So you've decided you're ready to dive into inbound marketing. Now it's time to call up a coach—someone who will guide you through the waters and help you build momentum.
Many companies hire an inbound marketing agency for this very reason. Agencies can offer the guidance and the staff you need to launch your efforts for a lot less than it would cost you to hire a full-time strategist, writer, designer, developer, technologist and online advertising manager.
Just as working with any good coach or personal trainer typically starts with a conversation about you and your goals, a relationship with an agency usually begins in a similar way.
To get the most of your initial consultation (and the partnership), it helps to know what to expect.Here are 15 questions to help you prepare.
Whether you're in desperate need of a new direction or you're stretched too thin, it's important to communicate what led you to this decision so the agency knows where you're coming from.
Any prospective agency that cares about your success wants to know the good, the bad and the downright aggravating experiences you've had in the past so they don't make the same mistakes. Don't hold back!
No matter how many "Happiest Customer" awards they've won, your agency will only be able to meet or exceed your expectations if you've communicated them clearly. Think about what success will look like for your organization and how it will be measured. If your primary concern is building brand awareness, you might be more focused on KPIs like website traffic and social media engagement. Or, if you know your sales team needs to close a certain number of deals over the next year to meet revenue goals, consider your average close rate and work backward to determine how many qualified leads they'll need from you to get it done.
Think beyond results to the bigger picture. What is your organization trying to accomplish on a larger scale? Do you want to transform the way people work? Bring a lesser-known technology into the mainstream? Whatever it is, your agency needs to know so they can be on the same page.
Is it educating potential buyers about the need for your product or service? Getting them to understand why you charge more than your competitors? Whatever it is, you need to name the problem before you and your agency can begin to address it.
Maybe it's a lack of time or talent. Or it could be a lack of a well-defined strategy. Understanding this will help your agency recognize where you need help most.
What's your monthly budget? How many people are on your staff? What type of expertise do they have? Identifying your internal strengths—as well as the gaps—will give your agency a clearer picture.
Who are your top competitors? What are they doing that you wish you were?
What is it you do best? What do you want to stake your reputation on?
10. What's your average customer acquisition cost?
How much does your company need to spend to bring in each new customer? That includes everything from employee salaries and operations to trade show fees and other associated marketing costs.
11. What's the average lifetime value of a customer?
It's generally less expensive to retain customers than to acquire new ones, particularly if your current customers spend a substantial amount of money over the course of the relationship. Customer lifetime value (LTV) is an important metric for determining valuation and future success.
Knowing where you are now will help you determine where you're heading. Consider what you're currently spending on all your marketing efforts, from the cost of your technology to the costs of content creation and paid advertising. Chances are, those costs are higher than you'd like them to be or you aren't seeing enough of a return on your investment.
Be honest with your prospective agency about where things stand now and what kind of improvement you'd like to see.
Aligning your sales and marketing teams is essential to your success. This takes time, and it's rare to work with organizations where these two teams are completely in sync from the start. However, you can do several things to begin to bridge the gap between sales and marketing. One of the most important is to talk with your sales team before you bring an agency on board. Get them into a room and don't let them leave until you're all in agreement on what you want to achieve with your sales and marketing efforts, how you'll measure success and what constitutes a qualified lead.
Any agency you hire should be aware of where you're starting in the process of aligning your sales and marketing teams and be willing to support those efforts.
Let's be honest: Inbound marketing isn't a quick fix or a cheap one. According to Gartner, the average company spends 2.5 percent of its revenues on digital marketing. If your company makes $10 million in revenue a year, that's $250,000. That includes everything from the cost of your marketing automation and content management software to your digital advertising dollars.
While that may seem like a large chunk of change, a single new client may carry the potential for $100,000 or more in revenue, depending on your industry. If you bring in just three new clients through the year as a result of your efforts, the investment has more than paid for itself. (More than likely, your sales team will exceed that handily.) Now imagine how much revenue you could be missing out on if you stick with the status quo.
What are the biggest concerns you have about your marketing strategy? What worries you about the industry? About your competition? Once again, don't hold back. This will give your prospective agency a better sense of what you're up against when they step up to the plate—and they'll appreciate the honesty.
Wondering what to expect after the consultation? Learn more about what it's really like to work with an inbound marketing agency.