The Inbound Marketing Agency at High Noon

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The Inbound Marketing Agency at High Noon

 

Three years ago Paul Roetzer, from inbound marketing agency PR 20/20, wrote a great post on The Dawn of the Inbound Marketing Agency. What's happened in the ensuing years and how have those trends shaped the inbound marketing agency of today? At high noon, where are we going and how have we adapted to the changing economy, technology and social business?

inbound marketing agency at high noonIn his article, Paul predicted accurately that the PR industry, and marketing as a whole, would be transformed by a consumer revolution that rejected mass marketing techniques and embraced permission-based inbound marketing. Who could have predicted how quickly social media has become a pervasive force in business as well as personal communication? Thanks in large part to the content marketing efforts of HubSpot and some early adopters such as PR 20/20 and Kuno Creative, inbound marketing has become a well-known, increasingly accepted norm for brand building and lead generation. According to Marketing Sherpa, in 2011 B2B companies are increasing their marketing budgets for website (re)design, social media marketing, webinars, SEO and e-mail marketing far and above all other techniques.

In response to these trends, a large number of inbound marketing agencies have sprouted up in recent years, either as startup concerns or by transformation from traditional PR/marketing agencies. HubSpot has an aggressive Partner Program in place to train these agencies in the fundamentals of inbound marketing and to help them provide solutions for their clients. As these Partner agencies grow, they will find a largely untapped marketplace for their services, especially with small businesses whose marketing efforts have been stifled by the recession and dwindling budgets. Most of the SMB's recognize the need for an effective online presence in today's marketplace, but they don't know how to get there.

What challenges await these inbound marketing agencies at high noon?

  • Finding talent - since inbound marketing is relatively new, there aren't that many skilled, experienced people with a knowledge of the inbound marketing disciplines as well as an understanding of PR and marketing strategy.
  • Educating the marketplace - inbound marketing is still relatively new, especially to SMB's in traditionally non-digital industries.
  • Building a viable business - how do you price your services in a competitive market, package or bundle services and build a team to handle sales, operations and customer service?
  • Marketing your own firm - as agencies start out, they find it tough to allocate resources for their own marketing (and still deliver high quality client services).

What will we see in the next 3 years?

I believe that we will begin to see a shake out among the inbound marketing agencies. You will see more partnerships, strategic alliances and consolidation as smaller firms realize that it is difficult to overcome the challenges to an emerging agency. Larger, more traditional agencies will start to swallow up successful inbound marketing agencies as they realize the need for interactive marketing capability and the difficulty of finding qualified people. As inbound marketing becomes mainstream, you will see more competition in available technologies and more need for consulting in implementation and training services. The quality of services will improve, and there will be much more data supporting the industry and pointing towards the most successful strategies. It will be an interesting time for us all, and hopefully by sunset we will all be rich and famous!

Photo credit: kndynt2099


Comments

Great article, John. I'm looking forward to sharing it with a lot of people. We talk about you quite a bit to other agencies, actually when we point to examples of firms who are doing it right! So, keep up the good work!  
 
My team will be 12 full time partner account managers on Monday and our plan is to have 20 by the end of the year. Marketing agencies and marketing consultants are getting onboard to this new more measurable, predictable way of delivering ROI to clients. They're also seeing how it enables them, as an agency, to smooth out cash flow, increase client retention and even upsell existing clients over time. It's an exciting time for marketing; where companies are realizing that an investment in inbound marketing is actually a better investment than just hiring more salespeople. That's a big change from even just 5 years ago! And we're just getting started. The smart agencies will realize that this is their opportunity to capture more budget, grow their firms and change the way the world markets to a more natural way where buyers find the right service from the right sellers at the right time!  
 
Re: your prediction about consolidation, I agree. We see a really really strong bifurcation amongst our partners. There are partners who don't really want to "build a business". They don't want to learn how to sell, hire/train/fire employees, price and package. They just want to "do work" for clients. Then, we're seeing companies like Kuno, PR 20/20, Precision Marketing Group, Lynton Web, etc, etc who are building systems to build a nice scale-able marketing services business. I expect companies like you guys to tap the people who just "want to do" the work. So, unlike the major ad agency consolidation of the 90s, I think we see "networks of collaborators" spring up. I'd also be willing to bet that the collaboration is facilitated by software that manages workflows and monitors performance of specific tasks. (hint. hint)
Posted @ Friday, June 03, 2011 8:00 AM by Peter Caputa
@John....re: "Most of the SMB's recognize the need for an effective online presence in today's marketplace, but they don't know how to get there..." really resonated with me.... 
 
 
 
By way of explanation, what I'd add is that many of those SMB owners have also been "had" by some of those get-rich-quick phony SEO firms who sell poor-if-any SEO skills and then underperform by using tricks and gimmicks i.e. black hat tactics.  
 
 
 
Which of course is very apropos, considering that you used High Noon as a metaphor here...if you know the movie, you may remember the guy who came in to see the Sheriff with that "trick" holster that would let him draw twice as fast on the hired guns coming to town. It's exactly that type of phony SEO that we know -- and too many SMB owners dont know -- doesn't work...sigh.... 
 
 
 
A great post here John....loved it! 
 
 
 
And <grin> Gary Cooper didn't fall for that holster either, eh...but faced the three hired guns on his own! 
 
 
 
:-) 
 
 
 
Jim
Posted @ Friday, June 03, 2011 8:05 AM by Jim Rudnick
@Pete 
I should have mentioned that this whole HubSpot Partner thing was your baby from Day 1, and we thank you for it. I can safely say that we would be elsewhere today (and probably not so pumped) were it not for you and your efforts. I love the idea of a network of collaborators and I'm working on that very thing right now. 
 
@Jim 
I share your love for High Noon, easily in my top 5 flicks of all time. I also really appreciate your comment about the "hucksters" spoiling the marketplace with false promises of SEO grandeur. It's really true and we still fight that in selling inbound marketing today. Thanks for your comments.
Posted @ Friday, June 03, 2011 8:26 AM by John McTigue
Hey, John. Thanks for the mention. You make some excellent points about the future of the marketing agency, specifically the challenges ahead. Look forward to building a more collaborative ecosystem with Kuno and other HubSpot partner agencies!
Posted @ Friday, June 03, 2011 8:28 AM by Paul Roetzer
@Paul 
My pleasure. You wrote the first one and it helped us to find our way. It's only fitting that you should write the sunset post in 3 years. By then we will be talking about something else no doubt, and I assume our companies will be leading the way.
Posted @ Friday, June 03, 2011 8:34 AM by John McTigue
@John. I appreciate the acknowledgement. But, I just did some webinars to point you in the right direction. You made all of the tough decisions and did all of the hard work. I look forward to seeing you guys scale even further. If every partner delivered as much ROI to their clients, we'd be at that 3 year point right now. :-)
Posted @ Friday, June 03, 2011 9:03 AM by Peter Caputa
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