Congrats! You’ve embarked on the journey of choosing a content marketing agency to help you earn more traffic, boost awareness, move people through the buyer’s journey, add to your credibility, generate leads, and accomplish more on your long list of marketing goals.
It’s an exciting, daunting time. A Google search of “content marketing agency” yields too many results to count. Even local agencies can be hard to tell apart. The good news? The hardest part is over; you’ve admitted that to do content marketing well, you need help. So many businesses miss this important part and forever struggle to do everything in-house or not at all.
So many missed opportunities.
But you’ve started your hunt and are beginning to sift through the possibilities. Take a deep breath. We’ve put together a list of considerations you can reference as you vet potential partners.
Find a strategic partner
Many businesses choose to outsource content marketing for one of two big reasons: 1) they don’t have a documented content strategy but know that content marketing is an important piece of the marketing pie, or 2) they don’t have the in-house resources to produce content at a regular and effective cadence. Sometimes it’s both.
In any case, the content marketing agency you choose should have strong strategic capabilities. Great content without a solid plan is useless. Great content backed by methodology and consistency is the recipe for success.
Even in cases where you’re looking to augment your in-house capabilities, your content marketing partner should have the ability to understand your core objectives and help you reverse engineer a roadmap to achieve your goals.
Know your team
Big content marketing agencies are great at showcasing the top talent: “VP of Client Strategy”, “Director of Content”, “Chief Content Officer”….The creativity in titles in fascinating. But you should ask if these are the people you’ll be interacting with and how they’ll be managing your account. In many cases, these titles are just that – titles. The team assigned to your account may end up being a whole other set of people.
Get connected with the real people who will manage your account – the people who will take ownership of your successes…and failures. Does this person understand your brand and business from the inside out? Do they speak your language? Are they effective communicators? Are they someone you would hire yourself? Do you get a good feeling from communicating with them?
Making judgments based on gut feelings can be helpful. You may find an agency that looks great on paper but whose project manager just doesn’t vibe well with you. Listen to that instinct when choosing a content marketing agency. At the end of the day, your content marketing success may depend on it.
Understand your nuanced needs
Before you can expect an agency to deliver results, you have to understand your own content marketing needs. Will high quality content require intimate knowledge of a certain industry or sector? Is it necessary that your content marketing agency have a specific skill set or knowledge base relating to what you sell?
It’s not always necessary to hire a specialized agency. In some cases, you can find an excellent content marketing partner that has the ability to create and execute without niche expertise. But in B2B – and other nuanced markets – it becomes very important to find a partner that thoroughly understands the pain points of your target buyers, the pulse of your marketplace, and how to articulate and tell your story in a unique and accurate way.
Vet potential content marketing partners accordingly. It can be helpful to write out a list of questions to ask potential partners, including:
- Who else have you worked with in X industry?
- Do you have other relevant experience in X industry?
- What types of results have you seen for clients with similar business models and content marketing goals?
- Who will be the strategist/project manager/content creators serving on our team and what is their communication style?
- What are the top content marketing challenges you’ve come across in X industry and how have you overcome them?
Contemplate creative factor
Creativity is the obvious factor in choosing a content marketing agency. You can find the most technically competent, technologically-armed content marketing agency in the world. If they can’t find a compelling way to tell your story and appeal to your buyers, that technical skill set is for naught.
Creativity goes beyond the ability to craft interesting stories. Is a potential content marketing agency partner able to creatively repurpose content to maximize value? Does the agency thoroughly understand your buyer’s journey to innovate at every stage in a way that connects with and compels your target audience to take the next action? What tools does the agency leverage to be more efficient and competitive?
Is the agency willing to take calculated risks or do they follow the same strategy template for each and every client? While having a solid methodology can be a good foundation, the best agencies follow their vision in a way that aligns with your objectives. Great agencies innovate with your best interests in mind and are willing to try new things in order to elevate your message to the next level.
Are they trustworthy, transparent, and credible?
All in all, trust is paramount in choosing a content marketing agency. You should know that the agency is good for its word and that your assigned team will deliver. They should be transparent in how they do business and in what they can and cannot provide. Their principles and values in business should align with yours.
You’ve probably noticed that pricing is not one of the considerations in this list. That’s because it’s obvious that you’ll choose an agency that aligns with your budget. Plus, while pricing is important, it’s not everything.
Choosing a content marketing agency doesn’t have to be rocket science. In fact, it’s a lot like dating. Make a list of your must-haves and deal-breakers and start vetting prospects. Be open-minded but know when to draw a hard line.