Whether you are a B2B or B2C marketer, a small or mid-sized company, in just about any industry today, you share the same marketing challenges; you want more traffic to your website and you're focused on converting more leads to customers. Yet, how do you accomplish this? How do you begin to take a complete stranger who has no idea your company exists, and turn them into a qualified lead and ultimately a delighted customer? By having a search optimized and responsive website for starters, coupled with a well thought out and strategic inbound marketing plan.
Inbound marketing, if you're not familiar with the term, means transforming how you do business. It's a shift in marketing all about being helpful and human and matching the way you market your products and services to the way your customers are buying.
I would love to tell you accomplishing this is as easy as clicking your sparkling red slippers three times, or if you build the "Field of Dreams," the leads will come, but unfortunately it's not that easy! To attract, convert, and delight requires a lot of essential ingredients, just like creating a perfect, well-crafted recipe. If you only use some of the ingredients when preparing your favorite dish, there's a good chance your recipe will be a flop, and the same holds true for your inbound marketing game plan.
The pervasive question your marketing team may be facing as you look at your 2017 digital marketing strategy is whether or not your internal staff has not only the bandwidth to deploy your inbound marketing game plan but the expertise. If you are considering partnering with an outside agency, here's a way for you to set up a process for gathering an "apples to apples" proposal:
The Essential Building Blocks for an Inbound Marketing Retainer
Strategy: It's Everything!
Before you put calls to action on your website — or even publish one blog post — you need to have a plan. A strategic plan that is going to help you get from point A to point B. When evaluating an inbound marketing partner, ask to see an example of a quarterly strategic plan they have created. This will help you understand how well-equipped they will be to drive the marketing results you are looking to obtain. The plan should reflect the targeted audience they are trying to connect with, their conversion tactics for converting visitors to leads, what blog topics they will create to drive organic website traffic, etc.
Content Creation: More Content Equals More Leads
At the heart of a well-deployed inbound marketing plan is content. Ideally, both written content and video content. When looking at potential agency partners, it's essential to have an understanding of their depth of content creation. Ask to see examples of their most successful blog posts that led to the greatest number of conversions. Put your consumer hat on and ask, "does this content feel salesy," or is it honest and authentic? Would a reader find it relevant? Does the content inspire action? Is the target audience easily identifiable in this sample article, and where in the buyer's journey does this article align? These are great filters to use in your discovery process.
How much content you create will be the greatest variable in determining your retainer price. Here are the considerations you will need to know:
- How many blog articles will you want to publish?
(This is directly correlated to how fast you want to achieve results. The more content you create the more organic traffic you will drive.)
- How many videos will you want to produce?
Videos are extremely effective when used as part of your blogging strategy and they also help convert visitors to leads on landing pages.
- Content Offers: How many downloads and offers will you have?
Inbound marketing is rooted in the "give to get" philosophy. I give you a piece of valuable content and in exchange, you share with me your email. The more offers you have on your website the greater number of conversions.
Graphic Design: Looks Are Not Deceiving
Good content without good packaging will impact your results. This pertains to not only your website, but all your branded inbound marketing collateral from effective landing pages to email templates to calls to action. Looking at past content offers and templates created by your potential partner will allow you to quickly identify how well the design elements of their capabilities align with your desired branding requirements.
Email Marketing: It's More Important Than You May Think
Once you have captured an email address, marketing automation allows you to create a workflow with a series of timed emails and have it automatically deployed for each new contact. Not all inbound marketing agencies hang their hats on being email marketing experts, yet this is one of the most important pieces of content in an inbound marketing plan.
To evaluate an agency's level of expertise, ask:
A well-deployed email marketing plan will take all of these elements into consideration. A simple way to grasp an agency's expertise is to look at a complete "workflow," starting with lead conversion and all the emails designed to move the visitor to purchase. You will be able to understand how the offers map the buyer's journey.
- How well does the content align with the buyer's journey?
- How does the voice reflect the brand?
- How creative and interactive is the email?
- How many emails are typically part of a content offer campaign?
Knowledge of the Software: They Are Not All Created Equal
Inbound marketing is so much more than buttons, forms, and emails. It requires the expertise of marketing automation software that brings all of the elements seamlessly together. Depending on the size of your organization, you will want to make sure that you select the software that is right for your business. As with all technology, software changes constantly. Your agency partners need to be experts in leveraging the software and committed to staying abreast of all the latest updates. Not all agencies work with all marketing automation platforms. It's best to pick your software, then pick the agency with the most experience using it.
Analytics: Show Me the Money!
The awesome part of digital marketing is the ability to look at data and determine what strategies are working to drive traffic and convert leads — and what isn't working, as well. Marketers have craved this level of insight for decades! Your marketing partner needs to be your hired marketing scientist. Slight nuances in the amount of content created, the simplicity or complexity of a landing page, the cadence of a lead nurturing campaign, the frequency of a social post with your content offer, the length of your video, etc., can all impact your results. A way to vet an agency's depths of data analysis is to look at a quarterly report. What are they measuring and reporting on routinely? What metrics define success? What is the ROI of the investment that companies are making with them?
Inbound marketing is a science and all the necessary tools are at your fingertips. But if you don't have an internal team that can specialize in each important area of the inbound marketing methodology, you may be wasting valuable time. From strategy, to design, to content creation, to email marketing expertise, and software familiarity, a monthly retainer with an experienced agency could save you money in the long run by driving results faster.
The building blocks of an inbound marketing plan have been laid out. What do you need to deliver the plan?