Navigating new relationships was always weird, but when dating starts with a swipe to the right and not “Hey how are you,” it gets all the weirder. The “rules” are murky, ghosting is acceptable, and for better or worse, formalities are left by the wayside.
Figuring out how to “date right” isn’t easy, but it’s usually worth it.
For those embarking on a new relationship with an inbound marketing agency, the learning curve can be just as steep—and the reward just as fruitful. Luckily, though, you can take solace in a few things: any inbound agency worth engaging with will back their work with strategy, they’ll respect your people and their time, and they won’t ever think of ghosting you.
Here, we’ll dig into the parallels between dating and agency-client relationships.
First thing’s first: you have to talk openly.
When beginning to work with an inbound agency, it’s quite possible that you worked with them in a different capacity before (design project, maybe?), but your relationship is now entering uncharted territory—and that means you’ll have a slew of new things to talk about.
Prepare yourself for candid communication to become your new best friend.
You’ll probably start with talking about goals, the temptation over which to obsess is understandable: goals give way to strategy, direction, and deliverables. (And when you do set goals, they should be SMART.) But distilling your view of success (or failure) based on your proximity to numbers alone ignores the process. It neglects the patience and delicate, informed experimentation involved in “getting there.” Remember: inbound marketing isn’t about immediate results in the form of instant, effortless leads.
Aim for the 12-hour pot roast of a relationship, not the frozen dinner.
There’s no such thing as TMI.
In our minds, the only “real” inbound marketing onboarding process begins with your inbound agency intimately getting to know your business, your buyer personas, their pain points, your competitors, and just about everything else under the sun. At Envision, this guts-spilling happens in a discovery meeting (we hope you have at least 3 hours) and prepares us to take a deep-dive as we develop our Action Plan.
This first phase of the getting-to-know-you process is what will later enable your inbound marketing agency to optimize content for the best keywords, write the most useful blogs and premium content, develop thoughtful workflows, compose engaging emails, increase relevant website traffic, create a strong social media presence, and everything else that will drive the qualified leads you so desire—and have earned.
You won’t make it if you fake it.
So say you’re working with an inbound agency and you aren’t feeling it. If it’s your style to feign satisfaction through silence, your partner won’t know that you aren’t happy. (And that’s a waste of time for everyone.)
A lot of inbound marketers are pretty damn good at what they do, but none of them are mind-readers.
Inbound marketers also need ongoing communication to be successful. In addition to the guts-spilling we mentioned earlier, that also means checking in on-the-regular (are you happy? Are we happy?) and letting us into your circle. For us to write kickass content, we’ll sometimes need to talk to experts within your company. One sales contact isn’t enough. We need people on the floor, getting their hands dirty, doing and living the very thing we’re writing about. In fact, doing more of this is a resolution we’ve set for ourselves, too.
Sleazy strategies won’t work.
Dates initiated by cheap pickup lines will rarely lead to a long-lasting relationship—or any relationship at all. That’s because people worth dating don’t have to bring on the cheese. Similarly, clickbait, keyword stuffing, black hat SEO tricks, buying email lists, and other “easy win” marketing tactics have no place in inbound marketing done right.
You have to be a mensch*.
*mensch: Yiddish, a person of integrity and honor
Executed well, inbound marketing doesn’t necessarily take it slow, but it does take it steady—and with the kind of integrity everyone involved should be proud to look back on. The way we do it at Envision, the course-of-action is broken down into phases, beginning with strategy and culminating with an all-hands-on-deck expansion of our client’s brand before we start the cycle over and do it again with even better perspective.
While we follow this 5-phase strategy every time, there’s nothing formulaic about the individual pieces. The whole beauty of inbound—and the skill it requires—lies in the fact that it has to be agile, tailored to the client’s unique personas, and poised to pivot when what’s “supposed to work” isn’t. We regularly remind ourselves that posting on Facebook x-times a day isn’t the point. It’s about allocating time and resources in the right places. Sometimes, social posting will more heavily be the means to that end. Other times, it’s all about a different element of inbound.
Call when you say you will.
When the perfect, most leadership-demonstrating post drives relevant traffic to a brand’s site that in turn drives qualified leads, it’s never because of slick tricks. It’s about valuable content and proper courting.
The follow-through is critical, too.
If someone gives up their information and downloads your beloved eBook (or in the case of dating, spends a really good night), for the love of all things holy, don’t let that be the last time they hear from you.
We could say it’s all about personality, but that’s simply not true. Beautiful, meaningful design is critical to inbound. Your website should be easy on the eyes (with growth in mind), your premium offers should look premium, and your emails should be a pleasure to read and ogle at.
In our case, we never show up in sweatpants. (Literally, of course, but figuratively, too.) We take design so seriously that we’ve invested in our own in-house designers.
The will to experiment is key.
Only ready for a relationship that looks exactly like the one your grandparents had in 1943? Inbound is probably not right for your business. While always backed by research, analysis, and a whole lot of strategy, stand-out inbound marketing necessitates a walk out of your comfort zone.
Though down with the methodology on paper, we’ve found that many of our clients get a little uneasy once execution begins: why are we posting third-party content on social media? Why is this blog about our industry, but not what we do every day? We’ve had the same website for 10 years and all the buttons still work, so why change it?
Even if it feels uncomfortable at first, businesses delving into inbound should be be willing to branch out—and trust that their partner, who has had many successful relationships before, wants a beautiful relationship with you, too.
Like what you saw here? Swipe right. We’ll be waiting for you.