By Joe Pulizzi published June 30, 2011

Criteria for Choosing a Full-Service Content Marketing Agency

We have a unique perspective on content marketing agencies at Junta42. Since matching over 1000 content marketing projects over the past three+ years, we’ve seen our fair share and know most of the serious players in the industry.

Unfortunately, we’ve also seen quite a few traditional or interactive marketing agencies disguising themselves as content agencies, as well as small freelance content creators that think they are full-service agencies.

Don’t make that mistake when looking for your content partner.

When determining your match with a content marketing agency, look and grade on the following criteria:

Industry Content Expertise

How well does the agency understand your customers and your niche industry?  Questions to ask include:

  • Can you list the content creators on your team that have specific knowledge of our industry or have worked in our industry? (Ultimately, you’ll want to talk with them.)
  • Do you have specific strategic and content samples that target our customer base?

Strategic Planning

Do they have experience, not only on execution, but in actually creating a full-blown content strategy that integrates with an overall marketing program? Many custom publishers are great at execution, but the plan is often the client’s, not theirs.

Audience Development Expertise

Do they have specific team members that focus on a step-by-step plan to acquire and retain an audience? Creating the content in a particular format is one thing, but figuring out the methods to get people to actively engage in the content is another issue entirely.

Project Management Expertise

Project management is the unsung hero in any content marketing program. A full-service content agency needs to provide you with a dedicated client contact that understands all aspects of being your publisher.

Design/User Experience

Will the design talent match your story and brand needs? Can the designers understand how the content integrates with design to motivate the proper behaviors that will drive the program?

Tactical Expertise

Many content marketing agencies may only have expertise with online tactics.  Others, only print.  Some, in person tactics shine. Be sure to choose an agency that understands how to deliver content using all three legs of the publishing stool – online, print and in-person (and don’t forget mobile). Even a print magazine isn’t just a print magazine anymore…it needs to have aspects of online and in-person marketing baked in.

Technology Integration

Content and technology go hand-in-hand with any successful content marketing program.  Does the content marketing agency have technology resources at their disposal, from social media to content syndication to database marketing techniques that will ensure the success of your content? Can they also integrate with the technology you must use in your organization?

Measurement Expertise

Thinking about measurement starts at the beginning of the process. Your content marketing agency should have a plan for how you will ultimately show your team what impact your content is having on your business (content marketing ROI).

Cultural Fit

Don’t overlook this important area.  Your content marketing agency is going to be working with you closer that any of your other agencies.  They’ll need to understand your story and your customers’ story, working with all levels of your organization throughout the storytelling process.

Choosing Your Content Marketing Agency

If you are choosing your finalists from an RFP (see this post) process or whether you’ve received your finalists through a service like Junta42, it’s helpful to grade each content marketing area on a five point scale.

Attached here is a spreadsheet that you can use to grade content marketing agencies to determine which agency scores highest.

A few tips:

  • Don’t score any agency with more than two “5’s”. This forces you not to blindly give contacts you like all “5’s”.
  • Multiply by 2 the area that is most important to your specific content initiative. For example, if it’s strategic planning that is critical, score that 2 times. Same for measurement expertise if that is the case.
  • Make sure at least three team members complete the spreadsheet. The results will be eye-opening and will should lead to constructive conversation.

Good luck…and make sure that, no matter which content marketing agency you choose, you are a good client.

Author: Joe Pulizzi

Joe Pulizzi considers himself the poster boy for content marketing. Founder of the Content Marketing Institute, Joe evangelizes content marketing around the world through keynotes, articles, tweets and his books, Managing Content Marketing and Get Content Get Customers. Joe's latest book is Epic Content Marketing (McGraw-Hill). If you want to get on his good side, send him something orange. For more on Joe, check out his personal site or follow him on Twitter @JoePulizzi.

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