Inbound Marketing Strategies That Work

To demonstrate their ability to best serve their clients, agencies should adopt inbound marketing strategies that double as a portfolio. No prospective client will believe that an agency can help them with their content or sales if the agency’s tactics don’t build value.

On-Site Content Marketing

Agencies regularly recommend that their clients produce a company blog, e-books, and other high-value content that will lure search engine traffic. Such on-site content marketing is also essential for agencies. Just as clients’ content will likely touch on topics of interest to their customers, agencies’ content should revolve around marketing topics in order to establish the agency’s expertise.

That said, you shouldn’t release content just to have content. The most effective marketing content reflects your agency’s unique approach and caters to your client base. Create content that provides a lot of value to your prospective clients. Don’t be afraid to give a detailed overview of a topic; just be sure to include a strong call-to-action to book your services or schedule a consultation.

Keep a blog that offers specialized advice for readers. Your clients are probably small businesses, startups, and solopreneurs that need help with their marketing. Before — or even after — they contact you, they’ll likely do a web search for certain topics. Determine which keyword phrases are leading people to your website, then use a tool such as Answer the Public to find related searches. Create content based on these search phrases. By answering your prospective clients’ specific questions, you can provide them value before they even book, and that will give them a positive impression of your brand.

Create high-quality e-books and tease them in your blog. Marketing e-books are a dime a dozen, so think of an approach that hasn’t been taken before. Make the topic as specific and tailored to your target audience as possible. Rather than rolling all your knowledge into one giant book, create short, digestible books that touch on the nuances of a topic. Alternately, release one chapter at a time to keep readers hooked. Include an excerpt from each release in a blog post to lure readers in, then place the e-book download link behind a “gate” — usually a mailing list signup. By taking this approach, you can promote continued interest in your product rather than “one and done” signups, which are less likely to result in qualified leads.

Off-Site Content Marketing

With great authority comes great opportunity. Set yourself apart by appearing in publications relevant to your target audience. These “media hits” could include guest articles published in industry blogs or magazines; coverage by local, regional or national newspapers; or inclusion in a curated list (e.g. “Top 10 Agencies”).

To best achieve off-site content marketing, follow these tactics:

Write a compelling media release. Press releases have been replaced by the more flexible “media releases.” A good media release has three key ingredients: a “hook,” quotes from your agency’s leaders, and an explanation of why the story is relevant to their readers’ interests. No journalist is interested in your general day-to-day operations. Instead, pitch a story when you roll out a new product, begin charitable giving, or otherwise do something newsworthy. Bonus points if you can add a bit of human interest. When in doubt, hire a specialist to prepare the release for you.

Submit guest articles. Industry blogs and magazines regularly accept contributors. Submit a story idea to the editors (just ensure you abide by their submission policies). When submitting, ensure that the proposed topic hasn’t been covered already. Write an article that subtly expresses how your agency can uniquely solve the reader’s problem. Then, provide a bio (to appear next to your piece) that describes your authority and links to your agency’s website.

Join content-driven social media sites. Establish a publication on Medium or Quora, or create a Facebook group or Reddit community. These are technically off-site venues for your content, but you maintain more control over how your content is posted and distributed than you would by sending out a media release. Keep in mind that most of these platforms penalize obvious advertising, so ensure that you abide by the terms of use. For example, when running a Medium publication, overt calls-to-action can harm your content’s distribution. Keep it simple: A brief closing bio that links to your agency’s website is usually sufficient. This tactic focuses on establishing your brand as an authoritative source of information.

Plus, these platforms encourage a more personal approach. Write something similar to what’s on your agency blog, but share our perspective and experience as the author. This tactic humanizes your brand and improves reader engagement.

Email Marketing

Email marketing doesn’t have to mean sales emails, which entail an outbound approach. To use the inbound strategy in your email campaigns, think about cultivating a digital community via email. Note that in the United States, email newsletters only require opt-out; anyone can be added to a list. However, you should want your email recipients to opt-in. Include language such as “Join” and “Subscribe” to make your target audience feel like they are using their power of choice. Then, fill your emails with high-value content that comprises a mix of news, promotions, stories, and advice. You’ll see greater engagement and retention than if you simply push out sales emails every chance you get.

Launch a digital newsletter. Agencies need to establish their commitment to their clients. One great way to do this is to regularly release high-quality content via email and show that you are a reliable source of expertise. Don’t make this a mere redux of your blogs, e-books, and other content marketing. Create exclusive content that will provide value to your readers and give them a reason to stick around. (Tip: Post the content on no-index pages and require that your audience access it via email.) By providing your newsletter signup in the “gate” to your e-book, as described above, you can encourage people to sign up.

Run a giveaway or contest. Leverage your mailing list to boost audience engagement by hosting a sweepstakes, game, or contest. You could have subscribers “enter” by forwarding the message or simply clicking a link in the email. You should use this tactic sparingly so as to not cause “competition fatigue.” Link the contest to a special event, such as your anniversary or a holiday. Be sure that the prize exceeds the effort required and ties into your company’s offerings: Most users will happily click a button if it means they could win discounted services from your company.

Social Media Marketing

When we talked about creating community and boosting engagement above, you probably thought of social media. It’s the necessary evil of marketing: Social media is where a majority of your audience spends their time, but it’s also very challenging to break through the noise. Agencies don’t have the benefit of being able to post their new products on their Instagram. When all you have is company updates and news articles how do you create content that makes an impact?

Translate your content marketing into engaging posts. Social media users love to see highly visual content that provides value to them. Rather than simply sharing a link to your blog, why not take the blog article’s key points and distill them into a fun social media post? You could design an infographic, create a multi-slide post that shows a process or how-to guide, or even post a short video that demonstrates your points. Think outside the box to create content for which users will want to follow you.

Take followers behind the scenes. Ultimately, social media followers like to see human stories. There’s a reason that your photos of your meal get more engagement than the news article you shared. You can leverage this curiosity — or shall we say voyeurism — to your advantage. Show what people should love about your agency. Do you have a daily coffee ritual? Do you use funny names in your Slack channels? Share it! By humanizing your company, you can stand above your competitors.

Moving Forward with Inbound Marketing

Agencies need to take special care to demonstrate not only their expertise, but their accessibility, to their target audience. Thankfully, an inbound marketing approach is an excellent means of achieving both. By cultivating a digital community through high-value content, agencies can establish their authority while encouraging people to share and engage with the brand. That’s the primary goal of inbound marketing, and one that’s easily achievable by humanizing your brand.

As an agency, you must offer something that begins building a relationship with your prospective clients, while affirming your existing client relationships. Think about how you can tap into your clients’ needs and encourage their engagement (an inbound approach) rather than pumping sales messaging toward them (an outbound approach). That’s why inbound marketing is so crucial for agencies: It establishes you as an authority, a resource, and most importantly, a brand that your clients can trust.