One of the reasons I like blogging for Agencies 2 Inbound and Square 2 Marketing is I feel connected to my community. One of the many advantages of that connection is being able to answer questions for many people with a single article. If you’ve been following me, you know that from time to time I take common questions and answer them for everyone.
The question represented in the title of this article is not one that I get asked directly, but one that I think other agency owners want to ask but perhaps are afraid to hear the answer. You know this type of question, it’s a little like, “Am I saving enough money?” You know the answer is no, so why even bother asking it.
How long does it take to get good at inbound marketing?
It’s probably one of the most important questions for inbound marketing agency owners to ask.
Definition Of Good
Before we really jump into the actual answer it probably makes sense for us to define what “good at inbound marketing” means. In my opinion, this means being able to generate leads for your clients in a repeatable, scalable, and predictable way. I’ll further define this with one caveat, being good does not mean every single client gets the leads they expected, they can have a positive experience with your firm and still fall short of lead goals.
There are a variety of contributing factors preventing any inbound marketing agency from getting all the leads every single client needs every single time and that’s an article for a different day. So today, we’ll define good at knowing what you need to do, when you need to do it and how you need to do it, so that most of your clients have a positive experience with your inbound agency.
The Question Of Time
How long? That’s the question. Is it weeks? Months? Years? How long do we have to wait until we can confidently take on any inbound marketing client and know we can get them the leads they expect from our program?
The answer to that question is really up to you. Here’s what I mean. The time it takes is 100% controlled by the amount of energy you invest in moving your team towards inbound engagements. For example, if you take on only one or two clients to “get your feet wet” it’s going to take you much longer than if you go ALL IN and take only inbound marketing clients, moving non-inbound clients out to make room for new inbound clients.
Now instead of 90% projects like websites or SEO work and 10% inbound engagements you have 90% inbound engagements and 10% legacy work—you’re going to get there faster. How much faster is also up to you. How much training are you doing? How much coaching? Do you have a mentor? Are you collaborating with other agencies? Are you involved in the inbound agency community? All of these elements shorten the ramp up to inbound.
The Question Of What Tasks
I actually think this is more relevant to your end game, getting good at inbound, than the concept of time. Unfortunately, inbound is made up of many smaller tactics that require expertise in execution and efficiency in delivery. While you might have been expert at building websites or getting people found on Google, inbound marketing includes both of those tactics and 23 (roughly) other tactics. The faster you cycle around that entire package of tactics usually impacts your ability to get leads for your clients.
So what you do and how you do it is more important than how long you’ve been doing it. The most interesting aspect of inbound is that you already know what you’re supposed to be doing. You don’t need me to tell you how important blogging is or how critical educational content is or how to design a website that converts. There are no secret tactics.
However, the way you combine those tactics, the way you execute those tactics, the stories that you tell with these tactics and the overall marketing strategy that you create for your clients—that is where the magic happens. Your ability to connect all these disparate tactics into one single flow of remarkable information out to the perfect prospect persona so that they click and then eventually close—that is the secret of inbound.
The Question Of Scale
There are major advantages to being bigger. If you’ve been following along you might have noticed that most of my suggestions have to do with being able to gain experiences running inbound engagements. The more you do, the better you get doing it. You’ve all heard about the 10,000 hours principle. You need to do something for 10,000 hours before you’re good at it. It’s true. Your first inbound engagement is not going to be as good as your 10th and your 50th is going to be better yet.
So the more inbound engagements you and your team get under your belt the better you’ll be at inbound. No two inbound engagements are the same. The variables that impact the performance of the engagements are numerous. Some of these include industry factors, environmental factors, company factors, client factors, investment levels, team members, even attitudes towards inbound and agencies in general.
Because there are so many influencing factors you need experience dealing with them before you know how to respond to them. Again, the more you do, the better you get.
Let’s look at two agencies, both do $5 million in annual revenue. Firm A just converted 20 clients to inbound engagements, picking up 5 new clients and firing 15 legacy project clients. Firm B has 50 legacy project clients and 5 inbound clients. Which one is going to get good at inbound first? Firm A? Correct!
They’re going to get more experience and have more opportunities to learn what works with their 20 inbound clients. They’re also going to be able to focus their teams, tell a consistent story to prospects and position their agency as different.
I think it takes somewhere around 100 inbound engagements before you and you team know what not to do, what to do, when to do it and how to do it.
In addition, inbound marketing is a constantly changing practice. We add new tactics, retire old tactics, adjust how we execute tactics, and tweak our delivery model almost every single week. The better you are at continuous improvement or Kaizen, the better you’ll be at inbound. This is a skill set everyone in your shop needs to embrace. But once you do, you’ll have an agency that has limitless opportunities to help clients do something they’ve never been able to do before—drive leads and revenue.
Start Today Tip – Get your agency ready to go all in on inbound. Whatever that means, now is the time to get them ready. Look at your client base, plan out a transition strategy. Look at your team, you probably need a few new team members, start planning out hiring and firing. Look at your systems, you’re going to need new systems, figure out what’s missing and how to add what’s missing. After you have most of the transition worked out, you’ll have a much better idea of how many inbound engagements you’ll be managing over what time period and this should give you a better idea of how long it’s going to take your agency to get good at inbound.
If you want help skipping the land mines, if you think advice might help you get there faster and you’d like to hear, first hand, what works and what doesn’t than a Cohort might be right for you.
On March 3rd we’re launching a new Cohort for new agencies. Everyone in the Cohort is starting their journey toward inbound and you can join now, space is limited to just 12 agencies and there are already agencies signed up. If you’re interested, click here TODAY and select the New Agency Cohort option from the drop down.
We’re also launching a new Cohort focusing on Inbound Sales enablement services for agencies. This is starting in mid-March. If you want to add inbound sales services to your agency, click here and select the Inbound Sales Cohort option in the drop down. Or simply click the Join A Cohort Button below.
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