When you enter into a relationship with an inbound marketing agency, those first few weeks are a lot like dating. You and your agency are getting to know each other, your communication style, your likes and dislikes, and your goals. It takes a while to develop trust and to know you’re ready to fully commit. You want to be sure that this is “the one”, that they “get you” and that you make a great team.
What makes a great client/agency relationship? The bottom line is communication and leadership. Having an open line of communication between the client and the agency is key. You’ll be working hand-in-hand, so commit to the process and have clear expectations. Leadership is crucial because your agency will expect you to be able to make decisions, to steer the ship in the direction of your goals, and to communicate your commitment to the rest of your company. For your new marketing strategy to work, there has to be company-wide buy-in and that starts at the top.
So, how do you navigate those first few weeks of courtship in the client/agency relationship?
Here are a few tips to help you become an awesome inbound marketing agency client:
Like any great relationship, you have to really get to know the other person. Your agency will be asking you a lot of questions. Ask them a few too. Ask your agency owner to tell you about their agency’s mission and values. Do they align with yours and what you want to achieve in your inbound marketing efforts? Ask your agency about their SEO strategy. A few key questions will tell you about their knowledge, methods, and track record. Ask your agency how they will be reporting results to you. Ask them what kind of communication and frequency of communication you can expect.
Evaluate whether or not you’ll be comfortable working closely with the agency owner or team they have assembled. If there is a disconnect and you find that you’re incompatible, it’s best to know that up front. You can either work through it or terminate the relationship before it goes any further. You want to make sure you hire the right agency.
It’s clear that inbound marketing, which includes content marketing, is lacking at most B2B companies. There is a real need for inbound marketing services. According to the Content Marketing Institute:
You’ve hired an inbound marketing agency for a reason. You need help connecting with your buyers online. If your in-house marketing department was in charge of this initiative, they would have C-level attention and resources. Your marketing agency needs this level of buy-in as well. Since they are located off-site, effective communication and attention are even more paramount.
Online marketing is no longer a “nice to have” part of a company’s overall marketing strategy. It’s a must have. Allot adequate time and financial resources to your inbound marketing strategy. The time you spend up front during onboarding - providing information, strategizing and developing goals and plans, and setting up processes and an open line of communication with your agency - will pay off in dividends in the long run. Keep in mind, though, that this isn’t a set it and forget it plan. You will be continually evaluating and adjusting over time. The digital landscape is constantly changing. Be prepared to put in the effort.
Related Article: An Inbound Marketing Guide for Busy Business Owners
One thing that cannot be stressed enough, but is often overlooked, is the importance of communicating your company’s online marketing strategy with your entire staff. Here’s why that’s important – some of your best content for your website can come from your staff if they are aware that this is an important initiative for the company. Your staff are the product experts. They are on the front line with customers. They are the ones who are solving problems daily. You are probably sitting on a content gold mine in your marketing and sales departments and you may not even realize it. All of this knowledge is fabulous information that can be turned into content for your website. But, if your staff is unaware of the role they play and doesn’t have a process by which to share this information, the opportunity is wasted.
Transparency during the onboarding process is crucial. You’ll be answering lots of questions and your agency needs as much information and data as possible. There’s a reason your agency needs to know about your current marketing strategy, current marketing assets, business issues, processes, buyer personas, and social media use. Your agency wants to understand your business from all angles. In order to know where they’re going, they have to know where they’re starting from.
Your agency also needs to be apprised of upcoming events, product developments, human resources programs, and corporate initiatives. All of this ties into your online marketing strategy because this is the sort of real-time information that produces excellent web content that is perfect for sharing on social channels.
Your inbound agency is working hard to produce project deliverables according to a strategic plan with deadlines. They will be providing value to you with every meeting and every email. Part of inbound marketing success is consistency. Do your part when it comes to reviewing content, participating in meetings and providing information. Things don’t always go according to plan but when you get into a rhythm with your agency you’ll start to see results.
It’s very difficult for an agency to report to several different corporate stakeholders. It leads to bottlenecking and decisions being passed off to others. Having one person at your firm who can make day-to-day decisions on your behalf will speed up the process and allow your agency to implement your strategy with ease.
In order to improve its service, your agency needs specific feedback and constructive criticism. There is a bit of a learning curve with each new client. Your inbound agency will be constantly evaluating their efforts and making improvements as they learn more and more about your company, your buyer persona, and your industry. Keep in mind that you are the subject-matter experts in your industry. Help your agency help you. Give your agency feedback that will help them carry out your mission and objectives.
A good inbound agency will push you beyond your comfort zone. Be open to new ways of expanding your marketing strategy and attracting customers. Your agency has an objective vantage point. It may be easier for them to see issues and opportunities. Trying a new approach will make you feel vulnerable, but there is no reward if there is no risk.
Your agency will work with you to set realistic goals for your company’s inbound game plan. Having clear goals will also allow them to measure and present data relevant to your marketing strategy. Keep in mind, success in online marketing doesn’t happen overnight. There may be some quick gains, such as an increase in website traffic or an increase in social shares, but real wins in terms of leads and conversions will come over the course of a long-term plan. Your inbound marketing strategy is about building relationships with potential customers and that takes time.
Related Article: Successful Marketers Always Play the Long Game
A successful client/agency relationship is truly a partnership. You and your agency will be constantly learning from each other, adjusting your strategy, and trying new approaches. Mutual respect, open communication, leadership and realistic expectations are key. It takes time, patience and dedication. With a commitment to a shared vision and strategy, you’ll accomplish great things together.
Do you have tips for agency clients? What works best for you in developing a strong client/agency relationship? We’d love to know so feel free to comment or send us a message.
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