In a previous post, we discussed whether you should recruit internally, or hire an inbound agency to manage your marketing.
But, if you do hire an agency, how do you know they have the right skill sets or are the right fit for you?
In this post, we look at who makes up an inbound marketing agency dream team, and how to spot them.
Attempting any marketing activity without a clear strategy is like watching young children learning to play football. The kids all chase after the ball without thinking about where the game will go next, and adjusting their positions accordingly. They lack the experience to develop a clear strategy and think beyond their next touch.
A strategic analyst takes an overarching, analytical view, helps you to determine your inbound strategy from the outset, and checks in on your strategic direction, ensuring that outcomes are aligned with your goals and timelines for the month, quarter and year.
They never take their eye off the ball.
They are likely to be a senior member of the agency staff, with many years experience at a management or director level, with the other members of the inbound team as their direct reports. They set workloads, monitor deadlines and ensure maximum efficiency is achieved by your agency team.
Without this strategic overview, it is likely your agency will lack direction, focus and probably over-promise and under-achieve.
Inbound Marketing Consultant
The inbound marketing consultant (IMC) needs to be a unicorn - a multi-talented employee with a wide skill set. They will be your primary point of contact at the agency on a day-to-day basis and will play a vital role in turning your strategy into action.
IMCs work closely with the strategic analyst and are involved in weekly, monthly and quarterly planning. They need a granular view of what each team member is working on and when, so they can communicate progress to you, and manage your expectations against your goals and timelines.
Many agencies have adopted an agile scrum approach to delivering inbound. Your IMC, in an agile context, is also likely to also be the scrum master. The IMC must be able to jump in to remove obstacles that stand in the team's way of meeting deadlines, by reallocating work, looking for capacity and ensuring that the sprint's tasks are delivered.
They know how to get the best from the team, stay calm under pressure, and simply put - get sh#t done!
Like the account managers of old, they are the glue that holds the team together and keeps them moving forward in the same direction. If you have multiple points of contact within your agency, it can lead to confusion, inefficiencies and internal conflict.
If content is the fuel of inbound, then content writers are the chief engineers. The inbound machine cannot work without them. Crafting good quality inbound content take deep specialist knowledge, and time. For this reason, many companies choose to write their own content. But, while you may be an expert in your industry sector - are you also a qualified writer with years of experience under your belt?
A good content writer does more than produce copy; they are masters of optimisation and keyword research. They can take your industry knowledge and craft it into a flawless blog post, rich in keywords and optimised for search. They know the right questions to ask and will dig deep into a technical subject, always with your buyer personas in mind.
Your content writers (it's likely there is more than one) are also involved from the outset in setting out the inbound strategy. They will manage your blog schedule, provide copy for your landing pages, thank you pages and emails and even craft the text for the CTAs.
This is not work that you should attempt on your own.
Inbound Website Designer
Web design is by no means the be-all and end-all of achieving inbound greatness, and it should never be your prime focus. But, design for inbound matters. Your website, as it always has been, is your shop window. It needs to be enticing and inviting, or people will just pass on by. But, it doesn't need to be a CGI masterpiece.
The key differences between an inbound and a traditional website are content and calls to action, and how easy they are to find, interpret and access. A landing page, for example, is the gateway to your content. It has one job - to convert visitors into leads. If the design is confusing or not enticing, it will fail.
Ask your potential inbound agency to provide examples of websites they have designed. If the design includes any of these four inbound website design faux pas, they may not be the best choice.
Inbound Website Developer
There are two types of website development, rather unceremoniously referred to as front-end and back-end. To tackle inbound in earnest, it is likely your agency partner will build all websites on a marketing software platform such as HubSpot.
HubSpot provides the 'back-end', as it were, by employing the engineers, designers, product managers, and UX researchers for you, you just reap the benefits.
But, your inbound agency will still need a front-end developer.
A front-end developer takes the visual designs created by the web designer and turns them into website pages within HubSpot; using HTML code for the structure of the site, and CSS code to dictate the visual styles and layout.
Front-end developers are masters at problem-solving. Not only do they code the web pages, but they also fix any errors or bugs that may crop up over time, and as websites are constantly evolving, so must their knowledge and understanding.
To tell if your inbound agency understands website development, check their credentials. Do they have an in-house front-end web developer? In the days where websites were essentially online brochures, outsourcing web development work was fairly common practice. But your inbound website is a living entity and it needs constant, consistent attention. A qualified and experienced in-house front-end developer is a must.
Like the IMC, inbound coordinators are multi-talented and highly skilled.
They ensure your workflows flow, your emails nurture and your web pages are found on Google. Using tools like SEMRush and Google Analytics they drill down to the minute detail and make sure everything runs like clockwork.
The inbound coordinator is also often the social buff of the agency. While you may argue that, if doing inbound correctly, well-optimised content will be found by those looking for the information you share, it is still important to leverage social networks to improve your reach.
An inbound coordinator has the skills and experience to manage your social for you. Using social media monitoring tools, they find out where your potential customers hang out online, what time of day are they checking their channels, and what type of message resonates with them.
Look to the agency's social channels to see how they stack up. If they are not active in their own social spaces, or their feed is littered with social no-no's, you should not trust them with yours.
This post outlines the key people you need on your agency team to deliver inbound efficiently. If you would like more advice on choosing the right agency for your business, this previous post may be useful.
Ultimately, like most things in life, your choice will come down to gut feel. Take your time, meet the agency staff at their offices, see their set up, ask questions.
If the agency is true to inbound, they will always be willing to help.