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The Growth Cycles of Inbound Agencies – 3 Elements that Differentiate Shops of Different Maturities

 Differentiating between inbound marketing agencies, Revenue River

Why does an agency’s size, experience and expertise matter when it comes to selecting a marketing partner? It seems a silly question when written down, but why then do so few companies dive deeper in their decision-making process to truly understand where the agency they want to partner with is at in the maturity continuum?


The growth cycles and general evolution of agencies have been well-documented. As agencies grow in size, both with employees and revenue, certain milestones are hit within the organization’s structure and capabilities that help it continue to prosper. If these milestones aren’t hit and the necessary growth achieved, the agency will flounder and has a higher likelihood of failure as a business.

At Revenue River, we believe that there are 3 things prospective clients of agencies should look for and vet when considering different agencies for their marketing campaigns; Systems, Tools and Tracking. Where an agency falls within the growth cycle can often tell you what they will charge but knowing where their organization is at with their systems, tools and tracking can help you better understand if they will be able to provide consistent results to you and your company.


Like any other successful organization, agencies require well-documented systems and processes to be put in place in order to provide consistent results for clients and grow as a business. While all agencies can claim that they have systems and processes in place, larger, more mature shops will have documented systems in place that allow them to properly train employees, effectively onboard new clients and standardize repetitive activities, all in an effort to provide a higher level of service to their clients.

Understanding if there is structure in the agency both in who does what but also how they do it will help you paint a better picture of whether or not your prospective agency has their shit together enough to consistently drive results for you.


All agencies will have a toolset that they utilize to help them execute campaigns, the difference comes in the types of tools used and their level of expertise working within them. Smaller, younger agencies with less revenue and budget to spend on themselves will often lean on platforms that offer “freemium” packages that limit their abilities to basic functionalities, thus limiting their abilities to provide customized marketing actions. Other, less specialized agencies may have the budgets to spend on bigger and better tools but due to their larger toolset, may lack the internal knowledge and expertise to get the most out of the various platforms that their clients need.

Understanding what tools your prospective agency uses and how specialized they are within them will help you better understand their true capabilities to help you with your unique marketing challenges.


The continued and proper tracking of campaign KPIs along with the analysis and decisions made from that are what differentiate high achieving agencies from the run-of-the-mill shops out there. In today’s digital world, an inbound marketing agency needs to have the necessary tracking systems in place to help them collect and monitor different metrics within different areas of their clients’ campaigns that will ultimately help them understand if their marketing actions are driving the results needed to make their clients successful.

Understanding what systems and tools are in place along with how often metrics are reviewed and reported on will tell you all you need to know regarding the experience and analytical nature of your prospective agency partner.


While Revenue River is far from the end of the growth cycle, we have hit a few key milestones recently that have forced us to take a look back at what we’ve accomplished over the last few years before looking forward to what we plan to achieve. During our reflection, we couldn’t help but notice how we’ve grown within the 3 areas above. When once we had no documented or standardized processes, we now have an internal knowledge base and campaign system in place to help us consistently hit deadlines and drive results for our clients. Where we once utilized free, non-industry specific tools for our campaigns and internal use, we now have enterprise-level platforms that we continually train and retrain our employees on. When our campaign tracking once meant a jumbled spreadsheet with inconsistent and ineffective reports, we now utilize best-in class reporting systems with monthly reporting and weekly analysis that allow for more agile, productive campaigns.

The size of an agency most certainly does not dictate whether or not it has the capabilities necessary to drive results for any client, big or small. There are a number of other factors that help you understand that including personnel and experience. What will dictate the maturity of that agency though, will be how they have set up and utilized the above listed elements. Be sure to consider them and dive deeper in your decision-making process to understand if the agency you’re considering has the necessary elements in place to help you succeed.

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