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Mike Lieberman, CEO and Chief Revenue ScientistThu, Jan 18, 2018 17 min read

How To Pick A HubSpot Agency When You’re A HubSpot Customer

Be Wary Of The Price, Because You’re Going To Get What You Pay For

Picking Your HubSpot PartnerYou bought HubSpot, congratulations! Now what? You might try to get it to work on your own. Tons of educational resources are available on their website, and the HubSpot team is available to answer any of your questions.

After a few months of trial and error, you might be generating leads, or like a lot of customers, it might not be working out like you expected.

What are your options? One is to try working with a partner. But all partners are not created equally. In fact, a lot of hidden land mines are in the journey to finding the right partner to help you optimize your investment in the software and, even more importantly, to get you the lead and revenue generation machine you had in mind when you decided to buy HubSpot.

Here are some areas to focus on when you start working on how to pick a HubSpot partner agency.

Experience: Number Of HubSpot Customers

When you’re looking for a partner, it’s hard to tell from the outside how much experience the partner actually has working with and getting results for clients. Even the Diamond-level category has some partners with 10 years of experience and others with one year of experience. It has $6 million agencies (like ours) and it has $1 million agencies, too. It has agencies that are thriving and agencies that are struggling. You just can’t tell.

The responsibility to figure this out is going to fall on you. In the end, it’s going to come down to the questions you ask during your hiring process. All agencies are not created equally. Smaller agencies are not better than bigger agencies, while bigger agencies are not better than smaller agencies. You have to find the right agency for you. Part of that is understanding exactly what you’re looking for.

In our experience, the number of clients an agency has worked with is critical. Why? Because every client is different, and the more clients you’ve worked with, the more experiences you have and the more knowledge you have about what works and what doesn’t work. It’s not always about vertical expertise, but it’s always about marketing expertise. If a team has worked with 50 clients, that team is going to be better equipped to help you than if they’ve only worked with five clients.

Your Team: You Want People With Experience

Ageny Experience MattersIts not just about the company. It’s important to know the people you’re going to be working with directly. You want to look into their backgrounds. Again, experience matters. Is this their first or second job? Have they been in-house at another company? That’s a positive experience that often translates into an ability to generate results quickly. Account managers manage accounts. Lead generators generate leads. What do you want?

A lot of agencies don’t like to talk about numeric results. If this is important to you, make sure the agencies you’re considering are putting numbers on paper. Do they have quantitative expectations for your program? If so, over what period? Are those numbers aligned with yours? It’s no longer enough to buy a package of stuff, like four blog articles per month, one email campaign per quarter and one whitepaper per month. You should be talking about funnel metrics, leads generated, revenue created and numbers of new customers.

In-House Capabilities

The 10 New Secret Questions To Ask An Inbound Marketing Agency Before HiringA lot of agencies outsource. There’s nothing wrong with that, except that over the past 15 years we’ve been in business, control is a big variable when it comes to performance.

If I outsource your website to an outside company, I lose some element of control. That company could take longer than anticipated, change the price or even go out of business. You’re now relying on your agency to tell another agency what to do. Whispering down the lane almost always causes additional and unnecessary challenges with both quality and delivery.

The same holds true with writing. You should be looking for a one-to-one relationship with your content team. You want them integrated with your internal voice. You want an editorial process to overlay on top of the content creation process. You want a content team that works together to find efficiencies to keep your costs down and deliver content in a timely fashion. This gets much harder when you have an agency using outside writing resources. After all, they are freelancers for a reason.

They Should Get To Know You Before Giving You A Price

One way to test an agency early on is to ask for pricing or a proposal on your first call. The more experienced and thoughtful partner-oriented agencies are going to pause and ask you for a lot more information on you before they even think about providing recommendations and investment levels.

The agencies that are less experienced, have fewer clients and have a less refined delivery team are going to jump at the opportunity to give you pricing and a proposal. They’re going to ballpark it, guess at what you need and start with a package of services that they think might be right for you. And yes, it’s probably going to be less expensive than the agencies that want to take a more thoughtful approach to creating your plan.

Anyone who has done this long enough knows that no client is the same. What worked for client A is probably not going to work the same way for client B, even when they’re in the same industry. Too many variables are in play. You want your agency to take the time to get to know you and you want to take your time getting to know them. Expect three or four conversations during that process. The agency should be asking you hard questions, asking you for data and asking you for strategic information on your company. If your agency isn’t making you think, they’re not doing their job.

Methodology, Systems And Processes

Optimizing Marketing PerformanceWhen it comes to selecting an agency, you don’t want to pay for them to learn while working with you. The way you check for this is to ask about systems, processes and methodologies.

