Inbound 19 is right around the corner and if last year is any indication, this year is going to be filled with ideas about how to work with clients across marketing, sales , and customer service. HubSpot’s Platform play is going to be in full swing come September 3rd in Boston.
The question to agency owners is, “Should my shop be providing services across all three areas?” The answer is maybe. Let’s dig into this question to prepare you all for Inbound.
It’s easy to get swept up in the orange wave associated with Inbound and I think it’s important to arrive with a plan so you can make the most of your time in Boston.
Should my agency provide services to clients beyond the marketing services we’re already providing?
Know What You And Your Team Do Well
It’s easy to get distracted in today’s agency environment. You started your agency because you loved building websites, doing graphic design or maybe pitching PR stories. Today you find yourself providing inbound marketing services to your clients. Is this what you're passionate about? Are you and your team great at delivering inbound marketing?
It’s an important question. In today’s agency ecosystem, there are thousands of agencies and thousands of inbound agencies. Are you one of many or one of a kind? Almost every agency expert will tell you to niche down on something. Some may be vertical, some functional aspect, some technical platform. That’s very good advice.
But now there is other advice that says if you want to help a company grow revenue you have to provide marketing, sales and customer service support.
You have to look in the mirror and answer this question honestly. Are we good at all those things or should we just focus on marketing? If you’re not going to be the best agency at what you do, you should focus on what you are the best at and stick with that.
Have A Vision For Your Agency
It’s OK if your vision is to help clients with all three areas of revenue growth even if today you’re focused on only one. Your vision will help pull you towards your goal. The people you hire will fill in any gaps. You’ll actively work to help prop up weaker service areas until you can provide the services and the client experience you aspire to deliver.
You make client decisions and have client conversations that move you in this direction. It’s how you actively grow your agency.
Without a clear vision for your agency, you’ll languish. The decisions you make will not pull you forward but keep you mired in the same place you are today.
It’s a solid vision too. After all, who can argue that the best way to help clients grow revenue is by helping them take amazing care of their current clients, leverage their relationships with those current clients, market more actively to those clients and activate them into advocates?
In fact, it’s the best place to start when it comes to revenue growth tactics.
The same applies to helping clients with sales. How many clients have you had that couldn’t successfully follow up on the leads you helped them generate or have a miserable close rate on all their sales opportunities? Clients need help in both areas.
Even better, there are far fewer agencies prepared to help clients with sales and customer service. Again, the opportunity to differentiate your agency and stretch beyond the traditional digital marketing space is huge.
You just need to be clear that this is your vision, your team shares your vision and everything you do pulls toward this vision of your agency.
Be Clear Around The Types of Clients You Want To Work With
This is a huge challenge for agency owners. Most don’t have enough prospect opportunities so when a new prospect shows up and they’re not a perfect fit, it’s difficult to say no.
Instead, you say yes, get the business and do your best to deliver. Usually, the engagement ends with a mediocre experience. Let’s try not to do this more than once.
Make sure you're working with the companies you want to be working with. The companies who are going to be referral sources. The companies who appreciate what you do and how you do it.
First, make sure you have enough opportunities so you can be a little picky. Next, make sure you know who you want to work with, the services you want to provide and be clear with all your prospects. Saying no to a prospect is one of the best moves you can make. In fact, you should practice it because it’s so hard to do in real life.
We recently told a prospect we had to resign from the selection process because the CEO had a horrible attitude toward marketing, calling it a money pit during the sales process. I could not in my right mind take that company on. So, we passed. It felt great.
If you’re only going to provide marketing services, make sure your prospects know that going in. If you’re going to get hired to drive revenue, but they ONLY want you focused on marketing, you should pass because they’re not letting you do what you know is right. Working with sales and customer service has a major impact on revenue generation. If they don’t want any work in that area, you might have to pass.
What Does It Mean To Provide Sales Services
You’ve already successfully expanded the marketing services you provide. Almost everyone does content, paid media, websites, social, email, video and all the necessary marketing tactics. Even if you’re not amazing at all of them, you can probably get by with a focus on the ones you are great at.
But when it comes to sales, it’s an entirely different ball game.
First, you’re now in an entirely new industry. You’re competing with Sandler Sales, Richardson Sales Training and thousands of independent sales consultants who provide similar services to the ones you’re thinking about selling to clients.
You now have to differentiate against them and come to the table with something similar. You’re also going to be swimming upstream against a current that includes legacy thinking in sales, just like you had legacy thinking in marketing.
Most clients invest in sales training and sales coaching every single year. Is that what you’re offering? I’m not sure.
Here’s how we think about it and how I’m suggesting you think about it. Leave the training and coaching to the sales consultants. Focus on what I call Sales Operations.
Sales ops, to be paired nicely with marketing operations and the emerging Revenue Operations includes the following four areas.
Process – It’s surprising how many sales consultants never work with clients on their sales process and their prospect experience, but it’s true and it’s the perfect place for you to start. Strategy before tactics has been our mantra at Square 2 for years and we can carry it into sales with a focus on the sales process to out of the gate.
Technology – If they have a CRM and they like it, you can help them get full value by optimizing it. You can also look to wrap additional technology like Conversica, SalesLoft, SalesPad or Drift around their CRM to make the process even more efficient and effective. If they don’t have a CRM, have outgrown their CRM or don’t like their CRM, you can recommend a new CRM system and all the wrap-around services that come with this—including training their team on the new system.
