The HubSpot partner team spends a lot of time helping marketing agencies develop their inbound marketing skills and their businesses. There's good ones, there are bad ones, and there are good ones in the making. It might make sense for you to hire a new inbound marketing agency, unencumbered by the old ways of marketing . But, you should be vigilant as you interview new firms. 

If you're hiring an agency, you should test for the aptitudes below. Hiring an inbound marketing agency is like hiring an employee, since inbound marketing is NOT a one time thing.  Don't jump into it lightly and don't get enamored by a glossy finish that's rotten below the surface. 


If they don't know how to sell in the right way, they should forget about starting a marketing agency.  A good agency knows how to generate leads and referrals, develop rapport, ask probing questions to uncover challenges , establish credibility and trust, help prospects develop marketing goals , present budget-appropriate plans and ask for business. These aren't skills innate to most marketers. But, they're critical if a marketer wants to build a business. Why would you hire a marketer that doesn't know how to sell? How can a marketer who can't sell, help you grow your sales? 

Ironically, these sales skills seem to get lost somewhere along the way when agencies get to a certain size. Their sales tactics tend to be about impressing prospects, instead of identifying how to help them. 

Account Management

If an agency isn't strong at managing their accounts by setting expectations, reviewing activities, seeking buy-in, inspiring continued action and reporting results, they'll quickly lose clients. Unfortunately, I've worked with a handful of agencies that have significant churn issues. They're good [enough] at client acquisition, but fail when it's time to manage the account. 

In order to avoid firms like this, ask questions about how they do monthly reviews. Know what they'll be doing in month 3 and month 6. Resist hiring agencies who tell you that you need to spend 3 months analyzing and fixing things, or redesigning your site from scratch. These things might be necessary, but a good inbound marketing agency gets to work generating leads and sales right away, by launching landing pages and a blog. They'll gradually circle back and fix the other issues. 

Project Management

Delivering inbound marketing services isn't easy. It usually involves communication with lots of different parties, including both the client and the speciaiists who do the work. With inbound marketing, it's important that project managers also know how to do some of the inbound marketing tasks themselves. It's hard to manage and direct someone who will conduct the social media marketing activities or build a lead nurturing sequence , if they don't know the steps involved.

Graphic Design & Web Programming 

In order to design and launch a website, blog or landing page, artistic graphic design skills and css development skills are absolutely necessary. These are often not possessed by the same person, but these two people need to work closely, from start to finish, throughout any design process. 

Analytical Skills

In order to do inbound marketing, reading graphs and tables is a critical skill. Surprisingly to me, reading graphs and drawing conclusions from the data is not a common skill. Most people look at graphs and jump to illogical conclusion, instead of drawing accurate ones. It's impossible to improve results without understanding them first.  Ask your prospective agency how they measure results and how they report them. Each month, they should review them with you and talk about how you can improve.

Most certified HubSpot partners take this a step further. They use a HubSpot trial to benchmark where you are now, and to put together a plan that is custom for you, based on analysis of your site, and your competitors' sites. 

Content Creation Skills

Content creation is the most critical skill for an inbound marketing agency to possess. Content is the engine that draws traffic; it is the offer that compels a visitor to convert into a lead; it is what educates a lead so they become sales ready. Content is key to inbound marketing. Without it, inbound marketing does not exist. An agency who isn't strong at creating or sourcing blog posts , webinars , ebooks, white papers, videos and other content isn't an inbound marketing agency. 

Does your marketing agency have all of these skills? Or at least have access to them when needed? 

( Photo via sarchi )

Live Webinar: A Day in the Life of the Inbound Marketer

Inbound Marketer

Feel overwhelmed by all the things you need to do to be a successful inbound marketer? Learn from 2 inbound marketers at HubSpot on how to prioritize your days and leverage internal & external resources to get the highest ROI from inbound marketing. Reserve your spot now !

When: Friday, March 26, 2010 at 12:00 PM ET

Originally published Mar 20, 2010 9:13:00 AM, updated July 28 2017


Agency Talent