Dear New Inbound Agency Leader...

    Posted by Chris Handy on Mar 18, 2014 6:42:29 PM

    This is a guest post/open letter from an awesome guy and the owner of ThinkHandy, Chris Handy. Chris - out of the kindness of his heart - takes calls from other agency owners who are struggling to scale up. 

    Dear New Inbound Agency Leader,

    dear_inbound_agency_leaderYou asked me if I have any advice to share on quickly ramping up your new agency. I am happy to share some assorted nuggets of advice that have added to the success of my inbound marketing agency

    • I have since fired my first two clients because they were not bought into the inbound methodology and had unreasonable expectations. Fast growth is good, but only if the client is a good fit. I am way more selective now, and find myself much happier. Don't accept a client that isn't excited to get started. I can't stress this enough. 
    • Spend time on the Hubspot Advanced Sales Training Modules that Corey Beale & Jeetu Mahtani produced a couple years ago. I find a lot of value in that series.
    • Read Baseline Selling by Dave Kurlan.
    • Read SNAP Selling by Jill Konrath. 
    • Create a defined sales process that works for you. Make sure you don't try to close too early, or sell past the close. 
    • Never stop adding value to your client's day. Send personal notes. Endorse/recommend them on LinkedIn. Do not be afraid to ask for referrals regularly.
    • Start using Salesforce for your own agency, even though its features may be overkill so that you will know the system for client implementation with your inbound marketing software of choice.
    • Document your processes. Pretend you are going to get run over by a train tomorrow and make sure that your staff can pick up the pieces when that happens. This mindset will make it much easier to step into a more executive role when the time comes.
    • Work out in the open and eliminate the unnecessary  work generated by "the big reveal". Find an online project management system that allows your client to be involved in the editorial process. This can save countless hours of heartache on content revisions. Open workspaces also allow you to keep your client up to date on the status of the many cogs in the inbound marketing wheel. This will save time spent on "update requests" and "status checks".
    There is so much more I could tell you if there were enough time. I hope this helps you get started. Agency Leadership is hard work, but very rewarding. Good Luck.
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    Topics: inbound marketing agency

    Transform Your Website (and More) With Inbound Marketing

    Posted by Todd Hockenberry on May 16, 2013 7:20:00 AM

    transform your websiteWe've been HubSpot partners for over three years now and have on boarded over 40 customers as well as consulted with a few dozen others. But something happened today that has never happened to me before—I got a rousing round of applause from a client.   

    We recently were retained to help a regulatory consulting company re-design their website and launch them on a full blown inbound marketing campaign. The owner knew she needed a new website and she knew she needed outside help to get it done. The company culture feared change, feared online marketing, feared competition, and had no idea of how to take the steps needed to overcome these fears and build a website that attracted prospects using valuable content.

    This company knew they needed to change, but needed a framework to work by and a nudge in the right direction. So when the owner was referred to me and we hit it off she hired us and we started down this road of inbound marketing. Many of you already moving on that path would recognize what we did as a straight forward, basic plan.

    That is what it looked like to me. What it looked like to them was totally different.

    Here is what the employees of this company saw:

    • An opportunity to share their expertise to the world
    • Proof that management was progressive and concerned about the future
    • An outlet for creativity in a pretty un-creative world - telecom regulation
    • New sales opportunities in a stagnant market
    • A new enthusiasm for the expertise they have
    • A new appreciation for how much they help their clients and how important they are to them
    • A new energy to find ways to add more value and be even better at what they do

    This company came to understand how they can translate what they do every day into content and how that content is used to attract new prospects and they are excited about it! They see that buying is changing and they need to change to meet the expectations of new prospects.

    In short, a simple website re-design turned into a new sales and marketing strategy. This project created a new energy and enthusiasm for the business, their customers, their market place, and their jobs. They were thrilled to be moving ahead and excited about the opportunities this new website and the thinking that goes with it will bring.

    So when I was asked to attend a meeting this morning to review the project with the team I expected to meet with 5 or 6 key people. Instead I met with the entire company and walked them through the site and answered their questions.

    And at the end of the meeting they gave me a round of applause for helping them change.

    Remember, it's not just a new website, it's a new way of thinking. 