Some easy ones ask to about include prioritization. How do you prioritize what you’ll want to work on for us? Another area is marketing strategy. What is your methodology for helping us with strategy, messaging, differentiation, stories and campaign creation? Also, focus on collaboration and co-creation. How will we collaborate on our plans and what do those rhythms look like?

Agencies with deep experiences in these areas will have set processes that they should share with you. They’re not figuring it out on the fly; they already know what works and that’s what they bring to the table.

You should also be looking for an agency that is willing to teach, educate and advise you along the way. Marketing and sales execution is complex, and your agency should be willing (even encouraging you) to learn what they do, so one day you can do it on your own. The entire engagement should be designed to empower you with their knowledge, so you and your team get smarter over time, ideally taking some (or all) of the work in-house eventually.

Business Results Or Marketing Results

It might seem like, on the surface, understanding the details around the specific deliverables is important. How many pages will be on my website? How many blog articles, emails, whitepapers and campaigns are included? How many social posts will I get in this program? I know that, historically, this is how marketing companies sold their services and how companies bought services from agencies.

But today, you should be more worried about results, such as leads generated, new customers closed, sales opportunities created, revenue growth, cost of acquisition and other direct business results. Make sure your agency speaks this language. It doesn’t matter what keywords you rank for and how highly you rank if your organic visitor numbers go up each month. It doesn’t matter how often we blog for you if the number of leads from your website goes up each month. It doesn’t matter how many whitepapers or emails you received if your sales opportunities and new customer rates are improving every month.

You want your agency focused on these business results. Now please understand, those tactics are important, and you must execute those to produce the business results. But your agency should understand the end game is not to deliver marketing; the end game is to deliver results. You should understand marketing and sales is so complex today that real business results are not delivered in weeks (although sometimes that can happen). It usually takes months of hard work, creativity and testing. Revenue is earned through thoughtfully planning, building and optimizing a wide variety of tactics in both marketing and sales.

Look For Marketing And Sales Execution Support

sales and marketing alignmentSince we agree that business results and revenue growth is the goal here, look for a HubSpot agency that provides more than just marketing support. Look for agencies that can add value on the sales side, too. Time and time again, we see clients that realize 10x growth on leads but are unable to turn those leads into new customers. Sales teams need just as much (or more) support from agencies.

Some of those areas include the sales process and the experience your sales teams are creating for your prospects. Content applied in context to the sales conversations makes prospects feel safe with your company. Analytics on your funnel and sales performance help to identify areas where the process is weak or inefficient. Activating your customers helps to generate more references and more advocacy within the sales process. Prospects always feel better after they talk to actual customers who have already chosen you and are happy with their choice.

In most cases, the investment on the sales side produces faster results and more dramatic results because opportunities are already in the works. For example, increasing your close rate on proposals submitted from 30% to just 50% can drive hundreds of thousands of new dollars in a short time frame. Don’t overlook this as a way to drive revenue.

When you’re comparing agencies, don’t make it about the final proposal or recommendations. It’s  likely you’ll have three or four similar proposals that all look great and sound great but feature different price points. You need to understand exactly what you’re getting from each agency. I guarantee that while they might look similar, they are not similar. Your $5,000 proposal cannot deliver the same results as your $10,000 proposal. Don’t expect it too, regardless of what the agency says.

This is where you have to double down and ask as many questions as possible until you understand exactly what you’re getting for that level of investment. When you dig deep enough, you’ll notice the subtle differences between outsourcing content and the cost there compared to having an internal dedicated team for your company and the investment there. That’s just one example. In a lot of cases, your website work might be out of scope or be scoped later.

Even the $8,000 program is going to be different than the $11,000 program. It has to be, because an agency can’t do $11,000 worth of work for $8,000 and stay in business, unless they’ve created low-cost back-end delivery. You should understand all of the details. Who’s working on your stuff? Do they live in this country? Can you talk to them? Do they even work for the agency? Did you know a lot of agencies outsource all of their delivery work to agencies that specialize in this but are located in Romania or South Africa?

You might be OK with that, and I’m not saying it’s bad, just that you should be aware of it. I would never want the cheapest doctor operating on me. I would never want a cheap attorney to keep me out of trouble. I would never want a cheap accountant taking care of my tax obligation. Don’t pick a cheap marketing company just to save a couple of bucks. Work with a firm that is going to get you results, bring 10,000 hours of expertise to your table and has a team of people in-house to help your company grow. 

Square 2 Marketing – Revenue Is Earned Through Experience, Methodology And Insights!

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Mike Lieberman, CEO and Chief Revenue Scientist

Mike is the CEO and Chief Revenue Scientist at Square 2. He is passionate about helping people turn their ordinary businesses into businesses people talk about. For more than 25 years, Mike has been working hand-in-hand with CEOs and marketing and sales executives to help them create strategic revenue growth plans, compelling marketing strategies and remarkable sales processes that shorten the sales cycle and increase close rates.

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