BIAS BLOG

10 ways to ensure a great relationship with a HubSpot agency partner

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Choosing a good HubSpot agency partner can be one of the best or worst experiences for any marketing or sales leader. You don't know what you're gonna get in spite of impressive logos or good reviews and if your business uses an RFP approach that's even worse.

 

You could find out that your leadership team has a relationship with an agency you find unsuitable or inadequate from a service or strategy perspective and you get stuck with them.

 

But those being few and far between, how else can you figure out if the agency you get the good vibe from can deliver the goods?

 

Check out our top ten checklists below.

 

1 Avoid poor communication with your agency

 

You have to work with your agency to establish the rules and make sure that you are explicitly clear on your SLA and what exactly is delivered and what isn't.

 

Things that can cause a breakdown in the relationship between your two parties are:

 

  • A lack of clarity on what's being delivered and what is extra or not included 
  • Scope creep. For both sides, this is often the biggest bone of contention. Whilst the agency is responsible for being absolutely specific on details, they often don't want to put prospects off and so begins the inevitable spiral into friction. On the flip side, clients often underexplain themselves and get frustrated when a big "oversight" adds to the budget or is declared out of scope. Either you will end up firing the agency or they'll fire you. Be clear on your expectations, refuse on both sides to allow a conversation to start with "Oh  but I thought…" operate under "if we never discussed it, it's not included."
  • Your agency shows no clear indication they've worked with your business type before and offering inbound as the common factor. There are enough HubSpot agencies out there that focus on niches or multiple niches to find the right partner. Don't settle for anything less than an industry expert.
  • How often your retainer gives you access to the team. Agencies use HubSpot as it offers real-time reporting in the dashboard and there is an expectation that you use it as well as your monthly feedback and update sessions. Make sure you clarify this with your agency before signing a contract.

 

These are off the top of my head, but feel free to add your own experiences in the comments below. Poor communication often is the foundation of a fractured relationship and EMAIL is NOT the way to solve them. You have to talk and speak frankly but fairly so that you either repair the relationship or you break it with clear feedback and a good hand-off. Remember we are all adults and common courtesy should be maintained at all times.

 

2 Ensure maximum transparency with your agency

 

Often, and especially during the sales process, as a prospective customer, you want to hold all the cards and try to retain the upper hand. I mean, what's the point of a sales process if you're gonna make it easy 🤷 to get to the point and start solving your problems right?

 

It's crazy that we have to do this random dance like in some weird way we are judging you for being in need of support to attain your lofty ambitions. Or you have too much fun making agencies "earn" your money.

 

Your job is to find the right partner and to do that you need to be upfront, open and honest. The more transparent you can be the better the opportunity to find alignment and success. Things to share:

 

  • The real budget 
  • Appetite for experiments 
  • What's driving the decision to work with an agency
  • Whether you want a hands-on or hands-off solution 
  • What's the biggest goal for the business even if it doesn't align with your department's needs
  • How we make you look good
  • Which stakeholders are naysayers and why
  • Which stakeholders might be emotionally involved with maintaining the status quo and why
  • How many other agencies are pitching
  • If the technology we work with will face internal resistance and why

 

These are a few I can think of, but it's not to make the sale easy, it's to make the qualifying process worthwhile. 

 

If tech requirements don't match but the strategy does, it's still a no for both parties. If the budget is too big or too small, it helps disqualify unsuitable agencies or consultants.

 

Ultimately the more transparent you can be, the better it is for you as the buyer, ultimately you want to know who can make the best of your budget 😉.

 

3 Don’t simply accept overpromised or overblown potential results

This is one of my favourite items. Ask your sales team about happy ears, and if you're a salesperson reading this you'll already know.

 

A company that seemingly overpromises results for your budget without a valid reason or proof is likely a bad fit.

 

As a prospect with a limited budget, this can be easy to slide into but it's a big red flag.

 

A good HubSpot agency partner will tell you what's realistically possible even at the cost of losing your business so heed this specific advice.

 

An agency that talks about an approach that has long term growth, where they can use your available budget to return increased revenue to reinvest are likely a better fit. In reverse, an agency that only works with a particular size budget will remove itself from the process quickly.

 

Look for an explanation that involves competitive intelligence to show how the prescribed strategy will move the business forward before making any decisions.

 

4 Stay aligned with your partner agency

 

The crux of any long-lasting relationship is to stay close to your HubSpot agency partner. However, be realistic about your ongoing consulting needs during your engagement. Many agencies will factor an extra 3-5 hours per week into your contract for the first few months before dropping to 2-3 hours per week after that.

 

Capitalise on this time investment by utilising your account manager or agency contact as a sounding board for moving forward or discussing running experiments or suchlike. 

 

Remember your agency can be as good as you allow them to be, enable them to feel free to suggest pivots, options, and new approaches and my biggest tip here is to not give them all of the budgets. Imagine you have a set budget of £300,000 per year and you give out £250,000 reserving the other £50,000 for experimentation. Be upfront that this is your approach and watch the options roll in, all decent agencies will love this approach.

