7 Taboo Inbound Marketing Topics You Should Know About

7 Taboo Inbound Marketing Topics You Should Know About

The word “taboo” has roots in the sacred and supernatural, but most of us use the term when we’re referring to a subject that’s “off limits” in a certain context (i.e., that really awkward political discussion at Thanksgiving dinner).

Taboo topics are everywhere—including the inbound marketing space. And even though they can get a little uncomfortable, the good thing about taboo topics is, the conversation that stems from them is always, at the very least, interesting! At Nectafy, we love a great conversation, so we’re going to mirror your crazy uncle Bob who won’t stop talking about the election and lay some of the most taboo inbound marketing topics out there for discussion.

These are subjects that every inbound agency wrestles with at some point—and if you’re planning on working with an agency, they’re topics you should know about. So take a look through them, then feel free to leave us a comment below if you have questions or thoughts (or contact us if you want to discuss things further).

7 Taboo Topics In Inbound Marketing

1. “How do we sell inbound marketing services if we’re just getting started?”

HubSpot has defined a great deal of the inbound industry, and because of this, they’ve described—in great detail—what an inbound marketing agency should sell. That’s fine in some respects, as HubSpot’s resources make it much easier for inbound agencies to get up and running. But these resources also make it easier to just “sell what HubSpot tells them to sell.” It’s already prepackaged and ready to go!

As an agency, there are a few things to consider to make sure you are offering your clients exactly what they need. One is that every client is different—if you simply ascribe to every angle HubSpot tells you to, you may spend more time telling your clients what they need than you do actually listening to them. You can’t know that they need what you’re selling if you don’t know all the facts.

The caveat, though, is that sometimes clients don’t know what they need. For instance, many clients don’t want to develop a foundational plan—they want immediate results. So, as inbound agencies, we do have to take some time to educate our clients on why they need this foundational plan. In cases like these, we need to know what we’re selling inside and out, so we can properly communicate the need for it to our clients.

If you’re a business owner and you’re planning to talk with multiple agencies (or you already have), you’ll more than likely notice that they all differ on how they present their services. That can be a real challenge.

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2. “Can we buy leads and import them into HubSpot to jump-start lead acquisition for our clients?”

Generating authentic leads is at the core of inbound marketing, and there are certainly some successful methods to help with that process.

But some inbound marketers attempt to bypass this process by purchasing lead lists and adding them as contacts into HubSpot. We’re not saying this is always a bad thing—there may be a time and place for purchasing lead lists. But dumping 20,000 names into an inbound marketing software, setting up an email base, then annoying the heck out of people is about the furthest thing from inbound marketing.

As we see it, inbound is predicated on providing value to a lead—not giving them information they didn’t ask for. (It’s like when your Aunt Judy tells you to “hurry and have kids before you dry up”… not really advice you asked for.)

3. “How do we generate content for our clients with someone else’s name on it and still be authentic?”

In most cases, putting your name on something you didn’t write would be disingenuous at best—but in inbound marketing, it’s an often-used yet not-often-discussed topic.

It’s worth noting that virtually all business leaders use ghost writers for their books. The books are based on their ideas that are then organized, added to, and formatted by a writer. At Nectafy, we think of ghost writing for our clients in the same way—we conduct interviews with subject matter experts in our client’s organization or industry, and then write for them based on that information. We decided that for us to be authentic, it’s important for our writers to create content this way.

If writers in an agency or company don’t have any contact with the person whose name they’re writing under and feel unsettled about this, some agencies have them publish the content under the company’s name instead. This takes attribution away from a specific person and puts it on the company as a whole.

4. “How can we ethically market ourselves to reflect the business we want to become (even without a whole lot of experience to back it up)?”

There are many times throughout the lifetime of a company when transitions are necessary for success—maybe you need to alter your product offering or reach out to an entirely different buyer persona. But during those transitions, when you know what you need to do but haven’t really done it yet, what does that mean in terms of your marketing? How do you balance reaching your goals while at the same time being honest with your potential clients?

Here’s an example: When we built our current Nectafy website, we listed several services that were actually brand new to us; we were still trying to figure out the best way to deliver them. It was too early in the process to claim we had proven results, but we had to describe how they would benefit a client. How do you manage a situation like this ethically?

