Your Guide to Choosing an Inbound Marketing Agency
In our essential guide, learn more about what an inbound marketing agency can do for your business, and the key capabilities to look for.
Published: 11 Feb 2021
10 minutes read
What is an inbound marketing agency?
An inbound marketing agency utilises the inbound methodology to help businesses attract website visitors, convert them into sales-ready leads, and close those leads into customers. So how does it work? Imagine you’re watching a TV series and you see an actor you recognise, but you can’t quite place them. What do you do? You Google the person, check out their IMDB page and research where you’ve seen them before. This behaviour is not limited to our downtime - we are all searchers now, seeking our own information to answer questions we have on a range of topics.
This fundamental truth extends beyond our personal lives and into work - whenever we have a question, we go online to find the answer. This means there are thousands of potential customers searching for answers to challenges your business can solve. Inbound takes advantage of this contemporary digital behaviour by creating quality, personalised content to answer these questions, and drive relevant, engaged traffic to your website.
Such an approach needs a range of expertise - from content creators to SEO experts, CRO specialists and more. An inbound marketing agency harnesses these diverse specialisms to ensure your inbound marketing strategy isn’t just bringing the right traffic to your site, but that visitors are nurtured through their buyer’s journey until they become valued customers.
An inbound marketing agency can help businesses who are looking to:
- Outsource their inbound marketing to a team of experts. Find out more here >
- Want strategic help and advice on executing inbound marketing. Find out more here >
Ready to learn more? Let’s get cracking.
What kind of businesses might work with an inbound marketing agency?
Inbound marketing is a perfect fit for B2B companies, where buying cycles are often longer, and potential customers need more convincing before making a buying decision.
Hiring an inbound marketing agency is a good choice for businesses who have bought into the concept of inbound, but may not have the time or in-house resource to execute it effectively on their own. A fully-fledged inbound strategy aligns a number of digital marketing tactics, with content just one piece of the overall marketing puzzle. A good inbound marketing agency can bring these disparate pieces together into a coherent strategy that will help you achieve your business goals.
It’s very rare that businesses are not doing some form of digital marketing in 2021 - but often this consists of a series of tactics as opposed to a larger, focused strategy. We often work with clients who use content marketing, PPC, social, email and more - but lack a singular, encompassing strategy. An inbound marketing agency can help you align these various activities under one umbrella focused on delivering results against your core business goals.
One of our clients - Huthwaite International - already had a deep archive of content, but weren’t generating enough leads. Our role was to reposition this great content into an overarching inbound journey that formed the focal point of their marketing efforts. By creating a seamless buyer’s journey and realigning content to different stages of the funnel, we were able to help Huthwaite International increase their online revenue by 433%, bringing in an extra 1,000 leads a year, and almost tripling their customers.
When choosing an inbound marketing agency, you should be looking at what they have been able to achieve previously, and how they’re proposing to deliver similar results for your business. While sector expertise is important - particularly if you’re in a complex industry like technology - this knowledge can be learned. An agency with a wide range of in-house expertise to draw on is essential in implementing a successful inbound marketing strategy.
Could an inbound marketing agency help me?
Yes, an inbound marketing agency can help you if you know what you want to achieve through inbound and how an agency will help you hit your goals.
But… it’s not for everyone. It’s worth considering that, by using content to generate leads, inbound is not going to instantly deliver hundreds of cash-waving customers to your digital doorstep. It requires a long-term vision and the patience to execute effectively. Moving content to the very top of search engine results pages is not something that happens overnight. While a good inbound agency will also look to deliver some quick wins alongside the longer-term strategy, inbound does need time to be successful.
If you’re considering an inbound marketing agency, then you should think about:
- Your current business needs: What are your overall marketing goals, and what obstacles are blocking you from achieving them? If you know the answer to this two-part question, then you’ll probably know exactly how an inbound agency can help you.
- Your in-house expertise: Do you have a marketing team? And if so, how big is it? Inbound marketing is a team sport, and successful inbound requires input from both the agency and client. You don’t need a big marketing team to work with an inbound agency (afterall, that’s why you’re looking for help), but without any internal capability, you won’t get the most out of this marketing methodology.
- What you want to achieve through inbound: What are you hoping to achieve from taking on an inbound marketing agency? Is it enhanced website traffic, more leads, or a specific revenue goal, for example? These are the first questions you’ll get asked by any inbound agency you speak to - so you should think about your goals.
- How much you want to spend: Depending on your goals and the size of your team, an inbound marketing retainer will cost you around £4000 - £8000 a month. If you’re looking to spend a lot less, then it’s unlikely you’ll be able to achieve the results you want through inbound.
Once you’ve outlined the need and potential scope of inbound marketing within your business, it’s time to start looking at different marketing agencies.
What to look for in an inbound marketing agency
Every inbound marketing agency offers a different approach, based on their own specialisms and internal skill sets. What you should look for depends on your business criteria and what you’re trying to achieve through inbound. By looking at your own internal capabilities in comparison to marketing needs, you can assess where an agency will bring the most value to you.
