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Prepare for Inbound marketing assessment

Preparing for an inbound marketing assessment

Everything you need to know for inbound marketing success

How to get the most out of your assessment

HubSpot sells software, and they provide a free inbound marketing assessment. Agencies sell services packages aimed at helping you implement HubSpot’s software for better results. Every inbound marketing agency on the planet is offering a free inbound marketing assessment, just like HubSpot.

  • Do you wonder why?
  • How do you know what you’ll get for your time investment with any individual you reach out to?
  • What should you prepare before you take someone up on their offer?

These are the questions we’re going to provide answers and advice around. With the proper preparation, you’ll be better equipped to evaluate both the value of HubSpot, and that of potential support agencies. After all, that’s why they’re all offering a free inbound marketing assessment, to evaluate you, and hopefully sell something to you. You can turn the tables, gaining valuable insights and evaluation points, once you have a better understanding of what to expect and prepare for. That’s our objective, to provide a comprehensive guide for people looking for help from inbound marketing to prepare themselves for whomever they choose for an inbound marketing assessment.

Inbound Marketing Assessment Word Cloud

The marketplace has shifted, can you compete?

Organizations who want to compete in the digital world are faced with considerable challenges. Technology is advancing at a furious pace.
Modern buyers have high expectations and short attention spans. You know you have to make changes, here's how.

The sophistication of your assessment is dependent on your access to data.

The best assessments are built from the ability to access meaningful data. In my experience, performing assessments for companies of all types, there are two types of assessments.

  1. Assessments performed on organizations with a sophisticated technology stack offering large amounts of data. This access to established baseline metrics provides agencies the ability to evaluate trends. The ability to drive trends and strong data sets allow for a deeper ability to offer actionable advice. Both HubSpot and agencies rely on access to data to provide value in assessment.
  2. Assessments performed on organizations without relevant historical data. If you don’t have a baseline (or haven’t been pulling data properly), you should limit your expectations. When there’s nothing to evaluate, assessments are thin. The advice will be simpler; get the technology and systems in place to track data. You’ll be looking at a plan from any reputable agency that includes developing a proof of concept before substantive goals can be developed. Without a solid baseline, all types of results to expect are simply a guess. You’ll have to grow up before you can get scientific with your plans and goals.

 

 

Why everyone offers an IMA

HubSpot has one objective in offering a free inbound marketing assessment: Selling software. They know that their best way to sell you software is to establish the very large gap between your goals and your plans. After all, a goal without a sound plan is really just a dream. By uncovering a massive list of missing elements in your plan they’ll subscribe the perfect software to help you meet your goals: HubSpot’s marketing automation software.

Agencies have two objectives in offering a free inbound marketing assessment. Their first objective is to uncover need and opportunity. Qualified agencies will dig deep into the data. Understanding your baseline key performance metrics will help them help you. As the baseline metrics are uncovered you’ll be able to have a meaningful conversation about campaign goals and your existing marketing plan.

 

The second objective marketing agencies have is to further the sales cycle. Make no mistake, anyone offering you something wants something in return. Agencies lean on assessments to qualify you, the potential buyer, and position themselves as experts. By asking qualifying questions, evaluating data, and offering tips and recommendations for improvement they know you’ll be more likely to trust their ability to solve.

the need to innovate for inbound marketing success

What you should expect your inbound marketing assessment to cover

Agencies need to understand what you do, (or don’t) have in place to generate traffic. Your prognosis for short-term success will certainly hinge on the foundation you have in place with key traffic generation elements.

