Expert Guide to Hiring a Local Inbound Marketing Agency: Part 1 August 22, 2017Marketing, especially Inbound Marketing, is time-consuming and requires some focused specialties. Making the decision to partner with a local inbound or content marketing company is a big decision for most businesses. Bringing in experts who have the time to stay ahead of the curve and focus on moving your marketing goals forward can dramatically boost your bottom line. What are the Benefits of Partnering with a Local Inbound Marketing Agency? Experience & Expertise: It requires a broad scope of skills to handle a full digital marketing strategy, which could include content marketing, social media marketing, SEO (search engine marketing), ad campaigns, email marketing, blogging, web design and maintenance, graphic design, Facebook ads, and Google AdWords. It’s nearly impossible to find all of these skills and the experience to do them proficiently in one or even two people. When you hire an agency, you get access to their entire team, and the budget you would have spent on an internal person can go 100% toward your marketing budget. Cost: The chances of finding that one rock-star intern that can do all of the above and wants to still around for the long haul is pretty much one in a million. That often leaves companies looking at either hiring a high salary marketing director or partnering with a marketing firm. Hiring a digital marketing agency means you get access to highly experienced experts usually for about the same amount you would have had to pay the marketing director. Time: When you hire an online marketing company you have access to their entire team to executive the most effective marketing strategy for your business. There is no time for one person to execute a plan of that size, much less one person having all of the skills (as I mentioned before). Administration: Let’s face it, all of the HR duties involved with bringing on and retaining an employee can be a headache. You have the opportunity to avoid that by partnering with a local inbound marketing agency. The key is making sure you find the right local marketing agency for you. There are a lot of good companies out there and admittedly a few hacks, so it’s important to interview a few until you find one you are comfortable with. Most agency agreements ideally mean you’ll be working closely together for several months or even years. Therefore it is worth putting the time to do your research up front. Here are a few pointers to help you through the research and interview process: Are They Walking the Talk or Just Talking the Walk? The first part of looking into an agency is to check them out online. They may talk a good talk, but if they aren’t walking it online, that is a possible red flag. Here are some things to look for: Do they have an active social media presence? Are they posting regularly on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter? Not every agency is going to be strong on every social media channel. They are going to be most active on the channels that their target market frequents. For example, Facebook and Instagram are popular in Alaska and Twitter is not nearly as mainstream. So If you are looking for a local online marketing agency, then pay particular attention to how they conduct themselves on Facebook and Instagram. If you believe your target audience is on Twitter, you might also want to see how they do on Twitter. Is their website current? If the agency’s website is out of date and not mobile friendly, that should be something to consider. Mobile optimization, for example, is one of the most foundational and critical things you can do to improve your ranking with Google. If the agency isn’t up to date with that piece, it could be an indicator they aren’t staying current with other marketing technologies. A current agency should also be putting out regular blogs about best practices and emerging trends in our industry. How do they market themselves? It’s a good idea to ask them how they market themselves. It can give you an idea of where their experience lies and if they are using industry best practices. Do They Offer a Variety of Services? There are two schools of thought on the variety of services versus specialization. Some companies prefer to have one agency that manages all of their marketing services. They want one point of contact. This does keep things simpler and is most common amongst small and medium-sized businesses that are looking for an agency to be their marketing arm. It has benefits in that when all the services are under one roof there is usually greater continuity between marketing endeavors (Facebook, website, email marketing, Instagram, etc.) There is the potential drawback of getting an agency that while they can do a variety of services, they excel at some and are just ok with others. On the other hand, some companies choose to work with a myriad of different agencies that each specialize in a particular area of digital marketing. The thought process here is that every business is the best at the area they focus on. This can be the case; however, the drawbacks are that it can be more expensive to pay each company, and you will have to employ someone in-house to manage all of the specialists. We often see larger enterprises and corporations take this route because they have bigger marketing budgets or because they have a marketing coordinator that is managing marketing for several departments. Check out Their Case Studies Inbound marketing is all about the numbers, so a great digital marketing agency should have case studies to illustrate what they have done for their clients. Case studies are a great way for you to understand what that agency can do for your company. They should cover what challenge needed a solution, what marketing tools were used to achieve the goals, and what the results of the marketing endeavors were. Especially look to see if the marketing agency has done work with other businesses in your industry and how they helped them. Do They Specialize? We talked already about specializing in specific services, but another thing to look for is a focus on your industry. An inbound digital agency has to learn a great deal about the clients they work for. Every time they take on a client in a new industry there is a tremendous learning curve beyond the norm that comes with a new customer/agency relationship. Ideally, try to find an agency that specializes in your industry, the learning curve will be a lot less, allowing you to see ROI faster. Are They HubSpot Certified? Find out if they are HubSpot Certified. Hubspot was the first mainstream company to pioneer inbound marketing, and one of their owners coined the phrase “Inbound Marketing.” They are still about the only ones offering certification and are considered the industry leaders in this very young industry. If the local digital agency is certified, they will want to highlight it on their site and at least in their staff bios. All of the above elements are part of the exploratory process, which usually happens prior to making contact with a company. You can use them to narrow down your list to 3 or 4 agencies that you want to start interviewing. In our next blog, we’ll cover what to look for once you sit down and start to talk to real people. Check out our next blog Expert Guide to Hiring a Local Inbound Marketing Agency: Part 2 for the rest of this expert guide.