The Ultimate Guide to Inbound Marketing for Agencies
- Inbound marketing is a strategy that focuses on attracting potential customers by creating content that addresses their needs and interests.
- Inbound marketing can be particularly effective for agencies because it positions them as thought leaders and experts in their field.
- Compared to other marketing strategies, the inbound method is more targeted, effective, and costs less money.
When you start an agency business, you’re most likely not thinking about lead sourcing right away—but you should. Generating leads that you can convert into paying clients are what keep your business alive. And one of the most important strategies to achieve a steady flow of leads is through inbound marketing.
Inbound marketing is an important tool to master as an agency owner. It gives you the power to draw in potential customers and convert them into paying clients. It allows for a one-to-one connection with potential clients, so you can build trust and create a more personalized experience.
In this guide, I’ll break down the fundamentals of inbound marketing for agencies. I’ll cover what inbound marketing is, the benefits it offers, and how to get started. On top of that, I’ll also explore a few digital marketing strategies that can help you maximize your inbound efforts.
What is inbound marketing?
Inbound marketing is an approach to marketing that involves building a foundation of valuable content that attracts your target market organically. To put it another way, you’re drawing your target market in, for instance via social media content, or blog posts that draw attention to your brand.
The inbound methodology is the opposite of—you guessed it—outbound marketing. Outbound marketing involves pushing information about your products and services out to both the public and your target market via ads, cold emailing, and cold calling.
What are the most common inbound marketing strategies?
As you’ve probably realized already, inbound marketing is an umbrella term that fits a number of very effective (and very different) strategies within it.
The most common inbound marketing strategies include:
Content Marketing: Writing content regularly and releasing it on your website or agency blog is a great way to attract new leads organically. Plus, blogging helps keep your audience engaged with fresh content around topics they’re interested in.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO): Search engine optimization (SEO) involves optimizing your website and its pages for specific keywords. This helps search engines like Google find your website easily when users search for those terms. This can help bring more organic traffic to your site from potential clients who are already looking for what you offer.
Social Media Marketing (SSM): Using social media to share content, engage with your audience, and reach new people is a great way to build relationships and ultimately convert leads into paying clients.
Email Marketing: Cold emailing may be an outbound marketing strategy, but that isn’t the only type of email marketing. Creating a newsletter based on your expertise is an effective way of attracting an audience and turning them into clients by providing real-world value.
Why is inbound marketing important for agencies?
Outbound marketing was the dominant approach to marketing for centuries. Today, marketers are raising questions about its viability and efficiency when it comes to B2B lead generation.
But is inbound marketing any better? Yes, there are multiple lead generation challenges which make the invound strategy more appealing.
1. Inbound marketing is targeted by default
The most common way people find content online is by typing a query or keyword into a search bar—on Google, Instagram, YouTube, and so on. If an algorithm decides that some content you’ve created matches that query or keyword, the searcher might find it. If it doesn’t, Google won’t match the query with your content.
This simple fact means that inbound marketing is an inherently targeted approach. You can use keywords and analytics data to ensure that the right people see your content—no matter what type of content it is. And this is why strategists believe that inbound sales deliver the best results.
2. Inbound marketing is more effective
When it comes to effectiveness and getting qualifield leads that your sales team can convert, the biggest factor is banner blindness. This term refers to people’s ability to subconsciously ignore ads they see online and in-person. Marketers have been aware of banner blindness for decades, but this mental AdBlock effect is only becoming more powerful. Currently, display ads have an CTR of 0.35%.
The second factor is that people are sick of outbound marketing tactics. How can I tell? Well, there’s the fact that 91% of people have unsubscribed from an email list they previously opted into. Or the fact that 84% of 25-34 year-olds exit websites with intrusive or irrelevant advertising.
Inbound marketing avoids these problems by targeting people who are actually looking for what you have to offer, therefore generating qualified leads if your landing pages are effective.
3. Inbound marketing is cost-effective
We’ve already established that inbound marketing is the superior marketing strategy. More than that, it’s also cheaper—in some cases, significantly so.
Marketing tactics where you need to chase after potential clients are usually more expensive because you’re paying to get your content in front of people—Google Ads charges you based on clicks, not the actual value added to your agency.
Inbound marketing can be much more cost-effective because you’re only paying for the content itself—and a piece of content can (theoretically) generate indefinite value at no additional cost to you.
How to develop an inbound marketing strategy for your agency
1. Create ideal client personas
By now, the importance of understanding who your clients are should be apparent. To be able to effectively target them with your inbound marketing efforts, you need to create detailed client personas that include both demographic and psychographic information.
I’m not going to go into much detail about creating ideal client personas here. If you’re curious, check out our guide on B2B customer profiles.
2. Identify triggers
Triggers (sometimes referred to as “marketing triggers” or “customer triggers”) are events, pain points, and problems that cause your ideal client to seek out information about your agency.
