What Should You Ask Before You Hire an Inbound Marketing Agency?

8 min read

Hiring an Agency

So you’ve decided to hire a marketing agency. That's great! Now, let's find you the right agency for your business. You will want to consider culture, price and of course qualifications.

You might think of your options are black and white, right? I mean, all marketing agencies do the same thing, right? Marketing. I hate to break it to you, but there is a huge variety of agencies out there today. All of them have their specialties, and you need to understand what to ask them.

Do you want to hire a jack of all trades? Or a master of one? Maybe you’ve even considered hiring several different agencies who are each specialized in different areas. What are the differences?

Here are a few things to ask in your search.

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How Will You Incorporate Inbound Strategy Into My Website?

Since 87 percent of Americans are on the internet, your website is your biggest marketing tool. Also, A prospect has already moved through 80% of the sales process before reaching out to your sales team — so your website needs to do the heavy lifting! Any marketing agency should put your website at the forefront of a marketing strategy.

If you’re thinking, “But our website is great the way it is!” remember why you want to hire an agency. It’s probably to increase your site visitors, boost conversion rates, and grow revenue.

An excellent website is a key to these goals, and your marketing agency should have the skills to create your strategic website.

What is Your Process for Project Management? 

Hiring an inbound marketing agency doesn’t mean that you just reassign a bunch of tasks. A relationship with an inbound agency is a partnership — you’ll work together to make the best decisions for your company.

There is no right or wrong here but getting an idea of how they start working with you and how they complete ongoing work is important. There should be a defined process for success based on their success with other clients.

For example, we use this model:

Discovery

We'll deep-dive into your industry and business to see what's working, what isn't, and how we can help. We'll identify goals, clarify pain points, and provide tactical suggestions. We pride ourselves on being honest about the value we can provide: If we don't think we're a good fit together, then we will be honest and just tell you.

Inbound Audit

As HubSpot experts, we'll analyze your portal to identify holes and diagnose specific problems. Maybe you are hitting all of the inbound stops, but the results aren't reflecting your efforts. We’ll find the spots where your marketing and sales funnel is lacking to start defining solutions.

Marketing Strategy

We'll analyze your challenges, consider your goals, and study your target buyer personas. No matter your industry, we'll develop a detailed, comprehensive inbound marketing roadmap that works for you. It's clear and easy — we do all of the heavy lifting.

Proposal

Once we’ve determined where your problems lie and create your customized roadmap, we'll offer recommendations for our partnership. We don’t have a "one size fits all" option. Some partnerships are full-service, while some are simpler consultations. We’ll offer what we think works best to help achieve your goals.

Implementation

Once the plan's in place, we'll put your new inbound marketing strategy in motion. We'll fulfill on the details of our proposal. This includes an onboarding process, setting up and optimizing your portal, and creating blog posts and other premium content offers. Your goals guide every step we take.

Generate Leads

After your inbound foundation is in place and your marketing funnel is built, we’ll use the inbound methodology to generate leads by launching your first campaigns. We'll create and optimize content and premium offers, nurture leads throughout the customer lifecycle, and continually identify those ready for your sales team.

Monthly Reports

We think it's important to continually update you on our value to your company. We'll be transparent about what's going on with your marketing funnel and HubSpot portal. We'll provide comprehensive MOM growth reports, holding ourselves accountable to your goals.

Adapt Strategy

A marketing roadmap is never truly complete, and the inbound methodology includes endless revision and refinement. As we learn and analyze your data, we'll adapt your strategy to continue reaching and exceeding your goals.

Clearly, it’s crucial to hire a team that’s communicative, organized, and can offer new ideas. The agency should make your job and life easier — not more complicated. After asking this question, you can make some judgment based on how promptly they communicate with you and how organized their systems seem. 

How Often Will We Communicate? 


Let's be honest, the lack of communication can go both ways with an agency partnership. I have heard of account managers dodging client calls or clients waiting days to approve a blog post. Getting too busy happens from time to time but starting the relationship off right by outlining the frequency of communication is a very good idea.

For example, you might agree to meet weekly via video conference and communicate throughout the week by email.

Also, consider the type of communication tools you prefer. If you're like me, you have several emails, social media profiles, Slack channels, and phone numbers. It's important to pick one or two preferred forms of communication and stay consistent using them so you can stay on top of things.

How Do You Use Analytics to Improve My Strategy?

Creativity is one key to inbound marketing. But data, not gut, should drive every creative decision an inbound marketer makes. The best inbound marketing agencies use measurable numbers to make informed decisions.

How do you use analytics to improve my strategy?

