How to find a content marketing agency that delivers great content and knows how to promote to your target audience effectively.
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According to the Content Marketing Institute, only 42% of marketers consider themselves good at content marketing - which means nearly two thirds are failing badly. That’s a great shame, because they are losing out on a ton of new prospects, leads and customers.
In a world where communications is driven by social media, content is the currency of sharing. If you have a great message, and you know how to share it, you can achieve amazing levels of success through effective promotion.
What is Content Marketing?
Before we dive in, let’s be clear on what we are talking about. Content marketing can be defined as:
“Content marketing is a marketing technique of creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and acquire a clearly defined audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action.”
In other words, instead of using paid advertising to drive sales, companies are investing in creating various forms of content for potential customers to consume. These are aimed at building relationships that lead to sales, and might include:
...and more. All kinds of content can be used to engage with potential customers and start a meaningful conversation.
However, creating content is only half the story. Effective promotion is the ‘yang’ to content creation’s ‘ying.’ You need both to achieve any kind of harmony and get results.
And this is where most business go wrong. They have a solid process for creating content, and churn it out on a consistent basis. Often it’s great content - thoughtfully planned, professionally produced and elegantly presented. But without effective promotion, the result is likely to be the sound of…
It’s what Brian Dean calls the ‘publish and pray’ approach. You build it and hope they will come. But in most cases, they don’t. And that’s where a good content marketing agency can fill the gap.
The best content marketing agencies don’t just create content - they have a proven strategy for promoting your work to:
So how do you find a professional content marketing agency that is a good fit for your requirements? Here’s a proven 10-step process you can follow to get results:
1. Define Your Requirements
Before you even start talking to content marketing agencies, you need to know exactly you want to achieve. Define exactly what your business goals are for the project:
- What market do you want to address?
- What is the precise message you wish to convey?
- What’s your endgame for the campaign?
- How much budget will you allocate?
- How will you measure success?
In any company/agency relationship, failure often results from poor communication and a misunderstanding of what needs to be achieved. So make sure you are 100% clear on what you want your agency to accomplish.
2. Draw up a Shortlist
Next draw up a list of agencies who you think could be potential partners. A simple Google search will bring up a whole a whole ton of results, and you can sift through them easily.
Don’t restrict yourself to agencies in your own geographical area. In the age of the Internet, it doesn’t matter where a company is located. Many agencies are virtual companies, with the team distributed all over the world.
In fact, if you hire a local agency, it’s likely that most of the team will still be located elsewhere. So make your decision based on how qualified the agency is, rather than when they can drop in for a chat and a coffee.
3. Get on a Call
Your content marketing agency is a partner you will be working with for perhaps man years to come. So you need to make the right choice, and that means having a thorough understanding of who you will be working with.
Don’t make the mistake of hiring an agency by email. You need to get on a call and talk things through. That’s when you will find out if there is a natural match between you and the agency.
A voice call is OK, but a video chat is ten times better. Get on Skype or Zoom and spend at least an hour talking to the agency contact. You will soon whether they really know what they are talking about, or whether they are just jumping on the ‘digital agency’ bandwagon.
4. Check their Writing Ability
While you may need many different types of content in your campaign, everything starts with writing. Every agency should have great writers who know how to produce quality copy that is designed to have real impact.
Blog posts are a great place to start. Just scanning through a few posts will tell you whether their writers are great or just mediocre. And your content has to be great in order to have any chance of success. Even the best promotions will fail if the content is not up to scratch.
5. Ask About Other Services
Many content agencies are started by writers who want to scale up from freelance writing to running a real business. That’s fine, but they need to have other creatives on the team.
Are they able to produce infographics? What about video, or podcasts? A professional agency will be able to deliver quality results in any of these areas. Your agency should be a one-stop shop who can take all of your content marketing problems off your hands.
Many agencies will also be able to offer complementary services in the digital marketing space. Consider what you may need in your marketing campaigns, and find an agency that can deliver.
6. Discuss Promotion Strategies
This is is perhaps the most critical area of discussion. Creating quality content is not easy, but it is simple. Content promotion, on the other hand, is much more complex - and so much more difficult.
Remember that as much effort should be put into promoting content as into creating it. So you need to choose an agency that has a real understanding of how to conduct a content promotion campaign.
Simply sharing on Facebook and Twitter is not enough. You need to have a strategy that goes deeper and gets real results. This is where a good agency can a have real, long-term impact on your marketing efforts, so take this discussion seriously.
7. Start with a Test Project
Before you make a long-term commitment with an agency, you should try a test project. This is a chance for both parties to explore your working relationship, and to see if you are a good fit.
More importantly, it’s a chance for the agency to show that they can deliver the goods. Use a project management system to work on the project, so that you can monitor progress throughout.
If you have the budget, it’s a good idea to give a test project to three different agencies. Then you can see how they compare in terms of both content creation and promotion. However, it’s only fair to be open about this. Let the agencies know that they are competing for your business, so that they back out of the challenge if they wish.
8. Agree a Contract
Once you have decided on an agency, you need to formalize the relationship. Proceeding on an ‘ad hoc’ is sure to lead to disappointment and frustration.
Both sides need a clear understanding of:
9. Be Part of the Team
While you are engaging an agency to take a load of work off your hands, you should not surrender all responsibility.
It’s in everyone’s interest for you to be actively involved in the project on a week-by-week basis. Keep the agency fully informed of developments within your company, especially with regard to news and product updates, etc.
Equally, the agency should update you on changes within their team. If a key team member quits and goes to work for a rival agency (perhaps working for your competitors), you should know about it. Openness and transparency need to work both ways.
10. Track Performance
As a bare minimum, you should be getting monthly reports from your agency. But it’s a whole lot better if you jump on a video call with the project leader once a month.
Under-performance can be buried or glossed over in a PDF, but may well be exposed in a deep discussion by video. Simply knowing that the ‘end-of-month’ call is coming up may be enough to spur your agency into greater action and performance.
The Future of Content Marketing
We are just getting started in the world of content marketing. As Jeff Bezos, Amazon CEO, points out, this is still ‘day one’ of the Internet. Social media marketing and even search engine optimization are still relatively new concepts, and content marketing is key to making them work.
In a noisy world, you need to get really good at content marketing in order to succeed. And that means working with a good agency that can deliver results. When you hire the best agency you can find, your investment will be repaid many times over in terms of lead flow and customer acquisition.