The Habits of Highly Effective Inbound Marketing Agencies

Architects, interior designers, landscape and design-build contractors eventually find themselves deciding whether or not to hire a marketing, firm. Who to hire, or fire for that matter should be based on results and return on investment. Evidence shows that shifting a marketing budget from traditional advertising to an inbound or content marketing strategy provides better results but the key to success lies in the skill set of the marketing firm you're considering. A telltale sign that your agency is committed to content marketing and an inbound approach is blogging. Do they blog? It's the most basic marketing tactic every agency should be doing weekly. 

Agencies come in all shapes and sizes, with different specialties and talents. The Hubspot e-book “11 Habits of Highly Effective Inbound Agencies” provides valuable information about what to look for, but in this post we’ll focus on a few key habits you’ll be able to identify before the agency even finishes its pitch.

Find a Marketing Firm that Provides the Right Service

While firms often highlight a specialty or two, any firm that asserts itself as an inbound agency must be able to do the following:

  • Generate website traffic through search engine optimization (SEO), blogging and social media sharing.
  • Develop the premium content needed to capitalize on that traffic by building landing pages and managing online lead-generation efforts.
  • Construct targeted lead-nurturing campaigns aimed at converting those leads into customers.
  • Offer analysis and measurement at every step in the process. Doing so on a regular basis will allow agencies to repeat successes and tune underachieving campaigns to get better results. 
  • Presents a clearly designed delivery process

Your potential marketing agency should be able to outline a strategy that clearly describes what it will do while also keeping your company’s goals in mind. Expect a timeline for each stage of the plan and a description of the resources needed along the way. Then make sure each component of the strategy makes sense. 

Conducts a goal-oriented sales process 

A good agency will open its presentation discussing your goals and challenges and follow with how they can help you. It should know which of its services are most compelling and point them out when providing answers to the business challenges you are facing. The agency should also ask about your timing and deadlines, if you have set any goals and how you will measure success. Getting answers to these critical questions at the outset will allow the agency to prescribe a plan unique to your business. David Ogilvy said, “If it doesn't sell, it isn't creative.” It's a good rule to consider when interviewing your next agency.

David Olgivy on Selling

Maintains a website optimized for inbound

The prospective agency will tell you how to change your website, but is the firm following its advice?

When in “hiring mode,” your trips to the agencies site are dominated by scouring the services and client testimonial pages. But take a step back from these pages and ask yourself, does the firm do the things it is proposing for me? Is the blog updated with the frequency the agency says I will have to? Are the employees active on social media? Can call-to-action buttons and premium content offers that convey thought leadership be found throughout the site?

A truly effective inbound marketing agency should be its best case study. Think twice about engaging with a firm that doesn't make the services it sells a priority for its own business.

Presents compelling case studies

Once the agency has made its pitch, you should ask if the agency has done this before, and if yes, can it replicate that success for me?

Any inbound agency that claims it can deliver a return on investment for you will be eager to show how it’s done it for others. Ask for client success stories early on. These testimonials should include not only glowing remarks from clients but also hard numbers and campaign strategies that summarize the impact of their work.

Showcases areas of focus

What is the prospective agency’s sweet spot? Maybe it’s done SEO for years and gotten phenomenal results. Has it worked with clients in your industry before? Or has it boosted Twitter followers and interaction to ABC’s Scandal levels? If it has a sweet spot, look to see if it aligns with your challenges and goals. 

Values Transparency

Transparent agencies make the client part of the team and get better outcomes for it. The agency you are considering should embrace transparency as a core value. This might not be a term mentioned specifically in the initial presentation, but the agency can show it is transparent by mentioning these business practices:

A regular meeting schedule should be discussed in the sales pitch. These meetings allow the agency a regular venue to raise questions and concerns as a project is progressing.

Agencies should be eager to train your people. The more you understand what is being done and why, the more you can partner with the agency and guide its efforts toward success.

Truly transparent inbound agencies will insist you have login credentials to the online marketing software it uses to run your campaigns. These accounts are loaded with data, and the agency should be comfortable with you walking around in their world. 

Most companies are short on the time and manpower needed to implement and execute key inbound tactics like blogging and social media. Fortunately, there are marketing agencies out there that specialize in the inbound methodology to help. Make sure it is a good strategic match for the type of goals and challenges you have, as well as your internal teams and ways of doing business.

About Michael Conway

I'm the owner and strategist at Means-of-Production. My firm builds Squarespace websites, Houzz profiles, and content marketing and advertising solutions for architects, interior designers, design-build contractors and landscape design firms. Our all-in-one marketing tactics attract the right clients with exceptional architectural photography and brand messaging that sets you apart from the competition.

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