A fully loaded inbound marketing engagement can cost upwards of $100,000 per year for all the bells and whistles.
That’s right. A solid inbound retainer that will help grow your business can be about $100,000 per year. Depending on your specific goals and the size of your business, that number will fluctuate.
However, the right inbound agency to work with is an investment that will pay off over time.
So, maybe now you’re thinking, “I can just hire a director of marketing for $75,000 a year and have them run everything,” but that employee, regardless of how good they are, won’t be able to do everything an agency can.
Inbound marketing sticker shock
In this post, we'll cover the basics of an inbound retainer, why outsourcing your inbound marketing to an agency isn’t as costly as you think, detail the benefits, and discuss a few obstacles that can kill an inbound strategy.
What’s included in an inbound strategy?
An inbound marketing strategy helps establish a digital presence and your business as a trusted resource for customers.
Why is that important? Research from HubSpot suggests that buyers are 67 percent of their way through the buying process before contacting a salesperson.
An inbound marketing strategy helps pull leads through the buying process, turning them over to the sales team when they’re primed and close to making a decision.
Inbound is pull marketing.
What is pull marketing?
Pull marketing is when you create informative and useful content (videos, a good website, blogs, whitepapers, newsletters, etc.) for customers and potential customers.
This content then pulls people to a website as they look for answers through search engines.
There is also an element of push marketing with inbound, primarily email. Email is used to inform and educate once a company has been invited into a lead’s inbox.
This is in contrast to traditional interruption marketing like outdoor ads, direct mail, and cold calling.
List of typical deliverables in a basic inbound marketing strategy
Buyer persona research and profile(s). Personas are a company’s ideal customer and are developed through interviews with multiple customers.
Email campaigns. To introduce new products, share newsletters, and more.
Keyword research. To identify the keywords a brand is currently ranking for, which queries are bringing in the most traffic, and what competitors are ranking for. This steers the direction of a content strategy.
Management of your marketing automation tool. As good as they all are, they are simply that: tools. You can’t buy a HubSpot license and magically have inbound leads rolling in; it takes time to learn how to use marketing automation software.
Search engine optimization (SEO). While SEO is an industry and area of expertise all its own, an inbound strategist will perform at least the basics of SEO and keyword research to ensure content will be relevant and discoverable by search engines and prospects.
Blogs. Blogs optimized for SEO that address the pain points a brand's personas are experiencing help boost the visibility of a blog and help its readers solve problems.
Social media publishing and engagement. Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Instagram are platforms where companies can share informative content and engage with leads and customers.
Content creation. What content will work best to educate and entice new leads? Ebooks, whitepapers, infographics, videos? Your inbound agency will work with you, creating downloadable content to create new leads.
TIP: Check out this example of a downloadable asset that contains a one-sheet for people to learn how to create an audience persona. Simple and easy to include in your content with an engaging button.
Lead nurturing campaigns. Once a lead downloads a content offer, nurturing is necessary throughout the buyer’s journey.
Landing pages. Landing pages present an offer and turn visitors into leads.
Graphic design. Graphic designs create assets that support and promote content.
Call-to-actions (CTAs). CTAs are designed to drive visitor engagement to download a whitepaper or sign up for a free consultation. Landing pages and thank you pages are where offers are described with a form to capture leads. A thank-you page is just that, a thank you for the request and, often, where an offer is presented.
Reporting, tracking, tweaking, and A/B testing. Over the length of an engagement, an inbound agency will test subject lines, CTA language, keywords, and more for effectiveness, and adjust according to the data. A great inbound campaign is constantly being adjusted and improved.
This is a short list of an inbound agency’s capabilities and a very basic description of the amount of work done for each. We’ll discuss that in a bit more detail below.
The real cost of an in-house marketer
Most successful inbound strategies involve a team of marketers, not a single person. While $100,000 versus $75,000 looks like a poor bargain, if you look closer, the picture quickly changes.
Let’s say you hire a mid-tier, competent inbound marketing professional to run your inbound strategy. Their salary is $75,000 per year. But you also have to include additional costs, like recruiting, purchasing equipment (software licenses, office space), payroll tax, social security, Medicare, Federal Unemployment Insurance, workers' comp; health, dental, life insurance, and a 401k, and PTO and sick time.
Joe Hamzida, senior lecturer at MIT Sloan School of Management, estimates that a full-time equivalent costs 1.35 times a base salary. That $75,000 employee is actually a $101,250 employee. That doesn't even include training.
Inbound marketing changes yearly as new tactics become more effective than old ones. Your in-house person will need the time and budget to attend conferences to learn new tricks, additional training, and ongoing professional reading. This assumes that you made the right hire to begin with. Bad hires cost money.
A CareerBuilder survey found that it costs $25,000 for a single bad hire in 41 percent of companies. A quarter of companies in the same study said a bad hire costs $50,000+.
That doesn’t include the internal moral cost and the cost to your business in lost opportunities from hiring someone who is not a good fit. An inbound marketing agency also has these costs, but you don’t see them. Instead, you see continuous, expert service every working day of the year.
What you get for your inbound marketing retainer
Outsourcing your inbound implementation to an agency provides the same two main benefits as any outsourcing arrangement.
|You save time by allowing someone with in-depth expertise to handle the job.
|Your business launches an inbound strategy faster; with a team of experts at your fingertips, you’ll be able to hit the ground running.
