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Why have all of our previous inbound marketing agencies failed with us?

Why have all of our previous inbound marketing agencies failed with us? Blog Feature

Zach Basner

Director of Inbound Training and Video Strategy, Inbound and Video Workshop Trainer, Creator of the Facebook Group ‘Film School for Marketers’

January 28th, 2021 min read

So here you are, coming out of a failed inbound marketing agency relationship. It may have started off strong, maybe you had some really solid wins and produced a lot of great work. You may have even improved some numbers.

But, for whatever reason, results tapered off, expectations weren’t met, or the growth you were expecting just didn’t occur.  You’ve found yourself wanting versus jumping for joy.

“Why didn’t this work out? What did I miss?”

“Did I do something wrong here? Are my expectations too high?”

“Should I have even been working with an inbound marketing agency in the first place?”

If these sound familiar, I understand your frustration. These aren’t particularly fun questions to sit around and ponder, especially if you’re the one responsible for hiring the right agency for your organization.

Nevertheless, we’ve got some investigating to do here, because we still have to move forward.

As we get started, consider first that it’s entirely possible that these partnerships in the past didn’t fail because of you.

It could be that the typical “agency model” simply isn’t a good fit for you and your organization.

What’s wrong with the typical agency model?

Our team here at IMPACT knows this as well as anyone because we too had the typical agency model in full swing for many years until we noticed it wasn’t working the way it used to.

In a traditional agency model, an organization that might feel they’re incapable of doing many of their own digital sales and marketing tasks in-house outsources them.

In turn, the agency writes all or most of the blog articles, shoots the videos, designs the landing pages, and writes the social media updates, amongst many other digital marketing activities.

Then, they pay the invoice, and instantly get master marketers on the job.

That sounds like a pretty rad deal, right?

Sure, except there are a few major flaws with this model in 2021 and are likely the reasons all your previous inbound marketing agencies have failed to produce the traffic, leads, or sales you wanted in the past.

🔎 Related: Outsourcing Is Broken: Why We Need to Rethink the Relationship Between Client & Agency

1. They couldn’t capture your authenticity and soul

As a business, good content needs to feel authentic and have the soul of your brand. Unless you have some miracle invention or patent, this is usually what makes you unique in the marketplace. It’s also what makes buyers feel connected to you and build trust with you. 

If your content doesn’t have that authentic voice (that unique approach that sets you apart from your competition), then there’s a very good chance it’s just like all the other content out there and you’ll come off like every other brand. 

Generic, run-of-the-mill content isn’t trustworthy and it produces mediocre results both in the short and long term.

Your true voice and personality can only be most effectively captured at a high-level by you and your people.

Who understands the objections, fears, questions, and concerns your buyers have better than the subject matter experts on your team? Who knows how you communicate and actually do business better than them? 

No one does. 

In other words, it’s likely that your last agency simply was not as familiar with your business or the way your buyer thinks, learns, and makes decisions as you are.

2. They didn’t produce content fast enough

Even though content marketing isn’t strictly a “numbers” game, there’s a clear correlation between major traffic and lead growth and the volume of content you can produce.

This means you need the ability to move fast and be nimble. Producing two to three new blog articles and videos every single week is significantly harder if someone outside of your company is doing it for you.

If you’ve ever created content (which you should have), you’re likely familiar with the game of telephone that takes place in order to produce new articles, videos, and website copy. With a traditional agency, every step requires approval and revisions between two organizations.

On the other hand, when you’ve got the resources in-house to produce your own content, the wheels of progress move much faster. In fact, I’ve worked with many clients who can produce four to five new articles and videos in a week. 

This is nearly impossible if an agency is producing your content.

3. They didn’t enable personal and team growth

Imagine for a second you hired a personal trainer, but rather than guiding you through your workout, they lifted all the weights and did all the cardio for you.

You could certainly pick up on some best practices you could apply later, but not that six-pack that you wanted.

