How to Hire a Marketing Agency When You Dont Understand Online Marketing

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I feel for anyone in this situation. Seriously. You know you need to be marketing your business online. You know you dont currently have the skills required or the available time.

You probably dont even have the time to learn enough to know if a given individual or agency knows what theyre doing.

Still, to avoid being taken in by a clueless or careless marketing agency, there are a few things you need to know. Its worth the six minutes itll take you to read this!

Inbound Marketing Truth #1: Its Not Cheap

If someone tells you they can offer you full inbound for $750/month, run away. To do all the work required is going to cost more a lot more. Anyone who says otherwise does not know what full inbound means.

Inbound Marketing Truth #2: Its Not Lightning Fast

Sorry. If you want instant results, youll need to shell out for Google AdWords and perhaps some paid social. This is not in itself a bad thing, but the advantage of inbound is that the benefits accrue over time you wont have to keep pumping big bucks in to ads month after month once your inbound engine is humming along well.

In the beginning, count on spending a bit on paid exposure to get things going. Dont expect increased traffic or leads for about seven months. Anyone who promises otherwise should be suspect.

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Inbound Marketing Truth #3: One Size Does NOT Fit All

If you talk to an agency and they offer you one of three prepackaged programs on the first call, run away. Your marketing plan should be specific to your goals, your timelines and your product or service.

Inbound Marketing Truth #4: Your Agency Will Be Your Marketing Partner

The right marketing agency will go beyond a structured list of tasks to make sure you reach your business goals. Were not saying they should work for free they shouldnt but they should be willing to become an extension of your sales and marketing departments, or of your business as a whole. This means it should be obvious from the first call that they are really interested in you and your success. Do they offer a tip or two during the consultation process? They should!

They should also be able to explain how you will know if their efforts are successful and how you will work together.

Inbound Marketing Truth #5: The Right Agency Asks Tough Questions

What are your specific goals? When do you need to meet them? Where are your sales coming from now? How many website visitors does it take to generate one lead? One customer? What are you spending on advertising, and what is working? Where do your customers get their information regarding your products or services?

If you havent done your homework (and many business owners havent when they pick up the phone to call an agency), be patient with the process. Understand that detailed answers to these questions are vital to the success of your online marketing and the fact that the agency is asking is a good sign. An agency that rushes to get a signed contract is more interested in your money than your ongoing success.

Inbound Marketing Truth #6: There is No Excuse for Not Walking The Walk

Is the agency blogging? Are there downloadable offers available? Is there a strong social presence? Since these things will be so important to your own success, it is vital that the agency you are considering demonstrates their ability to effectively implement these practices. Dont be shy about asking what inbound marketing has done for the prospective agencys business, or for their clients businesses. Ask for reviews and check for them online.

Inbound Marketing Truth #7: Yes, it IS Personal

Because your success is so closely tied up with your marketing agency, it is important that you have an excellent rapport. Is the person easy to talk to? Are they available to talk via whichever method you prefer? Will you be working with that person once you sign the contract?

Many agencies have a salesperson or department, so if you hit it off with your initial contact, make sure you ask if they will be managing the account. If not, ask if they will bring in to the consultation process the person who you WILL be working with on a regular basis. If you dont click, dont sign!

Inbound Marketing Truth #8: Yes, You Should Expect to Know the ROI!

Forget the social media is about engagement, and that is hard to measure platitudes. The results of inbound marketing are measurable. The right agency knows this and will explain how you will be able to tell what is working.

Inbound Marketing Truth #9: You Dont Have to Go All-In Right Away

The days of receiving a detailed marketing strategy for free with the hope that youll sign a contract are largely a thing of the past. Because of the amount of time and expertise involved, many agencies are now charging upwards of $5,000 per plan. While this is a hefty initial investment for many, it also means that you get to see exactly what needs to be done to meet your particular goals.

It also allows you to give it your best effort to implement the plan on your own if you desire. Some companies find they have more in-house skills available than they thought once they can see the required tasks on paper. Blogging twice a week? We can do that, especially now that we have the topics in-hand. Write and design a content offer quarterly? Well, we might need some help with that. Your strategy is a valuable blueprint you can use whether or not you ultimately sign with the agency.

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Investing in the consultation and strategy process is going to give you a chance to work closely with your prospective new marketing agency BEFORE you enter into any kind of contract, which means that should you decide to do so, you can be fully confident that youve made the right choice.

I hope this helps. If you have any questions about evaluating a potential agency, or a suggestion of other things to look for, please let me know in the comments or tweet me @alisameredith.

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