More and more organizations are turning to digital agencies to help them win in the marketplace with inbound marketing. Agencies can bring a comprensive set of services to your marketing strategy and can really accelerate your growth.
But how can you ensure a succcessful relationship?
If you're a visual person, you can watch the video of our Hangout. Or if you'd prefer the audio version, it's available here. You won't want to miss this opportunity to be entertained by two professionals while learning about how to successfully work with digital agencies.
Michael R: Welcome to The Digital Exec. My name is Michael Reynolds, President/CEO of SpinWeb. We're a digital agency at spinweb.net and The Digital Exec is a marketing and technology insight show for business leaders in the digital age. We're online at spinweb.tv. Also available via Podcast, through iTunes, through Stitcher, through pretty much any method you'd like to listen while you're working out or driving. Today I'm here with Brian Mosely from HubSpot. Brian, how are you today?
Brian Mosley: Hey, Michael. Doing well.
Michael R: Good. Thrilled to have you, Brian. You're a Channel Account Executive at HubSpot. What does that mean?
Brian Mosley: My role at HubSpot is to work with marketing agencies like yours to try and help them with a couple of different things. Whether they're trying to prioritize their own inbound marketing efforts, get their own shop in order, so to speak, make sure they're practicing what they preach, and then also help roll those same types of inbound marketing services out to their clients in the form of monthly retainers.
Michael R: Fantastic. And we are a HubSpot agency. We're a gold partner, so we're big fans of HubSpot. I'm super excited to have someone like you from HubSpot talking to us today, so thank you so much for being here. I was looking over your LinkedIn profile and I couldn't tell- I want to come back to this and hear more about this, but you have really a rich career here in the past. You've worked in New Zealand correct?
Brian Mosley: Yep, that's right.
Michael R: You've worked for hockey teams, hockey teams out of the Czech Republic, again New Zealand. You've got a really interesting background here, so maybe at the end I'd like to hear more about- obviously more about HubSpot, but a little bit more about your history as well so let's definitely make time for that.
I love our topic today, which is successfully working with digital agencies. And I love that because obviously as a Channel Account Executive, you're working with agencies all the time, correct?
Brian Mosley: Yeah. I speak with around ten agencies per day.
Michael R: Okay, fantastic. So you obviously know what makes them successful, and what makes a successful relationship between the agency and the organizations. So I'd love to hear more about that because obviously our goal is to help more organizations with their inbound marketing. A lot of organizations use HubSpot internally for the marketing teams to learn about marketing. A lot of them find that it's easier for them also to work with agencies to outsource that.
Just kind of starting off, what do you find makes a successful relationship between the agency and the organization looking for inbound marketing solutions. Kind of a broad question, but where would you start explaining that?
Brian Mosley: Yeah, it is a broad question. There's a lot of different things that I think CEOs and CMOs should be looking for when they are trying to work with a new agency, or if they've determined that their in-house capabilities and bandwith either isn't going to be enough, or they don't have the experience, or they've been trying something but they haven't really been seeing results.
I think there's a lot of different reasons that CMOs and companies reach out to agencies. Other reasons are because they have strong personal relationships with these guys and I think that's where a lot of agencies get the majority of their referral, clients from referral and word of mouth, and I think there's a lot of different things to look for, a lot of questions you should be asking. You definitely should not base your decision to go with a certain agency based off what kind of baseball tickets they have or whether or not they take you out to dinners and buy you nice wine and things like that. Your decision to work with an agency should be based on results. It should be based on what types of services they're providing you, how transparent they are, what the communication looks like, things like that.
Michael R: Right on, I like that. I agree and I guess what sorts of results should you be looking for when you hire an agency? Are there certain metrics you recommend focusing on more than others? I'm guessing there are, but let's say I'm an organization and I'd like to get into inbound marketing, I'd like to reap the rewards from that six months, twelve months later. How should I be holding my agency accountable?
Brian Mosley: Yeah, I think it all starts with what you want to get out of the relationship. To that end, I think the first question that I would recommend a company ask a marketing agency- or sorry rather looking for- is does the agency run a goal-oriented sales process, meaning when you first sit down, what are the first couple questions that they're asking you? Are they trying to just talk about themself and how great they are?
I always like to say, if the first slide in your intro deck as an agency is a roster or a logo slide, you should be looking for another agency. It shouldn't matter what other logos they have on their belt. That's sort of an old school way of looking at things. It's not about the agency and how cool they are and how many big clients they have that you've heard of, it's about your business, that's what you're there to talk about.