While your specific criteria may change, a good inbound agency should have the following key skills:
An overarching strategy is the key to running successful inbound marketing, and you should expect to work closely with an inbound strategist who will help you devise and execute campaigns to achieve your business goals.
From the get-go, a good inbound strategist will want to understand everything about your business - from your overall aims to your ideal customer - in order to build an approach that suits your needs. Look for an agency that has a clearly defined discovery process, and wants to understand the perspectives of key stakeholders in your business outside of marketing.
An inbound strategy should look to bring together content, SEO, CRO, social, email and more to ensure all marketing efforts are aligned and focused on achieving your goals. An inbound agency will be able to help you achieve this, and can also work with you to transfer your business goals (such as revenue) into marketing metrics, giving you visibility of success in real terms.
Questions to ask:
- What is your discovery process?
- Do you require access to key stakeholders (such as sales, and product/service experts) if we were to work with you?
Watch our video to find out more about a day in the life of a strategist?
Web design and development
Inbound uses content to drive visitors to your website. This means that successful inbound marketing requires a functional, high-quality website designed to convert your new visitors into leads. Without this capability, you risk not being able to follow up on the great work you’re doing to generate meaningful traffic.
A good inbound agency should boast top-notch web design and development capabilities to help you not only set up your website for success in the first place, but to continually optimise and improve the site as you go. This all begins with growth-driven design.
Questions to ask:
- Do you have a design and development team?
- How have you been able to increase traffic and conversion through web design?
Attracting and nurturing customers using inbound marketing means creating content that both educated and excites them - and this doesn’t have to be restricted to blogs. A more creative inbound agency will look to offer a range of content from blogs and eBooks to videos, quizzes, webinars and more.
Video in particular is becoming essential to building a successful marketing strategy, with HubSpot suggesting that 72% of customers would rather learn about a product or service by way of video. Very few businesses will have professional-scale video production capabilities in-house, so this should be high up your list when looking at an inbound marketing agency’s content team.
Questions to ask:
- What types of content do you produce for your clients?
- Do you have videographers within your content team?
Check out our video to learn more about
a day of the life of a content specialist?
In order to successfully drive relevant, engaged traffic to your website, you need to be found. Your content and core website needs to be targeting the right keywords, with SEO playing a major part in successful inbound marketing.
You should be looking for an inbound agency that not only understands the fundamentals of SEO, but actively builds SEO into their inbound strategies. Look for agencies that have delivered major traffic increases for their clients as evidence of how to successfully leverage SEO.
Questions to ask:
- Do you have any in-house SEO specialists?
- How do you incorporate SEO into your content strategies?
Conversion Rate Optimisation (CRO)
In 2021, data is omnipresent - in fact, in the last two years alone, an incredible 90% of the world’s data has been created. Any inbound agency worth its salt knows this and fundamentally understands how to leverage data to drive a result. From a content and website marketing perspective that means analysing performance, and constantly iterating and optimising pages depending on what the data tells you.
Conversion Rate Optimisation is the art of enhancing website performance through ongoing data analysis and experimentation, and this is a vital weapon within the inbound arsenal. A good inbound agency will look to improve what you already have - it’s cheaper and faster than starting anew, and can help you deliver some quick results while waiting for longer-term tactics to kick in.
Look out for inbound agencies with excellent conversion improvements in relatively short time frames as evidence of successful CRO.
Questions to ask:
- How do you use data to enhance your results?
- What would you do to improve the conversion rate on my current website?
Check out our video to learn more about
A day of the life of A Conversion Rate Optimisation SpECIALIST?
Marketing and sales have a thorny history, but the best inbound agencies know that aligning these two skill sets allows you to maximise results. In addition to setting a marketing strategy, inbound agencies should be able to support sales enablement, using marketing collateral as a tool to help your sales teams nurture leads through their buyer’s journey.
HubSpot isn’t just a marketing tool - as a powerful CRM system it is built to support aligned sales and marketing efforts. A good inbound agency will ask for access to your sales team early on, so they can help map sales processes to your inbound journey. This will help them to create truly great content that generates prospects your sales teams want to speak to.
Questions to ask:
- How can you help us with sales enablement?
- How do you use content across both sales and marketing?
While paying for advertising is an outbound tactic, paid advertising (either through Google or social media platforms) when used correctly can provide a turbo boost to your inbound efforts, supporting your core campaigns with an instant traffic boost to key assets and offers.
An inbound approach to PPC and paid social utilises targeted ads at each stage of the funnel, presenting potential leads with a valuable and highly-relevant content asset as they move through their buyer’s journey.
Questions to ask:
- Do you have any paid media specialists in your team?
- How do you use paid media as part of an inbound strategy?
The best inbound marketing agencies will have a wide range of specialisms in-house - but the team is just one element to look out for in a good inbound marketing agency. Let’s look at the key factors you should think about when choosing an agency to work with.
How to choose an inbound marketing agency
Each marketing agency will take a slightly different approach to delivering inbound based on their experience, knowledge, and skill set. To get the best results, it’s essential you match your goals up to the agency’s specialisms. If you’re looking to build a high-converting website, for example, you’ll need an agency with design capability and a good track-record with CRO.
