Choosing the right inbound marketing agency 

How to save money, keep it simple & avoid the pitfalls when hiring a inbound marketing agency

I like to think I’m well-versed in all aspects of digital marketing, but my career has taken a turn over the last several years. I’ve immersed myself in the inbound marketing industry. After years of dabbling in all different types of online and traditional marketing, I’ve seen a drastic shift in the way consumers behave.

Consumers want to be in the driver’s seat. They want to be educated, empowered and valued. They want to find the information they’re looking for when it’s convenient for them. They expect businesses to deliver them the exact content they want, in the manner they prefer. I believe in the power of inbound marketing because it’s what today’s consumers want. They don’t want to be sold to, and inbound marketing is the essence of permission-based marketing. You’re giving your target audience what they want when they want it. What could be more effective than that?

Who’s this guide for? Anyone looking to find a graphic design agency and wants to know the pitfalls and problems that can occur.

What is inbound marketing?

Inbound marketing is the practice of strategically creating and distributing content to attract your customers. It’s creating the type of information and content your consumers want and putting it where they are going to find it. It’s a long-term approach and requires a deep understanding of who your customers are, and where they are along their buying journey and cycle. You need to uncover what these people want from you and find a way to give it to them. Inbound marketing is all about providing people with value before they ever spend a penny with you. This valuable content is what pulls them in, and starts them down the journey of becoming a paid customer.

When is inbound marketing used and why?

Many companies today prioritise inbound marketing. This type of strategy is typically used when businesses reach the point of no longer wanting to chase business and truly understand how today’s consumers want to be marketed to. Once businesses have the ah-ha moment of getting their customers and the value of relationship building, inbound marketing becomes a clear choice. Most of my clients are established businesses that have remained small and are ready to invest in growth.

Why is choosing the right inbound marketing agency so difficult?

It’s difficult because inbound marketing relies on knowing what your target market genuinely finds valuable. You know your business better than anyone. How can someone else swoop in and suddenly understand what your audience wants? The truth is, they can’t. To understand what your ideal customers want from you, the inbound marketing expert must invest the time to get to know you, your brand and your customer. It’s not something that can happen in a day. It’s an involved partnership, and both sides need to be fully committed. Unless you hire an expert who truly cares about your business, they may not put in the upfront work required.

Why is inbound marketing so important for a SME?

The number one reason it’s so important is because it’s what consumers want. Think about your own buying habits. When you want to make a purchase, where do you start? Are your actions driven by the last television commercial you saw? Absolutely not. Those days are gone. You probably grab your smartphone or laptop and search on Google or even Pinterest. You are looking for specific information, and you expect the businesses to provide you with that information, within seconds of you deciding you want it. When you come across the content you were looking for, you’re completely absorbed into what this company is saying, and you’re suddenly heading down their inbound marketing funnel without even realising it. That’s the beauty of inbound marketing — because you’re giving your customers what they want, they don’t even notice they’re being sold to.

Inbound marketing questions that can help

  • What are the best ways to save money?

    The best way to save money, in my experience, is to create a lot of the actual content yourself. When it comes to strategizing, customer profiling, researching, distributing, etc., you don’t want to cut any corners. But once the plan is created, you could easily do some of the blogging, newsletters or videos yourself. If you’re confident in your writing and ability to connect with your customers, this is the area where you can help the team and save some cash.
  • Which areas should I be aware off that take the most amount of time?

One of the most difficult aspects of inbound marketing is the time and money you will invest upfront. The beginning stages can move very slowly, depending on many factors. But, it’s crucial to put in the time to ensure the strategy you create will be an effective one. Once you get through the initial stages and finally have content to start distributing, it’s normal to take six months before realising any return, so you need to be prepared for that. Once you get that content created, you must do the work to get it in front of people. It’s a slow process, but once you’re up and running with a plan to follow, the hardest part is behind you.

  • What should I do first to make sure I pick the right digital partner?

The most important thing is finding someone who truly gets your brand and is willing to invest the time to get it right. You want to find someone who has proven abilities to create and implement the full scope of inbound marketing. But it also needs to be someone you can connect with on a personal level. This may seem like an odd statement, but if you don’t click on a personal level with your inbound marketing specialist, you are going to have issues. This person is going to become an extension of your business, so it’s crucial you have a good relationship.

  • How much should I spend and on what?

This is a difficult question to answer. This is going to be different for every business and will be dependent upon your customers and business needs. For example, many companies will have a weekly blog post, a weekly newsletter, daily social media postings, and email marketing sales funnels happening in the background. This is often priced by the package, not the individual item. Inbound marketing has so many moving parts, so it’s impossible to itemise it. You can’t get any benefits from your blog if you’re not distributing it.

  • What can I do myself, if any?

As mentioned earlier, one of the main ways to save money is to create the written or visual content yourself. I have worked with many clients who prefer to do it this way, both to save money and simply because they love writing. If writing isn’t your strong point, you will want to leave this in the hands of the experts.