We’ve found it comes down to positioning yourself accurately and honestly. If you are trying on a new service or putting out a new product, describe to the customer what they’ll benefit from or experience, and make sure you’re upfront about your aspirations in this area during the sales process.

5. “Can we objectively present the good and bad of HubSpot while still earning a commission on sales?”

Before we get into the “taboo-ness” of this topic, we have to tell you a little about our history. If you’re at all familiar with Nectafy, you may have heard us mention that we position ourselves as an objective third-party agency regarding HubSpot. In other words, when we started working with HubSpot, we decided not to take any agency partner commission for our HubSpot sales.

This was a decision Lance made years back to ensure that we remained neutral. We didn’t want our customers to think we were trying to sell them on a solution that may not be exactly right for them. But at the end of 2016 we reevaluated, and (plot twist!) we have decided to take our HubSpot partner commission in 2017.

As we were reevaluating, we simply asked ourselves if we were able to take the HubSpot partner commission and still be objective (since that was the point of not taking it in the first place!). We determined that we absolutely could. In fact, one of our clients now does not use HubSpot but instead uses a competing automation platform. For them, it’s what makes the most sense right now.

It’s one thing to beat a drum about something but another if it’s not actually helping solve a problem. So we’ll continue as we have in the past—we’ll recommend HubSpot to clients when we believe it’s the best option (which will likely be most of the time!) and when it’s not, we’ll say so.

All that to say, if you’re considering working with an agency that’s a HubSpot partner, you should be aware that they’ll get a cut when you sign up for HubSpot. If you feel like they’re putting undue pressure on you to use HubSpot’s software, it could be for their own benefit. But talk to them openly about it—there is a difference between educating on the merits of HubSpot as an excellent marketing tool and trying to force a client into using it, and both parties should take that difference seriously and be willing to discuss it.

6. “Should we take on a client that has questionable or unethical business practices?”

In our opinion, inbound only really works if you’re able to build up credibility with potential customers—and if a company has questionable or unethical business practices, could they build credibility enough for inbound to work anyway?

Aside from that, there’s also something to be said for working with companies you “click” with. If you’re approached by a client whose value structure doesn’t line up with your own, it’s going to make for a tumultuous relationship.

Here’s a hypothetical example: One of our core values is integrity, which—for us—means when there’s a choice between what’s right and what’s convenient, we choose the former. So if we discovered something about a potential client’s business that went against our idea of integrity, we would step aside and choose not to work with this company.

7. “How should we present pricing for our inbound services?”

Pricing isn’t only taboo in inbound marketing—it’s something plenty of businesses don’t like to discuss openly. But this is unfortunate, as one of the main concerns many potential customers have is whether they can afford inbound services.

We frequently see pricing presented in these two ways:

  • A price range. This is something we do on our current inbound marketing services page, but it’s not without its flaws. For example, we note that our inbound services range from $7,000–$11,000 per month. But there’s obviously a big difference between those two prices! Many agencies who use this pricing method commit a certain number of hours per month to each client, but this model doesn’t promote quick or efficient work on the part of the agency.
  • A points system. We’ve seen a lot of the more effective agencies (including our own!) adopt this method recently. A points system assigns a certain number of points to each type of service an agency provides, and clients then “buy” a number of points. This essentially forces the agency to be flexible about what they’re offering, which is helpful for the client. In turn, it steers the conversation away from dollars and toward actions, which we think allows for a better conversation. Clients can then focus on a result instead of individual deliverables—and we think this is better all around.

You may ask, “Why is pricing so taboo?” That’s a fair question. We imagine some agencies think that talking about their pricing openly gives their competition something to target—and perhaps they’re right. But every company knows where its numbers need to be in order to be profitable, so will others seeing your pricing really matter in the long run? It comes down to executing your job efficiently to ensure profitability.

Let’s keep the conversation going.

The more you know about these topics, the better equipped you’ll be for choosing an inbound agency that’s right for you. So let’s keep the conversation going: What taboo topics have you found in your conversations with inbound agencies? Leave a comment below or tweet us @nectafy—we’re ready to talk about it.

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  • Rajagopalan C

    When you were not taking Hubspot commission, were you passing it on, to the clients?

    • Lance Cummins

      No, we were actually not receiving anything from HubSpot, and we encourage our clients to work directly with HubSpot to arrive at a pricing structure that is mutually beneficial for them.

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