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Why It’s Hard To Be An Inbound Agency That Does Outbound Too

Posted by Mike Lieberman on Mar 23, 2015 9:00:00 AM

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InboundMarketingAndOutboundMarketingIsChallengingI get it. You’ve done traditional work for clients a lot longer than you’ve done inbound. Outbound work makes up a significant amount of revenue and to cut that out is scary.

I can rattle of 20 reasons why you think you should do both inbound marketing and outbound marketing for clients. However, today I’m going to make a case for why an inbound marketing agency shouldn't do any traditional tactics. 

As you might expect, I’ll start with the clients or more specifically your prospects. Doesn’t everything start here? If you can’t attract businesses to your agency, you’re out of business in no time flat.

Clients And Prospects Are Confused, Anxious And Nervous

This isn’t a theory. I know that every single one of your prospects feels confused, anxious and nervous when you start talking about inbound. How can they not? They don’t know very much about it. What they do know is that they’re interested in learning more. But invest $100,000 in it? Wow, that’s scary.

It’s your job and the job of every single team member in your agency to make them feel safe. You make them feel safe by helping them understand all aspects of inbound marketing. Your ability to do this gets more complicated when you’re also telling them traditional marketing works too. Look, I know what you mean when you say this, but most of them don’t. It’s much safer, much easier and less scary to just do what they’ve been doing. You’re kind of shooting yourself in the foot by letting them off the hook and into traditional tactics if your goal is to be an inbound agency.

Given the choice, they’re going to opt for traditional nine times out of ten. Worse yet, you don’t look like an expert of anything. When you say, “inbound or traditional, we do them both, just let us know what you want.” If that doesn’t sound like a vendor ready to be commoditized right out of business, I don’t know what does.

You Can’t Focus Your Energy

You need the same energy to light a room with a light bulb as you do to power a laser that cuts through concrete. The difference is focused energy. You need to focus all your energy on getting good at inbound. So when half the team still does traditional stuff, you’re holding your agency back.

Worse yet, is what I’ve heard recently from some agency owners. They’ve taken their traditional agency and split off a team of inbound people to start a new and related agency. New brand, new website, new logo, all of it. This is a mistake. I’d tell my clients the same thing. Now you’ve split your ability to generate leads for your business, you’ve diluted your own brand equity and to my first point, further confused your clients and prospects.

Your Team Isn’t Bought In

We’ve been all in on inbound for the past five or six years and I still get challenged by the team on the lack of traditional tactics in our shop. Now take a look at your shops, when you have half the people working on traditional stuff, it’s hard to get the rest of the team to embrace inbound. You look like you’re not sure, the strategy is unclear to prospects and clients, but most importantly your team is slow to respond, slow to take the initiative to push themselves out of their comfort zone, even slower to look at the long term investment required to learn inbound when they’re busy taking care of clients day in and day out. It’s holding you back if moving all in on inbound is your strategy.

Good At A Lot Of Things But Great At Nothing

If you want to be good at inbound and you want your team to be great at getting clients results from inbound then they have to practice inbound. The more you practice the better you get. Take it from me, when we bought HubSpot for our agency, I was the only guy practicing inbound at our agency. Today, I’m still the best at looking at data, drawing conclusions on what’s working or what’s not, and coming up with a long list of adjustments that can be made to improve results.

Don’t get me wrong, there are other team members who are good at this, but I’ve been doing it longer and have more experience. You need to make sure you and your team gets this experience as fast as possible and if they’re doing other traditional tactics, it’s going to be holding them back from getting great at inbound.

You Can’t Tell A Thought Leadership Story

This probably has more to do with your own marketing than anything else. I already mentioned above that if you’re telling clients both kinds of marketing are good, well that’s a confusing story but more importantly if that’s what you believe it’s going to be difficult to create your own thought leadership content. Your prospects are searching for innovation. They don’t need help creating a cold-calling program or a direct mail campaign, there are hundreds of legacy shops around who can help them with that.

They’re looking to learn how to use the new tools like social, search and content marketing. They’re looking to learn about inbound marketing and you should be the one to help them. If you don’t look like a specialist when they visit your site, when they read your blog, when they follow you on Twitter, it’s going to be hard to get their attention when you want to talk to them about inbound.

I don’t want anyone to think I’m in any way under estimating or simplifying what is one of the most challenging aspects of moving all in on inbound. This is a strategic challenge facing almost every single agency on the planet. Unless you started your inbound agency from scratch, moving legacy tactics and legacy clients to an inbound model is very, very challenging.

But once you work out the transition details and make the leap you’re going to quickly find it easier to close new clients, easier to charge higher retainers, easier to train your crew, and perhaps the most important benefit—easier to get clients dramatic results from your inbound engagements.

Start Today Tip – It’s probably not going to be hard to find one or two areas where your agency still has one foot in the traditional bucket and the other foot in the inbound bucket. It might be your story to prospects, it might be your team, or it might be own marketing. Make a list of all the areas that need to be transitioned and start with the highest priority area. If you’re asking for some guidance on that, it all starts with sales and biz dev, so my choice would be getting your story for prospects down pat. Along with that comes keeping your own agency marketing focused on inbound too. After that, work through the rest in a step by step fashion, before you know it, you’ll be all in on inbound.

For more information on how to move to inbound, check out our new EBook by clicking on the button below.

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Topics: Inbound Marketing Agency, inbound agency, traditional tactics

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