Your ability to attract traffic to your website

  • Social Media: The presence of your social community is another important traffic generation element. Large social communities can be marketed to, providing resources and information with a destination link leading to your website. If you don’t have a healthy community that will need to be built before you can really expect any significant amount of traffic to originate from social media.
  • Blogging: Content still matters. Writing about your solutions, industry, client challenges, and trends is a great way to add indexed pages to your website. Answering questions in an objective fashion is even better. When optimized with a modern pillar page strategy, your blog will contribute positively to your SEO strategy. If you have a well-developed blog with lots of great content it can be a huge advantage to any agency coming in to support growth. Even if the articles aren’t optimized properly, your existing articles still represent a fantastic value to you and any agency setting up to support your organization. Legacy articles can always be optimized, built upon, or even republished with a new title and direction.
  • SEO: The health and state of your keyword strategy, topic clusters, pillar pages, page meta data, Alexa scores, and mozRank will provide a lot of confidence (or concern) within your assessment. The rules for competing for search results have changed, so take caution. Many agencies are deploying outdated strategies. If you’d like a tool to evaluate your own SEO strength I suggest dumping your web domain into SEM Rush.
  • Amplification: If you’re advertising online, that should be a critical section of your assessment. Evaluating the performance of previous efforts will start with access to campaign reporting. You'll want to prepare access to your active platforms before your assessment. If you’re not advertising, that will likely be represented in the recommendations section. The ability to carefully target your ideal audiences with customized offers can be the difference between success and failure. Expect agencies to suggest the inclusion of an ad budget to supplement your inbound marketing efforts.

It doesn't stop with traffic

Attracting traffic is only beneficial when you have the ability to convert those suspects into new contacts. Your ability to convert visitors into leads is the second step in acquiring new customers from your inbound marketing efforts.

Your ability to generate leads

  • User Experience: The ability of your website to serve the buyer’s journey. The more effective your website is in presenting your brand, products, services, and resources the more leads you’ll generate. Testing the UI/UX of your website is important, as is monitoring how your visitors engage. Website optimization software tools such as Hotjar and LuckyOrange log heat maps, scroll maps, and user recordings to help determine the effectiveness of your user experience.
  • Calls to Action: The ability of your website to convert visitors into prospects requires conversion paths. One way to begin a conversion path is to offer a button or graphic that promotes an offer. These are called CTA, or calls to action.
  • Landing Pages: CTA need destinations, and that’s where landing pages come in. Generally locked down from additional navigation choices, these pages should only present the offer promised in the CTA. They should include a custom form too, requiring visitors to offer some basic contact data in exchange for the offer.
  • Forms: Perhaps the most critical element for lead conversion, forms have a wide variety of use and application. Forms can live on landing pages, as mentioned, or they can be embedded directly onto primary site pages. The more forms you layer into your user experience, the more opportunities you’ll have to convert visitors. This assumes you don’t go nuts with your form fields however, our advice is go to light on the fields.

All leads are not created equal

Once you gain a new contact the evaluation process should begin. You can bet any real prospect is already evaluating you, so you need to be on top of your game to be successful. This takes a level of intelligence and sophistication that isn’t always present when people seek out an assessment.

Your ability to nurture leads

  • Thank-You Pages: The nurturing process begins the second a form is submitted. While it’s common to simply provide an inline thank you message, you can do better. This alternative includes redirecting form submissions to a thank you page instead. This thank-you page should offer the ability to immediately claim or download whatever resource you offered on your landing page, as well as an additional resource. There’s no need to wait to begin the nurturing process, a sound assessment will tell you that and offer tips for improvement. HubSpot will offer you software to accomplish this.
  • Data Hygiene: Is your data accurate, complete, and captured consistently? Most contact databases we assess have serious flaws. These flaws have been developed over a long period of time, as new contacts come into the database with partial information. As leads get stale, they have even less value. If you’ve run a tight ship, you’ll find that your data is much more valuable.
  • Database  Management: If you want a tight ship, you’ll need to address your conversion points to ensure you’re harvesting the right data points. By harvesting the right information from new contacts, you’ll be able to organize your contacts by a variety of data points. Lead source, role in the organization, need, and lifecycle stage are a few key data points you should be harvesting. If you don’t ask these questions you’re going to have some work to do.
  • Automation: You’ll certainly need marketing automation to accomplish nurturing in a systematic, automated fashion. That’s one area where HubSpot and other competitors like Marketo, Pardot, and Infusionsoft clearly shine. The ability to sequence out additional communication through a series of emails is key to a successful nurturing campaign. The thought of handling this task in manual fashion should scare the crap out of you. You need help, and so will any agency set to support you.
  • Lead Scoring: Developing a system for scoring and evaluating the engagement of your leads is a great way to qualify them for sales handover. If you have a sophisticated campaign with lead scoring in place, any agency that evaluates your buildout will have plenty of red meat to work with. If you don’t have lead scoring in place you likely don’t have the tools needed to build it, or haven’t got to it yet. Either way, lead scoring is a necessarily evil when bridging the gap between marketing and sales.
  • Handover Process: Everyone knows that sales people can be a bit entitled. If your efforts don't meet their expectations, all could be lost. This is why lead management must extend beyond qualification procedures. The success, or failure, of your inbound marketing efforts will hinge on your ability to connect with sales. A quality assessment will dig into the structure of the sales team, pointing out opportunities to break down walls between departments and enable sales.

