I run a boutique software development firm, and up to this point I've been getting my clients through referrals. Now I'd like to try inbound marketing, and I have very high hopes for it.
Even though I have some basic understanding of how it works, I need help in starting the campaign, SEO, setting up PPC (including figuring out right keywords), content creation, etc.
I found an agency that can do it all for me, but the costs are quite higher than my comfortable level of monthly spending is. At the same time - because I've never been really exploring this channel - so I hope there are some low-hanging fruits there in terms of getting traffic and leads.
What would you guys suggest?
For agencies, I'm a fan of inbound marketing (thought leadership marketing + marketing automation) as a way to generate sales leads who reach out to you first. This will help reduce your reliance on referrals. But inbound takes time—it's not an overnight lead-gen strategy.
Is $4,000 a month reasonable relative to your revenue and marketing goals? I don't know your revenue, how many leads you need to generate each month, or how big a client counts as "qualified" for your metrics.
But is $4,000/month reasonable for an inbound marketing retainer? Yes. In my experience (I'm a business consultant to digital agencies), that's a mid-range retainer. I typically see them range from $1,500 to $12,000 a month.
Is their proposed *scope* reasonable for that price? You didn't describe the scope, so I don't know. They should start by defining research-based "personas" (avatars) of your ideal client type or types, and then target content to those personas. They'll also identify the best channels to reach those personas. They'd create content for those channels, and they'd set up marketing automation to tie it all together. (Or split some of this workload with you, to stay within budget.)
PPC is helpful for lead-gen but it's not traditionally part of an inbound marketing approach. This makes me wonder if you want inbound *marketing* (a lead-gen process) or inbound *leads* (which can come from many kinds of marketing). If $4,000/month is your hard cap, be aware that PPC spend typically comes out of the retainer, too.
In your situation (not doing marketing in-house), it's smart to outsource your marketing. In my experience, software development agency owners often don't want to do self-marketing themselves (since it's not their specialty)—but *someone* needs to be doing it.
You asked about low-hanging fruit. If you want to do a "DIY" approach, start by blogging regularly (at least once a week), focusing *only* on things your target market cares about. Set up a MailChimp list and make it easy for people to subscribe to your newsletter. Create a list signup premium (a free bonus that people get when they sign up), to help you boost signup conversions. Once that's running, you can add additional forms of content marketing that (at the end) point back to your newsletter.
Does the list of low-hanging fruit items sound boring or terrible to you? Then you should definitely outsource your market.
Want help sorting though your options? I'm glad to do a Clarity call to help you decide. Good luck!
Hello! This is a great question and I think many can benefit from this thread. My name is Humberto Valle, and I'm the founder of Unthink - a hybrid digital marketing agency. Unthink is committed to remaining the most affordable global inbound marketing service for small and medium sized businesses.
In short - Yes, if you find yourself asking if you should work with an agency because you need help generating leads, you should partner with an agency.
If you have time I'd like to provide you and any other reading this with useful guidance on your consideration phase:
You are on the right track with the low hanging fruit, if anything thats what a lot of digital marketing strategists (the good ones) will suggest you go after. Why? Well, when it comes to lead generation by default you must improve your SEO and as you may know, SEO alone is a complex approach that has to do with blogging, guest posting, cross promoting, PR, indexing, link building, content writing, buyer journey research, etc. But most importantly the low hanging fruit which in SEO is the high traffic keyword and long tails but also the ones with low competition.
We see this as the Blue Ocean Strategy of SEO - why bleed your business competing the same way, for the same keywords, for the same clients? Instead go after that ignored market with the 'ignored' long tail keywords that prospects are also searching for but possibly just in smaller quantities. Sometimes owning 100% of a tiny market search is better than 1% of a heavily contested space.
As far as your inbound marketing, client that hires www.Unthink.me gets dedicated on-boarding with research, consultation calls, set ups, key word research, prospecting, A/B testing, email marketing, internal/external SEO as well as inbound and outbound SEO - but what matters is the content because at the end of the day content is what will help boost your website traffic then educate your future consumers and keep them engaged until they complete their buyer's journey at which point you will provide their solution. A good agency should be able to understand your services and your industry because for lead generation they will (should) write useful content for each stage of your prospect journey:
Awareness - they first discover they have a problem and search online to learn more about their problem, if is common, and find possible solutions
Consideration - once the problem and possible solution options are identified, the prospect begins to subscribe, read, watch, follow and engage with relevant providers who are providing this useful content and helping walk to the next phase which is
Decision - As they become more educated, they are also trusting you more and being nurtured to make that call, request that demo, download that app, etc.
As you can imagine, each of the phases will have different content created and each of these formats will focus on something specific, will be optimized for SEO, integrated seamlessly on your website, and then be promoted through Social Media regularly to drive more traffic.
That's to drive traffic right? But what about the funnel and walk through of your website? Any agency that does lead generation needs to be able to offer you inclusive graphic design, UX/UI, A/B testing, Landing Pages, Analytics, etc because once you are driving traffic you need to see what pages of your site they are coming in from? are they organic? direct entry? social media? external link? are they clicking through enough pages (CTR)? and what articles, page or profile is generating more traffic?
What page are they leaving and what can be done to improve that page (bounce rate and bounce page)
PPC - should be avoided for a little while, if you are going to spend on inbound content marketing and SEO for lead generation. Paid ads is an alternative to inbound content marketing but by all means if you can afford to supplement your content lead generation with paid ads - do so. Just make sure those ads tie nicely with the content campaigns (consider driving these paid links to the content instead of the home page or product page because not everyone is ready to give you money as soon as they get to your site - they have to trust you before giving you money or requesting a call)
Also realize that you have an existing business - so you need to maximize what you have - how can an agency help leverage previous clients? their reviews, your existing branding, customer experience - because at the end of the day anything 'customer facing' is marketing and thus it can affect your sustainability.
Obviously, you should never hire an agency that offers SEO through pure link building - this is not sustainable nor provides real value to anyone.
I hope this compliments what you have read online about lead generation, seo, and digital marketing. My name is Humberto Valle and I'm the founder of www.Unthink.me a global marketing agency. We are known to be the most helpful agency for small businesses because we offer an all inclusive approach with a low monthly fee. (lower than the $4k/monthly you said you were quoted) We are programmers, MBAs, Graphic Artists and Content Marketers and we use for our content marketing. If you want to chat, please feel free to message me at firstname.lastname@example.org or through my profile here.
(I try not to take calls here, I like to respond to these type of questions because they wake my thought process)
You already have some good insights here so I will keep this short: You will need to have these things in this order and an agency can help:
1) Brand awareness and lead-gen strategy
2) Messaging and channels/tools (PPC, SEO, email campaigns, etc.)
3) Deployment, analytics, and plan to tweak/refine execution
Let us know how we can help as we worked with a client last Fall on this exact need.