Sophisticated and well-executed marketing strategies should be a core objective for any growth-focused business. Yet it's not always easy to accurately measure the efficacy of marketing tactics. Additionally, even strategies that do show early promise can plateau or become ineffective as a business scales.
Choosing the right inbound marketing agency is perhaps the best way to ensure that the right strategies for growth and accelerated sales are in place. An experienced agency committed to innovative inbound marketing principles can help ensure that your targets and key metrics are reached -- without breaking the budget.
Finding an exceptional agency, however, isn't a given. To help guide you through that process, let's take a closer look at some of the key attributes and commonalties shared by the most successful and highly-regarded inbound marketing agencies and some steps you can take to evaluate them.
A well-defined track record of success
Here's the thing about marketing agencies: Even the mediocre ones can sound awfully convincing when making their pitch. After all, marketing is their business.
Yet a clever pitch is just that and nothing more; it doesn't tell you about the DNA of the firm: Their history, numbers, clients, vision and -- most importantly -- track record. Choosing a marketing partner isn't like picking a stock; past performance just about guarantees future results.
To ensure you're on the right path, vet any prospective partner's track record. Review past and current work, consider any awards they've earned and clients with which they've worked.
Do they position themselves as a partner or a vendor?
This is no minor distinction -- it gets at the very nature of your relationship. Partners are invested in your success, while vendors are merely delivering a service and hoping to keep you satisfied.
In practice, this distinction can make a profound difference. A vendor will fill your request; a partner will find out precisely why that request needs to be filled and work to improve the process, offering feedback when necessary. Generally speaking, vendors are reactive, while partners will anticipate your needs and go beyond what's merely required.
By choosing a firm that's a partner rather than a vendor, you're setting the table for a deeper and longer-term relationship, and one that will be mutually beneficial.
Do they follow an agile methodology?
The benefits of an agile approach aren't limited to software development -- or any industry for that matter. An agile methodology - which emphasizes collaboration, self organization and continuous improvement -- is deeply relevant in the world of inbound marketing.
Choosing a firm committed to agile principles can help you achieve faster and better results with less waste. This can also provide you with a competitive edge, as many inbound marketing firms have been slow to adapt and have failed to integrate agile or lean methodologies.
Find an agency that does, and you'll know that you have a partner that's moving in an innovative direction.
Are they data driven?
An inbound marketing firm that doesn't emphasize data analysis is a firm on the fast road to obsolescence. These days, data-fueled insights are absolutely critical in terms of connecting with an audience.
Whether you're targeting consumers or the B2B market, prospects want compelling and deeply relevant marketing content. Without the skilled deployment of data analysis, it's impossible to deliver the kind of highly-targeted messages that convert.
Are they goal oriented?
The use of smaller, well-defined goals is the best way to ensure that you're accurately implementing a comprehensive marketing strategy. These goals should be specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely.
Is the inbound marketing firm you're considering committed to setting, tracking and achieving goals? If not then move along, as this is a sign that the agency is unwilling or unable to help you establish key goals and metrics and then transparently evaluate your progress periodically.
Do they provide customized or one-size-fits-all solutions?
Here's the truth: A one-size-fits-all approach to marketing is hopelessly outdated. Audiences, whether consumer or business, crave highly relevant, personalized experiences.
The same holds true for businesses seeking inbound marketing strategies. An optimal strategy is one that is data-driven and specifically tailored to fit your needs and the needs and tastes of your audience. Your agency must know your business at a cellular level and be able to communicate that knowledge to your audience in a compelling fashion.
Making an evaluation
Agencies that demonstrate the characteristics outlined above are more likely to deliver the efficient and effective marketing strategies that businesses need to scale. Once you've explored questions such as these, it's time for the next part of the process: An evaluation of how the agency operates.
To help you make this assessment, we suggest pursuing the following actions:
- Dig deep into an agency's processes. Don't just take their word for it -- really take the time to rigorously explore how your prospective agencies work and the philosophies that guide them. Do the have the processes in place to support your company's growth over the long term?
- Insist on technical know how. This is a key differentiator between inbound marketing firms. Agencies that are capable of deploying advanced data analytics and other technological tools can help you earn a competitive edge.
- Understand how they deliver and prove results. Always demand clarity and transparency in terms of promised goals and deliverables. Don't settle for asking what they'll do -- find out how they'll do it and how they plan to measure efficacy.
- Look for the right cultural fit. The right inbound marketing agency should hold the potential for a long-term partnership. If your corporate cultures are at odds, it will require bandwidth that you can't necessarily afford to spare to reconcile them.
The right inbound marketing agency can help you quickly expand your business or break through periods of stalled growth. Consider all of the attributes or actions outlined above when hiring your next marketing partner.