You might be a new face in the business world who is committed to making your company thrive. And we are definitely excited to hear this! You’ve finally decided to ask for an expert’s hand in managing your marketing campaigns and you found us on Google, or social media.
These are the best examples of inbound marketing.
Of course, you want to know more about this particular area of marketing. What is it? How does it work? What are the benefits? You also need to know how to hire the best inbound marketing agency to fit your business’ needs.
Well, luckily for you we have plenty of valuable resources to share! Here’s a closer look at what inbound marketing is and how a great inbound marketing agency works!
What Is Inbound Marketing And Why Is It CUTE?
You have a problem, you’re looking for a solution.
Let’s say that you came late from work, have absolutely no desire to cook and you want to have a nice, hot pizza delivered to your doorstep. You will Google pizza places and, thanks to SEO, organic traffic and earned exposure, will be able to choose the best option for you.
That is inbound marketing, in a nutshell.
It’s a form of marketing specifically tailored to be found by those who need that specific solution at that certain moment. It’s not annoying or inappropriate.
You have what you need, the moment you need it.
Instead of investing in the creation of screaming pop up banners, that most customers will find ANNOYING, inbound marketing invests in making useful content your best way of promoting yourself.
The first thing to remember is how you interact with other businesses as a customer and avoid doing what you are annoyed by to your audience.
This is one of the most fundamental steps to building a successful marketing strategy that will help you grow your company in the healthiest way possible.
When in doubt, really, try and think like a customer: how many times have you been disturbed by an absolutely unwanted advertisement while reading a blog post or doing something that required your undivided attention?
Yes, we know.
The usual response to such things is not really polite and goes on the line of “Shut the F* up!”.
So what is inbound marketing?
It’s a marketing strategy that targets a specific audience – identified through the buyer’s persona – and works in optimising organic and paid media so people who are looking for you and your products will find you.
Inbound marketing focuses on growing your audience as well as nurturing your pre-existing customers, without investing in overly aggressive guerrilla campaigns all over the place.
To use an acronym, an inbound marketing strategy should be CUTE.
The basis of inbound marketing is the creation of content that’s useful, and targeted to your audience, while being empathetic to the current stage their at in the buyer’s journey.
Now, do you want to know more about the results you could achieve through CUTEness?
What Would An Inbound Marketing Agency Do For You?
First things first, choosing an agency ensures that you get the right results without having to spend years perfecting your marketing crafts. You can spend more time working on your business development and stop worrying about things you probably don’t know much about.
Quite simply put, the right agency will be able to develop inbound marketing tactics that will continue to grow your business even if you decide to stop investing in them.
SEO is a great example of this, as the organic value of a well optimised piece of content will only continue to grow with time.
SEO never dies.
Great ROI, happy customers, a loyal community, and all that jazz.
The formula is to Attract, Engage, Convert, and Delight.
A cracking inbound strategy will tackle all of your existing customers and potential clients according to the different stages they’re at in their buyer’s journey. Their needs will fluctuate depending on the stage they are at, and you strategy needs to deliver valuable content that offers tangible value to each stage of that journey.
In the Attraction stage you content is geared towards raising awareness of your brand, building your visibility, and attracting new potential customers.
In the Engagement stage, the main aim is to build a trusting relationship with the potential customers you have attracted. , educating them on the need for and value of your product or service, answering their customers and responding to potential customers’ initial questions, and allaying their concerns.
In the Conversion stage, you content is geared towards triggering that decision to buy, or sign up; to change a potential customer into a paying client.
In the Delighting (or delightful!) stage, your content will focus on nurturing the pre-existing relationships with customers and transforming them into repeat business, and loyal brand ambassadors who will happily recommend you.
Their recommendations can then be used as content in the attraction stage of your inbound marketing funnel, and round and round it goes…
Of course, these are the ultimate goals. There’s a lot that goes into the strategy behind them. But the key element is valuable, high-quality content that will consistently attract and convert new clients. Strategies of this nature take time to setup and perfect, but once they’re in place they deliver a high return on investment, and are relatively cheap compared to other forms of marketing.
You seem interested: let’s go further and see what to look for in the perfect inbound marketing agency, shall we?
How To Choose The Best Agency…
Now that you know what the right agency will do for your business, need to know how to hire the best agency around.
Well, you could stop looking and choose us *wink wink*.
All jokes aside, these are the main things you should be considering before committing to an inbound marketing agency:
#1 Do They Have What It Takes?
