Inbound marketing is extremely popular in the B2B tech marketing space. The primary goal of inbound is to attract leads to the business by providing value and useful resources. Over time, this builds into a relationship with each lead, and establishes brand recognition. Many companies look to work with an inbound marketing agency to augment this approach.
Working in tandem with outbound and paid strategies, inbound marketing generates leads that qualify themselves through their actions. Ultimately, this is often far more effective and efficient than other marketing approaches, such as cold outreach.
An effective inbound strategy is the foundation of many B2B companies. While it can take time to become effective, your inbound strategies continue working for you without extra budget or input.
However, it can be relatively time-consuming. Therefore, many marketing companies outsource specific elements of their marketing. Could an inbound marketing agency help you? If so, what should you look for?
Need Help With Your B2B Strategy?
Marketing Fuel, Engine, and a Driver
Emily Kramer, formerly of Asana, and others like to talk about how great B2B marketing is about the fuel and engine. The idea is a way of breaking down the necessary B2B marketing approaches so that you understand the value of both the front-end and back-end work.
The idea is that engine means the technical SEO of your website, your distribution mechanisms (paid, outbound, etc), and your website’s ability to rank. Put simply, the engine is the marketing tech stack in the back end, optimized content on the website, and a website that is built for SEO.
Fuel, on the other hand, is marketing materials, articles, gated content, videos, and more. The fuel is the marketing materials that drive people to engage with your brand and the engine is the distribution mechanism.
It’s a brilliant way of thinking about B2B marketing but there is one thing missing: strategy. I’m tempted to continue the analogy and call it the formula one driver. Then we have an engine plus fuel plus a driver. However, this might be taking the analogy too far. Regardless of the analogy, the strategy is: what keywords should you target, with what method, and what marketing mix (paid vs content marketing)?
When you look at Inbound Marketing agencies you need to ask yourself: where do you need help? Many agencies will try to sell you an engine rebuild, lots of fuel, and a new strategy. However, you might not need all of that, you might just need the strategy. If you’re not sure, it might make sense to start with an audit to understand your needs first.
What is Inbound Marketing?
As mentioned, inbound marketing is a particularly popular approach in the B2B industry. Not least due to its relative lower costs when compared to outbound marketing. Fundamentally, all you need for inbound marketing is good content creators and a website to host that content.
Inbound marketing aims to attract leads to the business by providing them with good-quality content and resources. The leads will come to your business of their own volition, typically in the search for answers. Comparatively, outbound marketing reaches out to potential leads directly.
It can take some time for inbound marketing to demonstrate results. You need a solid content library, and a good website that drives search engine performance. Therefore, it can take 6-9 months before traffic and leads start to increase. Inbound marketing should be combined with outbound strategies for companies looking to scale quickly.
However, inbound is still critical. Your content, website, and SEO all demonstrate your authority in your market. Without a clead brand identity, and existing brand recognition, many leads will be turned off. Ensure that your knowledge of your market is visible within your brand identity and your content.
What is an Inbound Marketing Agency?
This might seem relatively self-explanatory, but an inbound marketing agency is an external partner that specializes in inbound marketing. Just as you can outsource your entire marketing, or other elements of your business, you can partner with specialists in specific areas.
An inbound marketing agency will have a variety of talent available. However, they should have the following key players:
- SEO Specialists
- Technical SEO/Coders
- Content Writers
- PR Specialist
While these may be the key roles for a good inbound strategy, it’s important to note that an inbound agency may have other experts within its teams. Many agencies work across a variety of approaches, including outbound and paid advertising.
In fact, working with an agency that is experienced across a variety of marketing strategies is likely to benefit your inbound marketing overall. The more your potential partner understands digital marketing on the whole, the better integrated their work will be.
Why Do You Need an Agency?
Moving back to the engine, fuel, and driver, the best approach is to think about where your internal weaknesses are. If you have in house writers and developers, then you just need strategy help and training for your writers. If you have a VP of marketing who is an expert in technical SEO, optimized content writing, and strategy but no team to deploy the strategy, then you need to outsource content writing and technical SEO work.
