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?
In 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