Posted May 2, 2013 7:00 am by with 5 comments

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inbound marketing assessment stethoscope (1)Nothing comes from a poorly matched client-agency relationship except a whole lot of wasted time, pent up frustration, and a laundry list of lessons learned.

Most agencies get fired because they shouldn’t have paired up with a client in the first place. The relationship went sour because expectations weren’t properly set during the sales and onboarding process.

Luckily, there’s a way to prevent an impending client-agency breakup: conduct a proper assessment at the very onset of the engagement.

A proper inbound marketing assessment combines:

  • an audit of the prospect’s current marketing efforts
  • and a conversation that allows your agency to both educate them on the benefits of inbound marketing, and ask them the probing questions to uncover their marketing goals and challenges.

Combining these two elements — educating and probing — helps your prospect understand where their current marketing program falls short so they can begin to view you as the expert equipped to help them seize opportunities to improve their visibility, authority and likeability online.

Here are just four reasons why your agency should learn how to conduct an inbound marketing assessment if you don’t do so already:

1. You Can Diagnose Before You Prescribe

Just as a doctor wouldn’t prescribe medicine without first assessing a patient, agencies shouldn’t prescribe a marketing plan without an informed diagnosis. Agencies can’t always trust a client’s self-diagnosis either; just because they think they have an inbound traffic problem doesn’t mean they need to redesign their website.

The inbound marketing assessment serves as the series of exams that help the client and agency identify and agree upon marketing goals, needs, obstacles, timelines, and budget. The inbound marketing gameplan that follows is the prescription — the strategic and tactical roadmap that will cure the client’s ailments.

2. You Can Distinguish Whether Clients Really Know What They Need

I used to be the designated social media practitioner for a full service digital marketing agency. While there, I learned a little something: The customer (client) is not always right.

One client actually came to our agency claiming they needed to “do social media.” Why? Because “everyone was doing it.” My team abided, seemingly without question, probably because we foresaw this opportunity as a quick win that would lead to a longer-term engagement. As a result, we didn’t do the proper homework up front to sufficiently uncover their business goals. So, naturally, when the scope of work turned into various project plans, guess what “doing social media” turned into?

Creating a Facebook page.

That’s it. That’s all. I was tasked with clicking a few buttons, uploading a photo or two, copying and pasting a few blurbs about the company’s background and mission statement into the About section, and rallying 25 agency employees to Like the brand new page so I could claim the company’s vanity Facebook URL.

When all was said and done, I of course had made zero impact on the client’s top-funnel brand awareness, much less their bottom line. The agency got paid to set up a web property that’s utterly useless without ongoing content creation and community management to support it. These are the kinds of one-off projects that agencies get trapped doing when they don’t adequately assess or question what clients think they need versus what will actually help the client accomplish their business goals.

3. You Can Weed Out the Clients Who Aren’t a Good Fit

Many agencies are quick to onboard any client willing and ready to fork over money, and by doing so, they sacrifice long-term prosperity because chances are, without proper vetting, the relationship is doomed from the get go. Feeling like you’ve found the perfect partner is just as important for your agency as it is for your prospective clients, and the inbound marketing assessment is the perfect opportunity to discover whether you can really jive with this client for the long haul.

Just ask the folks at Kuno Creative, an agency that used to have over 300 clients. As they transitioned from a web development and print shop into a full service inbound marketing agency over the years, they whittled that number down to about 20 enterprises who could make the commitment to an ongoing retainer-based marketing endeavor. Kuno’s monthly cash flows grew while they minimized the headaches associated with working with clients who didn’t understand or value the services they provide.

4. You Can Set Your Agency Up For Longer, Retainer-Based Relationships

The ultimate goal for any marketing agency is an enduring client engagement. You get there by becoming invaluable in solving the marketing challenges your clients can’t solve on their own. But first, your client has to realize just how much they need the services you sell.

That’s exactly what an inbound marketing assessment intends to do: create an opportunity for your agency to give away a bit of expertise in order to get more information about what’s plaguing your prospect’s marketing success, ultimately allowing your services to sell themselves.

After demonstrating the amount of effort, technical expertise and marketing prowess required to carry out an inbound strategy throughout the series of conversations with your client during the assessment, the client will be much more inclined to hire your agency for an ongoing, retainer-based engagement.

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To learn what questions to ask prospective customers and what marketing efforts to audit during an inbound marketing assessment, download your own free copy of How to Diagnose Need and Create Demand for Inbound Marketing Services [+ Printable Cheat Sheet].


About The Author

shannon popShannon Johnson is a Inbound Marketing Content Creator for HubSpot’s agency channel.  Coming from  an agency and then the content team at Radian6 (now part of the Salesforce Marketing Cloud), Shannon specializes in agency-focused content. Find this Arizonan-turned-Bostonian dog lover at @shannopop

  • is the client getting what they are really looking out for? That is why A proper inbound marketing assessment is neccessary! Great articles!

  • Shannon, I cannot tell you how many times I’ve worked on projects where the client wants to do social media and in the end they just want me to setup their Facebook/Twitter accounts. 1. It feels it feels like busy work (because it is), and 2. You don’t feel like you’ve added any real value. Anyway, I’m Glad you touched on this. Thanks for the post!

  • dottourism

    Great piece Shannon – currently repositioning ourselves and great reasoning for assessements.

  • Thanks Shannon, I really enjoyed this top article.
    I love “Diagnose before you prescribe”

  • Shannon is so sexy.