Content. You can't live with it and you can't live without it.
Wait... can you live without it? Not if you're in marketing. But what is content, exactly? And what is content marketing? While we're at it, what does a good content marketing agency look like?
According to the Content Marketing Institute, "content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action."
Translation: content is a big deal. It's not something you can simply outsource or "tack on" to your marketing strategy and hope to get results. It needs to be engaging, clean and of the highest quality. With exceptional content marketing, you can actually increase sales, save on marketing costs and attract better, more loyal customers.
With all that in mind, here are some things to consider if you're deciding on whether to hire a content marketing agency or not.
The Value of Using a Content Marketing Agency
The right content marketing agency can help you define your content marketing strategy. If you already have a strategy in place, an agency can evaluate whether you’re creating too much content, not enough content or if the messaging of your content needs tweaked to better reach your intended audience. Using analytics tools, it can tell you what’s working, what could be done better and where you’re getting the most results.
If you’re new to content marketing, a good agency can walk you through the process of mapping out a strategy and get you up to speed, providing you with the right solutions to help you reach your goals. Content marketing should never be viewed as a one-size-fits-all endeavor, so make sure that you’re working with a company that understands your business needs and is able to craft the messaging that will reach your specific customers. It should have both the team and tools to effectively share your message.
With so many content marketing agencies crowding the landscape today, it can be difficult to know what to look for. Do you base your decision on cost? The scope of services? Or do you just throw a dart and hope for the best?
There are several different things to look for to make sure you find the agency that’s right for you. Let’s look at five differentiating elements to look for when choosing your content marketing agency.
No. 1: A content team with a journalism background
While there’s no shortage of content marketing agencies opening up shop, not all of them have a background in journalism — and unfortunately, that oftentimes shows.
Journalists are, by nature of their jobs, good writers and editors, which means they’re able to craft your message into content that is appealing and easy for your audience to understand. (That also means fewer typos and errors in your content, which is crucial to credibility.) They have an innate curiosity and want to immerse themselves in your area of expertise to make sure they understand not just what you do, but why and how you do it.
A content marketing agency that hires journalists will pride itself on accuracy, meeting deadlines and providing exceptional content.
No. 2: An agency that can sell, not just tell
Plenty of people are willing to tell your story through content creation, but can they sell as well? What good is content if you can't eventually monetize it?
According to Forbes, content marketing and sales are two of the most important strategies for success, but too often they are viewed as separate silos. A content marketing agency that has a strong sales component can help your business grow faster by leveraging what each side has to offer and then working together to create a better way to qualify leads and convert them to sales.
No. 3: An agency with long-standing clients
In the rapidly changing landscape of today’s business world, it’s natural for clients to come and go, but you want an agency that has some long-standing (and satisfied) customers. Do your homework to see how long the agency has been in business and who some of their clients are.
Are clients leaving after their first retainer (six months or a year), or are they re-signing their contracts year after year? Long-standing clients indicate that the agency is paying attention to their customers’ needs and is producing work that clients are pleased with.
Agencies who churn through clients could be interested more in getting the sale than servicing the client.
No. 4: An agency that’s recognized by the industry
Does the agency you’re interested in have any awards for the work it has done? Recognition by respected, high-profile organizations can help point you toward an agency that is committed to doing great work.
Look for an agency that has won awards for both its design and editorial work, and ask questions about the team that you’ll be working with. Is your work going to be outsourced to whatever freelancer is available, or will you have a designated writer, editor and designer that you will work with side by side?
No. 5: An agency that is completely hands-on
Your business depends on a great content marketing strategy, and that comes from having a team that is hands-on and on top of what’s happening. How accessible are they? Will they return phone calls and emails in just a few hours, or will it take a few days?
A good marketing strategy with superior customer service is an unbeatable combination, and you should never have to settle for less. Make sure your content agency prides itself on ownership of projects, not just the acquisition of them.
In the end, your content is only as good as the team behind it. Being careful about your content marketing strategy (and the agency you choose to partner with) will go a long way toward helping you attract better customers and close more deals.
Content: you can't live without it!