Is It Time to Establish 'The Inbound Marketing Agency Oath'?

Posted by Peter Caputa on Jul 13, 2012 9:51:00 PM

At HubSpot, more than 900 agencies have decided to invest in learning inbound marketing the way that HubSpot teaches it. I would hazard to guess that there are several hundred more agencies who have decided to launch 'inbound marketing services' without partnering with HubSpot too. Some of our new partners launch inbound marketing services with more vigor than others. Some add it to their current offerings. Some take a right turn and begin exclusively offering inbound marketing services to clients. Some try to meld inbound with outbound.  Some take 12 months to learn before they start offering inbound services. No matter what they do, many agencies are offering inbound marketing services these days. 

Yesterday, I was copied on an email that said, "We have changed our minds and have decided to expand into offering inbound marketing services. We plan to add search engine optimization (SEO), search engine marketing (SEM) and social media management services (SMM) to our offerings. Can we resume our conversation?" First, I looked at their website, assuming they were already offering lead generation and marketing automation services. They weren't. A bit frustrated, I was very tempted to write back and say, "THIS IS THE DEFINITION OF INBOUND MARKETING. SEO, SEM and SMM is 1/4th of the process. You must then help your clients turn that traffic into leads, turn those leads into sales and use analytics to help them continuously improve results." Luckily, one of team members responded first with, "When would you like to schedule a call?" Argument averted.

The other day, when I announced that I am launching an inbound networking group for marketing agencies, John McTigue left a comment that got me thinking: (Minor edits.)

"I would actually be even more interested in getting together some of the best minds in the business to create a special consortium, like the W3C, to help drive best practices in digital marketing. [The group would] provide thought leadership. With HubSpot's backing in spirit, this could become a go-to resource for anyone interested in doing things the right way. By becoming a member and participating, each network agency would have the opportunity to raise their profile. The goal would be greater awareness of best practices from an independent body."

Years ago, when HubSpot launched the Inbound Marketing University and the inbound movement began in earnest, I had suggested we develop an inbound oath. We never did that. Today it feels like the inbound marketing agency migration is in full swing, and more and more agencies have adopted the moniker, 'inbound marketing agency'. The time to create an oath  feels like it is now. There are way too many agencies saying that they are inbound agencies without really understanding how to produce a measurable, predictable and improvable ROI for their clients. There's lots of agencies giving it a bad name. They are..

  • selling 'inbound marketing' projects or short term 'inbound' engagements,
  • espousing content creation without knowing how to use it for lead generation and nurturing,
  • letting clients pick and choose services instead of making the right tactical recommendations at the right frequency in the right sequence,
  • selling it evangelically instead of based on client goals,
  • not involving clients in their service delivery processes,
  • making it seem like a mystery instead of transparently reporting results...
  • and many many more bad agency habits. 

There are even many agencies that are making it up as they go along, just like agencies usually do. So, before the term gets watered down and means nothing, the ones that "do things the right way" should probably help to establish best practice.

What do you guys think? Should we create this oath? What should be on it? 

Topics: inbound marketing agency

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