168 Hours. That’s all we get in a week. Subtract time for sleeping, eating, spending time with family and friends, relaxing, and exercise, and you’re left with 40 to 50 hours for work.
How do you want to spend your work time? Would you rather focus on running your business and providing your customers with everything they need, or would you rather spend your working hours mastering inbound marketing techniques?
Let’s say you already employ or plan to hire a director of marketing to handle your inbound marketing strategy. It’s nearly impossible for a single person to have the time to successfully execute all of the moving parts that comprise the strategy.
Take blogs, for example. We recommend a minimum of four blog posts per month. While writing time varies based on blog length and topic, it is estimated that it takes four to six hours to create and publish each post.
It takes time to write, of course, but you also have to conduct keyword research, identify topics, write attractive SEO-optimized headlines, find images, ensure keywords are properly used, format, and publish.
That’s 20 hours per month writing the minimum number of blogs necessary to move an inbound strategy forward.
Email campaigns are critical and take time. Emails must be written and formatted. Subject lines must be crafted and, ideally, tested to generate the best response rate. Lists have to be created. For email lead nurturing and drip campaigns, it takes hours to correctly link all of the elements together.
Each individual step in an inbound strategy is doable by a single person. However, asking a single person to do everything is a recipe for burnout.
An inbound marketing agency doesn’t take sick days or vacation days, at least from the client’s point of view. An agency has the staff and network to create strategy, write the assets and emails, create campaigns, and ensure everything is scheduled correctly in your marketing automation tool of choice.
You wouldn’t question the value of a good mechanic to keep your car running, yet marketing professionals and their expertise are often dismissed. Think of the inbound marketing elements listed above; each of those requires knowledge and skill.
When creating an email campaign, for example, there are best practices around the sequencing of emails and how long emails should be, subject line creation, language to use that drives leads to take action, and more.
Creating an email campaign takes skill, in addition to the time mentioned previously. Writing is another skill. Writing content for landing pages is a different skill than writing content for blogs. Headlines and email subject lines are crucial, and writing them is a different skill than writing a blog post or ebook. Many marketers are very skilled, but they focus on different aspects of inbound marketing -- strategy, writing, creating emails, and SEO.
It’s extremely rare for one person to excel in every aspect of inbound marketing.
But an inbound agency has a team of experts who work together to create and execute an inbound marketing strategy. Instead of a single employee struggling to keep up with best practices in content and SEO and strategy, you’ll have a team of experts working for you.
5 obstacles that can kill an inbound strategy
Inbound can work for any company in any industry. However, there are a few things that can make your strategy less effective. There are elements the inbound marketing agency can’t control, most significantly, the client.
For an inbound strategy to be as effective as it can be, the agency and client need to have a solid relationship and mutual trust, and the client needs to have their internal house in order.
These are five obstacles that those in the industry recognize as potential factors in killing an inbound strategy.
1. Broken sales teams
If your sales team isn’t effective at closing deals, putting even the most qualified leads in their hands will lead to inferior sale outcomes. The opening scene in Glengarry Glen Ross illustrates this. The sales fixer dangles the Glengarry leads in front of the salespeople and then says, “These are the new leads. These are the Glengarry leads, and to you, they're gold, and you don't get them. Why? Because to give them to you is just throwing them away.” An inbound marketing team can support your sales team by enabling them with content and information about leads, but they can’t turn a bad sales team into a good one.
2. Care about your customers
Fundamentally, the philosophy of inbound is to serve your customers by being helpful. If you don’t care, customers and leads will eventually spot a phony.
There is no finish line with inbound marketing (or marketing in general). Of course, tactics and specific campaigns change over time, but an inbound strategy grows stronger over time as it's tested, revised, and fine tuned to bring in leads and delight customers. If you’re in it for the long haul, you’ll be fine.
4. Don't check out
You may want to hand over the keys of your inbound strategy to your agency partner, but don’t check out on the strategy. Your agency partner needs your insights to continue to improve the program over time. While your inbound agency will understand your business and customers, you are still the expert. You must be available to review and consult. When clients clam up and stop providing feedback, the inbound strategy suffers.
5. Be concerned about customer data
Over time, an inbound strategy will improve customer data and offer insights into customer behavior you likely don’t have now. However, low quality data will initially limit the effectiveness of inbound efforts. If you start off with bad data, acknowledge it. Don’t blame your agency, and help them to get your data into great shape.
A good inbound marketing agency can provide advice and guidance for how to address these issues. They can't force that behavior on the customer. To get the most out of your inbound agency, remain engaged and responsive.
The cost-effective solution to your inbound marketing needs
Hiring an inbound agency for $100,000 sounds like a lot of money, and it is. On the other hand, that retainer is equivalent to a full-time employee making $75,000 per year. Anticipated savings by hiring in-house is really false economy.
Additionally, a single employee has the drawback of being a force of one. Regardless of how good they are, they will struggle to accomplish the plethora of tasks needed to run an effective inbound marketing strategy -- even if you find a marketing unicorn who is competent in all aspects of inbound.
An inbound agency puts a team of experts at your disposal to accomplish your marketing goals.
So get over that inbound marketing sticker shock and find an agency that can help you achieve your marketing goals. You’ll soon discover that the value a professional inbound team brings to the table outweighs the perceived high cost.
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