?

And can they back up their activity with some kind of accreditation or proof of their ability? Many marketing software systems such as HubSpot offer certification courses for agency staff – check that agencies have these for key personnel.

Values, Philosophy & Culture

You will find dozens of agencies that offer inbound, so one of the key differentiators might be their approach – their personality. What are their values? What is their philosophy? Do you think they are a good fit for your organisation’s values and approach? Try and get a feel for their culture – the buzz around the office – does it seem healthy and energetic?

Who will be handling your business?

Again, it is vitally important that you get along with whoever is handling you, and you have faith in them. I don’t think they necessarily need to be the most senior person in the agency, or the most experienced, they just need to listen, take care of your concerns, and be the means by which the right activity gets delivered on time.

Track record

Do they have a track record in inbound? What other clients have they helped? Do they have case studies, recommendations and active clients? You should be able to find examples of their output for other clients – blog posts, eBooks etc.

What inbound software do they use?

If you have a preference for a particular inbound software system – like HubSpot for example, then it’s clearly important that your agency uses the same software. In the case of HubSpot, you would want to look for a HubSpot partner.

If you are not concerned about a particular inbound software system, then you can choose more widely, but make sure you have a good look at the system they use and recommend. You need to be happy with its functions and abilities – ask for a run through – this will also allow you to gauge how familiar they are with that same software.

Process, reporting and accountability

Do they have a clear process? What reporting do they offer? How will they hold themselves accountable, over what time periods? Bear in mind that inbound is not a quick fix – it takes time to work its magic – but over time it becomes a very effective marketing tool. So don’t expect results straight away – a good agency should explain this and give you some idea of the expected timeframe for meaningful results.

Do you like them?

This might seem a bit flippant, but actually, it is probably the most important factor of all. You have to feel comfortable with your agency, you have to trust them, believe them, like them. If you feel uncomfortable or uneasy when dealing with them – then don’t deal with them. Find another agency.

Price – they won't be cheap

This last point is where I may get a little controversial. Good inbound marketing takes time and expertise, if the agency you are looking at seems cheap, then it is unlikely that they will deliver a sustained quality service. As far as content is concerned, quality is more important than quantity – if the quality of posts is low and optimisation is heavy-handed, then search engines like Google may penalise you for it. If calls-to-action are weak, they will get little response, and if eBooks do not offer value, they will not lead to the desired result.

Basically, if you want the right inbound marketing agency, then you want a good inbound marketing agency, and they will not be cheap.

Given the rise of inbound marketing, you'll find there are now a good number of agencies offering inbound services to help your business get found by the people looking for the things you do; this checklist will help you choose the one that’s right for you. 

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Topics: Inbound Marketing

Keith Errington

Written by Keith Errington

Keith has a unique mix of talents and experience in marketing and communications. He writes regularly for the Equinet blog on marketing, social media, and strategy.