Making an Investment: Tips for Vetting Strategic Marketing Companies

We like to think we have it together and can do it all, but we know that it’s not true. A lot of the times we feel like we are being pulled in 6 different directions. Sometimes this is not far from the truth.

Organizations can spread employees thin on multiple projects in order to save costs. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m all about saving money where you can, but spreading your most valuable resource (yourself and your employees) too thin can be counter productive.

In the workplace, when things get busy some “non-essential” projects get pushed to the back burner. When this happens, marketing is one of the areas that tends to go by the wayside. If you are looking for success and growth, ignoring to set good marketing practices can hurt you in the long run. Marketing is an ongoing project that needs continuous monitoring and evaluation. It is not a one-time thing; it’s an investment. You may think its more cost effective to figure this all out in-house, however, if you don’t have the human capital to concentrate on this, you may want to look for help from a professional marketing group. To make sure you get the best bang for your buck with said investment, here are several tips for vetting a strategic marketing company.

How’s the Fit?

When you start looking into different marketing agencies, one of the first things you need to explore is how well they will fit with your company and its needs. They will be representing your organization; are they capable of echoing your voice and values? Also will their communication styles jive with yours? If your group values face time, you don’t want to work with a strategic marketing company that relies heavily on email communication.


Though you are outsourcing your marketing management, you may not be outsourcing your graphic and web design projects. Or maybe you already have other vendors taking care of those needs. When interviewing potential agencies, discuss how they will collaborate with other groups in the creative process. If they are not willing or will have issues working with the platforms that have already been established, it’s best to know before signing a contract.


This should probably go without saying, but you want to make sure that the group you choose is professional and educated in marketing skills. You’d like to think anyone who presents themselves as “marketer” is professional and competent, but sadly that’s not always the truth. Before even picking up the phone, do some research, look at their portfolio work, do they list education backgrounds? How long have they been established? Remember you are making an investment; do some leg work first.

Know your Aim

Are you looking for more content marketing management, digital, or both? Be sure you know what your goals are before starting the vetting process or you may end up wasting time vetting marketing companies that can’t provide what you are looking for. Once you have decided, be sure to ask goal-driving questions. Just because a group says they do digital and/or content management, doesn’t mean they do it well. Find out what their strengths are and if they fit your specific needs.


Think of this process as you would hiring a new employee. You wouldn’t just hire someone off the street no questions asked, right? Ask for client references and a list of past portfolio work.

Marketing is essential to helping a business grow especially in the digital age. Consumers and potential clients are looking for a brand with a story. Relying on word of mouth can only go so far. Remember marketing is a long term investment for long term rewards. When choosing a marketing strategy and a potential outside company, keep this all in perspective.

Looking Back on INBOUND16

Cold calling is dead.

It’s just that simple. We now live in a time where marketing no longer reaches out by annoyance but by content filled with rich stories, SEO, automation, analytics, and so many other intuitive methods. Generally anything besides making those awkward phone calls in hopes of securing a customer.


That’s the beauty of Inbound Marketing. The barriers have been taken down. The opportunity for creativity and passion to be instilled in the way we choose to represent our brand is endless. Inbound brings forth a new frontier where captivating attention–and day trading it–becomes the holy grail of our marketing efforts.20161108_175314

INBOUND16 brought together over 18,000 attendees who live and breathe in the world of marketing, sales, and CEO-land, as well as HubSpot customers and agencies who understand the mentality and passion behind inbound and organic reach. All of us scurrying from session to session, taking notes and absorbing as many thoughts and tactical tips as possible to bring back to our organizations.

A few INBOUNDers from our marketing department flew to Boston to be a part of the gathering and came back full of insight. Upon landing, these three scattered throughout the convention center to gain the best marketing knowledge in the industry.

In the three and a half days of attendance Cherie, Cody, and Mark witnessed powerful keynote presentations from marketing gurus such as Gary Vaynerchuck, the “eloquently” spoken founder of VaynerMedia and host of #AskGaryVee, as well as Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah, Founders of HubSpot. Celebrities filled the halls of INBOUND as well. Stories of the rise and grind were told by Anna Kendrick, Michael Strahan, and Serena Williams. Even Alec Baldwin graced INBOUND16 with his presence one morning! The passionate life-tales and insight didn’t end there. Hundreds of breakout sessions filled all 80 rooms of the Boston Convention center as well as both of their grand ballrooms.20161110_141831_001

To summarize INBOUND completely is almost impossible. To experience this wealth of powerful knowledge and standout mentors, as well as those sharing the field of inbound from around the globe together in one location is something you truly have to be there for.

To squeeze just a little bit of this experience out of the conference we asked our three in-house-INBOUND-incumbents what moments of enlightenment, insight, actionable tips, and fun they experienced individually.

