The 7 Rules for Evaluating and Selecting an Inbound Agency Partner

As CMOs navigate the marketing talent gap, they are increasingly seeking performance-driven agency partners that are immersed in marketing technology and staffed with digital-savvy professionals. SMBs need partners that can deliver fully integrated marketing solutions and in essence function as outsourced inbound marketing teams. Large enterprises commonly look for niche expertise in core digital disciplines such as content marketing development, paid search, SEO, social media monitoring, and analytics to complement internal marketing teams.

The future belongs to dynamic agencies with more efficient management systems, integrated services, versatile talent, value-based pricing models, a love for data, and a commitment to producing measurable results. These tech-savvy modern inbound marketing firms thrive on change and continually apply advances in technology. The right marketing agency can be a tremendous asset to your organization and play a critical role in propelling growth, but marketers must take a methodical approach to finding the right firms.

Related: Why Digital Transformation Matters Outside of the IT Department and Can Inbound Marketing Reduce the Cost of Lead Generation?

Here are 7 rules to keep in mind when evaluating and selecting an agency partner:

  1. Partner with Performance Driven Firms: Marketers are being held to higher ROI standards, and the same needs to be true of agency partners. Historically, marketing agencies have gotten away with reporting relatively meaningless metrics such as impressions, advertising equivalency, and PR value, or relying strictly on qualitative results. Leading marketing agencies build campaigns that consistently produce measurable outcomes, including web-site traffic, subscribers, leads, and sales. Work with agency partners that care as much about performance and success as you do.
  2. Assess the Account Team: The greatest value an agency can bring a client is staffing its account team with A players. Look for firms that have a history of recruiting and retaining top talent. Understand how your account team will be structured, including who is responsible for planning, production, account management, and day-to-day client communications. Also, consider if the firm you hire is outsourcing any services to freelancers or partner agencies. This is a common practice, but it is important that you are aware of and have confidence in third parties that will be working on your account.
  3. Find Tech-Savvy Firms: Agencies whose professionals are immersed in technology trends and innovations are able to more readily adapt their own business models, continually increase productivity, evolve client campaigns, and make strategic connections to seemingly unrelated information. Find out what marketing technologies the agency uses to run its own business, how it integrates technology into client campaigns, and how it ensures that its staff remains current on technology trends.
  4. Demand That Digital Is Ingrained in Their DNA: Every agency that will be relevant in the future is a digital agency. Having a digital division or group within a traditional agency is not sufficient. Digital has to be ingrained into the agency’s culture and talent. Agencies structured in service-area silos—social, search, mobile, web, email, analytics—will face the same challenges as their corporate counterparts when trying to build digital marketing strategies and campaigns. Digital must be fully integrated, along with traditional activities, into every program and budget.
  5. Invest in the Doers: The marketing services world is full of thinkers, talkers, and self-proclaimed gurus. Turn to agencies with demonstrated track records of success, starting with their own brands. Evaluate the strength of their website, the power of their staff’s personal brands, the value and frequency of content on their blog, and their reach and engagement in social networks.
  6. Seek Systems for Success: Prototype agencies are powered by systems that continually increase efficiencies and productivity, encourage creativity and innovation, and push professionals to realize and embrace their potential. All of this produces higher performance levels and more satisfied clients. Align your organization with agencies that take a systemic approach to professional development, project management, client services, monitoring, measurement, reporting, and communications.
  7. Find Partners, Not Providers: Marketing agencies often look and sound the same. They offer similar services, tout impressive client lists, and flaunt industry awards lauding their creativity. But none of that really matters to your business. When selecting an agency partner, it is essential to move beyond the standard stuff and find partners who think and act differently and take a customized approach to your business. When all else is equal, it is an agency’s culture and talent that determine its ability to positively impact your business. We have found that the most successful marketing programs are those built on strong client-agency partnerships with a foundation of trust, respect, and aligned expectations and goals. These are the relationships in which the client looks to the agency as an extension of its marketing team, not as just another vendor.

Your agency team has to become indispensable through their hard work, insight, consultation, services, expertise, friendship, and professionalism. They must do the little things that build relationships and take the time to show you they care about your successes, both on individual and organizational levels.

If you want to know if Flawless Inbound can be your strategic inbound marketing agency, why not contact us today for a discovery call? We’re always happy to help.