By Michele Linn published July 8, 2011

How to Find the Right Content Marketing Agency

Are you looking to get help with your content marketing? In our ongoing series, our CMI contributors are helping you find the right help for your content marketing efforts. Over the last two weeks, they have answered these questions:

This week, our contributors share their insights on what to look for when hiring an agency for content marketing – so you know you’re hiring the right one. Next week, our contributors will help you understand what to look for when hiring a consultant.

When hiring an agency to develop content marketing, make sure they understand content marketing involves content creation, content enhancement to adapt content for media or venue, and content distribution. Agencies can help with one or more of these functions. Where possible, have employees engaged in the original content creationsince they understand your business and brand but can use help making its presentation sexy and expanding its distribution. Look beyond traditional advertising and/or marketing agencies and examine other content creators.

  • Listen carefully to hear whether they really understand content marketing or are vamping in hopes they can learn on your dime.
  • Check other content they’ve created. How well has it resonated with prospects and readers in terms of social sharing and comments?
  • Assess how your team feels about the agency. Can they work with them? Are they excited about the prospect of co-creating? If they’re not excited before you start, it may not get better.
  • Check the agency’s  referrals. Make sure they have  content marketing experience, not another form of marketing.

– Heidi Cohen (@heidicohen)


Three things:

  • Has a track record with tangible results,
  • Specializes in your industry when relevant,
  • Has demonstrated the ability to tell you the truth, which may not necessarily be what you want to hear.

And since it’s an “agency,” make sure it offers you the advantage of a good synergy of skills and experience among the agency’s principals.  Make sure they can make a strong ROI case for the strategies and tactics they recommend.  Make sure you have a good, focused top-level analytics report in place with which to gauge the agency’s results.

– Scott Frangos (@webfadds)


The content they do for others is an OK guide. Even better, look at the content they do for themselves. If they don’t do content marketing for their own agency promotion — run!  If they do, you’ll be able to see their ideas about strategy, style, copy, design, promotion and measurement. With this in mind, we published Project Open Kimono on our B2B Marketing blog— telling the inside story of our B2B Marketing Manifesto campaign.- Doug Kessler (@dougkessler)


A good content marketing agency needs to be an extension of your marketing department (heck, it really needs to be an extension of your entire company).  Because we’ve worked with so many players at Junta42, we developed this very simple spreadsheet anyone can use to grade and choose the content marketing agency that is right for you. To do a proper analysis, your selection team needs to review the overall industry expertise of the agency, strategic planning capabilities, audience development expertise, project management ability, design/user experience, tactical expertise, technology integration, measurement capabilities, and maybe the most important, cultural fit.- Joe Pulizzi (@juntajoe)


If they aren’t asking for a great deal of information about your organizational objectives and your target audience, run for the hills! In order to put together an effective content marketing strategy or to develop compelling content, it is vital to have a very clear understanding of both. Without this foundation, your content marketing project is unlikely to succeed. Another key element to discuss is how they plan to monitor and report metrics for success or failure and what time frame they plan to do it in. Be certain that these metrics align with your overall business goals.- Elise Redlin-Cook (@redlincook)


First and foremost: Are they doing it for themselves, and are they doing it well? We used to say the same thing about SEO firms when we hired them.  For instance, in one role at a company, I was tasked with sourcing an SEO partner.  When I researched and built the short list, I eliminated any firm that did not have page one Google rankings in my local area.For agencies, their own content marketing efforts should be their best case studies. Look at what they are doing and how they are approaching content creation.  If they are selling it but not doing it, chances are they might be trying to break in the game for the first time, and you may not want to let your business be their crash test dummy.- Nate Riggs (@nateriggs)


When hiring a content marketing agency, seek firms with proven experience (minimum of 5 years IMHO) in content strategy, content creation, content curation, distribution and analytics.
However, there are two less obvious, but equally important, considerations when evaluating Content Marketing agencies:First, there’s your need to find an agency with the patience, compassion and resources necessary to be your trusted “trail guide” to a marketing communications approach that is rapidly evolving.Second, there’s your need to learn how to be the right client for this evolving breed of creative agency. Success is a two way street! For more about how to be a successful client, please see: How to be a Successful Content Marketing Client.- Russell Sparkman (@fusionspark)


Client examples and references are important; however, you need to dig deeper than names and content samples. Ask questions about how the agency works with clients on the content marketing effort, and don’t accept general answers like “we consider ourselves part of your team” and “we’re very flexible with our processes.” Instead, ask for examples of:

  • How the agency collaborated with a client on strategy and planning.
  • How the agency works with both internal and external content creators for optimal results.
  • How the agency communicates and reports results to clients on a weekly or monthly basis.

Anyone can cite a few client names, but in order to find a good agency-client fit, you need to ask these types of how questions to make sure your vision matches the agency’s vision.

– Mike Sweeney (@mjsweeney)

Summary

There are a number of things to consider when hiring an agency for content marketing:

  • Do they have a track record of success?
  • Do they specialize in your industry?
  • Are they using content marketing themselves?
  • Do they ask the right kind of questions?
  • Can they provide you with ongoing reports to track your efforts?
  • Is it a good personality fit?
  • Does their vision match your vision?
  • Are they willing to be your “trail guide” as you learn about content marketing?

As Joe mentioned, you can download this very simple spreadsheet to help you choose the right agency.

What else would you add to the list? Let us know in the comments section below.

Author: Michele Linn

Michele is the Vice President of Content at the Content Marketing Institute. She is one of those people who truly loves what she does and who she works with. You can follow her on Twitter at @michelelinn.

Other posts by Michele Linn

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  • http://twitter.com/NenadSenic Nenad Senić

    This really a fantastic set of advice. My question is though, what does this mean for newly set up agencies? How can they compete for clients with regard to all advice above. Thank you, Nenad

    • http://blog.junta42.com Joe Pulizzi

      Hi Nenad…the best performance I’ve seen in new agencies is to pick a specific niche where they can be the leader in.  That could be by sector, by tactic, or by customer base.  The smaller the better.

  • http://twitter.com/NenadSenic Nenad Senić

    This really a fantastic set of advice. My question is though, what does this mean for newly set up agencies? How can they compete for clients with regard to all advice above. Thank you, Nenad

  • http://termpaperwriter.org/ custom term paper

    There is noticeably a bundle to learn about this. I assume you made sure nice points in features also.!!

  • nyexpat

    Even better: hire someone who’s not part of an agency but has agency experience.
    You’ll be amazed at what you save in mark-up! (note: I worked for big and small agencies and have seen how they bill.) 😉