More and more marketing agencies are glomming onto the term “digital marketing” to describe their online services. But do they all know what it really entails?
Sure, having a functional website and an active social media presence are important, but there’s a deeper foundation that needs to be understood first. There are strategies and best practices, not to mention other areas of the digital realm, that a marketing agency must grasp in order to best serve its clients. The inbound marketing methodology is the ideal place to start.
In this article, we’ll cover 19 services and characteristics that separate the top inbound marketing agencies from those that simply talk a good game.
Comprehensive Inbound Marketing Services
An inbound marketing program is multifaceted. Success depends on how well the agency knows, integrates, and executes these inbound marketing services.
1. A Focus on Foundational Strategy
Developing an inbound marketing strategy is intensive. Expect roughly a three-month period of foundational work, persona research, and strategy ramp-up before launching an inbound marketing program. Anyone who gives you an overnight plan after your first conversation should probably be met with a raised eyebrow.
2. Deep Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Knowledge
A crucial part of any inbound strategy, SEO helps customers and prospects find your website through search engines. The top inbound agencies understand the value of SEO and that it’s not a set it and forget it approach. Continuous monitoring and improvements are needed to make the greatest impact and stay relevant where it counts.
3. Ability to Create Content Aligned with Target Personas
Content drives an inbound marketing program. An inbound agency makes it a priority to understand your personas in order to craft quality content that addresses their pain points. This level of understanding helps make blog articles educational, advanced content intriguing, and most importantly, engages your prospects.
It doesn’t get much more important than word of mouth as a means of selling your products or services while portraying the image you desire. People talk to one another or vent on social media about their experiences with businesses all the time, and it’s vital that a marketing agency understands the importance of two-way and authentic communication with customers and can help you implement a successful, scalable VoC feedback strategy.
5. Tech Stack with Tools to Optimize Results
Just like a worker in any trade, an inbound marketing agency is only as useful as the tools they use to get the job done. Ask prospective agencies which technology and tools they’ll use to execute key areas of your program (e.g., SEO, social media, email, etc.). Take a look at Weidert’s tech stack, for example:
6. Website and Content Design Capabilities
Website and content design are visually impactful. You don’t want a website that looks like it was last updated when Total Request Live and *NSYNC dominated the airwaves, nor do you want a monstrosity that will make visitors dizzy. Look at the agency’s site and content offers. If the visual elements appeal to you, chances are they’ll do as good a job on your design, too.
A social media presence is a cost of entry in the digital age. Activity is essential, of course, but having an agency that knows how to position that content and optimize it for engagement will help you cast the widest net to reach your personas and prospects. But it doesn’t stop there. An agency must also know how and what to communicate on social media for best results.
8. Paid Media Services
While much of inbound marketing focuses more on earned media and organic marketing strategies, continuing or accelerating an existing paid media program can be a complementary and seamless fit with inbound marketing efforts.
9. Video Production Capabilities
Video is a must for marketing content because it’s key to search visibility and audience engagement. Need proof? Check out these recent stats:1
87% of marketers claim their traffic increased in part because of video marketing
88% of consumers were convinced to buy something after watching a brand’s video
Compelling video should be an integral part of your inbound strategy — and a key capability of an inbound agency.
Growth-Driven Design (GDD) is a systemic approach to website development that involves making iterative improvements in contrast to the long, drawn-out process of traditional website development you may have experienced in the past. The top agencies treat a website like a malleable entity, and that it’s all about leveraging user data to make continuous website improvements.
11. Flywheel Focus for Growth
The inbound marketing flywheel — as opposed to the traditional funnel — provides the customer-centric framework for doing just that. Attract, engage, and delight. If an inbound marketing agency doesn’t speak that language, are they even really an inbound marketing agency? The top inbound agencies have adopted this approach without looking back.
While inbound marketing services are a priority, there are several other telltale signs that will indicate if an agency has the knowledge, experience, and personality to handle your inbound marketing program.
12. They Do Inbound for Themselves
Simply put, the agency practices what they preach. They keep their own program dynamic with active content creation, blogging, social media engagement, and more. But what are their results? Don’t hesitate to ask agencies how they’re performing compared to the competition, and where they see their strengths and weaknesses. This will help you get a better “side-by-side” comparison of potential partners.
13. They Recognize the Emergence of RevOps
Revenue operations, or RevOps, complements the inbound flywheel. Imagine someone being in charge of the inbound flywheel and helping to align every team — from marketing to sales to service — toward the same goal, all moving in the same direction. It’s also important to have the technology on hand to break down those silos and move in the same direction successfully.
14. Solid History of Client Success
Vetting an agency’s track record — current and previous work, clients, and awards — will provide insight into how well they build and service their inbound marketing program partnerships. Want more than testimonials on their website or general search results? Use sites like Clutch or HubSpot to access objective client reviews.
15. Demonstrated Expertise in Industries Like Yours
Marketers that know, understand, and can speak with expert authority to your audience without a huge learning curve is critical, especially for industrial manufacturers. An agency with established relationships with companies similar to yours will be able to hit the ground running when it comes to your inbound marketing program.
16. A Philosophical Fit with Your Culture
Don’t underestimate the impact of company culture. If an agency’s ethos doesn’t mesh with yours, chances are a working relationship won’t be a fit either. Knowing this ahead of time could save a bundle of headaches and time — not to mention actual money.
17. Knowledge of Your Automation Software
If your company is already using inbound marketing software, the programs and processes should resonate with an inbound agency. Conversely, if you’ve yet to use inbound marketing software, a worthy inbound agency can guide you to the best choice and teach you both basic and advanced features.
18. They Work with Reputable Partners
Who is your marketing agency working with? Are they HubSpot partners? Partnerships like that can give the agency access to a whole toy box full of resources — thus giving you access to those resources, too.
The concept of “Agile” started in software development as a way to increase efficiency and expand the amount of work that can be accomplished — think “lean” practices in manufacturing. An agency experienced in agile marketing has the efficiency and capacity to consistently get work done on time and on budget without compromising quality.
Inbound Marketing: Your Burning Questions Answered
We just threw a lot to digest your way! If this triggered more thoughts and questions about inbound marketing, we have you covered. We’ve gathered the top 15 questions about inbound marketing, including how long it may take to see results, in a handy guide. Click the link below to access your free copy today!
Posted by Nicole Mertes As Weidert Group's lead salesperson and business development strategist, Nicole heads up the agency's new business strategy and provides sales consulting services to clients.
Prior to her role at the agency, Nicole was an advertising manager at Gannett, one of the nation's largest media companies. With 10+ years of experience in advertising sales, she understands the complex relationship between marketing and sales within organizations.