The first couple questions you should be listening for when you're sitting down with a new agency are what are your goals? Why are we talking essentially. What are you looking to get out of this relationship? What are your challenges? What things are you struggling with?
There's not a blanket metric obviously that you should be looking for, it all depends on what part of the marketing funnel is broken. I have some clients that come to me and say "Oh well we're getting a ton of traffic, but we're really struggling to convert that traffic into leads." I have some clients that say "We have a ton of leads that we have no idea what to do with. We have a huge database that we're not doing anything with. We really need to re-energize this stagnant database."
If your agency is asking those types of questions and trying to identify where your lowest hanging fruit is and where your biggest pain point is off the bat, I would say that's a good place to start.
Michael R: Okay great. And how do you know when it's time to hire an agency? A lot of our clients have in-house marketing teams and they may be struggling with the question "Well do we need help? Should we try this in-house? Should we look for an agency?" How do you know when it's time to look outside for help and partner with a digital agency?
Brian Mosley: Yeah sure. I think it depends on how you're measuring your marketing director. If you're the CEO and you have a CMO or a marketing director or whoever else is beneath you, how are you holding them accountable? And are you holding them accountable? Does it matter? Is this a real pain for you? Are they not living up to their quota so to speak? I think one of the remarkable things about HubSpot, not to talk too much about the company, but the sales people aren't the only ones on quota. Everybody's essentially on a quota.
Our marketing team is held to a very strict SLA, a Service Level Agreement between sales and marketing where they are required to hit X number of KPIs every month. Whether it's leads, visits to a certain page, whether it's marketing qualified leads, or sales qualified leads or demo requests. As the CEO, it's your responsibility to communicate with your marketing team of specifically what you want out of them, and then hold them accountable for those results. And I'd say only after you've been doing that for six months or a year or whatever, and they're not able to hit those goals, then I think it's time to reach out for help.
Michael R: Okay. Makes sense. What are some very specific KPIs? Are we talking website traffic, conversions, lead generations, sales? What are some specific KPIs that you like to see when holding either your team or your agency accountable?
Brian Mosley: When an agency first goes into a client meeting and the client has never really used an agency, we like to benchmark it. I know Spinweb does this really well. You guys come in and we take a snapshot of where you are right now. What is that status quo?
One of the things that I would look at as a CEO I'd look into our CRM and I'd say "Okay. When we're first getting a lead in, what's our sales timeline like? What's the sales cycle like? How long does it take? Does it take three months, does it take two weeks, does it take a month? How long is our average sale cycle?" And then I would look to the agency to say, "What can you guys do to speed that up? To get more people to come into our funnel quicker, convert more of our traffic," so I'd say a conversion rate is a really good one. I think most companies have a contact us as their only conversion opportunity.
You need to really widen the middle of that funnel up and give your traffic multiple opportunities to self-identify and say, "Here I am. I'm on your website, I'm looking for help, here's exactly what I'm looking for help with." I think having that conversion rate go up is a good one, and then being able to prove that you're able to shorten that lifecycle through email nurturing, or lead nurturing. That's another good one also.
Michael R: Okay. So what are some factors that really improve your chance of success with an agency? You mentioned CRM. We sometimes talk to organizations that, either they don't have a CRM, or maybe they do have one they're not utilizing effectively or maybe they don't have a tight sales process. What do you look for in a sales team? Just say, "Hey you know what, there are some things you've got to do with your sales team when partnering with an agency to really make the relationship successful. What are we looking at the sale side to improve chance of success?
Brian Mosley: I think a lot of that comes from marketing. I think traditionally there's been a disconnect between sales and marketing. I think salespeople tend to look at marketing people like "Oh, their job is so fluffy-"
Michael R: They're playing on Facebook. Right?
Brian Mosley: They're on Facebook, they're these creative types, they're watching YouTube videos, they're messing around on PhotoShop, what are they doing all day? I'm a sales person, I'm the one that really gets stuff done." so to speak. And then the marketing people look at the sales people like, "Oh they're kind of jerks, all they care about is money. We're the ones that are actually positioning the company." And each one thinks that the other one can't do their job without them. And they're right, but they shouldn't look at that relationship with animosity. I'm a sales guy at HubSpot,I love our marketing team. Our marketing team is one of the best in the world in my mind.