What problems will success cause?

This can be the elephant in the room for many inbound marketing agencies. While their pedigree is in creating leads, it’s not often that they actually have the capability of completing the sale. Instead, they lean on your sales team to perform once the lead is passed to them. Your sales team should in turn lean on a system to organize, manage, and communicate with open opportunities effectively. Any agency worth their salt will have a lot of questions about your sales process, sales system, and existing pipeline. They’ll want to know exactly what you do and don’t have setup, (and current results) so they can gauge their ability to truly help you deliver bottom-line results.

You need a robust sales system

  • Personas: This is a basic requirement of any successful inbound marketing campaign. Detailing the profiles of each variation of ideal client is a step you shouldn’t need marketing software or an agency to support you on. Identifying pain points, triggers, and all the specifications of your audience. To get a jumpstart on your personas before your assessment, download this buyer persona workbook.
  • Qualification Parameters: What makes a lead qualified for sales? Once you understand your ideal buyer types you can identify the qualification parameters associated with your personas. This is an important step in ensuring your marketing team understands what leads are ready for sales. Without these parameters in place you’ll likely struggle to gain buy-in from sales.
  • CRM Integration: For data to pass seamlessly between marketing efforts and sales activity, you’ll need to integrate your CRM. This goes beyond just migrating lead data to sales, as marketers rely on an open feedback loop and access to engagement for the sake of improvement.
  • Engagement Tracking: Does your system have the ability to track prospect engagement? For sales to be successful in the age of the customer, it’s important to track engagement. You’ll need a solid technology stack to accomplish this.
  • Attribution Tracking: Can you measure where your new business is coming from, by lead source?  This is a critical step in understanding which lead sources are contributing to success, and which are not. The ability to achieve closed-loop attribution reporting is a key to inbound marketing success.
  • Sales Collateral: Have you modernized your sales docs with the latest technology? Do you have workflows for approval, document tracking, and digital signature capabilities? Modern sales teams need modern sales tools. Agencies are a great option to help you develop these assets, but you’ll need some sophisticated software for your assets to live in. While HubSpot’s Sales Pro tools provide a great starting point, we recommend considering a more robust sales enablement software like PandaDoc.

Evaluating your existing technology stack

To succeed with digital marketing, demand generation, and new client acquisition strategies you’ll need a fairly robust technology stack. Strategies are only as good as your ability to execute, manage, and track results. This requires technology. Obviously, HubSpot has a great solution, and if you engage them in an assessment they surely have some ideas on what software you’ll need to add.

What you need to know is this challenge goes deeper than HubSpot. You’ll likely want to add and connect a host of powerful software packages to solve. When connected into an overall strategy, those pieces of software will increase efficiency, effectiveness, and rate of results.

A truly agnostic assessment will evaluate the existing technology you have in place honestly. They’ll let you know what legacy software can be retained, how to connect (or integrate) those technologies, and what needs to be added to accomplish goals. If you select the right agency to evaluate your organization you’ll find yourself trusting in them as technology experts, only implemented the necessary software at the necessary time, to reach your goal.

 

Establishing the conversion funnel

Execution Team: Your plans are only as solid as your ability to execute them effectively. While this is often the point that an agency will point out how they can help you fill gaps, it’s still valuable perspective. What you need to understand is that your team needs will likely go beyond your internal marketing department. If you’re entertaining an assessment we can assume you’re interested in some level of external support from a digital marketing agency. However, success with inbound marketing requires more than a well-rounded marketing team. Success with inbound marketing requires complete buy-in and participation from your sales department.