When you decide to hire an agency you have to be ready for the investment they require. Some services will be budget-friendly options, designed to get you started cheaply while you increase your revenue. Others are designed for businesses that already have a substantial marketing budget and are looking for comprehensive marketing solutions. These will come with a heftier price tag.
The thing about comprehensive solutions is that they require a multitude of skills. The more you’re looking to your agency to achieve for you, the greater the breadth of skills required. They’re going to need crackshot copywriters, genius SEO experts, inspired designers, wizard-like developers, PPC experts, PR gurus, and a whole host of other skilled individuals.
It is incredibly rare to find a single person who is genuinely good at all – or even a handful – of these skills. They all require specialist training, and take years of practical experience to get really good at them.
Make sure that the agency that will take care of your strategy has a complete team of experts to get the job done.
#2 Their Portfolio…
Of course, you will be looking for someone who has the right experience. Ask to see the jobs they’ve previously done. This isn’t just to test their abilities, but to see if they are effectively capable of crafting unique brands for their customers. If they’re capable of conceptualising what you have in mind.
Are the brands they worked on previously engaging and original?
Or are they the same old load of templated websites and stock images?
Some agencies choose to specialise in specific fields that might not be right for you and your company: if you have a car business, an agency that’s big in beauty products probably won’t be the best match.
#3 Their Pricing…
This is fundamental, but probably not for the reasons you think. You see, quality services require higher pricing. And that is a universal truth. If an agency is asking you for a higher price it’s because, quite simply, they deserve it.
Their prices wouldn’t be that high if people weren’t happy to pay them. And people are happy to pay premium rates when it gets them great results.
Cheaper agencies might look appealing, but quite often they are not capable of offering the services that you have in mind for your brand. Or at least, aren’t capable of doing them at a level of competency that will generate a good ROI for you. You get the odd gem of a product that’s purposefully kept to a budget price, but designed to get maximum results from minimum investment. But these products are clearly marketed as basic options, minimalist options, budget-friendly options, and run alongside more comprehensive (and much pricier!) options.
Consider the scope of an agency’s offerings. Do they have different packages to cater to different budgets, with the level of work being done increasing as the price goes up?
Or are they trying to sell you a package that appears to do everything but comes at a bargain price?
The former is a great pricing model that allows clients of all budgets to take advantage of your services, and scale the work they have from you as you deliver results and they’re able to afford a greater investment.
The latter is an indication that the results you’re going to get won’t be great – if they were, it would cost more!
When You Buy Cheap You Buy Twice…
Opting for the cheapest quote can seem like the safe bet. But we frequently find people coming to us – particularly for SEO services – because the agency they’re currently with is charging them every month, but doesn’t appear to be doing much.
They’re not climbing higher in the SERPs, they’re seeing no monthly reports to tell them what progress is being made, and the reason for this is simple: they’re not charging enough to spend the time and resources needed to generate tangible results.
Clients soon get frustrated by the fact they’re paying monthly for zero returns, and come to us looking for actual results.
As the old saying goes, when you buy cheap you buy twice.
By the time you’ve realised your cheap option isn’t actually achieving anything, the only solution you’d have would be to ask for another agency’s help, and the money you’d invested in the cheap seats would have been wasted.
#4 Do They Actually Know How To Do Marketing?
While it’s true a Social Media Manager doesn’t need to be interested in becoming an influencer to know how to make you one, every inbound marketing agency does need to market itself!
Just as you do.
Have a snoop at their own marketing campaigns. What are they doing to promote their business? Do they blog regularly? Are they active on social media? Do you see their ads popping up?
They should be marketing their services in some way. This may not be in the same way they advise you to market yours – after all they are running a different business, which may have a different business model, and will certainly have a different brand identity than yours. What they advise you to do may not be appropriate for them, and vice versa.
There is no one-size-fits-all marketing strategy that works for everyone.
But if they seem to be neglecting their own platforms or, worse, have made a few too many marketing faux pas, then no: they’re not the right one for you!
#5 Their Results…
The best agencies are able to show you their results in a field that’s relevant to the one you are inquiring about. If they don’t, they probably lack the necessary experience to be successful with your business. If they haven’t worked with a company that does exactly what you do but can show you comparable marketing campaigns that were successful you’re in business.
Your agency should either specialise in your niche, and marketing business that do what you do, or they should specialise in the type of inbound marketing campaign you’re looking for.
Acrylic, for example, does not specialise in any one industry; we work with mainly local businesses, so it’s proximity that unites them rather than the same product, service or business model. We do, however, specialise in search engine optimisation and search engine marketing.