Cherie – PR & Social Media Specialist, ABG Capital: “INBOUND16 was such an incredible experience that it’s difficult for me to pick just one takeaway as my favorite. The initial thought I have anytime I reflect on INBOUND(16) is how amazing it was to be among other people in my field who just “get it.” The fellow attendees understand how crucial it is for us marketers to do what we do for a business. They also understand that while we have the “fun” jobs of the company, what we do takes hard work, strategic planning, analyzation, concentration, and creativity.

I’m downright giddy at INBOUND listening to others in my field “talk shop.”  And while my focus at work is on PR and Social Media, I have the opportunity to attend sessions on design, video, content creation, and storytelling, which aids in rounding out my expertise. If you want to be at the top of the sales and marketing field, a trip to INBOUND is a must for getting there!”


Mark – Product Manager, InspiraFS:  The Session titled: ‘The Science of Selling: How to Sell the Way our Brains are Wired to be Influenced and Form Buying Decisions’ really stood out for me.

David Hoffeld, The Hoffeld Group stated “63% of the behaviors salespeople deploy decrease the likelihood of a sale.” SAD! As marketers, we should care deeply about how prospects’ brains react to sales strategies. At the end of the day we are trying to drive sales, just in a different environment. There’s no reason we shouldn’t incorporate the science of selling into our content.



Cody – Inbound Marketing Specialist, ABG Capital: INBOUND showed me that your story matters. Something that outbound, or “interruption marketing,” doesn’t necessarily embrace. Interruption marketing is simply the interruption of someone’s activity to grasp his attention…it’s an annoyance. We’ve all seen in it with spam, pop-ups, ugly banner ads, cold calling, and even TV.

In Gary Vaynerchuck’s keynote he explained that the television networks we know and love are becoming extinct. What’s replacing them? Intuitive social media platforms that tell stories. Our iPhones have become the basis of our entertainment. They’re our new television sets. They’re filled with the networks we know and love–Facebook, Twitter, SnapChat, Instagram.

We follow brands and celebrities by choice. Not by interruption. We “tune-in” to their stories, latch onto their content, and implement their output into our daily lives. Not because we were caged into watching a 30 second spot in the middle of the Walking Dead because our On-Demand isn’t working–but because we as a society, we as a human race, place emotional ties into what we view and love–the quality of story-telling.


Tactical Advice You Can Use Today20161109_144812

As I said earlier, summing up the lessons learned from INBOUND in their entirety is nearly impossible. However, we can give you few actionable tips that can improve your website and your conversions today!



Here are some tips you can incorporate right now:

  • Remove your slider/carousel hero banner. These diminish CTR (Click Through Rate) and take away from your value proposition.
  • A value proposition–you should have one! Peep Laja with ConversionXL has one of the best articles on how to create a great value proposition. Read it and test yours starting today. If you find this hard, just pretend someone asked you what you do and how you’re different. Once you’ve compiled that, organize it into a value prop and get it up on your site.
  • Define your conversion funnel assumptions. When someone lands on your homepage, where would he or she logically go next? Make that next step easier. That’s conversion optimization in a nutshell, and you can try that for each page. Use any data you have, or start with assumptions and test, test, and test some more.
  • Optimize your blog. Aside from your homepage, your blog is probably the second highest visited part of your website. You’d be surprised how your blog is leaking opportunities to convert.
  • Testing…Testing…Testing! So how can you do that? Add Hotjar to your site today. This will show you heatmaps, user recordings, and more.

Start using these tips today! We’ll be sure to enlighten you with more after INBOUND17. Grab your tickets for next years INBOUND with your company; you never know, we might just happen to see you there!


Generation Z: The Next Big Thing

When you hear the terms “Baby Boomer” or “Millennial” certain attributes come to mind. But, what about when you hear “Generation Z”? Most people would be looking at me like my dogs do when I ask them if they want a treat; head cocked to the side with a questioning expression. Generation Z, the iGeneration, or Homeland Generation as they are often referred to, are the next “up and coming” generation for employers, marketers, and retailers to be focusing on. As the generational cohort after the Millennials, this group is just starting to enter the workforce and flex their buying power. Let take a look at what makes the iGeneration tick.

Defining the Group

  • Follow Millennials in the generational time line born roughly around 1995-2010iGeneration
  • Ages range from  5 to 20 years old currently
  • Digital natives; can’t remember a time before the internet or social media
  • Too young to remember 9/11 or were not born yet
  • “Right now” culture
  • Practical

How are they Different from Millennials?

  • Prefer apps like Snapchat, Vine, and Whisper
  • Rarely use email for personal use
  • Virtual community just as important as their physical community
  • Have learned from Millennial’s social media mistakes

So how does this translate into the real world?

