Effective inbound marketing often takes a village. And even with the brilliant minds in your marketing village, sometimes you need to call in reinforcements to make the magic happen.
A capable inbound marketing agency can provide support, expertise, new perspectives and resources. Those extra hands and minds can also help make the difference between campaign strategies that soar and ones that fall flat.
But finding the right agency that truly fits your organization’s goals and personality? That’s easier said than done.
The key is to ask questions—not only of your prospective partner, but also of yourself. That way, you gain clarity into your company and its goals, making it much easier to find an agency that hits the sweet spot.
To help you get started, here are some internal and external questions to ask.
Consider the capabilities
Does our organization or project require specific experience or industry knowledge?
Are there particular types of projects and/or industries that your agency specializes in?
If your company is set on finding an inbound marketing agency with experience in your particular industry, or with particular types of projects, that’s good information to keep in mind. But don’t narrow your options too early. Experienced marketing agencies cover the key capabilities and are quite adept at learning a variety of industries.
A red flag is if an agency says they can start producing content for you right away. An agency worth its salt will take the time first to learn about your industry, your brand, and your buyers, asking plenty of questions to ensure they have a deep understanding of how content pieces should sound and what purpose they should serve.
Good agencies know that you are the expert and it’s your perspective that matters, so it’s their job to pull that thought leadership from your team by interviewing the right people, putting the pieces together and making the content sing.
Preview the process
What are our expectations about working with an agency and what the day-to-day relationship will look like?
Walk us through your process — how do you work with new clients and manage the ongoing account relationship?
Whether you’ve worked with an agency before or this is your maiden voyage, it’s important to map out how the project will run along with the ins and outs of your working relationship. When reviewing their account management process, think about your priorities.
Consistent communication is essential for a successful working relationship, so it should be at the top of your list. Here are some key points to cover when discussing their style as well as your preferences:
- What is the standard communication plan and what can I expect to receive?
- How often would we meet?
- Who is my point person? (Tip: It’s also a good idea to get a sense of their experience and if it’s a good fit for your needs.)
- What's the best way to communicate with my contact — email, phone, text, Zoom?
Keep in mind that the agency needs your insight and perspective to guide and approve their work, so make sure you designate a point person from your company to lead and manage the relationship. That person should be committed to the role, with the bandwidth to cover off any questions, approvals, or hurdles that may arise. Being clear about what’s expected helps the partnership run smoothly.
You want to get an overall picture of their approach and understand roles on both sides, but also drill down to key project management tactics such as:
- Protocol and timelines for setting up interviews
- Production needs
- Revision and approval processes
- Technical needs
Having a clear process direction with specific tactics and designated roles means you both know what to expect—and that makes the project run like clockwork.
Ponder the proof
What examples do we need to see to feel confident of their abilities?
What examples can you share that showcase how you helped other accounts in this area?
Think about what’s most important for your project and then ask for examples of that type of work. Whether you want to make sure they’re savvy content marketers with SEO expertise, you need help with social media or simply seek some guidance on strategic direction and ideas, review what they’ve accomplished for other accounts.
The more concrete and tangible the examples are, the more you can relax and know you’re in good hands. Anybody can talk a good game, but the best way to be sure an agency can deliver is if they've delivered for someone else.
Bank on budget
How much can we invest in this partnership and what are our priorities?
How will you help us ensure the best ROI for my investment?
When thinking about budget, it’s easy to get caught up in the numbers and focus on what the partnership will cost. But be mindful that hiring an agency is an investment. So, go in with a clear understanding of what outcome you’re looking for rather than just focusing solely on figures.
A savvy marketing agency will understand your concerns and will be happy to provide you with data on how they’ve helped their other clients get a great ROI. Additionally, they’ll treat you as a partner, welcoming frequent discussions on how the budget can best be used.
Realize the results
What are our expectations for reporting and results?
How long do you anticipate it will take for us to see results?
Wanting to see the results and ROI are a given when working with an outside agency but be mindful that inbound marketing is a long-term play. Anyone who promises major results in anything less than six months is probably pulling a fast one. That’s not to say the agency won’t look for opportunities for “quick wins” for you, but any major shifts in website traffic and conversion rates will not be done overnight.
It’s key for an agency to hold regular reporting calls with their clients to discuss these results, analyze data, and then refine the marketing strategy as needed. An agency who sends you data but won’t meet to discuss it (or worse, doesn’t regularly send reports) is not an agency that has your best needs in mind.
Sync with software
Does the agency need to have in-depth experience with our platform?
What platforms are you familiar with?
Marketing automation technology helps implement and execute your inbound marketing strategy by aligning social media, blogs, email marketing and more. So, if you're not already thinking about a platform, an agency can help shepherd you through the process and educate you about platform options.
If you are already using a platform like HubSpot, ask potential agencies about the platforms they use. It’s not insurmountable if they aren’t an expert—the general principles of marketing automation are often similar and most agencies will at least have a working knowledge of the major platforms. But if you’re deciding between two agencies who seem perfect, but one knows your platform and the other doesn’t, that factor may be your tipping point.
Just like in the dating world, finding the right marketing match includes a certain amount of chemistry. So, listen to your gut when you’re asking these questions of your potential agency. Their responses are important, but also consider how they answer:
- How are they conducting themselves?
- How are they engaging with us?
- Is their style a good fit for us and our team?
- What is the vibe you’re getting from them?
- Will we enjoy working with this individual and this company?
You can get great results with any number of agencies but don’t overlook the importance of the relationship. Marketing can be hard work, but it’s much easier when you partner with an agency who’s on your wavelength. (If you laugh at each other’s jokes, that’s a good sign that you’ll enjoy working with these people.)
By asking some deep-dive questions of potential agencies and yourself, you can find an agency that checks all your requirement boxes, has the strategic chops and resources to deliver results and is someone who’ll become a trusted partner as you reach new levels of marketing success.