Expert Guide to Hiring a Local Inbound Marketing Agency. Part 2 August 29, 2017Last week I started this blog duo with Expert Guide to Hiring a Local Inbound Marketing Agency. Part 1. In it, we covered the benefits to working with an agency, scouting to see if the company is using best practices online, evaluating case studies, and specialization. Today I’m picking up where I left off and will focus on items to look for during the interview process. Do They Ask the Right Questions? You want an agency that asks you a lot of questions, especially up front. Listen for questions about your goals and any current and past marketing activities. A good company will want to know what has and has not worked for you before. The right agency will go deep with you into the whys and the hows of your business. They will dig until they know what makes you different, what makes you, you. This might not all happen during the interview process, but if they don’t ask you if you are interested in talking to them about some of these deeper questions, then you might want to keep looking. Are They Focused on the Success of Your Business? Inbound marketing is not a magic pill that solves everything overnight. It is an investment by both parties so be suspicious of anyone promising results in the first 30 days or even the first three months. That does happen, and it’s exciting when it does. But any inbound marketer worth their salt knows it a process that builds momentum to be really successful. You want to look for the online marketing company that is invested in your success. When you succeed, they do. Listen for questions like: “What does marketing success look like for you in 3, 6, or 12 months?” “How much would you like to increase sales in the next 3, 6, or 12 months?” “Is the primary focus of your marketing to increase sales and if so, what is your second reason for marketing?” Make sure you ask about the “out” clause in the contract. If the local inbound agency is focused on the mutual success of both your businesses, then they will be more forgiving with this piece. You want to avoid a company that “locks” you into a contract with no way out. Frankly, if the online marketing agency isn’t doing their job, you should be able to move on to a company that can do the job or is a better fit for you. You should want to stay because of their customer service and the results, not solely due to a contract. Look for a 30 day out, no questions asked. Will They Develop a Strong Strategic Plan Focused on YOUR Goals? It is highly unlikely they will develop a full strategy for you before you sign on the dotted line, but that doesn’t mean you can’t ask about their process for creating the marketing plan. From personal experience, I will tell you that marketers usually just can’t help themselves. We are creatives as much as we are numbers people so when we get excited about your business are your marketing goals, ideas will start flowing. We’re nerds ok. We admit it, and we own it. We love our industry, and there are exciting things happening, things that can help your business. As you are interviewing online marketing companies, it is likely you will be talking to a sales person and not one of the marketers. However, many of the local marketing agencies are small enough, like ours, that the individual making the sales is also one of our best marketers. Personally, I believe this is the best of both worlds because you get to talk to the person that is going to be part of creating your strategy and knows the ins and outs of this new marketing paradigm. As digital marketers today, we have a lot of tools at our disposal. You want to look for an agency that is excited about putting those tools to work for your business. Do They Have a System? Inbound marketing is not rocket science; there are techniques that work consistently. Those techniques usually have to updated or tweaked as technology changes, which is part of the challenge of digital marketing. However, especially if the online marketing agency is focusing on a particular industry or two, they will know what works and what doesn’t. They should have a reliable system. They should be able to tell you what elements of an inbound marketing plan work for your type of business. Do They Value Strong Reporting? One of the best things about inbound marketing is the access to real ROI (return on investment) data. A good digital marketing agency will be able to track a lead from the first contact with your company online through right up to the first phone call. Between Google Analytics, Facebook Analytics and services like CallRail and Agency Analytics it is possible to see when someone has viewed a post. Also when they liked it, shared it, clicked on it, and visited your website. The reporting shows us which pages they visited on your website, how long they spent on your site, and when they called your office. You should expect to get monthly reports from the local inbound marketing agency that reflect where your money is being spent and what the return is for that investment. The reports should include items like: Social media engagement Additional fans on social media (though this isn’t as important as it used to be) How many people are viewing the posts or blogs the agency is putting out How many unique visitors are coming to your site Where the visitors are coming from How the Facebook ads are performing How the Google AdWords are performing The reporting is the digital marketing company’s report card. It shows you how well they have done their job that month. Remember where I mentioned that 30 days out earlier? This is also where it comes into play. You want to know that if the monthly reporting is consistently not good, you can move on. That being said, inbound marketing does take time. Expect to invest 3-6 months in building up good sales momentum. How Good is their Project Management System? Earlier I said inbound marketing wasn’t rocket science and I stand by that. However, it does have a lot of moving pieces and deadlines. Material has to be posted on a daily, weekly, monthly basis and as I mentioned before, consistency is everything in this game. So you are going to want the company you invest your time and money with to have a good project management system in place. It doesn’t necessarily have to be any specific system, just one that works for them that works for them. Some of those systems include: TeamWork Basecamp Function Fox dapulse Function Point Wrike Asana Workamajig inMotion Workfront Some of these project management systems that will allow the client (you) to interact with the marketing team and see where things are at in production. Who Does the Actual Work? In our ever-evolving global economy, it is more and more common for work to be done by subcontractors across the country or even across the world. This isn’t necessarily a negative, part of it depends on what you are comfortable with. According to an article by Forbes, freelancers now make up a third of the workforce in the US. Often, highly skilled individuals find they can make a better living working from home and businesses find they can get highly qualified and motivated workers with a lot less overhead. If the agency you are interviewing has a lot of contractors doing work, then ask about their communication structure with their contractors. Communication remains the biggest challenge when engaging contractors, so when an agency gets that issue worked out, it can be a real benefit to you as the consumer. Are they Willing to Train your Internal Staff? One of the best scenarios for a great working partnership between a business and an inbound marketing agency happens when internal staff can assist in certain pieces of the marketing efforts. This might take the shape of feeding your new inbound digital agency information about staff birthdays or awards, community involvement projects, fun staff facts, testimonials from clients, and more. You want an agency that is willing to include some staff training time in the quarterly budget. Choosing to work with a local inbound marketing agency can be a very positive step for your business that will make a dramatic difference for your bottom line. Putting the time in upfront to investigate and interview agencies can be the deciding factor between a great experience and a terrible one. I hope these tips have been helpful as you check out the local agencies and make your decision.