Inbound marketing is a term coined by Hubspot CEO, Brian Halligan back in the early 2010’s. At its core, inbound marketing refers to a style of marketing aligned to modern buyers. One where brands get found, and customers and interest get cultivated rather than crammed down throats. Today, more businesses are embracing inbound marketing whether insourced, outsourced or a combination of both. Many times, through the help of inbound marketing consultants or agency partners.
Why inbound marketing?
Nicholas Scalice, the founder of Earnworthy notes, “Inbound is one of the areas companies often overlook, as they focus too much on just paid advertising or just social media. Inbound can help fill the gaps.”
With so much emphasis on inbound marketing what is it and why should we brand pay attention?
Samuel Lavoie, a freelance marketing consultant, notes that “The world of selling radically changed in the last 10-20 years. The internet and social networks helped empower consumers.” Inbound Marketing, Lavoie points out, let’s brands “earn the trust of your audience (potential buyers) by giving away most of your expertise and expert’s knowledge for free, and then charge or sell products nicely package and related to it.”
The inbound process: attract, convert, nurture and delight, is designed to draw your prospects to you. By the time a sale is ready to happy, it’s much easier than with strategies of the past. As Sam points out, the process is more aligned with modern buyer expectations and works for both B2B and B2c.
What is an inbound marketing consultant
An inbound marketing consultant is an individual or a team who is skilled in the strategy, planning, and execution of the inbound marketing process: attracting traffic, converting visitors, closing sales, and delighting customers.
An inbound marketing consultant provides strategic and tactical support to organizations by creating marketing plans, analyzing data, and managing content and technology.
They should be familiar with the various tools of the trade and can be platform agnostic. However, if you’re a Hubspot shop or Marketo shop, some knowledge of the tools is helpful in getting started quickly.
What does an inbound marketing consultant do?
We start with strategy, and it’s the thread that weaves through all we do. From persona development and journey mapping, we work to ensure we set a baseline for understanding audiences and evolve the strategy to reach more and convert more.
Research & Analysis
Data drives inbound marketing. AS inbound marketers, both primary and secondary research fuels our work. We gather insights from sales and customers and combine that with data from keyword research, social media monitoring, site analytics, and conversion metrics to iterate our marketing strategies and inform content decisions.
Creating & Updating Content
Whether it’s launching a new blog post or creating a new piece of content to attract leads, content is a huge part of inbound marketing. We work across channels creating emails, conversion paths, social media content and more.
Content & Brand Promotion
While we work to understand organic search volumes, banking just on organic traffic alone isn’t enough. That’s why we work through paid advertising, social media, and PR/Influencer channels to promote our client brands and content to make sure we get as much mileage and reach as possible.
Reporting & Optimization
At the end of the day, the data that we pull and analyze is critical to making decisions about what we do next, where we want to try something else and testing new ideas to improve our conversion funnels and increase our client’s inbound marketing success.
Why should you hire an inbound marketing consultant?
There are many reasons to consider hiring an inbound marketing consultant. While there are lots of listicles written, if any of the following apply, you should consider getting an extra set of hands.
You don’t have dedicated resources
Inbound marketing takes time. Inbound marketing takes effort. If you don’t have dedicated resources to planning, analyze, and execute on a regular basis, your inbound marketing will suffer. Without dedicated resources, you might want to consider hiring an inbound marketing consultant or agency partner.
You don’t quite understand the mechanics
If you understand the concept of inbound marketing at a high level but aren’t entirely sure how the sausage is made, that’s ok. You aren’t alone. But if you don’t understand the mechanics behind the curtain, your success rate will diminish. Get some extra help, even if it’s only to get your strategy off the ground.
You don’t care about the details
Some organizations are just too busy to care about the details. They want to know that a program is being executed and will check in on it once a month or once a quarter. If you don’t care about the details and you want to have the program run, an inbound marketing partner could be a perfect fit for you.
Benefits of hiring an inbound marketing consultant
Benefits usually fall into a few categories.
Benefit of experience
The largest benefit of working with a consultant or inbound marketing partner is you benefit from their experience. Partners gain experience across a diverse set of industries and learn to optimize the inbound marketing process. They know what works. Working with someone who has been in the trenches gives you a competitive advantage from starting at zero. Scalice notes that usually, a consultant is much more knowledgeable than a junior-level marketer who would likely apply for a full-time inbound job.
Most consultants start by putting together a plan. What they will work on every month. That’s not to say the plan won’t change based on data and insights as prospect interact. But often organizations struggle with getting past monthly or quarterly planning. Knowing that there is a set of monthly activities develops a cadence and consistency is crucial to the success of inbound marketing.
