You learn a lot of lessons when you're building an inbound agency. As we worked to grow our agency, GuavaBox, we felt a major pain. When we started DoInbound, we found that we weren't alone. Inbound agency owners around the world were feeling this pain, too.
The #1 problem holding inbound agencies from growth:
After a client signs a contract, there is no clear plan for moving forward.
Typically things go like this….
Spend a lot of time marketing.
Start talking to a lead.
Conversation stretches out across a few calls.
You’re trying to sell both the idea of inbound and your agency.
They ask for a proposal, you send a contract.
They say yes (cue the fireworks!)
This is the moment that most people slip. I know this all too well because this is where we slipped, too. Let me share how it all went down.
Gray, Brandon, and I had been working for months learning the inbound methodology. We were shifting our agency from a project-based shop to a retainer-based business.
The client was a legacy client. We had done some video work for them in the past and knew they would see value from inbound marketing. They were a manufacturer of high-abrasion steel. Their steel lined the bed of dump trucks and buckets in coal and gold mines.
When they said yes to our inbound contract, we were ecstatic! It was a mile-high experience.
It wasn’t until a few weeks later that I actually realized how much of a mess we were in.
We had no system in place. We had no internal processes. We weren’t strategic about who we were talking to in the organization.
We were marketers, so what was the first thing we started doing? Blogging.
You're supposed to have a CTA at the end of each post? What should we use? The corporate brochure should work until we can track down the VP who will help us create an eBook.
The blog started out strong for a few weeks, then things started to slow down as our momentum and content ideas faded. It didn’t take us long to realize that without a detailed plan from the beginning, inbound was an uphill battle.
From those early retainers, Gray and I learned a valuable lesson.
Lesson: If you want to delight your clients and grow a scalable agency, you need to start smart and start fast!
You need to set the expectation from the beginning that you are in charge.
You need to put the right building blocks in place early so that your performance is measured correctly come renewal conversations.
Starting fast out of the gate gets people excited and bought into the process. Without buy-in from the organization, you’re dead in the water.
With these reasons in mind, here are 5 actions that need to happen to help you start fast!
When you're starting out, you need to build inbound buy-in. It's great if the CEO and marketing department are on-board, but to make a real impact you'll need support from people outside the marketing department.
As an inbound partner, you need to understand the current status of the organization. By understanding how their internal teams interact, you can better support the shift to inbound.
Most companies want growth. To grow fast, they think they need to target as many markets as possible. This "spray & pray" method doesn't work with inbound marketing.
Inbound is a laser-focused approach. Early in the inbound partnership, you need to identify the target audience. For most companies, this will boil down to 3-4 different markets/buyer types.
A good inbound plan puts the customer at the center of everything. Once you've helped your client select a focus, it's time to get to know the people there.
Methods to help know each buyer persona:
Surveys and market research
The more information you can gather from the source, the better off you'll be. Company leaders will be confident that they know their buyers. Don't take their word for it!
Speak with real customers to understand the Awareness Stage questions they're asking.
The fuel for an Inbound GamePlan is the questions that your customer's buyer personas are asking. Use the Buyer's Journey to organize and understand buyer persona questions. Use customer and prospect interviews to uncover pains and triggers.
With a list of questions, pains, and triggers in place you can outline content. Use your creative marketing mind and effective keyword research.
Outline content offers, lead nurturing emails, and blog posts for each persona. Break down each phase of the Buyer's Journey.
Adding these 5 key actions to your agency on-boarding process will help you start quickly. The process that orchestrates each of these steps is critical.
If you want to scale your agency, this process needs to unfold like clockwork. Keep reading this page to learn how you can incorporate this process at your agency.
After no process to build a good strategy, there is another pain that holds inbound agencies back. We felt this one as well as we were growing. Working legacy clients for up-sells and reaching out to your network only lasts so long.
Inbound leads are the life blood of your inbound agency. The #2 problem holding inbound agencies back from growth is:
We all know it is important. We spend our days selling the idea of inbound. When it comes down to it, however, few agencies have a strong marketing plan.
An agency without a steady stream of inbound leads is in one sticky mess…
Stuck with legacy clients.
Stuck doing old-school marketing tactics.
Stuck convincing people they need inbound.
Stuck testing new ideas on clients.
Stuck with no case study for success.
When you're stuck, you're not moving forward. To keep moving your agency forward, you need a plan to attract more inbound leads.
Leads are important for your agency. It's time to start acting like it.
This requires a significant shift in your mindset. You need to think of yourself as your biggest retainer. If you’re not marketing well, you’re on the path to going out of business.
This requires building an Inbound GamePlan for your agency. You need to take the time and make this a priority.