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    Topics: web design, inbound marketing, Top Line Results, inbound marketing agency

    5 Steps to Creating a Content Marketing Budget

    Posted by Ryan Malone on Apr 13, 2013 7:56:00 AM

    According to an Ad Age survey presented by Marketing Charts, content marketing comprises an average of 12% of overall marketing budgets. A full 10% of marketers spend more than 30% on content marketing, and 9% spend 19-30%. This means that approximately one in five marketers with a budget of $100,000 would spend up to or more than $30,000 per year on content marketing. Also worth noting is that 55% of those surveyed indicated that they would be increasing their content marketing budget for 2013.

    The results of the survey are below:

    content marketing budget

    This many marketers can't be wrong about content marketing. If you're not using this important tactic as part of your marketing strategy, you're potentially missing a major opportunity to reach more new customers.

    Why is content marketing so popular?

    Consumers find products and services in a variety of ways, but one of the most popular is through Internet searching. The more content you have on your website, blog, and social media pages, the more likely it is that a lead will find you. However, when it comes to content marketing, quality is just as important as quantity. Consumers respond best to content that provides value. Whether it is advice or entertainment, quality content that is regularly updated will attract and retain more leads than simple sales pitches. The best content marketing campaigns build trust, educate the consumer, help you develop a loyal community, and increase sales conversions.

    Important factors for creating a content marketing budget

    There are many different types of content marketing, including:

    • Blog posts
    • White papers
    • E-books
    • Social media campaigns
    • Videos
    • Infographics
    • Buyers' guides

    The types of content that you should use will depend largely on your target audience, but it's important to use multiple approaches. For example, if you offer professional accounting services, you might create an informative white paper that describes recent tax updates, and a series of blog posts that answer the most common questions about changes to the tax code. On the other hand, if you sell flower arranging kits, a more effective approach might be to write a graphic-rich e-book and create a series of how-to videos.

    Either way, the importance of ongoing content updates cannot be understated. After a lead reads your white paper or e-book, you need to create fresh new content that will keep them coming back for more. Factor this into your content marketing budget so you have enough funds to keep it going all year long. Remember, online content provides ongoing benefits beyond the initial attention it receives. A white paper will draw in new leads long after you have seen a return on the investment, and regular blog posts have a cumulative effect of improving search engine rankings.

    How do you create a content marketing budget?

    If you are introducing content marketing or placing more emphasis on this important component of an effective marketing strategy, you'll need to create a budget. Follow these steps to get started:

    1. Decide what percentage of your overall marketing budget will go to content marketing. If you follow the current trend, this will probably be 20-30%.
    2. Decide which types of content marketing you want to do. Remember, it's important to have ongoing content development in addition to the occasional e-book or white paper.
    3. Allocate your resources. Factor in the personnel time and costs (either in-house or outsourced) required for writing, editing, video production, graphics, distribution, and content promotion.
    4. Estimate monthly expenses. Create an annual editorial calendar so you can predict how much you will need each month. For example, if you plan to launch a new product or service in May, you might bolster your content marketing efforts around that time.
    5. Stick to it. A budget is useless if you don't actually use it. Track actual expenses so you can modify the budget as necessary. Don't forget to track successes and failures so you know where to focus your content marketing efforts in the next year.

    It's clear that an effective content marketing strategy requires ongoing effort. Unfortunately, not all businesses have the talent or resources to do it on their own. This is why so many small businesses choose to outsource content development to a company that has the expertise and staff to generate quality content. 

    How do you use content marketing for your business? What percent of your overall marketing budget is used for content creation and promotion?

    About the Author: Ryan Malone is the founder and CEO of SmartBug Media, a strategic inbound marketing agency and Hubspot Gold Partner based on Southern California. Go Lakers.  

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    Topics: content, social media marketing, business blogging, inbound marketing, content marketing, marketing planning, inbound marketing agency, smartbug media, ryan malone, how to generate leads, buyer persona, content creation

    6 Steps to Add Blogger Outreach to Your Inbound Marketing Arsenal

    Posted by Ryan Malone on Feb 23, 2013 9:14:00 AM

    Watch out! Those pesky PR people are coming.

    blogger outreach smartbug mediaThat’s so far from the truth—if you’re smart.

    Blogger outreach is a vital component of a content or inbound marketing campaign. For many agencies, blogger outreach is the forgotten strategy because of its roots in PR—something traditionally outside the inbound marketing best practices umbrella.

    But companies that integrate blogger outreach as part of their normal campaigns can tap an ocean of opportunities from backlinks, ranking, social, blogger coverage and traffic. PR can help with lead gen as well. 