As previously noted, there is a lot of ongoing work involved in getting an inbound marketing program off the ground. Inbound marketing consultants are skilled at scaling inbound marketing programs and driving efficiency. They do this through resource management. Working with a consultant or partner brings more resources to your inbound marketing effort and increases the success rate.
How much does an inbound marketing consultant cost?
The big hairy question is always, but what’s it going to cost me. The reality is that inbound marketing consultant and partner costs can run across the spectrum. There are a couple of reasons for this.
First, location. Where you live plays a big role in the cost structure of consultants and agencies pulling teams together to manage inbound marketing programs.
Second, what your actual inbound marketing needs are. Sometimes you just need some training. Sometimes you need monthly execution. At this point, inbound marketing costs start to break into categories.
Determining your inbound marketing needs
Pop back up to the “why you should hire an inbound marketing consultant” (click here to scroll up). If you don’t have the resource or you don’t care about the details, most likely you’re looking for monthly execution. However, if you’re unsure about the mechanics and you have some resources to bear, a training period may be all you need. Here’s a high-level look at how the costs can break down.
Inbound Marketing Consulting Costs
Depending on the scope and size of your training needs, inbound marketing consultants will usually offer a fixed bid for either a one-time training session or to work with your organization in the first few months of launching your inbound marketing program. These costs can vary wildly but usually start no less than $2500 for a one-time session to a multi-month fee to get you up and running.
Monthly execution can also vary wildly from around $2,000/month to retainers running as high as $20,000/month. The big variables here are how much work you want you inbound marketing consultant or partner to conduct on behalf of your program and how quickly you want to see traffic grow. Just a few of the components often included in retainers are:
- Content Offers (Whitepapers, Ebooks, etc.)
- Conversion Funnels (Landing Pages, Thank You Pages, Call to actions)
- Online Advertising
- Email Marketing
- Nurture Sequences
- Social Media
Most consultants will work with you to understand your business goals and craft a program designed to achieve them. The recurring work needed to achieve those goals is where the retainer cost is derived.
How to hire an inbound marketing consultant
There are lots of ways to find digital marketing talent. When it comes to inbound marketing, there are a few things to consider.
Are they up to date?
Moosa Hemani, the founder of SE Talks, recommends making sure your consultants (or employees for that matter) are keeping their finger on the pulse of trends. Moosa notes, “More than CV, I think it’s important to have a one on one conversation with them about Inbound Marketing. Ask them about new trends, where the industry is heading and above all put some real life problems at the front of the candidate and ask them how they can solve the problem.”
Commit to success
Inbound is an investment in your brand. It’s not a quick burn marketing tactic but can pay off in the long haul. Lavoie strongly recommends “Commitment to the vision of inbound.” Noting that it “takes 12 to 24 months to see results, are you as an organization ready to invest in your brand and digital assets for that long?”
Know your goals
One of the first things a good consultant will ask you about is your goals. Where are you today and where do you want to go. Hemani notes the importance of knowing your company goals when you start the hiring process:
Stop looking at Google for the ‘Best Inbound Marketing Consultant’ or ‘Effective Inbound Marketing Company’. You will often end up making a bad investment. The idea is to understand your business goals and then talk to multiple companies and see who best fits your culture. It is also important to remember the Cheap, Fast, Good formula.
If you want Cheap and Fast, it won’t be good
If you want Fast, good, it won’t be cheap
And…If you want Cheap and Good, it won’t be fast.
How to ensure you see success with your inbound marketing consultant
Together, you and your consultant should develop metrics of success. Agreed upon key performance indicators that you’ll look to as a measurement of both your inbound marketing efforts and your inbound marketing consultant. These should tie to your business goals. So if your goal is to increase lead volume, that needs to be broken down into smaller, goals to figure out how your consultant and your inbound marketing program are going to work together to generate those leads. For example, increase organic traffic by X by Y where X is volume and Y is a time frame. Only you and your consultant can determine these metrics as they are unique to your business, goals and current efforts.
Traits of an effective IMC
Hubspot documents a few of their favorite inbound marketing attributes here. Most important, your consultant should have an analytical mindset. So much of the marketing process is responding to data and insights. If you’re expecting a playbook to be able to execute and guarantee success, inbound marketing, and digital marketing are probably not strategies you want to leverage in the first place.
What are you experiences with inbound?
I’d love to hear from you. Whether you’re a consultant, marketer or business, share your thoughts on inbound marketing, insourcing, and outsourcing. Leave a comment below to help those looking into increasing their organization’s inbound marketing effectiveness. Special thanks to Nicholas, Moosa, and Samuel for sharing their perspectives.