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The Inbound Challenge – Part I

Posted on June 30, 2013

In our first annual Mirren-RSW/US Definitive Guide to Agency New Business Tools, we surveyed over 300 agency executives, asking questions about their usage of, and perceived effectiveness of various new business platforms and the tools offered within those platforms.

We presented 12 different platforms, from SEO Tools, to Presentation Software, to Research and List services.

One of the platforms included is relatively new and is used by some agencies for prospecting support for their own business.  Some agencies have so fully adopted the model that this is now all they do for their clients.

Inbound Marketing

Inbound_Marketing

In this post I’ll talk about Inbound as it relates to agency new business.  In Part II of this post, I’ll address the challenges Inbound Agencies may face in the not too distant future…and what they need to do about it now!

So let’s start by talking about inbound and agency new business.

I figured the best way to understand inbound’s effectiveness in agency new business was to try it.

So we ran an experiment using one of the Inbound Marketing tools.  I purchased a license for a year to see if Inbound coupled with active and insightful blogging (4 times a week), a solid activation program (e-insight newsletter featuring blogs once a week), and appropriate offers in/throughout our social and digital universe would dramatically increase the number of leads we’d receive relative to the normal amount of activity we employ for our agency outsourced new business/lead generation programs.

My objective was to see if a fully engaged inbound program really worked – if it really did something different for us.  If it did, my goal was to make it an integral part of the lead generation programs we manage for our agency new business clients

For the purpose of the test I chose to use it for our RSW/AgencySearch business given the target for this business is the same target (marketers) as is used by our agency clients on the RSW/US side of our business.

The answer was “not so much”

Not so much

I personally put a lot of work into blogging and follow-up emailing and creating workflows, etc.   I honestly can’t say our business is any stronger as a result of the effort.

Now, out of fairness, I probably didn’t do as much outbound calling against the leads (clickers, openers of our value-added emails, and downloaders of our surveys, etc.) as I should have, which may have affected the conversion…but in terms of the absolute numbers of leads, we didn’t receive that many more inbound leads using an Inbound platform.

I am a firm believer in the principles of inbound.

We have been using the principles of inbound since I started the business in 2005 – for both RSW/US and for our agencies’ outsourced new business programs.   It’s part of what built our business and is part of what helps us build our clients’ business.   Just that…part.

Blogging and pushing your posts out to your prospects (activating them) is key to successfully positioning an agency as a thought leader in a specific space.  Consistency is also key.  It doesn’t happen overnight.  But there’s more to it than just inbound.

The Human Element

I believe there are two reasons why agencies in our survey (see results below), agencies we have worked with, and agencies we’ve talked to have found Inbound platforms to be somewhat disappointing (relative to other agency new business platforms they use).

The Definitive Guide to Agency New Business Tools:
Inbound Marketing Platforms

Inbound Marketing Platforms

%   Using

%   Rate as Effective

Hubspot

51%

39%

Marketo

15%

71%

Eloqua

11%

40%

Google’s Marketing Stack

6%

33%

Pardot

4%

100%

Adobe’s Marketing Stack

2%

0%

Other mentions

11%

 (Net-Results, Meltwater, Optify)

  1. The amount of time required to keep up with inbound platforms is huge.   There is simply no getting around it.  Agencies are typically not equipped to do it all.  While there are firms that can help with content development, we know first-hand that capturing the voice of an agency, if you’re not part of the agency, is no easy task.  We know it can be done because we do it.  But I can tell you from experience it’s not a quick or simple process.
  2. Simply doing inbound and not doing anything about it does not make a program.  When the clickers click, the downloaders download, the website visitors visit, and you do nothing…your business won’t grow.   We know from a review of our own agency lead generation programs, that 57% of all meetings set are the result of the new business director calling after an inbound activity (clicking, opening, or downloading).  The rest are  generated as a result of persistent outbound attempts to connect with  people…the right people…that have received mailings or been touched socially.  So we humans do matter.  You do nothing after getting a lead, and the likely outcome:  Nothing.

So in summary, my conclusions are this:

  1. Value-added content is king and effective positioning of that content to establish you as a thought leader in your desired space is critically important.
  2. Relying only on inbound as a platform for agency new business can be limiting.
  3. Without outbound, inbound tactics will prove fruitless.
  4. You don’t need a robust software platform – and you don’t need to dedicate an inordinate amount of time to the effort to accomplish what you can just as easily do on your own without a lot of time or sophisticated resources.

 

Related posts:

Our Story Doesn’t Change, We Just Need to Find the Right Ears

The 4 Business Tools Your Agency Needs to Succeed

Agency New Business Discussion with Paul Roetzer of PR 20/20

 

Post by 

Mark Sneider is a 25 year veteran of the CPG, advertising and marketing service industry. Mark earned his MBA from Northwestern's Kellogg School where he majored in Marketing and Economics. Sneider started his career at DDB Needham, but prior to starting RSW/US, Mark was General Manager for AcuPOLL, a global research consultancy. Sneider worked in Marketing for S.C. Johnson and KAO brands. Sneider has been invited to speak at numerous Agency events and network conferences including the 4A's, Mirren, TAAN, Hubspot, and MCAN. Sneider has been featured in prominent industry publications including Adweek, Media Post, e-Marketer, and Forbes.

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