Inbound is a precision sport, not a spray and pray. You wouldn't build a plan for your clients that positioned them as the company for anyone. Why would you do it to your agency?
The more specific you become as an agency, the more focused your marketing efforts can be. Selecting an agency focus brings clarity to your agency growth strategy.
For an example, check out Kuno Creative. They're a successful inbound agency out of Cleveland. I had the chance to interview Co-Founder John McTigue and he shared how they found their focus.
Kuno targets companies in the SaaS, Speciality Manufacturing, and Healthcare industries. These are wide categories with a lot of potential clients.
This focus helps them create specialized marketing campaigns. Each of these campaigns target a specific buyer persona pain.
How to Select a Focus for Your Agency
Once you've selected a focus, you can build an Inbound GamePlan to help you reach the targets in this niche.
This is marketing 101, but so many agencies ignore this. It took us a few years at GuavaBox to wrap our minds around what makes us different.
If you're going to sell yourself to a client, you must first believe in who you are. You must know what makes you different. This is your value proposition.
Take time to articulate your agency value proposition. With this understanding you're better positioned to create an Inbound GamePlan for your agency.
Weave this message into your lead nurturing emails at the Consideration and Decision Stages. You'll learn more about that process later on this page.
Points 1-3 in this section cover a lot of background. These things only make an impact if you put them into action.
You need to start with yourself. Practice the inbound methodology with dedication and precision. Even if you don't have a client base yet, begin to hone your skills on your own work.
Build a persona-focused plan that will attract the people you need to make this happen.
There is a lot that goes into building an Inbound GamePlan. You don't need to go at this alone. You can read on this page how to stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before you.
Once you've created an Inbound GamePlan, it is time to start creating content. This is a challenging task. As an entrepreneur, there is a lot on your plate.
One trick that can help is implementing inbound batch days. On these days you unite together and tackle content creation, optimization, and outreach.
Select a recurring time slot each week and make it happen!
The good news is that with a proper system and framework in place, you can overcome each of these problems. This can open the doors to agency growth. The secret is an Inbound GamePlan.
The inbound agency sales process is long. If you’re not careful, you can waste a lot of time talking to the wrong type of lead.
Working with the wrong type of client can end up costing your agency more than the value of the new business. Some clients are just needy people and aren’t a good fit. It can be hard to tell how the working relationship will function just from the sales process.
Do you have a prospect that you think is qualified?
Use the Inbound GamePlan process to verify that they’re a client that you want to work with over the long haul.
Every successful inbound engagement needs to start with strategy. You can use the Inbound GamePlan process to get paid for your strategy. This is your most important asset! Time to start getting paid for it.
To give you a point of reference, we sell GamePlans for $3,000 - $5,000.
Adding a paid Inbound GamePlan to your agency sales process can help separate yourself from the pack. This will also show you which leads are serious about making changes and taking action.
For inbound to be successful for your clients, there needs to be buy-in. This means reaching key people outside the marketing department.
They’re critical to truly understanding customer questions, capturing content, and providing internal momentum for inbound.
The GamePlan Creation Process is more important than the actual deliverable. The process starts conversation. The process shows people what is possible.
Use the GamePlan Creation Process to rally support to the inbound movement. This is your opportunity to teach what inbound could do for your client's company. It's your chance to show why each team member should care about inbound.
Inbound is a lofty idea. It can be hard for some prospects to wrap their mind around the whole thing.
Selling an Inbound GamePlan means that you're not selling a theory any more. You can show them exactly how to attract, convert, nurture, and delight their prospects in a clear plan.
Here again, the GamePlan Creation Process is fruitful. The key team members can begin to see the pieces of the strategy coming together.
The finalized Inbound GamePlan gives them the chance to see it all come together. They can see how focusing on industry and personas is important. They can see how tactics align with their high-level goals.
Earlier, we talked about 5 Key Actions That Need to Happen in the First 300 Hours of an Inbound Retainer. Each of these items are mission-critical.
How do you make sure each of these things happen every time? Documented and repeatable processes.
From right inside DoInbound, you can manage the entire Inbound GamePlan creation process.
On the operational side, what do you need to include?
The goal of this section is to unite the team with a focus on the customer. You dig into questions like:
What is the company’s current situation?
How many leads come through the website?
What percentage of leads are qualified?
What is the value of a lead?
What is the competition up to?
You can gather this information through the GamePlan On-Boarding Process. Then use the Inbound GamePlan Discovery meeting to better understand the metrics.
The goal of this section is to create a laser-like focus on the customer.
Here you will build detailed buyer personas using a repeatable template. The key points of focus are the persona questions. These questions will serve as the backbone of the content strategy in steps 3 and 4.