 

5 Don’t feel forced into a long term contract

This!!!!

 

Even as an agency owner myself, my advice is to initially either book a workshop with your proposed HubSpot agency partner or a maximum 6-month contract with agreed renewal based upon hitting the right milestones.

 

This allows your team to maintain confidence and control of the partnership and our advice would be 6 x 6 x 12 (Months) contracts as 6 months you can hide any cracks, over 12 months it's more difficult and with two shorter upfront agreements you safely hedge your bets.

 

6 Don’t kick anything off without a fully developed plan

 

Okay, this sounds like table stakes, right?

 

But I've heard of some people receiving the plan but not the metrics.

 

When you put a strategy together it's got to demonstrate a number of things, use this list as a checklist on which to compare:

 

  • Competitive analysis
  • A version of SWOT
  • A demonstrative understanding of your personas and how they fit into your buying cycle as well as how they intend to influence, support and attract them into your pipeline 
  • Keyword research & gap analysis 
  • Ad research
  • Opportunities 
  • 30-60-90 day game plan
  • KPIs and expected results 
  • Reporting

 

This list isn't exhaustive in any way but it does provide a key skeleton on which you can build depending on your specifications, goals and objectives. 

 

You tweak it slightly for a website project as below:

 

  • Competitive analysis
  • A version of SWOT
  • A demonstrative understanding of your personas and how they fit into your buying cycle as well as how they intend to influence, support and attract them into your pipeline 
  • Customer journey map and matched journey messaging
  • Content in hand before design work kicks off
  • Wireframes, then graphics, then XD version, then the live version
  • 30-60-90 day game plan
  • KPIs and expected results 
  • Reporting

 

7 Always choose an agency with industry experience it matters

 

Niche experts are abundant in the HubSpot agency world. Often agency owners and leadership teams have the real-world experience to be the voice of the customer and marry the pieces of the puzzle together.

 

They will have experience in marketing or working within your industry or have worked at other agencies gaining experience. For example, here at BIAS, a HubSpot agency partner based in London, we have experience across E-commerce, SaaS, LMS platforms, Financial Services and Real Estate. 

 

That doesn’t mean that we don’t sometimes work with other subscription-based businesses but our case studies clearly show that we get results with these types of businesses.

 

Dig into the partner, I mean, finance and real estate have regulation, as does Fintech or Proptech, so ask us if we are keeping abreast of the latest regulatory or technical developments and for our opinion. How would we address that in your marketing?

 

Qualify agencies out, don’t be bought by fancy presentations and big buzzwords.

 

8 Google [Agency Name] reviews and ask for explanations on bad reviews

 

Research your agency's online feedback. Reviews are freely available so dig into the history, look on Facebook, Google Search, Google My Business (now Google Maps), Clutch.co, the HubSpot partner directory and wherever else you can find them.

 

Talk to them about any bad reviews, but unless they are recent I wouldn’t use them as a yardstick, however, I would like to hear how they talk about those situations, what happened, how did they try to resolve the situation and so on. Be cautious for answers like “that happened before I started” which is deflecting.

 

9 Make sure you own all IP

 

Whilst many agencies will gladly give you the IP on the things that they build or develop for you, many won’t but will grant you a “license in perpetuity”, effectively allowing you to use and promote it forever. Whilst this is okay, it’s not great and we certainly have this on our own contract, but we do agree to give the IP to our clients when the need is there and we have no objections to doing so.

 

On most occasions, we don’t build things that are so unique that IP ownership is required but we do want to make sure that all parties have a legal claim to what is rightly theirs. Agree on this with your HubSpot agency partner upfront if you feel the need and also if you agree on a specific project.

 

10 Beware a lack of independent reviews, case studies or testimonials

 

Even I hate it when I see websites with some embedded testimonials that aren’t qualified on an external platform, such as the aforementioned clutch.co or the HubSpot partner directory. On our site, the testimonials have links back to the partner directory so you can see the full testimonials not just our excerpt.

 

Social trust is a key element of building relationships, especially in business. On top of the testimonials also ask for introductions to current clients for references. You may find that whilst the company is satisfied with the results, maybe the relationship piece could be better. It's a good time to probe into how communications are managed as well as services delivered.

 

Closing your HubSpot agency partner deal

 

Hopefully, what came across in this article was a very transparent open and fair breakdown of how you can best capitalise on your agency relationship. I wanted to write this so that you can best prepare for a healthy prolonged relationship, providing the results come through and also insight into the struggles both parties often run into.

 

At Digital BIAS, we love that our clients allow us to be open, honest and frank and that they benefit from advice on the larger business decisions than the marketing retainer alone which fosters a partnership that is commercially minded and focused on telling the right story, providing the right advice and seeing problems through to a satisfactory conclusion.

 

Thinking of signing an agreement with a HubSpot agency partner? Why not talk to our team first, we would be delighted to discover if there’s a fit and an opportunity.

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BY Paul Sullivan

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