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Stacy Willis

By Stacy Willis

Jun 3, 2015


Working With Marketing Agencies
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Working With Marketing Agencies

6 Things the Best Inbound Marketing Agencies Should Offer

Stacy Willis

By Stacy Willis

Jun 3, 2015

6 Things the Best Inbound Marketing Agencies Should Offer

Thinking about working with an agency that specializes in inbound marketing? If so, you need to make sure you're getting the most out of your relationship.

What I mean by that is this: You should not only go into the relationship with your eyes wide open and a clear understanding of what you're going to be getting, you should also confirm you're not missing out on any of the basics.

So, if someone says they're one of the best inbound marketing agencies around, this is what their retainer agreement should include, in order to be truly worth your while.

1. Strategy

No retainer should start without creating a very clear foundation first. If your retainer doesn't include a comprehensive strategy, you can be assured you're going to end up taking the shotgun approach. There won't be a clear plan in place and you'll be throwing random items against the wall to see what sticks.

This method won't help you reach your goals in a timely fashion, will take way too much of your time and will be nearly impossible to measure and learn from.


Your strategy should start with a clear analysis of where you are now. You'll never be able to figure out where you're going if you don't have a good idea of where you're starting from. Imagine trying to give directions to someone when you have no idea where they are now - how could you even begin to explain to them their route or help them reach their final destination?

In order to build a route to your goals, the first (and possibly most crucial) step is finding out where you stand currently. Your analysis should include data on your website's present performance, how users interact with your information, an understanding of how your content (if any) is performing and a thorough knowledge of your customer base.

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Once you know the current lay of the land, it's time to lay the foundation for your future strategy. This starts with a deep examination and evaluation of what you consider to be your ideal customer(s).

Creating buyer personas is one of the most vital steps in your strategy process. Your retainer should include the development of these personas, including demographic information, behaviors, purchasing and research habits, likes and dislikes, and a story to truly paint a picture of the people you should be talking to.

Think about trying to have a conversation with somebody - specifically trying to convince them to make an important purchase, without knowing anything about them. If your retainer doesn't include the development of personas, that's exactly what your marketing will be doing. Your message will fall on deaf ears if it isn't targeted to the individuals that are supposed to be receiving it.


The hallmark of an inbound strategy is that it draws people to your website and content that are actively looking for the information you are providing. The only way this is successful is if you are talking about what they are searching for. A fleshed out keyword strategy is at the heart of this.

"Wait a minute. If you build it, they will come, right?"

Well, actually, not so much. They will only come to your content if they can find it. So, how do they find it? They search for solutions to the problems they are having. The only way they will find their way to your content is if it shows up when they search.

Personas are the building block for a successful keyword strategy. The only way you'll know how to talk about what they are searching for is if you truly understand who they are. If your retainer doesn't include these two critical components, it is going to be incredibly difficult to provide ROI.

Marketing and Sales Alignment

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Marketing is nothing without sales.

Any good marketing strategy, regardless of the context, should include a fully developed plan for how to turn any leads generated into customers. This means detailing the process of how information is handed over to sales.

An inbound marketing retainer specifically should include information on progressive profiling, definitions for marketing and sales qualified leads and a detailed plan for how leads are ranked and given to the sales team for follow-up. This process absolutely needs to include input from the sales team.

Your marketers should be asking what sales needs to know in order to determine if a lead is truly qualified, have a conversation with that lead and ultimately close a deal. The strategy developed should include clear-cut methods for gathering that information, using it to score leads and an SLA that details the expectations for the hand-over process.

2. Content

Now we start getting into the nitty-gritty tactical stuff. This is where most inbound marketing retainers like to focus, but please let me re-iterate that these tactical activities can only be successful if they've been planned according to a solid high-level strategy.


Blogs are like the billboard for your website, they invite visitors in to learn more. This is where we focus on bringing visitors in to the site. Subjects of blogs should speak directly to the pain points expressed by your personas and should clearly relate to the keywords they are searching for.

(See how this is starting to come together? Your personas lead to the keywords, which inform to the content you create, which feeds into....)

Conversion Offers

Your retainer should include the creation, promotion and tracking of conversion offers. This is how you turn visitors to your website into leads. At minimum, you should be creating a new conversion offer once per quarter and communicating with your database of contacts about it. A regular stream of new conversion offers is the key to getting visitors to return to your website and regularly engage with you and your content.

There should be clear conversion paths planned and executed to move leads further down the buyer's journey and allow them to engage more deeply with you.

3. Channels

So we've talked about building a strategy and told you what you should be talking about, but now the question is how to get your message out. You should have a plan in place to get that amazing content you've created out into your target customers' hands.

Organic Search

Your keyword strategy, developed earlier, should help your prospects find you. Catching people when they are specifically looking for what you're offering significantly increases your chances of being able to sell them what they need. You want organic search to bring in leads that are highly likely to be interested in your product or service. Targeting your content to specific keywords that they are searching for brings them right to your door.

Your retainer should include strategies for optimizing website pages, blogs, conversion offers and potentially geo-targeted pages for those keywords.


Email is one of the most important channels to consider. Once you've gotten a lead, simply forgetting to stay in touch with them is often all it takes for them to lose interest. It is like going fishing, hooking a fish and then deciding not to reel it in. That fish will do no good to you hanging on the end of your line.

Use email to reel that fish in! Email has an ROI of 4,300 percent. For every $1 you spend, you get $43 of revenue in returns. Your retainer should include a plan to use email to promote existing content, stay in regular communication with your customer base and nurture leads through workflows.


Meet your prospect where they are. Nearly everyone is engaging in social media these days, so take advantage of it. Your retainer should include strategies for reaching out to your current contacts through social media, engaging them regularly, allowing them to communicate with you and broadening your network to connect with new contacts.

4. Organization

This may not be specifically spelled out in your retainer, but you should definitely understand how your agency plans to approach the organization of everything they will be creating. You don't want to end up with a mess. A disorganized inbount marketing agency will leave you with results you can't measure, content you can't find and inconsistent messaging. Not to mention if you part ways, you'll never be able to follow what was done before and continue to gain value from it.

Make sure you know how your agency will organize your content and communications. They should be gathered into strategically designed campaigns which can be measured and tracked over time. Consistent file structures and naming conventions are a must in the case that you need to look into your own content.

5. Reporting

Obviously the most important part of a retainer is the method by which you determine it's success. Your retainer should explicitly outline what you can expect from a reporting perspective. At minimum you should be receiving monthly, quarterly and annual reports.

These reports should be explained and delivered in such a way that the data contained in them can be used in actionable ways.

6. Finally, Your Relationship

You can't write down a relationship in a contract, but you should definitely expect your retainer to implicitly contain a solid relationship. Regular communications, clear expectations and methods for escalation are key. Make sure your retainer includes guidelines for how the relationship will be managed.

You'll want to make sure you click with agency throughout the sales process and initial meetings to ensure a solid, functioning long-term relationship.

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