I get asked two questions when it comes to inbound agency growth. The first one is “How do we get more new clients?” and the second is “How do we get our current clients better results?” These are both good questions and both important aspects of agency operations that should be getting a fair amount of attention from agency owners.
I think we talk more about how to get new clients, so today let’s focus on getting clients better results. The inbound agency team structure has a ton to do with giving your team enough time, attention, direction and experience to drive client results—no matter what results you’ve agreed to with your clients.
I want to preface the advice I provide here by pointing out that inbound marketing agencies are all different and each agency is going to have to make the inbound marketing team structure decisions that are right for you and your shop. However, I will also tell you that we’ve run through a wide variety of team structures and the structure I describe here has been the only one that allows us to provide clients great experiences AND allows us to scale as we grow.
Here are the considerations for you to work with as you define your own inbound marketing agency team structure.
The Roles You Need
I’m not talking about titles. Titles mean very little to me. What I’m talking about is the roles you need on the team and the structure to support these roles. Call them whatever you want, group them together if you want, but make sure you have people on the team who understand that their responsibility is to serve these roles.
Communicators – This is a role that almost everyone on your team needs to assume frequently. Communication skills are critical to organizing work, setting expectations with clients and with internal team members, educating clients and keeping everyone on the same page all the time. Senior people need to be excellent communicators, but less experienced people need to understand their communication might be even more important.
Doers – I know some agencies actually used this title. I’m not really a fan of that practice because it assumes other people might not be DOING anything. But the reality of the agency world is that you need people who are working on client engagements. They might be writing, they might be optimizing, they might be designing or even putting together client presentations.
Analysts – Today marketing and sales are analytical practices, so you need people who can look at data, understand where to find the right data, what the data tells you and how to respond to that data. You’re looking for people who are not intimidated by the numbers, who know how to manipulate and analyze the data but who also know how to use the tools that grab, present and synthesize the data.
Mentors – Every team needs leaders and in this case a lot of the best leaders are active mentors to team members with less experience but also active mentors to their clients. Clients will, in almost every case, have less practical experience than you and your team. This is your chance to help them get up to speed with what you know and how you use that knowledge. The better you are at helping your clients get smarter, the longer they’ll be your clients.
Now take these roles and package them into positions with job descriptions at your shop. Create salary bands, compensation programs and proficiency checklists for each position. For example, at Square 2 Marketing we use the Marketing Strategist position and the Marketing Consultant position to deploy the roles above. Whatever you call them, that doesn’t matter, as long as everyone knows what role they’re playing and what’s expected from them.
Levels Of Experience
I’ve seen this repeatedly. To save money, owners think they can hire a team of interns or slightly better, a team of people fresh out of college. I’ve seen both models crash and burn. You simply can’t get those roles above from interns or kids in their first job. I can also tell you that clients paying you $10,000 are not looking to have a team of inexperienced young people working on their account.
When you look back at the roles above, you’ll notice that you can deliver those if you blend your team’s experience. That means you need people with low, medium and high levels of experience. You need highly experienced people to understand the nuances of client management, the intricacies associated with communication (internal and external), and the keys to moving engagements forward when they’re stuck.
You need people with moderate experience to analyze data, to interpret data, and to come up with a solid action plan based on that data and the team’s collected experiences. Then you can apply people with less experience to handle the day to day. Run this report, do this research, follow up on this commitment, build this page or schedule this meeting. Now you’ve properly built the right roles and aligned the right set of experiences to empower your team to be their best.
Marketing and sales is complicated today. It’s more complicated than ever before. You’re going to want your team and your people to have as wider a variety of tactical experiences as possible. The interconnectedness of the tactical package means you want people who know enough about search to apply that knowledge to website design and development. You want people who know how to create content that gets found. You want people who understand buyer journey and user experience when they create your paid campaigns.
Typically, the best way to deliver this is to train your team to be knowledgeable on a wide variety of tactical options but back them up with strategy and deep expertise on all these areas. You want your consultants to be able to answer basic questions and deploy basis understanding while giving them the option of having experts to go to when they need guidance or help.
These experts don’t necessarily have to be in-house, but that is best in my opinion. The key is accessibility and availability. Your clients and your team need to be working closely every day to leverage the expertise and to have that knowledge start to find its way into your team.
The Importance Of Strategy
Look at the history and legacy of your agency. You’ll probably see a pattern. Website agencies have a ton of good web design and development talent. PR agencies typically have a lot of public relations, influencer and writing talent. Branding agencies almost always have a lot of design experience.
But in all three of those examples and search firms, email firms and social media firms have the same challenge—no background and experience in comprehensive and strategic marketing and sales planning.
When you couple this with the client’s desire to push right into tactics you get a recipe for disappointing results. We see this every single day. Clients with tactics but no overall strategy and tactics that are focused on their current agencies expertise.
You need team members who can help clients understand the importance of revenue generation (marketing and sales) strategy. You need team members who have crafted marketing and sales strategies for clients before and you need people who are passionate about having a great plan before you start executing tactics.
This is going to produce better results, happier clients and a longer more profitable relationship with your clients.
Gaining Insight From Data, Turning That Into A Plan
This is a challenging skill set to find for your team. You won’t find it in college educated younger people. You won’t find it with people who have extensive traditional marketing tactical experience. You won’t find it in traditional account management experience.
You will find this with people who have been doing analytics in both marketing and sales operations roles. You will find this in people who have come for marketing and sales software tech companies and you might find this with people who have been analytically oriented in their lead generation efforts in an inhouse role.
One of the other ways to build this skill set into your current team is to start actively training your team members so they can find the data by knowing where to look and what to look at. You can train your team to understand what the data is telling you and you can train your team to convert those insights into action plans that quickly drive results for your clients.
How you physically structure your teams is going to be up to you. I think that’s less important than understanding the knowledge and value you’re trying to share with your clients. We have practice leaders who run teams. We have strategists who manage consultants and we have teams of experts that are deployed into client assignments the same way Special Forces (think Navy Seals) are deployed.
This works for us and may or may not work for you. Instead take care of the roles, experience levels, emphasis data and keep an eye to strategy-- the rest will take care of itself.
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Start Today Tip – Don’t be afraid to blow up your structure and rebuild it so it’s better. We’ve done that at least four or five times at Square 2 Marketing. While people were uncertain, uncomfortable and unsure at the outset, they quickly saw the power of the changes to allow them to provide a better client experience, to gain more knowledge and deliver much better results. Get your new structure together, communicate the whys to your team and make the changes required. Continue to iterate on the structure in small ways monthly but if it’s not working, there is no need to stay with something that’s not working Scrap it and go to the next option until you get it right.
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