Let’s synthesize this information and paint a picture of how a stereotypical Generation Z’er acts. The iGeneration are the toddlers who knew how to work an iPhone better than their parents. Many are now getting ready to graduate high school or have just entered college or the workforce. The younger end of the spectrum is watching the “For Kids” sections on Netflix and have their own account log in. They live life on multiple screens and are experts at multitasking, surfing the net, texting, and watching YouTube at the same time. They watch a lot of shows but not on cable. They prefer streaming services. They post Snapchat videos that will “disappear” rather than tagging photos on Facebook for longer periods. Growing up in a post-9/11 culture and watching their parents work through the recession has given them a more practical view for their future plans. Many want to be an entrepreneur and make their hobby into a career. Though they are tech oriented they have very short attention spans. A marketer better be able to get the big pictures across in 5 seconds or less, otherwise this group has already moved on. They also rarely use email, and are probably part of the reason marketers have moved to texting deals to consumers rather than waste time on mass email blasts.

I see a lot of these qualities in my younger brother. The seven years between us put me in the Millennial group (I was born in 1989) and my brother is just on the cusp. Being born in 1996 is technically he is considered part of Generation Z. My brother has a Facebook but rarely uses it, instead he “Snaps” everything. Since I don’t have a Snapchat I just get screen shots of his antics texted to me. He is in his sophomore year in college. He was a toddler when 9/11 occurred and remembers little from that day (I can remember the exact outfit I was wearing), and both of our lives have been shaped by what happened that day. Currently my brother is pursuing a degree in Homeland Security and Emergency Management; working to make his “hobby” (though I’d call it more of a passion) of being a volunteer firefighter and EMT a career. 

Take Aways

  • New group just starting to influence the market with their buying power with more to join them in the coming years
  • Do not lump them in with Millennials
  • Get to the point and fast
  • Forget Facebook and email
  • Make practical appeals

Do you have any other thoughts about Generation Z? How are they different from your generation?

Steps to Better Marketing Team Building

“Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships” is a quote famously given by the legend, Michael Jordan. A lot of people get confused when it comes to the topic of talent. Most think it’s all they need to succeed. In some cases, such as professional basketball, it’s a huge part. Some people are born with natural abilities that make up their talent; there’s definitely a big difference between an individual who is 6’8” and someone who is 5’4” when trying out for a basketball team. Who do you think is more likely to be the first round pick? I’ll admit, there is some flaw to that analogy. Work ethic, hustle, and mental capacity make up the difference whether it’s in the NBA or in your marketing department.


When building or refining your marketing team, it’s really all about filling in the gaps between talent, brains, and hustle. Which brings us to our first step in building the ultimate marketing team.

Step 1. Identify the gaps.

Let’s do a little audit with your current marketing team. Divide your employees into categories. The creative, the strategist, the analysts, and so on. Now identify the gaps. What are gaps exactly? Gaps are when your marketing team is missing or doesn’t have the right skill set to keep the cogs turning.

This inevitably means you need to grow your team and you’ve reached that “oh crap” phase.

The good news is that you’ve caught your dilemma and you’re taking the initiative to fix it. So good for you! You’ve now realized that there are blocks in your team that are preventing you from achieving your goals. Your talent gaps have led to performance gaps. The bad news is that performance gaps act as ceilings on your results.

What you shouldn’t do is go and hire 10 new people to fill these gaps. Schedule evaluations with your current team members to identify what’s working for them, what their passions are, and what you actually need. You’ll be surprised when you find that hidden pool of talent within your current team hasn’t surfaced until this point. Sometimes all it takes is being personal with your employees and showing them that your interest is to cultivate their passion.

Step 2. Be realistic.

If you had unlimited resources, you would create the perfect team in no time. The cost of the team would be unimportant. What you need to focus on is where you stand now, what resources you currently have available, and where it all exists in reality. Create a plan that outlines how you’re going to fill the remaining gaps. Minimize waste in your department to free up your budget and begin to position your team to scale.

Step 3. Worry about the gap, not the project.

Turnover isn’t a word that sits well with any business of any size. Sometimes it creates problems, but it’s exactly what you need to weed out the main gaps within your department. You can look at it one of two ways; you’ll have the waste of always looking for new talent, delays due to always trying to find that perfect talent, bringing people up to speed…OR you can look at it as a worthwhile investment in furthering your team’s strengths. Don’t hire contractors and agencies for what they can accomplish. Hire them for what they do best. There are agencies that can give you the world, but there are only few who can work with their passion. There are people who were made to do a few things really well; those people were designed to fill your gaps.

Now it’s time to begin again. Remember, a well-oiled marketing team is always going to be a work in progress and will be far from perfect.

Not everyone who starts with you will make it to the finish. Realizing that priorities and needs change in team members as well as the company, helps rationalize what could be a tough decision ahead.

Team building is a necessary part of business. Forming the right team is an art that few businesses have yet to master. Are you the next Picasso?