Too often we think that all inbound marketing agencies are the same and do the same things. The truth is some agencies focus on strategy and some are really just nearshore or outsourced marketing teams.
What Type of Agency is Best for You?
As mentioned above, there are two overarching types of agency: marketing outsourcing and marketing strategy. Although many marketing agencies would refuse these labels, when you break down their offering you will see where they fit into those two categories.
Marketing Outsourcing Agency
Marketing outsourcing is best for B2B companies that have hired an expert VP of Marketing or CMO who has a technical grasp on SEO, SEM, paid advertising, and optimized content writing. In this scenario, the VP of Marketing has time to set the strategy but doesn’t have a team to deploy the strategy and doesn’t have the budget to recruit one.
This is an uncommon situation because usually B2B companies hire junior marketers first and then the CMO later on in their lifecycle. It’s very rare for a company to have an expert VP of Marketing with no team. Despite this, many marketing agencies try to sell marketing outsourcing services because the margins are high when you sell junior content writers services at high prices. My recommendation would be only to use marketing outsourcing to augment your team when needed but to do your best to bring this competency in-house.
Marketing Strategy Agency
Marketing strategy agencies are the best choice in two different scenarios. Firstly, where a company doesn’t have a VP of marketing who is an expert in SEO, SEM, and Paid Advertising. Or, where the VP of marketing is overwhelmed and needs help. Whereas marketing outsourcing agencies augment the junior’s work, marketing strategy agencies augment the VP marketing themselves.
An Inbound Marketing Strategy Agency offers expert technical SEO skills to help companies understand if their engine is holding them back, as well as detailed knowledge of optimized content writing to understand if the content is the issue. Finally, they can set the overarching SEO strategy and train the company’s in-house team to improve performance.
What Inbound Marketing Strategy Agencies Offer
I’m going to focus on the strategy side here since outsourcing agencies are a dime a dozen, as they say, and there is no shortage of content about them online. The best agencies that focus on strategy offer:
Technical SEO Expertise
Technical SEO is a strange mix of technical expertise and marketing knowledge. It’s a hard role to fill and skillset to develop. The best agencies have a team of people who can just as easily talk about the challenges with Jquery on a website and why you need to minify JS and CSS, while at the same time thinking about the content itself and why it might not rank.
SEO Strategy Expertise
SEO Strategy is about helping you choose the right keywords, based on your target buyer. And then figuring out which versions of those keywords have a high enough search volume to target and a low enough keyword difficulty that you could rank. Finally, the SEO strategist will devise the right tactics: what type of content (cornerstone page, article, etc), how to augment performance with paid, and if there is a way to integrate with the outbound effort.
As mentioned, inbound marketing can be extremely time-consuming. In fact, it can take as many as 9 months to results. Not to mention that building the foundation itself takes time.
You need to generate a strategy based on SEO, and consistently create content according to that strategy. In-house marketing teams are already managing outbound and paid, and these see results much faster. It can be challenging to know how best to allocate resources.
An inbound marketing agency allows you to focus on what you know, and manage your time more effectively. Let your partner handle the building and managing of your inbound approach. They can work with your in-house team to integrate strategies, and ensure that your marketing continues to perform across the board, without taking away from your existing marketing resources.
Upskill your Team
I cofounded Nituno to disrupt the conventional marketing agency approach. I was a CMO in a SaaS company and was frankly frustrated with the agencies I worked with. I didn’t want all of the competency outside my business but then I struggled to hire experts internally.
Our vision for Nituno is that we work to upskill our customer’s teams. This means our team of strategists sets the SEO strategy and then we work with the internal team to train them to implement it. Our goal is that over time our involvement will actually decrease as the in-house team takes on more responsibility.
The value for the customer is clear because we help them develop competencies in-house and improve their internal teams. Unlike other agencies we don’t create a relationship of dependence, we empower our customers.
Get in touch with us today to discuss your B2B marketing strategy.