How Can You Be Agile If You Bought A Package Of Deliverables?
You want to hire an inbound marketing agency. You’re doing your due diligence by looking at websites, downloading content, scrolling through reviews and checking the partner tiers on HubSpot. You’re making all of the right moves.
But it’s still confusing. They all sound good. They all look similar. They all seem, on the surface, to be able to deliver what you need. But all agencies are not created equally, and bigger doesn’t make them better. Having Diamond Partner status doesn’t make them better. Being Agile doesn’t make them better and using points doesn’t make them better. Even though this describes us, it’s not what makes us better.
Here’s how to tell if the agencies you’re looking at possess this rare and critical skill set.
Dig In On Their Agile Practices
Ask agencies if they’re following an Agile framework and they’re likely to say “yes.” They’re not lying; most agencies think they are because they can adjust the program based on your requests. That’s not Agile. Agile must be part of their DNA. It must start during the sales process and flow into the engagement. If you’re picking a package, the agency doesn’t adhere to Agile practices. Agile requires the team delivering the services to be involved in the estimating and recommendations. It’s a core part of the process.
If you bought a package, how does that package change based on data and the results of the engagement? It doesn’t seem to match up. Packages are typically counter to the Agile methodology, where every month is different based on the results from the previous month. The ability to cycle quickly like that produces better results faster. Make sure your Agile agency is capable of working like this. Ask for examples from actual clients. If you check references, ask current clients about prioritization, monthly cycling and program adjustments based on data.
Ask About Deliverables
A lot of agencies are using industry templates to deliver client work. I’m not talking about creating templates internally that reflect their own processes and methodologies. I’m saying agencies are delivering a lot of the same stuff. Persona templates, content strategy templates, planning templates and other tools are the same from inbound agency to inbound agency. You don’t want that.
Your company is unique and it deserves a well-thought-out, customized deliverable regardless of the application. One way to see how your work will be delivered is to ask for samples. Look into the work for thoughtfulness as opposed to just completed boxes or cells. Look at it for creativity and its uniqueness in the industry. A lot of agencies are capable of making their work look amazing, but does it tell a story and does it convert? Ask about results and performance for any of the deliverables you’re reviewing.
What About Needs Not On The List?
If you’re considering buying a package, what happens when you need something not on the list? What if you need account-based marketing? What if you need a 3D mailing to be part of the program?
What if you need video and a lot of it? How is this work going to impact your package? How will it be priced? Who’s going to deliver it? You need to know the answers because a true Agile agency is reviewing what’s working and recommending anything and everything required to get you results, whether it’s on your list or not.
Make sure you ask about last-minute requests or a change in priorities mid-sprint or mid-month. How is the agency going to accommodate these types of situations (because they will come up)? Make sure your agency isn’t holding back some percentage of your points for these scenarios if they do come up. You’re also going to want to understand how transparent your agency is when it comes to sharing the way your points are being used.
You should expect to see some percentage of points allocated to project management, account management, planning and overall strategy. That’s fine and it’s fair for an agency to charge you for this. You want to pay for this. But make sure the agency isn’t telling you one thing and then overcharging you for tactics that include some of this other stuff. The right work should be in the right box so you know exactly what you’re paying for.
Personas Are A Small Piece Of Strategy
Speaking of strategy, if all the agency is doing before it starts tactics is personas, it’s not enough. That won’t produce the leads you need. Strategy should take you at least six to eight weeks if you’re starting from scratch, or it should take 50% of your program for four months. We’ve been able to modularize the strategy work required to produce results so we can get started with tactics sooner, but that work still needs to get done. The sooner it gets done, signed off on and feathered into the tactics, the better the results.
Make sure your agency is talking to you about messaging, differentiation, stories and your “why.” If that’s not happening, you’re likely going to be disappointed with the long-term results.
Make Sure You’re Comparing Apples To Apples
This is where it might get a little tricky. Some agencies charge $120 per point, others charge $100 per point and others give you lower per point pricing the more points you buy. None of this really matters because it all comes down to the points per tactic or deliverables.
Here’s an example: Agency A charges $100 per point and a blog article is four points or $400, while Agency B charges $120 per point and a blog article is six points or $720. On the surface it looks like Agency B is only a little higher than Agency A, but in reality Agency B is a lot higher on a per tactic basis.
In the end, you have to feel safe. No matter what, you’re going to hire the agency you feel the safest with because that’s human nature. But knowing what to ask, knowing what to look for and knowing how to get beyond the window dressing is key.
Look for agencies that have elongated “getting to know you” stages and ask you a ton of questions. Some of those questions might be hard to answer or make you think, but isn’t that what you want? Do you want an agency that is focused on delivering stuff, or one that is going to make you a better company? I think it’s the latter. That’s what we want to be at Square 2 Marketing.
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