The benefits of inbound marketing are well known. While traditional, interruptive and often plain annoying outbound marketing (such as cold calling) is on the decline, inbound is on the up. This is because inbound is very likely to offer perks such as increased ROI, lower cost and greater value to customers than outbound.
Consequently, inbound marketing services are increasingly sought-after by businesses wanting to increase their traffic, conversions and sales. And to give businesses the chance to enquire about these services, inbound agencies offer assessments.
An inbound marketing assessment (or consultation) gives an agency the chance to ask you lots of questions about your business, and there are plenty of articles online telling you the kind of questions they might ask. But much fewer telling businesses what they should be asking agencies. That’s why we created this comprehensive list of questions that it would be wise to ask an agency at an inbound marketing assessment.
These 16 questions are designed to help you decide whether the inbound marketing agency you meet really knows their stuff, and is the right match for you. And the answers you get should give you a clear view of what you can expect from an inbound marketing campaign, from strategy to specific tactics, and the results you can expect (and when you can expect them!).
The questions you should ask
1. What inbound marketing services do you offer?
- Do you generate traffic using blogging, social media and SEO?
- Do you develop new content to attract visitors at different stages of the buyer’s journey?
- Do you offer targeted lead-nurturing campaigns that convert leads into customers?
- Do you measure, track, analyse and adapt the inbound marketing process to improve results?
First of all you want to find out whether the agency you meet offers the services you need. They should have no problem explaining to you what their services include and how they will be used to help increase your traffic, conversions and sales.
If you notice that the agency can’t explain how their services will support you, or they can’t give examples of how they track, analyse and adapt in order to improve campaigns for you, this should be a warning. This is probably not the agency for you.
2. Do you specialise in a particular area of inbound – such as social media, SEO, PPC or blogging?
Most inbound marketing agencies will be proficient across the board but some do have specialisms, so it’s worth asking the question to see how this might affect the agency’s approach to your campaign.
Before you speak to an agency it’s important to understand what goals you want to achieve, and how you believe they would be best achieved. Although you are approaching an inbound agency for their expertise, you may also have an idea of the kind of campaigns you want to run. If the agency doesn’t support an area of inbound that is crucial for you, that’s important to know upfront.
3. Do you focus on particular industries?
- Do you have experience running campaigns in my industry?
- If yes, do you have any relevant case studies?
You need to make sure your agency knows how to approach inbound in your industry, and ideally they will have previous experience in that sector. If they do, this could work to your benefit. If they know your sector well they should also know what does and doesn’t work for your target audience.
If they haven’t worked in your sector yet it’s not necessarily a problem. They may still be able to do a very good job. After all, you’re seeking an agency for their expertise in inbound marketing, not your field. In this situation ask a bit more about how they would approach a campaign for your particular business.
4. What inbound marketing tactics should we use?
- Your main objective
- Your target audience
- The industry you’re in
- Whether you are a B2B or B2C company
- How soon you want to see results
Appropriate tactics must also be used at the right stage of the inbound methodology. Some tactics would fit any inbound campaign (like lead capture), but some may not be suitable for every business (like referral programmes). Ask an agency what they think would be appropriate for you.
5. What would my campaign look like based on my business’ goals?
Don’t go into an assessment expecting a hugely detailed plan, but you can expect an overview of the kind of campaigns the agency thinks would work for you. This should give you a good idea of whether they are on the same page as you, and it will help set your expectations.
6. What does the timeline look like for our inbound strategy?
It’s important to find out when different elements of your inbound marketing strategy will be implemented, and what this looks like over the coming months. Knowing what to expect will help you gauge progress.
Having a (rough) timeline should give you peace of mind too, as well as a point of reference for both you and the agency. Once a timeline has been agreed, you shouldn’t need to chase for updates, as you’ll already know what work is being done.
7. How soon can we start seeing results?
Some (less reputable) agencies may over-promise to get you on board. So it’s important to know what results you can realistically expect and when. A reasonable answer would be somewhere between six to nine months, to start seeing notable progress. Inbound marketing is a medium to long-term strategy, so beware of promises of quick wins, such as getting you onto page one of Google in a very short time.
Inbound marketing focuses on creating lasting campaigns that will support your marketing and sales efforts effectively, and continue delivering results.
8. Who on your team would we be working with?
You should know who is looking after the various aspects of your campaign, and whether you will have just one point of contact or several.
Getting to know the team you will be working with is essential. If you have an account manager, let them know how you prefer to be communicated with. As part of your team, they will keep in mind whether you prefer a phone call, emails or regular face to face meetings.
9. Do you do everything in-house, or do you outsource certain tasks?
Many agencies outsource elements of their work so it shouldn’t put you off if they do, as long as any freelancers or consultants are equally skilled and well integrated into the agency’s processes.
If they do outsource certain tasks, feel free to ask if this will slow down the delivery of any aspects of your campaigns, or slow down communications if the agency has to act as a middleman. As inbound marketing is conducted online any freelancers should be just as responsive as in-house marketers, but it doesn’t hurt to check this in your assessment.
10. To what extent will my team be involved?
- What is expected of my team?
- How much of their time will this take up?
Your team is likely to be involved in some capacity. Perhaps you want to be quite hands-on and work closely with an inbound agency. Alternatively, you might want the agency to pass as little work to your team as possible. An agency should be able to cater to your preferences, but it’s wise to ask about the amount of time required from your side.
11. What do you need from us to begin the work?
Once you’ve found an agency that you think is right for your business, you and they will want to get to work as soon as possible, so ask what you can do to help. This might mean things such as setting up analytics software and sharing existing content assets. The sooner they can get to work, the sooner you can expect to see progress.
12. How often will you be in contact?
Knowing when and how often an agency will be in touch means you shouldn’t have to chase them for updates. This comes back to knowing what you prefer too. Would you be happy with a weekly update, or would a monthly report be sufficient to keep you apprised of progress?
13. What software will we need?
– Will you provide training to my team?
You will often need to install new software or learn how to use new technology, but an agency should be able to help your team get to grips with this. Ask the agency what software you will require and whether they will provide relevant training for your team.
14. How do you improve existing campaigns?
- How long will you let a campaign run before you review it?
- What results are you looking for to deem it a success?
- What trigger will alert you that a campaign needs improving?
An inbound agency needs to be able to set up campaigns, but also improve them over time. Not every single campaign can be a complete success, and often tweaks are needed. So ask how the agency improves results mid-campaign?
15. How do you analyse, track and report?
To be able to see whether your efforts are successful or not, analysis is essential. You probably have your own ideas of what success would look like for your business, and an agency should ask you about this in your consultation. But by asking them you can learn what you can realistically expect from your campaigns, and you might discover new ways to analyse your progress too.
Once you’ve agreed on the results you’re aiming for, you need to know when and how you will receive reports, plus what they’ll contain. This will help you see the progress that your inbound campaigns are achieving, and allow you to share this insight within your business.
Knowing how often to expect a report and what information it will contain helps you see what metrics the agency believes are important. If the report seems data-heavy or you are not sure what all the numbers mean for your company, just ask! A partner agency should help you understand exactly what that data means.
Book an inbound marketing assessment
Hopefully these questions will help you decide whether the agency you meet is a good fit for your business. If you’d like more help to prepare, feel free to read our article on what to expect from an inbound marketing consultation.
If you would like to meet to discuss your business’ needs in person, we offer a free inbound marketing assessment. Simply click the banner below to get started.