UPDATE: This post was originally writen in October 2016 but we've updated it as we think it's still relevant.
As a Manchester inbound marketing agency, we partner with clients across many different walks of life. The companies are all different shapes, different sizes, different ages - none of them are identical. Yet, each and every one asks us the same kind of questions when we first start talking to them.
Can you do our SEO/PPC/social media/ironing/sudoku?
Every client has an idea of what it is they want us to deliver. A colleague, friend or family member has probably told them what they should consider.
“You should try that Google Adwords…”, “I hear Facebook is the place to be now…”, “you should build your site mobile first…”
They consider the starting point, but not what they are necessarily trying to achieve from that activity. In some cases, their understanding of which channels to use, their product’s market fit, or even who their target market is, may be slightly off the mark.
All of those suggestions have value in the right context, but they may or may not be the best choice for your business in particular. In answer to our clients’ questions… Yes, yes we can do all of those things. But that’s not the point.
So what are the right questions to ask an inbound marketing agency?
First, really think about why you’re engaging with an inbound marketing agency. What is the ultimate end goal?
Are you trying to grow your brand awareness? If so, why? Are you trying to drive more visitors to your site? Once again, why?
Most marketing activity, when you boil it down, is to drive more sales from more customers (or repeat sales from existing customers) and make more money.
If you’re just interested in driving traffic to your site, that’s easy. But if that traffic isn’t converting into clients, what’s the point? It’s costing you money to generate and host that traffic, and you’re not seeing any meaningful benefit. It what we call "hollow traffic".
So if you’re planning to use an inbound marketing agency (I know a good one I can recommend by the way), the question you should probably be asking is: Can you deliver me more customers? Everything else is fairly irrelevant. Do you really care which channels or tools your digital marketing agency use if they're hitting that overall target of more customers through the door (digital or otherwise)?
Read more: Our guide to inbound lead generation
The key to good marketing is simple – work backwards
Each and every one of your prospective clients is unique in some way, shape or form. Inflexible and overgeneralised demographics have limited meaning nowadays (check out our blog on post-demographic consumerism), so stop relying on them.
People want to interact with brands in ways that are meaningful to them. Just because someone is born in the 21st century, it doesn’t mean they automatically want to consume your brand’s message on Snapchat. Context is key.
So work backwards. Figure out a few different personas which really represent who it is you are trying to tempt with your goods and wares. Map them out, give them an identity and make sure you validate them (test them out – maybe even interview some people). Your whimsical thoughts about who your clients are, aren’t enough. Figure out how they consume media, interact with one another, and most importantly, buy things.
Once you have that, everything else will start to fall into place. The channels you need to use, whether biddable media, inbound marketing, direct mail, paying some poor student to stand on a street corner with a sandwich board (this is not a channel we can help you with…) will soon become apparent. That’s where you need to make your decisions, and where any inbound marketing agency should earn its worth.
Read our guide: Working with a inbound marketing agency
If you commit to a channel from the outset, and if an agency commits you to it on your behalf, you’ll miss out on an awful lot, often to the detriment of the campaign.