Recommendations for Improvement: Any assessment worth a crap is going to provide tips and recommendations for improvement. This is also the point of the assessment that you should expect to see the most value in. Your assessment should include a list of actionable next steps you can take to create a greater impact towards goals. At Revenue River, we blend tips and recommendations through the entire inbound assessment.

inbound marketing funnel

How to prepare for your inbound marketing assessment

If you’re going to invest your time in evaluating agencies through assessment, you should come to the table prepared. You’ll do yourself a favor by preparing for your thoughts ahead of time.

Four points of preparation

  • Know what you’re trying to accomplish – HubSpot can give you the tools to accomplish great things with your inbound marketing efforts. Agencies are built help organizations execute within the tools, helping you reach your goals. How are either of them going to be successful if you can’t help them define what success looks like? You need to come to your assessment meeting with clearly defined goals. If you don’t have goals, don’t waste your time. Cancel the meeting and use the time to work on developing goals instead.
  • Know your numbers – This is the single most important piece of advice we have to offer. You simply have to know your numbers. Web traffic, lead scoop rate, qualification rates, close rates, average value of a sale, and lifetime value of a customer are all critical metrics to track with inbound marketing. Access to your existing baseline KPI (key performance indicators) is a must if you’re hoping to develop specific goals. Google Analytics will provide your historical traffic data. A CRM like Salesforce will should have win rates and sales data. If you’re not even sure what you do and don’t have connected to your website currently, I suggest using the Ghostery browser extension. It will show you everything you have in place.
  • Know your strengths – It’s important to come to the assessment with an honest assessment of your own team. You should be able to detail the strengths of your organization from a sales and marketing perspective. If you have the ability to create great content, be transparent about those capabilities. If your sales team has a track record of success in handling leads from a variety of lead sources, that’s a true strength that can be built upon. The more you can detail the strengths and capabilities of your team, the easier it will be for an agency to build you a plan to leverage those strengths further.
  • Be realistic - Goals without plans, are more like dreams. Plans without the ability to execute. If you have big goals, you’re going to need aggressive plans. Inbound marketing isn’t easy. Success takes time, and significant investment. You should be prepared to develop a detailed plan of attack if you want to compete in the digital age. An agency can support your team and help you develop a plan, but they can’t do everything. If you haven’t designated the funds necessary to implement the findings of your assessment, we suggest you address your marketing budget.

Questions to ask during your assessment review.

Make sure you take the opportunity to ask a lot of questions during your assessment. You can certainly ask questions about any of the evaluation points listed above. You should also plan to go a little deeper. Remember, you should be assessing the agency or software provider too, asking qualifying questions to help you make a decision.

Here’s a short list of questions to consider asking HubSpot:

  1. How will you help my team get your software setup for use?
  2. What resources will you provide for ongoing support?
  3. How much will the software you’re recommending cost?
  4. Is your software suited for my industry?
  5. How does your software support the various user roles in my organization?

Here’s a list of questions to consider asking the inbound marketing agency:

  1. Do you have experience solving for clients in my industry?
  2. Who are the people on your team that we’d be working with?
  3. How much time will my team need to allocate to support your team?
  4. What’s your system for managing the campaign and all associated activity?
  5. What technologies would you recommend pairing with HubSpot to accelerate results?

Inbound Marketing Success Story

A Pennsylvania transit software company increased their monthly lead generation by 250% after implementing Inbound Marketing with Revenue River. Highlights from our work together include:

  • 163% annual increase in web traffic

  • 250% annual increase in lead production

  • 450% annual increase in SQL production

This client success story outlines the results we produced and the steps we took to get there. See how we devised, implemented, and executed an inbound strategy for Ecolane. Find out more by filling out the form.

 

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Revenue River is a Diamond HubSpot Agency. We've been performing assessments, designing strategy, and implementing successful campaigns since 2012. 

Is it time to take a closer look at launching a new marketing strategy? Sounds good to us, we're here to help. Enlist us to perform a diagnostic review and we'll schedule a consultation to review our findings together.

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