Upselling shouldn't be a dirty word. When used correctly, it can be an opportunity to solidify a relationship and build trust. 

But it needs to be approached in the right way. This is especially true for clients who are still running disconnected campaigns or investing in only project work.

Moving from this type of a relationship with an agency to an inbound marketing retainer can be a monumental change for the way a client does marketing and his perception of its role in sales and business growth for his company. Clients need education, a firm grasp of the expected results, and confidence in your expertise. 

We asked inbound marketing agency executives how they approach the upselling and cross-selling opportunities with clients. Here's what they had to say:

If you’ve built a website, you’re a code/design firm in the minds of your client. If you create content, you’re writers, not strategists. My point is that it’s really hard to change perception from one service to inbound marketing.

Therefore, my #1 tip would be to set the stage for inbound marketing before pitching the first service: 'We’ll build this website in this way to establish a way for inbound to be successful. We’ll create content for X months as a test project and as a way to establish benchmarks for inbound.’

- Henry O’Loughlin | Nectafy

Our most effective strategy for opening a client’s minds to the value of inbound marketing is to help them quantify the actual value of a sales qualified lead. Once they accept that fact as undeniable, investing in inbound marketing seems like the most sound investment they could make in their business.

- Greg Linnemanstons | Weidert Group

Let me start with this quote from John Wanamaker: ‘Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.’

Marketing doesn’t have to be a mystery that we don’t fully understand.

When you buy inbound marketing, you’re buying information that empowers you to make better decisions.

Unlike John Wanamaker, and millions of other company owners like him, you’re going to know which marketing works for your firm and which marketing does not.

Through a solid inbound marketing campaign, the client will go from unsure to confident in the ROI they receive from their marketing efforts.

- Gregg Crystal | Inalign, Inc.

People might think they need SEO help or social media support, but that’s a conclusion they’ve come to based on the need to improve a bottom-line result. Upselling prospects into an inbound campaign instead of a single point solution is about driving something more quantitative. Ranking #1 on Google isn’t what a business wants; they want more customers. Once they understand that ranking alone doesn’t pay the bills, you’ll be able to upsell them into a holistic approach to developing and implementing strategies to attract, convert, close, and delight.

- Eric Pratt | Revenue River Marketing

Communication and education.

The more open the communication is between your agency and the client, the more likely it is that you’ll identify opportunities to leverage inbound marketing at the right point in your relationship and without it catching your client off-guard.

For inbound marketing to work, you need time and the right budget on your side. Communicate these points to your client while educating them on inbound marketing.

When the time comes that inbound marketing is the most logical road to success, your client is already prepared to make the investments necessary to achieve success.

- Craig Kilgore | Mainstreethost

Let the numbers talk. The reality is that a client who is not doing inbound marketing will want proof. Show them your numbers. While there are plenty of selling techniques you can employ, if you cannot actually produce healthy results from your inbound marketing retainers, why should they purchase your services? Make sure you have a case study or an example client that you can share numbers with. If a prospect does not want to purchase after they see the numbers, then there is not much else you can do to upsell a client.

- Seth Fendley | ClearPivot

Clients usually see brand assets (such as websites or traditional ads) as stand-alone projects. To upsell them to pursue inbound marketing, you have to make them realize the bigger picture -- that each of these assets are a part of a grander strategy to get found and nurture leads down the inbound marketing funnel. Offering them a glimpse of how inbound marketing can lead to better brand awareness and ultimately higher conversions through relevant and powerful case studies backed by solid metrics will make them more receptive and likely to give inbound marketing a shot.

Daniel Vaczi | Adhere Creative

Show the realistic impact of inbound marketing in relation to the client's unique pipeline, website traffic, and conversion rates.

When we set up a meeting to discuss inbound marketing with a current client, we already have a general idea of their website traffic, number of contacts, etc. Before our initial meeting, we pull as many numbers as we can get our hands on and may ask for a few other numbers if we don’t have access to them. Using this information, we can show them the impact of increasing website traffic, conversion opportunities, and conversion rates on their bottom line. Using real numbers and emphasizing the bottom line is a very clear and authentic way to upsell current clients.

- Nichole Sellden | One Tribe Creative

With current clients who are not doing inbound marketing, drop references and show results using the HubSpot Sources report with conversion rates to demonstrate what you are doing with inbound clients. A well-done case study is worth a thousand words. They will inevitably ask how they can have access to those results, and this will open the door to the inbound marketing conversation.

With current inbound marketing customers, the best way to upsell them is to close the loop with HubSpot and to prove how much money you have generated. We work more than what they are paying for initially to show what they can ultimately get. Also, run extra campaigns and put in some time of your own without charging for it. When you show results, they will understand that there is a lot more you can do to generate business for them if they pay for it.

- Gabriel Marguglio | Nextiny Marketing

If a client is active on social, always ask how their social activity (and metrics) connect to overall business objectives. They rarely do, because without inbound marketing, it’s nearly impossible to demonstrate ROI for social media in terms of overall business objectives. Today, as often as possible, I ask this question. And if it seems appropriate, I tell a prospect, ‘It doesn’t make sense to be doing social media if you’re not doing inbound marketing.’ 

- Paul Furiga | WordWrite Communications

95% of the time, a prospective client wants inbound marketing, but they just don’t know what it’s called. A tip that has worked for us in the past is demonstrating to the prospect that the philosophy of inbound is perfectly aligned with their company philosophy or mission already. If the company prides itself on high-quality, targeted, and meaningful products or services, the leap to inbound is not hard to make. 

- Jessica Pavoni | Creatrix Marketing

Prime the conversation by having a clear marketing path laid out from the beginning. This means planning out your growth meetings in advance. This prepares the client to discuss growth initiatives and makes upsells much simpler -- as long as you are clearly demonstrating current and projected value as an agency with those marketing initiatives.

- Neil Eneix | Fannit

The best way to increase the value of a client account is with great results that they wanted in the first place.

Once you have a client's trust, you can recommend complementary activities that will deliver a similar ROI. 

It’s important that you don’t abuse this trust. All future suggestions must be evidence-based (using research and data) and made with their best interests in mind. But once you have gained trust, growing an account is easy.

- Bryan Adams | Ph.Creative


Originally published Sep 10, 2015 9:00:00 AM, updated February 01 2017