Michael R: I agree. They're great.
Brian Mosley: And our marketing team feels the same way about our sales team. There's a real community there. And there should be because I rely a hundred percent on our marketing team to provide me with qualified prospects essentially. So I think from a sales perspective, if your sales team looks at your marketing team with any sort of ire, I think that's the first thing that needs to be addressed and fixed.
Michael R: I am so glad you said that. That's music to my ears because I have- those who listen to this podcast on a regular basis know I make a big deal about the integration between sales and marketing. I've done presentations on this I've blogged about this a lot, everybody's sick of hearing it I'm sure, but it's a huge deal because so many organizations they have these sales teams and marketing teams In silos, or they just expect their sales team to do all the work and all the prospecting, and marketing is just sort of a fluffy generalized job description. But really it's two distinct departments that need to be working together in tandem, in partnership, so I'm so happy to hear you say that. It's very important and I wish more people would adopt that philosophy of integrating the two roles together. So thank you for bringing that up, it's a big deal. I appreciate that.
Brian Mosley: Yeah. Yeah.
Michael R: We have a lot of organizations also that come to us and they may start working with us for inbound marketing, and then have a desire to move it in-house later and they may succeed, they may not succeed. Or maybe they just don't want to work with an agency because they think they can do it in-house, and the marketing team feels threatened. What would you say to marketing teams that feel threatened by an agency? We found that working with marketing teams is awesome because we can do things they can't and they can do things we can't, but as a partnership we're incredibly successful and we can really accelerate the growth of our clients. What would you say to marketing teams that feel threatened by agencies?
Brian Mosley: Yeah, so as you know, HubSpot is a software- again I'm not trying to talk too much about software, but this is a good analogy. A lot of times I'll be speaking with a prospect and I'll pull the marketing person aside because I'll feel that they're very negative towards the idea of bringing a software in-house, and they don't feel bought in.
And I'll bring them aside and I'll say, "What's up? You seem very negative to this idea of having this." And they'll say, "Well, to tell you the truth Brian, I'm worried that a software's going to take my job." And I say, "That's ridiculous. Software needs a human operator, and software's nothing without the person driving it. So don't think of this as a way that's going to replace you, just as don't think of a marketing agency as a way to replace you, think about it as a way to more measurably show the results from your efforts."
So a marketing agency should make the CMO look like a hero. A marketing agency should make your marketing director look really, really good because they'll be able to provide you with reports and concrete data to prove that what you're doing is working. Whereas before there was just maybe some sort of correlation there. The agency should bring some sort of causation to your efforts, like we did this campaign, here's exactly how many visits it brought to our website, here's exactly how many leads it brought into our funnel, and we're able to actually show how many of those leads became customers and it really empowers the internal marketing person instead of shunning them.
Michael R: I love it. I love it. That's our goal is to make the marketing director, the CMO, whoever we're working with on point, we want to make them look like a rock star and we do. And the ones that really get it end up looking great and really have a lot of influence in the organization because they're winning and getting great results by working in tandem with us, so I love to hear that. One thing I do want to touch on as well as we kind of wrap up here is pricing. A lot of people don't like to talk about price, they're kind of shy about talking about money. Not me. I like talking about money. Stuff costs money. It's important to know these kinds of things. So I know there's a huge range, but in general, what are some general annual or monthly investments that organizations should expect to pay if working with an agency for inbound marketing?
Brian Mosley: It's a pretty broad statement. I have some agency partners who have manufacturing clients that spend around $15,000 a month on their services. I think one of the best ways to look at this is, what is your concept of a lead? What is your cost per lead? How much is a lead worth to you?
If you sell these really large- for example, the client in particular I'm talking about, they sell these really large quarter of a million dollar, half a million dollar manufacturing automation machines. These things are huge, they're very, very expensive, and there's a very few amount of people or businesses in the world that buy these machines.
So every lead that comes into their system that is qualified, it's a premium. And they pay a lot for it because it's worth a lot to them. One sale could be worth four or five months of that marketing retainer for them. I think it depends, how much is a customer worth to you? How much is a lead worth to you? And then working backwards from there, how much effort is going to take for your marketing agency to produce that one lead? How much time is it going to take them, and then how much is their time worth? I don't want to throw out a number because I don't want to set any mis-expectations or anything, but that's the way your agency should be pricing their services.