    Here are 6 things to keep in mind when developing your blogger outreach campaign:

    1) Identify Your Targets
    You’ve got to know your target audience. Based on that target audience and what blogs they’d read, you can make a list of potential bloggers to reach out to. You want to cast a wide relevant net.

    There’s no way to guarantee responses, so the broader the target list, the more responses you could receive. Make sure that the blogs/bloggers you have identified as targets would be interested in the “news” you are promoting. If it’s a new cooking app that you’re promoting, it obviously makes sense to send to tech blogs, food blogs and possibly mommy blogs. But if you have an education app food blogs aren’t going to be interested. By tailoring your list, you’re showing bloggers you know and care about what they cover. Find these blogs by doing a Google search using keywords like: Mommy Blogs or Tech Blogs, etc.

    Check out the blogs yourself to see if they look legitimate. Look into what kind of authority they have, social media following, etc. Get the Blog names, URL, name of the blogger and contact info and input into Excel spread sheet. Now you have a “media list” to work with.

    2) Develop a Plan of Attack
    Outline your plan of attack before you begin outreach. A lot of blogs will want something in return for your post.  Some will ask for money, some will ask for free product. Some will want product (or discounts) to give away to their readers. Be prepared with what you can actually offer up before beginning outreach. You want them to talk about the product so give them the incentive to do that. If it’s a really good blog I would consider payment as an option, but I wouldn’t pay every blog to write a post. I’d gauge based on how many readers and social media followers they have. If they are big enough to make an impact and get the word out to thousands of people (think 15,000 and up), it could be worth paying for a sponsored post.

    3) Tailor Your Correspondence
    You want to create a customized email “pitch” for your blogger outreach. Make sure you include their name or call out something specifically of interest to them, or something that resonated with you from their blog and why you think you’re product would be great for their audience. The more tailored, the better. You want the blogger to know that you are familiar with their site/writing and that you are talking directly to them. The more you show you know about their blog, the more likely they’ll be to read your email and cover your product.

    4) Ask for Social Media Coverage
    A lot of bloggers will have large following on Facebook and Twitter. In addition to pitching them to cover your product on their blog, make sure you ask about posting on their social media as well. Because they may have thousands of extra readers on social media, where you can extend your reach even further. Ask them to link to your social media pages, include your Twitter handle, etc.

    5) Follow Up
    Make sure you stay on top of all the bloggers you’ve reached out to or “pitched” and don't forget to keep track of who requested product or additional info. Follow up with the bloggers to confirm the product arrived (if you’ve sent to them), ask if they have all the info they need to write their post (they might ask for images and make sure they include your website) and ask them when they plan to post their write up about your product so you can share it with your community as soon as it goes live on their blog. Follow up to say "thank you" after the blog post goes up. Maintaining your relationship is important because you going to want to reach out to them again in the future to write about another campaign.  

    6) Keep Notes
    Tracking all feedback and recording that feedback in your Excel spreadsheet, aka media list, is important. You’ll find out that certain things work for certain bloggers, note who is paid, who likes giveaways, who doesn’t like certain things. Those notes will be helpful in the future when you do another campaign.

    The key to a solid program is knowing your audience, tailoring your outreach and building relationships you can use in the future for other campaigns.

    About the Author: Ryan Malone is the founder and CEO of SmartBug Media, a strategic inbound marketing agency based on Southern California. Go Lakers.  


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    Topics: blogger outreach, marketing personas, pr marketing, press coverage, inbound marketing, inbound marketing agency, smartbug media, ryan malone

    The Fundamentals of Middle Of The Funnel Marketing [Infographic]

    Posted by Steve James on Dec 13, 2012 8:02:00 AM

    This infographic was created by Steve James (@steve_james), a Partner at Stream Creative (@streamcreative), a Milwaukee inbound marketing agency and Gold HubSpot Certified partner. This is the second infographic for their inbound marketing series on the topic of Middle Of The Funnel (MoFu) Marketing.

    Feel free to share this on your blog by copying the html code below the graphic or pinning it on pinterest using the button below.

    Middle of the Funnel (MOFU) Infographic

    New to Infographics? See this infographic about infographics on the HubSpot blog.

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    Topics: marketing funnel, lead generation, stream creative, inbound marketing agency, content creation

    How to Enhance Inbound Marketing Planning With Creative Visualization

    Posted by Ryan Malone on Nov 27, 2012 12:50:00 PM

    inbound marketing planning visualizationWhat do golf legend Jack Nicklaus, basketball great Michael Jordan and decorated Olympian Michael Phelps all have in common? They have all embraced creative visualization to become better athletes.