In the same way, when an agency is doing all the work on your digital sales and marketing program, your team doesn’t learn and grow nearly as much as they could if they were doing the work for themselves. 

If your last inbound marketing agency did all of your marketing tasks for you, you likely missed out on adding new organizational capabilities and personal skills.

As we’ve seen with many high-performers we’ve trained in the past — or as we like to call them “heroes” of their organizations — the single biggest trait that dictates success for them personally (and for the organization as a whole) is an obsession with learning and self-improvement. 

While a traditional agency that completes a majority of your inbound marketing tasks may be able to teach you things along the way, a great deal is lost in going through the actions and trials yourself. 

Rolling up your sleeves and learning how to do the things the agency once did allows every individual and the collective to develop new skills and abilities. These abilities can lead to unprecedented growth and competitive advantage.

4. They didn’t get everyone bought in (especially sales)

Your digital sales and marketing program needs to be scalable and have a broader strategy. In order to really move the needle with revenue, you need an approach that includes leadership, marketing, and sales — not just marketing.

🔎 Related: What happens when you don't have buy-in for inbound and content?

In a typical agency relationship, the marketing leader(s) are the sole point-of-contact with the agency. This inevitably leaves gaps and missed opportunities in creating a culture where everyone contributes to your content.

If your last agency didn’t get leadership on the same page with what’s going on, they likely didn’t have the ability to clear hurdles and cast a vision to the rest of the organization.

If sales wasn’t bought in, they likely didn’t have the opportunity to, or in some cases, the desire to contribute to content that potential customers saw on the website. Further, all that content didn’t get used in the sales process.

Ultimately, this may have led to inconsistencies between what prospects saw and heard on the website, what they were told in the sales process, and what they experienced in delivery or service.

To create this culture of inbound and content, you need to involve everyone in shaping the vision and contributing to content in their own ways. 

End the cycle of dependency

The overarching drawback to the typical inbound marketing agency model is that as long as they’re doing all the work for you, you’ll be dependent on that partner and they’ll dictate your success.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not insinuating that agencies don’t do the best work they can, and don’t try to deliver on their promises. That’s not the point here at all. In fact, I’d much prefer to assume that any agency you’d work with cares about your success.

The point rather is that in order to produce the most and best content, reduce costs in the long term, and experience the most growth individually and collectively, ownership is key.

At a point of full ownership, you’ll be able to do the following without an agency’s help:

  • Have your own in-house content production team
  • Produce two to three new articles every week
  • Produce two to three videos every week
  • Know how to track and effectively measure all of your inbound efforts
  • Know how to use content to educate and shorten the sales process
  • Have your leadership, sales, and marketing team on your goals and strategies
  • Be equipped to adapt to new technologies and platforms

Bottom line: When you become capable of doing the things listed above, you won’t have failed agency relationships because you’ll control many (if not all) of the variables of success with inbound and content marketing.

Fortunately, times have changed, and you don’t have to take a backseat when working with an agency anymore.

There are agencies that have seen the breakdown of the traditional model, just like us. They’re making training and coaching a large part of their core offering to meet the needs of organizations that are serious about insourcing and don’t want to fail in the process.

Through training and coaching, you can become empowered to do all of those things mentioned above and get to a place of full ownership.

Inbound market for an organization, they make the sale today. Teach an organization to inbound market, they make sales for a lifetime.

That is the phrase, right?

Here’s what I would do next, familiarize yourself with the costs associated with insourcinng your marketing efforts (especially written and video content). You’ll quickly find that in many cases you’ll reduce your spending while increasing results by simply bringing your activities in-house.

Then, discuss this approach with your team and familiarize them with the pitfalls that likely led to the failed inbound agency relationships of the past.

As Ryan Holiday writes in The Obstacle is the Way, “Failure shows us the way—by showing us what isn’t the way.” 

Just like in life, we can take what you’ve learned from these prior failures, frame them properly, and chart a new course of action. If you need help getting started today, join IMPACT+ to view various courses about insourcing and chat with other organizations about their insourcing journey. 

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