In just a few days agency owners from all over the world will start their pilgrimage to Boston for Inbound 18. The annual lovefest for everything inbound. But being an agency owner and attending Inbound isn’t what it used to be.
Gone is the Agency Track and the Agency ONLY sessions. Even Partner Day, the first unofficial day of inbound is mostly dedicated to HubSpot sharing new product and pricing announcements. The days where agency leaders had a chance to share what they’re doing with other agency owners is no more.
No point in crying over spilled milk, but if you're an inbound agency owner and you’re heading to Boston here’s how to make the most of Inbound and get what your agency needs to push up to the next level.
Come To Inbound With An Action Plan
I’ve worked with many agency owners and the challenges are all very similar. Before heading out to the conference take 30 minutes to think through your top challenges.
Is it agency team structure?
Is it efficiency managing client engagements?
Is it getting new clients in a scalable way?
Is it getting better at driving results?
Is it hiring?
Is it knowing what makes your agency special, different and remarkable?
These are six of the top challenges I work with agency owners on. While there might not be any specific agency sessions on these issues that doesn’t mean you can’t come to Inbound armed with the goal of working to solve these or some other big challenges.
If you know hiring is your big issue, then ask around. Agency owners at inbound are happy to share. All you have to do is ask.
How do you hire at your shop? What process do you use? Do you use any tools? Have you worked with anyone to help you hire? Where do you get your best people? Do you have defined core values that you use to screen applicants?
If you talk to four or five other agency owners over the course of the four days, I promise you’ll come back with a huge collection of ideas for you to consider.
If you do some expert owner targeting, you can take the advice you get and pair that with solid guidance from agency owners who have bigger and more expansive businesses.
While you might not get this in sessions, going one to one will get you what you need and might even make some new connections that you can tap months after Inbound.
Target Key Thought Leaders In Advance
Again, just because there are not specific sessions for agencies designed around the big challenges mentioned above doesn’t mean there aren’t smart people at Inbound who are happy to help you with your specific issues.
Any of the owners of the Diamond Partner Agencies have a lot of experience dealing with your big challenges and more importantly they have moved beyond some key revenue levels which prove they know what they’re doing.
Tread lightly here. Not all Diamond Partners are created equally and not all Diamond Partners are bigger than you. Ask them how many team members they have and how much revenue they’re doing, these are both key questions to make their answers more relevant for you in your situation.
Most of the agency experts at Inbound are happy to speak with you about your agency, just ask. Anyone who knows me knows I’ll talk to any agency owners who asks to talk. I already have several meetings with agency owners who have reached out and I’m happy to continue to take meetings as long as I have time.
Other experts I might suggest trying to talk to include Patrick Biddscome from New Breed, Eric Pratt from Revenue River and Mike Skeehan from Salted Stone. I generally like agency owners better than agency consultants because they’re doing it day in and day out.
Some of the consultants ran agencies years ago and while that might be helpful, I find our business changing so quickly that what we did last year is not what we’re doing this year. Unless the consultant spends most of their time running their agency, you’re not hearing the latest and greatest.
Look For Sessions From High Profile Agency Owners
There are so many sessions at Inbound and its very difficult to know which ones are going to be helpful to agency owners. One way to cut down the list is to look for sessions by agency owners, not agency team members, not vendors and unless they’re product updates not HubSpot.
You're looking for tips and advice on running your agency, the owners typically have that knowledge.
If you’re looking for help execution, then almost all the sessions are in play. But if you want agency guidance, look for agency owner sessions. Want to know how to get better results from email marketing? Then there are a number of sessions that fit the bill.
If you look carefully, you might find these agency owners doing impromptu sessions associated with agency issues instead of execution challenges.
I’m already scheduled to talk to two groups of agency owners—you won’t find these in the agenda. Typically, these sessions are requested by the HubSpot CAMS for their agencies. I actually love doing these sessions.
If you ask your CAM, you might be able to get something like this set up for your group of agencies too. It can’t hurt to ask.
Carefully Accept Advice
With all these inbound experts in one place, its easy to get connected with someone who sounds like they’ve got it all figured out—but in realty they just talk a good game.
Almost everyone at Inbound is more than happy to help and it is a wonderfully cooperative community.
But you have to be careful. What works for one agency might not work for your agency.
Take everyone’s advice and consider it. Don’t follow it blindly.
Picking a vertical is a great example. There are lots of success stories for agencies who have created vertical agencies. There are a lot of people who will tell you to pick a vertical. In some cases, this is great advice. In others, not so much.
Listen to everyone, internalize all the advice, consider what others share with you, process their feedback and guidance. Then make the decision for your agency, for your team, for your lifestyle and goals. What works for you—might ONLY work for you.
Don’t be shy to go your own way, to do what you think is right and create an agency that is like no one else’s agency. After all, one thing you’ll notice about Inbound is there are a lot of Inbound agencies and knowing what makes you different is one of your biggest challenges.
Seek Out Resource Referred By Other Agency Owners
Finally, if this is your first or second inbound picking the best sessions is probably going to be hard. There are so many sessions, they all sound great, there’s no real system for classifying them so my advice is to seek guidance from other agency owners.
Most of the inbound vets are HubSpot Partners who have been coming to Inbound for years. This is my seventh Inbound. If you’re looking for who I think you should see, click here to read my selected session blog article from the Square 2 Blog.
These are high quality speakers, with high quality topics across the content areas that I think are key for agency owners to be thinking about, planning for and working to upgrade.
Inbound can be overwhelming and as everyone pumps out their inbound advice, weed through the people offering suggestions to wear comfortable shoes, and focus on getting as much good guidance as possible.
Start Today Tip – Go to Inbound with a game plan. What do you want to learn? Look for successful agency owners who have proven they can grow agencies. Reach out to them and make connections. Those new relationships can drive value for you ALL YEAR LONG, not just at Inbound. Then pick the key sessions that align with your biggest challenges. Since most of the sessions are designed around execution, which areas do you need the most help with?
Finally, if you’re going and you want to meet with me, just shoot me an email. I’m happy to sit down with you and talk about your agency, your challenges and how I might be able to help you grow your shops.
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