This is the best approach for a few reasons:
It saves you money. Rather than paying an agency to run a bunch of random campaigns, you’re investing in marketing strategies that are grounded in facts — the most bang for your buck.
It proves your ROI. Without data, you’ll be in the dark regarding how your marketing budget is paying 
It gives you better results. More informed decisions lead to smarter campaigns, which bring in more leads and customers.

Analytics shouldn’t be an afterthought for the agency — rather, analytics should be the
backbone of their strategy. Instead of just measuring data at the end of a campaign, they should have a set process for analyzing past data to inform the campaign strategy. The numbers should be involved every step of the way.

Ask to see a former client’s monthly data report, or at least a template of the report. This will give you a glimpse at which metrics the agency prioritizes.
Here are some important metrics your agency should be tracking throughout the sales funnel.

  • Leads Waterfall
  • Traffic Waterfall
  • Average Lead Close Rate
  • Average Leads Per Business Day Month Over Month Growth
  • Leads Generated Per Offer
  • Landing Page New Contacts Rate
  • Call-to-Action Clickthrough Rate
  • Traffic-Driving Keywords

Tell Me About Your Culture 

It's just like hiring a new employee for your team. When considering an agency be sure to evaluate if their culture is what you're looking for with a partner. A potential employee may express and exhibit the characteristics, language, and values that exist within the current organizational culture or not.

Who Will We Be Working With? 

SparkReaction Inbound Conference

Ask questions about who will be working on your account. Ask to meet that person early on in the sales conversations. Also, ask about how many full-time employees they have and how many freelancers they hire. The part-time or freelance staff isn't a bad thing at all, but you do need to understand who is doing the actual work for you.

Who are your other clients?

Get an understanding of the size of their other clients. It's probably better to be one of the larger clients instead of the smallest. Either way, you want to fall into that agency's range of clients. If you're too small, you will get ignored. If you're too big, they may not be able to service you. 

Get Pricing Out of the Way Early 

If you know your budget is $3,000 per month you don't want to waste your time on an agency that has a minimum of $5,000. Most agencies have a range they work in with their clients. Our range is $2,000-$10,000 per month. Ask for that range in your first call with them to make sure your budget is aligned with their budget.

How Will You Understand Our Business?

It's easy for the agency to get to know you and your business. But are they willing to actually understand your customer? After all, they need to be focused on your customer, not you. How can they market to your customer if they don't dig into your personas? With that, I have to say; you need to let them understand your personas. We spend about eight strategy sessions when we first start working with a client to understand their buyer persona and develop a buyers journey.

Make sure they are willing to really dig into your business and understand your customer. It's the only way to truly drive sales.

How Do You Set Expectations? 

We have all heard the promise of getting you on the first page of Google. Or maybe the promise of increasing sales by 5,000%. Both of these claims are possible, but there are a lot of variables that are going into those numbers.

You’ve probably seen agencies charge for deliverables: chunks of content that they deliver on a monthly basis. This model works for some businesses who need predictability and consistency — who are fine with the same strategy executed each month.

This model is gradually being replaced, however, as people realize there’s no magic formula for inbound success.

In other words, X number of blogs × Y number of landing pages × Z number of nurture emails does not necessarily equal XYZ number of customers.            

In reality, your business and its ideal strategy is a much more complex algebraic problem.

Throw in an X and a Y, and it’s easy to handle. But, once you start throwing in the whole alphabet, you’re opening up a Pandora’s box of unpredictability.

What’s more — your needs change month by month. If you’re tied to a set of deliverables, you can’t adapt to changing needs. As you move into the future, you’re stuck in a framework you determined in the past.

What’s the solution to unpredictability? If you’re truly adhering to the inbound marketing methodology, you know you must continually improve your strategy. That’s why a results- driven model is what companies are now choosing for their inbound partnerships.

A results-driven model, you pay for marketing results, not deliverables themselves.

Instead of a slew of deliverables (like a blog post, premium content, and landing page), a results-driven model works with a standard monthly price, and within that price point, you get whatever inbound elements are necessary to meet goals for the month.

In one month this could be two eBooks, and in the next month, it could be a handful of nurture workflows. You’re not tied to a rigid agreement that doesn’t work all the time. You put trust in your inbound agency to decide which tactics will meet your goals. And, of course, you get a seat at the table when these strategic decisions are made.

If you’d like to take care of the strategy yourself and you just want predictable monthly deliverables, go for an agency with a deliverables model. If you want to see results by letting a partner call the shots on how to get there, opt for a results-driven model instead.

Hiring an agency is a big move for your business’ bottom line. You’ll attract more leads, convert better leads, grow brand loyalty, educate your customers, simplify your strategies and improve your outreach... Phew! All while saving yourself time and stress.