Michael R: Sure. It's about ROI. You want to make sure you're getting a return on that. And I understand it's tough. I know you work with a lot of agency partners you don't want to get too specific, that's not terribly appropriate, but the point I want to make is that, to really do inbound marketing effectively, we know, and maybe you agree, that it takes a large effort every month to continue that process and to really grow. We just want to see organizations understand that it takes a lot of time and a lot of effort and a lot of skill to make this happen. You have to invest accordingly to get the return on that. Would you agree on that?
Brian Mosley: I would. So I can give you a minimum. Most of my agencies that are actually doing well, and actually on-boarding clients monthly and delivering good ROI, you should look to spend at a minimum around $2,500 a month, I would say. That would include around ten hours of work, it would include email, and social and SEO, because it does take more of a- Right now the way people are buying things, it takes a more holistic approach. You can't just focus on top of the funnel activity, so you can't just focus on SEO.
If you're having one agency do SEO for you, and you have one agency doing social media for you, and you have another agency doing email marketing for you, you should be firing all three of them, and moving to somebody that does all three, because you want somebody that understands the entire pathway to your funnel, you don't want to have these a la carte services, a la carte agencies as I call them. Any agency nowadays that claims to focus on SEO, I would say they don't really get the big picture, and I would be skeptical.
Michael R: Thank you. Again I'm happy to hear you say that because we have a lot of people focused on SEO, and really we try to say, SEO is a component and baked into everything you do in inbound marketing. And by winning at all the other components together, you're winning at SEO as well. Love to hear that. So it's a big range in pricing, obviously the bare minimum, that's a good range. We find that, honestly the more you invest, the faster your return as well, so we do want to look at ROI, we want to look at what's appropriate, but I appreciate those general guidelines and ranges. Anything else you want to add when you're speaking to CEOs, or CMOs or marketing directors when thinking of working with an agency? Anything else to watch out for?
Brian Mosley: Yeah. I would say one of the biggest things to ask about when you're interviewing or kicking tires for an agency is, how much value do they put on education and training? Are they just sending you reports, or are they showing you how to do this? Do they care if you know how to do this or not, and if you understand this? What kind of transparency are they offering you? Are they keeping everything close to the vest? Are they saying "You don't need to see your keyword reports, you don't need to see how we're doing this, you don't need to know what kind of tools we're using, just know that we're doing a really good job."
I think there's nothing wrong with asking questions like, "What kind of tools do you guys use to show us these reports? What do your reports look like?" Are they organized? Are they just cobbling together spreadsheets? That's going to be indicative of how efficient they are. And again, as a CEO, you're paying this agency for their time. You need to make sure that they're spending their time effectively.
Michael R: I agree. Great insights. Brian, thank you so much this has been awesome, extremely insightful. As we wrap up, I want to hear about two things. I want to hear about HubSpot, so definitely do your pitch for HubSpot. We're already a fan so with me, you're preaching to the choir, but please let our listeners know all about HubSpot and why they might consider it along with an agency ideally. I also want to hear about your best story from New Zealand as well, so let's hear more. Tell me first about HubSpot.
Brian Mosley: Sure. You talk about inbound marketing a lot and anybody that knows about inbound marketing, hopefully you know about HubSpot. I really encourage people to do their due diligence. If you think that a marketing automation software is right for you, there's a ton of people online talking about it, so obviously I'm going to be a little bit bias, but I would just say do your due diligence, figure out which platform is right for you, and if you want to talk about HubSpot, send an email to Michael. He's probably the best proponent, one of the best proponent we have. I don't want to talk too much about that.
In terms of New Zealand, I played hockey in college at Missouri State. Shout out to the Ice Bears. I got an opportunity to play in the New Zealand Ice Hockey League in 2011, It was during the summer. And our initiation was after our first win at home, all of the rookies had to skate in just a jock strap around the rink a couple times, in a Mystery Alaska style. I don't know if you've seen Mystery Alaska. We had to slide face first on the ice in front of a huge crowd and everything. That was a fun little initiation.
Michael R: That's great. Well, Brian, this has been a real pleasure, I really appreciate your time. Been a very insightful so come back and talk to us any time.
Brian Mosley: Sounds good, Michael. Nice talking to you.
Michael R: All right. Thanks everybody for joining us, you can find us again on the web at spinweb.tv. Spinweb's agency site is spinweb.net, and of course you can also listen via the podcast with any format you choose. Hope to see you again For all the listeners, thanks for joining us and we'll see you next time.
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