Continuing our conversation about differentiating your inbound marketing agency means honestly evaluating your ability to be an inbound marketing expert. Are you a pro or a pretender? Unfortunately, my evaluation of the true capabilities in most of the agencies calling themselves inbound agencies is more pretender than pro.
I’m not criticizing. I’m actually challenging anyone reading this to step up their game. The consequences of continuing to “fake it” is going to impact the entire community. We’re already seeing it. More and more of our opportunities are made up of companies who have had disappointing experiences with inbound. This has to change.
I’m guessing that most of you actually know how good or bad you are at inbound marketing. But in case you’re looking for a more objective assessment, here’s how to know if you’re an expert or about to be exposed as a know nothing novice.
You Only Have A Handful Of Clients
I don’t care what partner badge you proudly promote on your website. If you only have a handful of clients and you’re only doing partial inbound marketing programs, you’re not an expert. Until you have two years of month over month inbound marketing program performance with multiple clients, you’re not going to have the experiences necessary to deal with the daily setbacks associated with inbound program management.
You're Not Using Marketing Analytics
Unless you’re using some type of marketing automation and marketing analytics (not Google Analytics) you’re not seeing enough data to know how to respond to the data with action plans. I’m often blown away when agency owners tell me they don’t use HubSpot for their own agency. How on earth can you sell HubSpot to your clients and not use it for your own marketing?
You Can’t Improve Performance In 30 Days
Inbound has so many nuances that it’s almost always possible to improve performance in short time frames. If you haven’t been able to do that, if you see perpetual month over month declines with no success reversing those trends, you have to learn how to respond to the degrading data and how to respond quickly. Inbound is the only methodology that allows you to get real-time data today and improve performance tomorrow.
You Don’t Have An Analytics Methodology
I didn’t’ mention that you have to make money doing this for clients, that seemed kind of obvious, so you can’t spend 100 hours evaluating every client engagement every month. Not only do you have to know what to do, but you have to be able to do it efficiently. If you don’t have a process, system or your own internal methodology for analyzing and responding to program performance, you’re not an inbound expert yet. By the way, no one can teach you this either. You’re going to have to create this for your agency, your team and your clients.
Your Background Isn’t Marketing
Nothing you can do about this one. If your background is technical, design, search or PR you’re working from a disadvantage. Inbound isn’t about technology (despite what a lot of people think), it’s not about the tactics, and it’s not about taking clients to lunch or being their friends. Inbound is about understanding targeting, it’s about creating messages that connect with people, it’s about making your client’s business stand out, and it’s about building an integrated marketing program. If this wasn’t hard enough, when you boil it all down, inbound is about getting people who have done one thing for years and years to do something else. It’s a change management exercise.
The better you are at the marketing piece of it, the easier it’s going to be to get the inbound pieces of inbound marketing to work.
Honestly, I could go on and on. Keep in mind, I’ve worked with roughly 100 agency owners over the past two years and I’ve talked to double that. I know all your deep dark secrets and there are a lot of them.
Your opportunity is now. Over the next few years you’ll either figure out how to do inbound, you’ll have given up on inbound and gone back to website design (or some other solo practice) or worse, you’ll be out of business. In the meantime, we all owe it to our clients, to this community and to the idea of inbound as a methodology to get better and get better as fast as possible.
I’ve thrown down the gauntlet, if you want to pick it up and improve your agency’s ability to get results for your clients then the best possible way to do this is to practice, practice and practice more.
- Run inbound for your agency and run it at full speed, no matter what the costs or which clients need to take a back seat.
- Think tests and experiments. Isolate your ideas with small experiments that will quickly show you what works and what doesn’t work as well.
- Track and measure everything. You’ll be shocked at what data shows you and once you know what to look for you’ll see patterns in the data that will direct marketing tactics and tasks.
- Speaking of data, I’m still shocked at how many inbound agencies don’t use HubSpot for their own agencies. The inbound methodology is baked into the product, it literally teaches you how to do inbound if you use it and I mean YOU. You have to use it to learn how to do it.
- Get used to change. Get good at change and get your team prepared for change. To figure out inbound and figure it out quickly, you might have to change what you do weekly.
No one said this transformation from traditional marketing to inbound marketing was going to be easy. If anyone or any company lead you to believe otherwise, shame on them and shame on you for thinking something this dramatic would be simple. Now the hard work begins. Get started.
Start Today Tip – Simply, the list above gives you the schematic for what you need to do. Get to it. The more clients you get, the more inbound engagements, the more tactics, the more analytics you look at the better you’ll be at knowing what to do and what those moves will produce. There’s no book, class, video, webinar, or one single individual who can teach you how to do this. It takes 10,000 hours of practice to be good enough to call yourself an inbound expert. Until then do what you have to do to fake it, but understand you might have a long way to go.
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