Untangling Inbound: What should you look for in an inbound marketing agency?

Untangling Inbound is part of a series exploring the basics of inbound marketing. In this, the first article in the series, we explore what you need to know when looking for an inbound marketing agency.

Most of us have a handle on how advertising in the conventional sense works. After all, we’re bombarded by ads across a variety of media on a daily basis. That kind of advertising’s great for letting people know you exist, but what happens when they want to find you? And how do you attract the kind of lucrative business that dealing with other businesses can bring?

That’s where the inbound marketing agency comes in. Their job is to help potential customers find your business and, once that’s done, turn that early awareness into brand preference and, ideally, revenue.

Those agencies generate, capture, and convert leads by bringing a number of digital channels — including SEO, blogging, email — together and working them in unison.

It’s a form of marketing that’s importance has only grown with the rise of digital, but what exactly should you be looking for in an inbound marketing agency?

Know what you need

First off, think about what aspects you might need an inbound marketing agency to take care of. Can you handle your own blogging? Or is your in-house community manager completely swamped? Do you have the time and resources to train someone up on SEO? And even if you do, will they have the necessary skills and time to close the leads they generate?

How you answer those questions will go a long way to helping you choose the right inbound marketing agency. In essence, what you’re looking for is an agency that has the skills you need rather than one with the broadest possible offering.

Don’t be fooled by BS promises

Once you’ve identified what you need, and the agencies that provide those services, you need to examine how they promise to deliver on them.

If all an agency promises to do is grow your company’s Facebook Likes, Twitter follower numbers, and website visits, they’re not doing inbound properly. Remember, an inbound marketing agency’s job is to generate and deliver leads for you. Those are the metrics it should be measuring.

Before you even consider bringing an inbound agency on, ask how it measures those metrics, how frequently it measures them and how it would relay those measurements to your company. A good inbound marketing agency will be able to tell you what’s working and help you repeat those successes.

Even more importantly, they need to give you a realistic idea of what they can do with the budget you’ve set out. In order to do that, they have to really know you and know your business. A good inbound marketing agency won’t just throw a quote at you, it’ll take it’s time, probe, and help you figure out what you really need.

Proof perfect

Before you even get to that stage though, take a look the agency’s portfolio. It should be able to back up its promises with case studies and testimonials and also show it’s helped other customers with similar needs to your own in the past.

Don’t just take those case studies at face value either. Take the time to call some of the agency’s other clients. If they’re happy with the service they’re getting and talk about the business that’s come in since signing with the inbound marketing agency, then you’re on to a winner.

Individuality, within bounds

All of the above suggests that the hallmark of a good inbound marketing agency lies in its ability to tailor its products to individual needs. That said, there are a few things that every good inbound agency has in common. According to Hubspot, there are four factors in particular you should look out for:

The first core service of inbound marketing is an agency’s ability to generate traffic to a website through SEO, blogging and social media sharing.

Second, agencies should be able to tell their clients they can develop the premium content needed to capitalize on that traffic by building landing pages and managing online lead generation efforts.

Third, agencies need to be able to construct targeted lead-nurturing campaigns aimed at converting those leads into customers.

Finally, in order to iterate and improve, analysis and measurement needs to be present at every step in the process.

Keep an eye out for our next article in the series where we'll explore how to know your inbound marketing agency is working for you. Follow us on Twitter not to miss out.

Kristian Gough

Written by Kristian Gough