When it comes to choosing an inbound agency, here are the key factors to look out for:
- Areas of expertise: As mentioned above, industry expertise shouldn’t be the defining factor in your decision, but it is an important one to consider. When researching a potential inbound agency, check if they have experience in your sector, or a wide enough understanding of other industries to quickly adapt to the specific challenges of your own.
- The results they’ve generated in the past: Look for case studies on the agency’s website, and ask for results that are specific to your business. A good agency will only reference success where it's relevant to you - if they pull out the same old brand names for every prospective client, then it may suggest they’ve not got a wide breadth of specific experience.
- Their services: If you need a marketer’s thesaurus to decode the digital jargon, that’s never a good sign. If an inbound agency doesn’t have a specific expertise in a key area, they may try to glaze over it with vague information - look for clarity within their offering.
- Their pricing: Does your prospective inbound marketing agency offer any indication of pricing before you engage in conversation? Transparent pricing allows you to consider budgets against your goals, and helps simplify sales conversations. You should also be wary of agencies that don’t specify required software before working with them - not an issue with us… we’re Hubspot through and through. You don’t want to sign a contract and find out you’re also obligated to buy an expensive software license you didn’t know about.
- How well they market their own business: If an inbound agency can’t put together a good strategy for their own website, then how can you expect them to do a good job for you? Check out your prospective agency’s blogs and resources - and browse their website. Does it look good and function well?
- What onboarding will look like: When you start with an inbound agency, you want to know what the onboarding process will look like, and what you can expect to see happen over the first few months of your engagement. This is particularly important if you have engaged stakeholders in the business expecting results.
- How they cope with the unexpected: The best laid plans of mice and men go out the window when a campaign doesn’t work (or something like that). If your strategy isn’t working, how well can the agency adapt to change and move in a new direction?
- Location: In the digital age, location doesn’t matter as much as it once did, although as an inbound marketing agency in Manchester, we’re proud to work with a number of local businesses. Check out our blog on what you need to know about working with a local agency to find out more.
Building a business case for working with an inbound marketing agency
Making the decision to hire an inbound agency may require buy-in from various key stakeholders in your business - and preparing a business case could be an essential component in getting the inbound support you want. Here’s what you should include:
- Why inbound marketing: What does inbound offer that other marketing strategies (including the ones you are currently using) don’t deliver? Reference improvements that could be made quickly within your current marketing efforts, and how inbound can help you deliver success.
- Demonstrating evidence: The conceptual stuff is great, but what results will hiring an inbound agency deliver? Facts and numbers that support the general inbound methodology will be helpful here, along with specific examples of your chosen agency’s work.
- How inbound supports wider organisational goals: Marketing shouldn’t exist in a silo, and aligning your inbound marketing proposal with the wider organisational goals will help you land the agency you want.
- ROI: How will working alongside an inbound marketing agency deliver ROI to your business? What goals and figures are the agency proposing you will achieve by working with them, and how will these numbers affect the business’ bottom line?
- Benefits of working with an agency vs. in-house: If you have an internal marketing team, a good question may be ‘why do you need more support?’. Highlighting the scope of capabilities within an inbound marketing agency, and how they can work alongside your current team’s skill sets will help demonstrate the value an external provider can bring.
To find out everything you need to know about building a business case for an inbound agency, including what you need to cover - check out our blog.
DOES THE LOCATION OF YOUR inbound marketing agency MATTEr?
On the face of it, this might seem like a silly question... made all the more silly by our increased reliance on virtual spaces and remote work during 2020.
It shouldn't be the sole consideration but we would argue that there is some value in choosing to partner with an agency that operates in your local area. Cities and businesses tend to grow together in clusters. Businesses specialising in certain areas tend to cluster. Arguably, the most famous example of this is Silicon Valley in Northern California which has seen the world's leading high-tech businesses grow together in the same valley for over 60 years. This happen globally, often more subtly, because knowledge and innovation is still best transferred face-to-face.
Currently, Manchester ranks third in the country (behind London & Cambridge) for knowledge-led innovation in large part due to the commercial acumen of the University of Manchester. This has helped see an extra-ordinary rise in biotechnology, advanced manufacturing and environmental technologies. As a result, tertiary services - like ours - adapt and tailor their specialisms towards what the city does well.
We go into more detail about the subject in our blog - Should your business choose an Inbound Marketing Agency in Manchester? It's worth also considering the following:
- As mentioned, it's easier to meet in person and problem solve in earnest
- It facilitates true partnerships and integrations between teams to drive better results
- If you're marketing to a specific area, it's good to have an understanding of local nuances and colloquialisms.
Why choose Axon Garside as your inbound marketing agency?
As one of the first agencies to provide inbound marketing services in the UK, Axon Garside has delivered results across a range of businesses and industries using the inbound methodology. Our approach to inbound is highly collaborative - and we work alongside your team to achieve your business goals.
With a wide range of specialisms in-house, we challenge our clients using the knowledge and insights we have gained from working alongside businesses who have similar challenges to yours. Our sole aim is to help your business grow.
Want to know more? Download our pricing guide to learn how we can help your business grow.