While we offer other forms of inbound marketing services, SEO is the big one that we do for most of our clients.
Always look – and don’t be afraid to ask! – for relevant case studies. Analysing one of your prospective agency’s case studies will give you a measure of their reliability, character and their effective results.
Of course, if the agency doesn’t have any results to show you, it’s either because they’re brand new and haven’t really had any customers yet, or they’re not very good at what they do. They have no positive outcomes they can share. Either they don’t have the right experience or they don’t really care about tracking their data, which is a red flag for any digital agency.
The only exception to this is when the company performs confidential work – we are, for example, unable to discuss several clients because there are non-disclosure agreements in place!
A Few Case Studies: Aka An Inbound Agency At Work…
List Building Campaigns: Cotton Club Crafts
Cotton Club Crafts are a local business in Northwich, just down the road from us. They came to us with an extremely small budget but needed to make the maximum impact with it. We created a list building campaign to get as many potential customers as possible on their email list, so they could market to them directly using their existing regular newsletter.
For this, we created a simple freebie in the form of a rose cross-stitch pattern that could be downloaded. The campaign was extremely successful, run on a very low budget of £5 per day it generated over 100 signups per week on average.
Takeaway: A bit of original photography and a very well-targeted campaign with a killer lead magnet goes a very long way where list-building is concerned, even on a tiny budget.
Event Lead Generation Campaigns: Real Skills
We are currently running a very successful lead generation campaign for Real Skills to attract interest in their open days. This is a highly targeted campaign aimed at a very niche audience – 19-23-year-olds in specific geographic areas who have an interest in a career on the railway and are currently either unemployed or unhappily employed.
The campaign has a reasonable budget of £20 per day and generated almost 100 attendees in the first week alone.
Takeaway: Convincing leads to take a very specific action – like attending an event – is harder and more expensive than simply getting them on your list. But, if you have a realistic understanding of this, you can still achieve great results on a relatively modest budget, as long as your targeting is spot on you have a compelling ad message.
Product Sales Campaign: The Belgian Beer Company
We’ve been working with The Belgian Beer Company throughout 2021 to capitalise on the unprecedented level of sales they saw in 2020 as a result of the pandemic. With so many people stuck at home, they suddenly found themselves flooded with orders, and wanted to ensure they maintained their new level of monthly revenue when lockdown lifted and pubs reopened.
We’ve been running successful Google and Social Media campaigns for most of the year and as a result, their post-lockdown monthly revenue is now holding steady at around 600% of their pre-lockdown revenue.
Takeaway: While Facebook/Instagram have proven to be highly lucrative platforms for product sales in the past, they have been hit hard by the iOS update and unknown additional issues that their own marketing experts are unable to explain or remedy. As a result, we are currently moving away from social media ads for TBBC and ramping up search ads across multiple platforms (Google, Bing, Taboola etc.).
Social media may recover at some point but at the moment from a direct sales perspective, it is not something we’re recommending. It’s still currently a highly effective tool for list building and other objectives.
Visibility Campaign: Only Fans
Another very fun project we’ve been working on this year is raising the visibility of a fabulous lady over on Only Fans. We won’t name names for privacy reasons, but suffice to say our efforts say her rise to the top 0.02% of Only Fans accounts.
For those of you who don’t know how Only Fans works, that means that she had more subscribers than the other 99.8% of all other accounts, worldwide.
Pretty damn impressive, if we do say so ourselves!
Takeaway: Sometimes the best type of campaign you can run is one that raises your visibility and brand awareness, without trying to push for a specific outcome. The conversions happen naturally as you become more visible and people become interested in you.
eBook Campaign: RES-EV
As part of a comprehensive SEO campaign for RES-EV that included weekly longform blog posts, we created an eBook to attract potential customers. This is available for free on signup to their email list, as well as on Amazon. They have never run paid advertising campaigns on this book, yet it consistently generates new leads each month through purely organic power.
Ironic, really, considering the book title is Go Green To Make Green!
Takeaway: Lead magnets are powerful assets even if they are only ever working on a purely organic basis.
Are You Ready To Choose?
In the end, you know what works best for you and your business and nobody can tell you otherwise. Choosing the right agency is a big commitment, so make sure that whomever you choose embodies your idea of marketing.
In an ideal world, a prospective agency will offer you a free consultation to give you chance to learn more about each other. Finding a good fit is essential. Even if an agency has all the skills you need, a genius track record and an impeccable reputation, it takes that personal conversation to really know if they’re right for you.