5 MIN READ
Small businesses are spending on average $2,000 to $10,000 each month on content marketing. That's a lot for companies with limited marketing dollars—and 55% of marketers say content creation is their number one inbound marketing priority. And there's a good reason: content marketing is among the most effective marketing strategies to enhance lead generation, boost conversions, increase profits and bolster branding efforts.
A host of recent studies point unequivocally to the power of content marketing. Consider for example these eye-opening metrics from the Content Marketing Institute:
Success with Content Marketing Isn't Guaranteed
These statistics, as inspiring as they are, reflect average performance. Some businesses do a lot better with content marketing while others continue struggling to see positive results. Said differently, some content marketing campaigns are better than others, and some businesses are more seasoned and adept in fashioning content marketing strategies.
Businesses for which content marketing remains a protracted challenge have a choice—they can either hire a full-time employee to bolster their content marketing efforts or partner with a competent marketing agency. Generally, the latter is both more effective and more cost-effective, but it means making a prudent choice among marketing agencies. In other words, businesses looking for content marketing help need to know how to pick the best agency for their needs.
Finding the Right Agency Can Be a Challenge
So, the right content marketing agency can help your business with cost-effective content creation. It can also handle any sudden increases in content need and help you stay on top of content marketing trends. But just like content marketing campaigns, content marketing agencies are not all created equal, and finding the right one for your business can be hard.
The sudden boom in content creation to solve a myriad of marketing challenges has created something of a cottage industry in content marketing, with ever more agencies adding content marketing to their portfolios. Among the challenges in choosing the right agency is identifying the ones which have content marketing bona fides vs. those for whom content marketing is a relatively new venture.
As Marketing Insider Group points out:
"There are quite a few agencies out there that have rebranded themselves as content marketers to meet the industry demand and to grow their own business…However, many times they excel in other areas of marketing, not necessarily content…But, this has led to a lot of confusion and blurred lines for the small to mid-sized, and even larger brands, who are trying to distinguish the true blue content marketers from the other marketing professionals who are offering content services."
How to Find the Best Agency for Your Business
What specifically you should look for in a content marketing agency is largely a function of what you need. Remember, you're not just looking for an experienced agency; you're trying to find one which can effectively size up the marketing challenges you face and come up with effective solutions.
That said, in general you need to consider experience and demonstrated results, a dynamic and personable staff and a list of satisfied clients. Beyond that, as you vet prospective agencies, you need to ask the following 6 questions:
1. Can They Give You Examples of Killer Content?
This is where the rubber meets the road. An agency can dazzle you with statistics and testimonials, but what counts most in your decision is the quality of their content.
Check out some of the content they've created for other businesses. Would it inspire you to respond to a call to action? Does it strike you as edgy or merely prosaic? Does it naturally integrate compelling storytelling to build trust and establish credibility? What (specifically) was the purpose of the content (i.e., lead generation, nurturing, awareness, brand building, etc.)? Where did it fit in the buyer's journey? Most important, what results did the content achieve?
2. Do They Have Specific Experience in Your Industry?
Creating content for a healthcare organization is not the same as writing for a SaaS business. The quality (and effectiveness) of content is largely driven by the level of subject expertise the writer possesses. If your business is in the education sector, you want writers who understand the nuances of the industry, not those who will do some quick research and create superficial content.
Make sure the agency you select has writers with specific experience in your industry. As you interview, ask some tough, industry-specific questions to test their mettle.
3. Does the Agency Create Content Aimed at Key Marketing Objectives?
Good content isn't fungible. In other words, the best content doesn't apply to a wide swath of purposes—it should be aimed at specific marketing objectives. Some content for example is designed to increase sales of a given product or service and, if it's designed for that purpose, will increase product sales. Make sure the agency you select understands this key principle and will create content that moves you closer to the achievement of your core objectives.
4. Is Their Content Strategic and Data-Driven?
The best agencies will want to review key data before the get down to content creation. They should not only ask you what it is you want to achieve, but also what underlying metrics help define your purpose.
If for example increased lead generation is your goal, a good agency will want to know to what extent your current lead generation strategies are falling flat. They'll also be able to suggest the ways in which their content creation strategies will move those numbers to where you want them to be, and how that content will be integrated into your overall marketing strategy.
5. Does the Agency Understand the Importance of Segmentation and Buyer Personas?
Your business doesn't have a single target audience—it has many, each with different problems, needs, objections and questions. The best content is personalized content, and the best agencies understand the critical importance of creating content aimed at both specific marketing objectives and key market segments. They'll also understand the utility of fashioning actionable buyer personas as part of the market segmentation process.
6. How Will the Agency Monitor Content Campaigns and Track Progress?
Effective content creation isn't a one-shot deal. Competent agencies understand the critical importance of measuring the ongoing effectiveness of the content campaigns they design. How will the agency measure progress and what steps do they propose to tweak the content they create and the strategies employed to deliver it to enable continual improvement?
The decision to outsource content creation and strategy isn't an easy one. It entails at the very least a robust assessment of in-house capabilities, budget and key marketing objectives. If after such a prudent assessment you decide to partner with a competent agency, be no less rigorous in choosing the best marketing agency to meet your specific needs.
To learn more about the ways our marketing, website design, branding, lead generation, customer communications and sales tools services can help you achieve your chief marketing objectives—and help your business grow—contact us today.