  • What are the signs that my digital partner is ripping me off?

Missing deadlines is a huge one, and failing to invest the time upfront for customer profiling and research is a major red flag as well. Initially, there will be a huge amount of work that requires a lot of time from both the specialist and business owner. There will be spreadsheets and forms going back and forth, with deadlines for both sides. If your expert isn’t doing the initial homework, or isn’t meeting the deadlines, I would be worried.

The main pitfalls and problems – before you hire a inbound marketing agency

1

Investing in inbound marketing because you need new clients NOW

This is something I tell every single client upfront. If you need a new customer tomorrow or your business is going under, this is not the right strategy for you. Inbound marketing is ideal when you’re ready to invest in the long-term success of your business through relationship building and value-based marketing.

2

Expecting the inbound marketing specialist to do ALL the work

While this sounds great, it’s just not realistic. If you don’t have the time to invest in a partnership, this isn’t going to work. Eventually, your specialist will be able to forge ahead without you, but initially this won’t be the case. You must make the time for this to be successful.

3

Ignoring the expert’s advice because you want to save money

Inbound marketing is like a puzzle. Everything fits together beautifully into a single result, but even one missing piece can totally derail everything. If your specialist has put together an overall strategy that comprises of many small pieces, don’t try to pick it apart to save a few dollars.

If you’ve ever gotten a traditional or digital marketing proposal, you know exactly what I mean. With paid advertising, you can often simply remove some of the pieces to cut down on cost. With inbound marketing, it’s not that simple. Removing one thing can often drastically reduce the efficacy of something else. If your expert is telling you this, make sure you listen.

Golden Rules – before you hire a inbound marketing agency

Before you hire a inbound marketing agency you must remember to follow a few golden rules.

1

Be prepared to spend money for six months without realising a return

This can be hard to wrap your head around, but you must realise this is typically the case. Some businesses will see a return much more quickly, but six months is the norm. A major component of many inbound marketing strategies will be blogging and email marketing.

You are using your blog to capture email addresses, which will then start their way down your sales funnel. It can take months of nurturing leads before they are ready to buy. Some of them will never buy, and will just enjoy your free stuff. You must be prepared for the natural course that inbound marketing takes.

2

Be prepared to feel overwhelmed

It’s often surprising how much has to be done, just to get a blog and sales funnel off the ground. Especially when you how many pieces come together to create and implement this one plan. You may feel like hiding under your desk and giving up. Don’t worry. This is normal, and it’s why you’re hiring an expert to help you through it. Eventually, it won’t feel like a different language, and you’ll start to see how it all comes together.

3

Be prepared to feel like it isn’t working

It can be extremely difficult to stay motivated month after month when you feel like you’re not getting anything out. This is normal. These are thoughts you just need to push through and remind yourself it’s ok for it to take time. For example, it can be disheartening to look at your first blog results and see that only six different people viewed it. Month after month this will grow, but only if you keep working at it.

4

Be prepared to get back on the horse when you have fallen off

This is an inevitable part of any long-term strategy that’s being implemented. You may have a bad week where you’re sick, or something out of your control is happening. If you must take a week off from working with your inbound marketing specialist, it’s ok. It’s not ideal, but it’s not going to derail your entire project. If you have a bad week or two, know that this is fine and get going again as soon as you can.

5

Be prepared to make changes to the initial plan

Part of any marketing involves a level of trial and error, and inbound marketing is no different. When the initial work is happening with customer profiling and research gathering, some of the decisions your inbound specialist makes will rely on experience and assumptions. Thankfully, this is what we have analytics for. You may find something isn’t working, and it will have to be changed. For example, you might notice that no one is responding to your written content, but your video content is exploding.

As you see results, this is your opportunity to make changes for the better. It’s easy to get stuck in your initial strategy, but it’s crucial to monitor the reporting and make changes when you can see something isn’t working. It’s not a failure; it’s just par for the course.

6

Understand that contact information is currency in the world of inbound marketing

This is something that many people seem to forget. They’re pumping out blogs and social media posts ten times a day, yet they are not collecting contact information of the people absorbing their content. How can you possibly have long-term relationships with potential customers, or get them down your sales funnel, if you’re not collecting their email addresses? A solid inbound marketing strategy will always include list-building, for this reason.

As you see results, this is your opportunity to make changes for the better. It’s easy to get stuck in your initial strategy, but it’s crucial to monitor the reporting and make changes when you can see something isn’t working. It’s not a failure; it’s just par for the course.

7

People will not give their email addresses away for free

Now, I mentioned above that email addresses are currency, and I really do mean this. People guard their email addresses very closely today, and they will not hand them over unless there is something they perceive as valuable being offered in exchange. It’s essential that you are offering huge value to your audience before they ever hand you their credit card. This valuable and free offering will vary based on your business, but it’s important that every business has a strong and persistent list-building strategy within their overall inbound marketing plan.