Triggers usually represent the top-of-funnel entry point for inbound marketing leads. Identifying what triggers people to engage with your content is the key to creating successful campaigns and ensuring you reach the right people, with the right message, at the right time.
To give a quick example, let’s say you run a web design agency. Potential marketing triggers might include “launching a startup” and “rebranding a business”—two events that might cause someone to seek out a web design agency. Creating content around these entry points will allow you to reach a more targeted audience.
3. Turn triggers into keywords
Triggers might drive your ideal clients to Google, but they don’t (always) represent the actual terms that they’ll be searching for. So, the next step is to turn these triggers into keywords to work into content.
This is a balancing act—you need to create a list of keywords that are specific enough to capture the attention of your ideal client personas without being so niche that no one searches for them.
While you could do this manually, I’d recommend taking advantage of a keyword research tool like Semrush’s Keyword Generator. This tool breaks keyword recommendations into topical groups that help ensure that you’re not deviating from the trigger you’re targeting (e.g., “rebrands”). Plus, you can filter and sort keywords by search volume, difficulty, and tons of other useful metrics.
Aim for primary keywords with 100-1,000 monthly searches that are rated “low” or “medium” difficulty. For each primary keyword, try to identify 2–4 semantic keywords that will add depth and breadth to the content you create later on.
4. Map your inbound marketing funnel
Your inbound marketing funnel should have three distinct sections—top, middle, and bottom. Each of these sections should appeal to a different stage of your ideal client’s journey by focusing on different topics and different formats.
Top (Awareness): Easily digestible content that’s designed to raise awareness about your services. Think social media posts, blog posts, and infographics.
Middle (Evaluation): Content that focuses on educating people about your services, such as case studies, webinars, and direct comparison articles.
Bottom (Conversion): Content that encourages prospects to take the desired action. Here, you’ll want to focus on things like white papers, video testimonials, demos, and in-depth guides.
Your map should include the kinds of content you’ll be creating for each stage of your inbound marketing funnel.
5. Turn keywords into topics
Using your keywords and funnel map, start brainstorming topics for your content.
Don’t be afraid to think outside the box! Just because a certain keyword is popular doesn’t mean that you have to write about it. Look for ways to provide unique value and stand out from the crowd.
For example, let’s say you’re targeting the keyword “web design agency.” You could go with a straightforward approach and write an article about why people hire web design agencies. Or, you could come up with something more unique and write an article comparing different web design philosophies and how to choose the right one for your business.
At SPP, we love to involve our own clients as much as we can, so we link to their services as examples, or embed quotes in blog posts.
6. Create an editorial calendar
Your next step is to create an editorial calendar that outlines the topics, publishing dates, and formats for your content.
An editorial calendar helps you keep track of every piece of content you’re creating and ensures that your overall message is consistent. Plus, it can help you identify gaps in your content plan or opportunities to repurpose existing content into something new.
If you’re just getting started, I recommend setting up a simple spreadsheet that you can share with your team. As your content strategy matures, you may want to invest in a more robust tool like Airtable or Notion for more visual, information-rich planning.
7. Set realistic targets and evaluate regularly
The final step in creating a content marketing plan is to set realistic targets and create metrics to track your progress, such as how many content leads you were able to secure.
For example, let’s say you want to double the number of leads that come from your website over the next six months. You should first determine what kind of growth rate you can realistically expect given your current performance, then set a goal accordingly.
Grow your industry knowledge
You should also create metrics to track your progress toward this goal. These could include:
Page views on content
Time spent on page
Click-through rate (CTR)
Return on investment (ROI)
I recommend creating a dashboard with all the information you need in one place using a tool like Google Data Studio or AgencyAnalytics. Then, just embed this dashboard somewhere where your inbound marketing team can easily access the information.
Inbound marketing tips for agencies
To finish things up, I thought it would be useful to offer a few tips for agencies looking to get started with inbound marketing.
Give clients a seamless onboarding experience: Your inbound marketing strategy means nothing if you don’t have a good onboarding process for new clients. With an SPP client portal, agencies can easily onboard clients with customizable pages, helpful documentation, and simple support options.
Invest in content creation and promotion: Quality content is at the heart of any successful inbound marketing strategy, so don’t skimp here. Make sure you have a budget for both creating new content and promoting it through digital channels.
Use automation for efficiency: Automation can save you a huge amount of time when it comes to lead nurturing and content promotion. Invest in software for automated lead generation that will help you automate routine tasks so that you can focus on the more important aspects of your business.
Focus on metrics that matter: There are a lot of metrics to track with inbound marketing, but you don’t have to track them all. Focus on the few that are most important for your business, and make sure you’re taking action based on the results.
Finally, if you’re struggling getting results, think about outsourced B2B lead generation done by a specialized agency.