Analytics – Just like marketing has become a science, so has sales. There are a ton of additional analytics besides quota attainment that needs to be considered today. Conversion rates from SQL to Sales Op, close rates on proposals submitted, pipeline velocity, sales cycle days, website visitors to new customers, the average revenue per new customer and more. Introducing dashboards, data and ongoing KPI conversations to clients is an important step in creating a Revenue Generation Machine.
Tools – Last but not least, today’s sales reps need an entirely new tool kit. Company brochures are not cutting it anymore. Sales reps need email templates, video assets, infographics, educational materials, and they need to know how to deliver content in context to their conversations with prospects. Some of these might be your materials but others might be industry, analyst or non-competitive content. The prospect experience and the buyer journey has to be mapped out in detail and this content applied at the right place and time.
These four areas are seldom dealt with by the sales consultants. They allow you to work with those people in a more collaborative way and they allow you to differentiate what you do from what they do.
What Does It Mean To Provide Customer Engagement Services
When it comes to driving revenue for clients, looking at customer service is one of the best places to start. The challenge is that clients rarely see it like this.
So, you need a bridge that gets you talking about customer related issues. The best bridge is advocacy. You need advocacy to drive both marketing and sales improvements.
Here’s exactly what I mean. These questions get clients thinking about advocacy and the connection to customer service.
Do you have customer testimonials? Do you have success stories? Do you have video references? Do you know how happy your clients are? Do you measure referrals? Do you have online reviews? Do you know how many clients buy all of your products or use your full suite of services?
The answer to these simple questions is almost no, no and no, which gets you focused on helping them in this area. You need all these answers and assets to run effective marketing and sales effort.
If you can get their attention by identifying how poorly they’re activating their current customers here are the service areas, you can easily focus on within your engagement.
Content – You need content for both marketing and sales and you need customers to help you create it. Case studies, success stories, testimonials, and video testimonials are all key assets you need for your content marketing, website build (or optimization) and your organic search engine optimization efforts. If clients can’t turn these over, you should be talking to them about creating these assets.
Customer Satisfaction Survey – When clients don’t know how happy their customers are, it’s a signal to you that they need a program to measure ongoing customer satisfaction. You can help them with this too. Build the survey, define the rhythms of outreach, align the customer service teams to be prepared to deal with the feedback and get going. In no time, the score and feedback will define a ton of new opportunity for your clients.
Customer Marketing – When clients say they want more revenue, the first place we look is with their current customers. Very few clients actual market to their customers. It’s low hanging fruit. New educational emails to customers, highlighting customers who purchase add on services, success stories introducing cross-sell or up-sell opportunities almost always produces opportunities that generate revenue.
Referral Program – Everyone loves referrals but almost no one does anything to drive referrals in a programmatic way. Consider helping your clients set up customer referral programs that remind and incent customers for giving your clients more referrals. It’s another easy way to drive sales opportunities and revenue from people who already know, like and trust your clients.
Knowledge Base – If your clients have a customer service teams and they’re regularly handling customer questions then creating a Knowledge Base filled with frequently asked questions and their answers is an excellent way to dip your toe into the customer service water. Not only does the Knowledge Base project help the customer service team be more efficient, but it also creates a new website page for the client and one that will be highly visited and clicked on which means it could rank highly and drive additional visitors to the website.
Advocacy Marketing – Finally, if you have a client with the strategic vision to be all in on leveraging customers to drive sales then you might have a candidate for a full Advocacy Marketing program. One that includes gamifying their customers' participation in collecting reviews, referrals, references and participating in the creation of that content. For more information on exactly what Advocacy Marketing is, check out this page.
How To Ramp Up
We’ve been adding new services every year for 17 years and our approach has always been the same. Either build it for your own agency first, pilot it, iterate on it, work out the operational issues, measure its success and then roll it out to clients. Or, find a client who is willing to be your test client. Give them a break on the price, but as you deliver, make sure you document every step in the process, creating your playbook as you go.
Once you complete the work, take a step back and review what went well, what was challenging, what could have made the process better and what needs to be added or improved next time around. Add those elements into your delivery playbook and then take this to other clients as revenue-generating opportunities for your agency.
Both approaches allow you to work and get paid or work and benefit the agency directly.
Getting started is rarely the issue, the big question for me and so for you too is—Should we even be doing this type of work?
This brings us back to the first part of this article and your vision for the agency. Does moving into these areas support your agency’s vision? Do you even have a vision for the agency?
The very early work in all the Agency Cohorts is centered around developing a vision and mission for your agency because questions like this are going to come up and you need your vision to be the guiding star that helps you say YES, this aligns with my vision or NO, this is not where I want our agency to go.New Cohorts Typically Launch In The Fall! If You're Interested in Getting Into A Fall Cohort, Click The Button And Let's Chat About It.
Start Today Tip – You can’t be half pregnant and you can’t be half into sales and customer service work for clients. Either go all in, define your deliverables and make the experience amazing. The other option is to simply tell clients you only focus on the marketing execution, have a few referral partners in your back pocket and let those companies help your clients. If you go all in, start with the services above and expand them based on client request over time. Keep your differentiation and agency vision in sight and your agency will grow.
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