    In fact, visualization is widely embraced by athletes in nearly every sport. Terry Orlick, a noted sports psychologist and high-performance coach to thousands of Olympic and professional athletes in more than 30 sports, states in his book, In Pursuit of Excellence, that most Olympic athletes and world champions practice at least 15 minutes of visualization daily. 

    Don’t mistake visualization for hokey, self-help speak. It is one of the most widely accepted methods in sports psychology and is supported by significant scientific evidence. And it isn’t only applicable to sports--visualization is a practice used by successful people across a broad range of professions.   

    We use visualization technique to drive our strategic planning and the planning of inbound campaigns for clients and ourselves. Why? We’re all busy. And many of us get sucked into tactics all too frequently – sacrificing the planning team that can bring our marketing to the next level.

    What is Visualization?

    Most simply put, visualization is a technique for creating a mental image of a future event. It involves focusing your mind to visualize yourself in a certain situation and succeeding in that particular situation. Through the practice of visualization, we train our brain to believe that attaining a desired goal is possible. For instance, a golfer may visualize the perfect stroke over and over again to mentally train muscle memory.

    According to David Yukelson, Ph.D, sports psychologist for Penn State University, “when you vividly imagine yourself getting ready for competition, your central nervous system becomes programmed for success. It's as if the activity you visualized has already happened.”

    Apply this to inbound marketing planning and it means visualizing the metrics that will yield a successful campaign – literally seeing those results in Hubspot or whatever analytics tools you use.

    How Does Visualization Work?

    Research done using brain imagery suggests that visualization works because the neurons in our brains interpret imagery as the equivalent to taking a real-life action. When a person visualizes an act, the brain generates an impulse that tells their neurons to “perform” the movement. So when an athlete imagines him or herself performing their sport to perfection, he or she is physiologically training their mind and thus teaching their muscles to perform exactly how he or she wants them to.

    Using Visualization to Become a Better Marketer

    In today’s fast-paced business environment, so many marketers are guilty of getting wrapped up in the day-to-day minutia that it becomes difficult to focus on long-term planning and strategy development that will ultimately lead to our success. Visualization techniques could help you achieve your ultimate goals by improving your planning skills.

    We’re all short on time but we can easily incorporate visualization into our marketing daily routines. It's something you’ll need to do outside of the office, where you can be alone and get deep into your thoughts. Try doing it on your morning run, in your yoga or spin class, when you take the dog on a walk or even on your daily commute. If you’re in California like we are, some time at the beach for lunch is a great way to isolate your mind and your thinking.

    So once you have your alone time, how do you get started?

    1. Pick a specific goal: That can be anything from increasing sales by 30% to becoming the leading blogger in your field to improving your lead conversion rate.

    2. Choose your mental image: Really visualize your campaigns and their specific outcomes. Imagine writing your strategy; envision the steps you took to achieve this successful marketing campaign. See the words, the content and the metrics that drove your success. Hear the call where you share your success with your team, your boss or clients. Imagine yourself celebrating your success with your colleagues and imagine how it will feel to have reached your goal.

    3. Visualize daily: See that image of success you painted in your mind and make that feeling very real.

    4. Write it down: When you’re done, write down the key success factors you see and build them into your daily routine. Make them part of your planning.

    Once you visualize all of the steps that it took to achieve your success, and the specific outcomes of each of those steps, you have a clear plan for your activities and how to create a successful campaign. Think of each of those steps and work backwards to what has to happen and it will help you develop your marketing goals, strategy and objectives, so that you can create a plan that will help you to become incredibly successful.             

    Keep in mind that just visualizing your success isn’t going to get you to your final goal, but what it will do is give you an effective way to begin planning. And planning is something that a lot of us don’t do well. But if we can improve planning skills, we can stop wasting time on the little things and start spending time on the specific actions we know will help us reach success.

    What ways could you use creative visualization to improve your marketing planning? Leave your comments below.

    About the author: Ryan Malone is the founder of SmartBug Media, a California inbound marketing agency and Silver Hubspot Partner that help companies increase revenue and marketing ROI.

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    Topics: blogging for business, business advice, inbound marketing, marketing strategy, marketing planning, internet marketing coach, inbound marketing agency, smartbug media, ryan malone, strategic planning

    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? 

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    Topics: inbound marketing agency

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