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Mike Lieberman, CEO and Chief Revenue ScientistWed, Jan 18, 2017 11 min read

Small, Medium Or Large? Which Inbound Marketing Agency Is Right For You?

There’s The Right Size Inbound Marketing Agency For Every Company

Selecting An Inbound Marketing Agency.jpgWe’re not right for every company. Not a day goes by without us passing on an opportunity because it’s not the right fit for our inbound marketing agency. That doesn’t make me feel bad; it makes me feel great. Our goal is to earn raving fan status from our clients, and if a prospect isn’t going to be a raving fan, we’re not interested in the engagement.

You should be thinking about finding an inbound marketing agency in the same way. If you don’t think your business goals are going to be achieved by working with the agencies youre considering, then you’re looking at the wrong agencies.

But how do you know what you’re looking for? This is probably your first inbound agency search, and even if you’ve hired traditional or even digital agencies in the past, inbound is a whole new ball game.

Here’s how to align your business objectives with inbound agency capabilities to create a partnership that works well for both you and your new agency.

How Much Time Do You Want To Invest In The Project?

I’d ask all the agencies you’re considering this exact question: “How much of my time will be required to execute the program?” I’d then multiply whatever they say by 50%. If they say an hour a week, it’s probably going to be more like 90 minutes per week.

You have to invest something because we can’t market your company without you. You can limit the amount of time required by trusting us to take care of the details and by trusting us enough to follow our recommendations. If you edit everything your agency does, if you question every recommendation and if you change your mind about high-level company direction, you can be sure to see an increased demand on your time.

It’s also likely that smaller agencies are going to need more of your time. This might suit you. I’ve known a lot of clients that love marketing and want to be heavily involved in the project. But if you have a team or individual within your firm that you trust with the marketing, then a larger agency can help them with the process and methodology while they simply provide technical oversight regarding the company, the product or the services being marketed.

How Quickly Do You Expect Results?

Are you looking for leads in the first month or are you playing the long game? Bigger agencies aren’t better at inbound, but they might have more resources that can be put on the project, they might be able to execute more tactics simultaneously and they might have a more experienced team that has in the past worked to produce results faster than a smaller agency.

Inbound marketing is about experiences. It’s as simple as that. The more companies an agency has worked with and the more experiences it has planning, building and optimizing inbound engagements, the better the agency. You might find a small agency with a ton of experience. Wonderful! But more than likely, the bigger agencies are going to be filled with more people who have more practical experience, and that typically translates into results.

Do You Want To Tell Them Or Do You Want Them To Tell You?

Partner or vendor? What are you looking for? If you know what you want and simply need help getting it done, you need a vendor. If you want someone to tell you what you need, give you recommendations, provide guidance and advice, and collaborate with you on what needs to get done, you should be looking for a partner firm, not a vendor.

Big, little or medium-sized agencies all have similar challenges in that you can’t have all chiefs and no Indians. Everyone in the agency can’t be an expert, so when you bring in a small or medium-sized agency, be prepared to deal with a limited number of experts. The bigger the firm, the more experts. Just like when you hire a small firm and work with the owner, it’s great until the owner is too busy to work with you or gets a bigger client than you.

Do You Have A Marketing Team?

If you have a team, then you’ll want a different type of agency than if the marketing is all falling on your shoulders. Sometimes when you have an existing marketing team, you simply need a firm to fill in the gaps. A larger firm might have more options when it comes to gap filling. If you need lead nurturing, you want the lead nurturing team. If you need a website, you want the website team. If you need to improve your ability to be found on the search engines, you need the SEO team. Bigger agencies typically have these types of resources.

If it’s just you, then you need to make sure your agency can configure the team to support you. A team of generalists might be better for you. Smaller agencies typically can deliver this type of engagement, especially if you’re planning on investing more time in the project.

It’s not as if one is right and one is wrong; it’s just about knowing what you need and making sure your chosen agency can deliver it.

How Well Do You Understand Inbound Marketing?

Look, it’s not rocket science, but it is more complicated than traditional marketing, so selecting a firm that has the bandwidth to explain to you what it’s doing, how it’s doing it and why it’s doing it all though the engagement might be important to you. If it is, make sure the agency has that educational component as part of the program.

Smaller agencies might not have the experience nor the bandwidth to give you the educational component. If you know everything about inbound, you might do well with a smaller agency where you can direct and the agency can execute. Again, both types have their advantages; its about matching them with you.

What’s Your Budget?

Setting An inbound Marketing BudgetThis is big. If you have a tight budget, you should consider a smaller agency. Smaller agencies are usually more equipped to handle smaller programs. The rub here is you need to be prepared to wait longer for results. There is a direct correlation between what you invest and the speed at which you see dramatic results. This isn’t about inbound marketing. This is about ALL marketing. If you have $2,000 a month to invest and you do outbound, impression-based marketing, you’ll get fewer results than if you have $20,000 to invest in the same types of tactics.

Inbound works with smaller budgets, but it takes longer to produce results. I’ve seen this happen over and over again. Bigger budgets allow you to purchase luxury items like specialists in search, conversion, UI/UX and overall marketing strategy. Bigger budgets also make it easier for agencies to produce results faster because, if they can, they’re able to package a variety of tactics and execute those simultaneously, producing a multiplier effect that improves the performance of inbound marketing campaigns.

There are pluses and minuses associated with all types of inbound agencies. The secret is understanding your requirements before you start your search, managing the search so your requirements are front and center during the process, and then getting expectations set right out of the gate. If you can do this, then no matter which agency you pick, you’ll be certain that it’s the right agency for you and your company.

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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.