Here you want to illustrate the power of personalization and marketing automation. Tools like HubSpot are only as powerful as the content within them.
This is where you build your automation and nurturing strategy. You do this by digging into the Buyer’s Journey:
An Inbound GamePlans establishes a system and process for this information.
The last step focuses on attracting the right people. Make your client's website a destination for target personas.
You have two options…
The first option is to blaze your own trail to the top of the mountain.
The second option is to follow the path blazed for you.
I'm excited to share with you more about the second path. That is the path that I wish existed when we started selling Inbound GamePlans!
The mission of "Let's GamePlan!" is to empower you with a repeatable process. This course will teach you the skills and give you the confidence to offer Inbound GamePlans.
The course includes 8 training modules with 45 video lessons.
Inside each of these modules is all the information you need. We've documented each phase of the process and shared it in this course.
We want to help you take action. You will have the process to sell, create, and deliver Inbound GamePlans in just two weeks.
Instituting the GamePlan process and adopting it throughout the whole company has put has all on the same page. We are now able to schedule out our entire content creation process far in advance.
As an agency owner, I now have the perfect tool to make sure everyone is on-track with client projects and our internal marketing.
Included in the course is a collection of templates. Each template is 100% customizable to your brand. Each template will help you at each specific stage in the Inbound GamePlan Process.
eBook Template - 6 Keys to Planning an Inbound Marketing Strategy
Add this to your agency marketing to teach prospects the value of inbound strategy. This 20-page eBook teaches leads why it is important to start with strategy. Customize this PowerPoint template with your company branding and you'll be up and running.
This PowerPoint template is a great resource for your agency salesperson. They can use this guide to walk prospects through the Inbound GamePlan process. It helps illustrate the power of placing the customer at the center of everything.
GamePlan Contract Template
Never kick off the Inbound GamePlan Process without a signed contract. This template documents the expectations of each party so there are no misconceptions. It also documents how payment will work moving forward.
Persona Worksheet Template
An Inbound GamePlan places the target customers at the center of everything. Use this template to gain a better understanding of who you're trying to reach.
It is important to get input from within the company and from actual customers. These questions guide the in-house persona interview process. They will also guide the customer and prospect interview, too.
This is the master file. This is the framework that you use at the start of each new Inbound GamePlan. It includes the outline of each section, the questions you need to be asking, and the static content (the educational content you'll include in every finalized GamePlan). This content is there to help your prospects understand each step in the process.
Each time you sell a new Inbound GamePlan, you use this template as your starting point. The process is completely documented in the Deliverable Templates inside DoInbound. You and your team work through the template from top to bottom. The end result is an Inbound GamePlan with a laser-focus on your client's customers.
The GamePlan has made it SO much easier to talk to clients. All we have to sell is a completely customized marketing strategy for the next six months. Who wouldn't want it all laid out, easy peasy?
It's made our early conversations much more focused on one thing, instead of a hundred things. We won't provide marketing automation, content marketing, social media marketing, and blogging right away. We'll provide a GamePlan, which is the path to succeed at all of these things.
Clear communication is critical to the process. To make the most of each Inbound GamePlan you need to make sure expectations are in line. This helps keep everyone on the same page, standardizes your process, and saves you time.
The included Client Email Scripts help you maintain proper expectations with your client's point-of-contact. It also helps the decision-maker know what to expect throughout the process.
Use these scripts to guide your client through the process and gather all the content you need.
This process is crazy repeatable. With these templates, you have the foundation. With each new Inbound GamePlan, you'll lead the client through the same repeatable process.
In this course you'll receive Deliverable and Campaign Templates in your DoInbound portal. When you sell a new Inbound GamePlan, all you need to do is activate the Inbound GamePlan Campaign.
These templates guide your team through the entire creation process.
Upon completing this course, you and your team are empowered for success. You will have the training and resources necessary to start offering Inbound GamePlans.
You will also have access to any course updates made in the future. Additionally, your entire team can also access the online training center.
To give you a point of reference, we sell GamePlans for $5,000. When you buy the course and sell your first GamePlan, you’ve already recouped your investment. Awesome, right?
The Inbound GamePlan process can transform the way you run your agency. This process helped us transform GuavaBox. We've worked with inbound agencies around the world to help them with this process. We'd love to help you grow your inbound agency!
If you’re an agency that is just looking for a quick fix and a quick buck, please close the page right now. Seriously, I’m not kidding. This course is not designed to be the “quick and easy” fix to all your agency problems.
You need to be serious about rethinking the way you have done business. If you’re committed to learning how you can capitalize on this strategy, then it's time to move forward.
We want to partner with inbound agencies that are hungry to learn. If you're that agency, join us!
Click the button below, complete the checkout process, and we'll see you in the training center.