Inbound Marketing is a powerful tool for helping businesses to attract qualified leads by sharing relevant, high-quality content. Strategic Inbound Marketing programs can help to grow businesses while enhancing expert positioning within a company’s respective industry. While the outcomes of a successful Inbound Marketing campaign can boost a business’ bottom line, consistently generating the right content and sharing it across the right channels requires organizations to invest significant time in program maintenance.
While some companies have the resources available to launch and sustain a content marketing program internally, others require the support of an inbound marketing agency. With an Inbound Marketing program being so closely tied to a business’ sales cycle, it is imperative to find the right agency to support the campaign. When considering whether or not to outsource any or all of your Inbound Marketing needs, pose these five ‘must ask’ questions of your prospective partner:
1. Have you worked with other companies in my industry? Was Inbound Marketing successful for them?
Understanding an Inbound Marketing agency’s skills and expertise is step one. Has the agency worked with other companies in your industry? Are they actively working with a similar company, one who may be perceived as a competitor? What types of work have they done for these companies?
Agencies that can demonstrate a track record of success within your industry are typically well-poised to work on your behalf. These folks bring to the table not just Inbound Marketing expertise, but industry familiarity and hands-on experience with the tools and tactics that typically work best for companies similar to your own.
2. How will the process of conceptualizing and launching my Inbound Marketing program work?
Effective client-agency relationships are built upon a foundation of collaboration. While the agency will take the lead on conducting research and setting up the mechanics of the Inbound Marketing program, the client possesses a wealth of intellectual property that would benefit the campaign.
Our approach to Inbound Marketing starts with a client discovery and brainstorming session where we dig deep to find out what makes the company and their clients tick. We use this intelligence as fodder for developing a comprehensive Inbound Marketing strategy that encompasses everything from blogging to lead nurturing and communicates with the identified buyer personas at various levels of the sales funnel. While our agency takes the lead on pulling together the roadmap that guides an Inbound Marketing campaign, we can’t work in a silo. If we propose a creative campaign that makes you cringe, tell us. If you think the strategy over-emphasizes one aspect of your business and under-sells another, please say something. All parties need to ‘buy-in’ to the shared vision of the campaign to lay a foundation for success.
3. Who will be responsible for creating and sharing the content?
Creating compelling content that resonates with a company’s client personas can be a shared responsibility. If your company has already written a whitepaper on a topic of interest, the agency can help with transforming this content into blog posts, social media marketing, and email marketing. If your company has a lot of great ideas for content but no time to put them on (electronic) paper, the agency can collect these insights and package them into the core components of an Inbound Marketing program.
Given the frequency at which Inbound Marketing content needs to be created and disseminated, it is imperative to have a clear understanding of which parties are responsible for various forms of content. Complementary to this from the client perspective is understanding how much of your time the agency will require to keep the program up and running. It is not uncommon that a greater investment of the client’s time is required on the front end as the first batches of content are being created and the strategy, conceived.
4. How will your agency interact with my sales team?
Since the chief goal of Inbound Marketing is to generate qualified leads, the interaction between an Inbound Marketing agency and a client’s sales team needs to be both strategic and fluid. When screening an agency, ask:
- How will leads be funneled to my sales team?
- What intelligence will be available to help my team hone their sales pitches?
- How often should we expect new leads?
- What should my sales team do with the leads they cultivate offline?
The clearer the communication between the client’s sales team and the Inbound Marketing agency, the more smoothly the campaign will run. Don’t be afraid to ask the agency to meet in-person with your sales team to give an overview of the process or schedule regular check-ins. All parties need to be comfortable with the channels and frequency of communication in order for the partnership to succeed.
5. How will I know if the campaign is working? What can be done to enhance the campaign if it isn’t achieving my objectives?
The beauty of Inbound Marketing is the ability to measure success. Beyond website analytics, the website traffic and social media engagement, there is an ability to measure the number of whitepaper and e-book downloads, number of times a lead revisits your website and how the lead is tracking through the sales funnel.
While more generic offers, referred to as top-of-the-funnel, may yield greater numbers of downloads, the folks who progress through a lead nurturing campaign and ultimately engage with a bottom-of-the-funnel offer are your company’s most qualified leads. This is an important expectation to set at the beginning of an Inbound Marketing campaign.
That said, all offers are not liquid gold. Some hit the mark right out of the gate and others take a bit of time to percolate. Before throwing in the towel on an offer, give it time to be promoted and shared. While additional offers can be created and new topics explored, it is important to give the first round of content time to work.
Once an appropriate amount of time has passed, the campaign can be evaluated and the content strategy, refined. If one genre of content is consistently generating leads that result in closed sales, it is worthwhile to allocate additional resources to this aspect of the campaign. Ask your prospective Inbound Marketing partner how often they will evaluate the campaign and what data will be used to inform a decision about whether or not to re-strategize.
Inbound Marketing is a valuable tool for helping businesses to strengthen the connection between their marketing and sales initiatives. By sharing intellectual property that builds trust among prospective clients, businesses can reap the rewards of a robust sales pipeline that is consistently being refilled with new leads.