By Steve Lazuka published July 24, 2012

How to Create a Killer Content Agency

create a killer content agency, CMIAs an agency owner or executive, you already know why your clients need great content. For brand storytelling, the real challenge is figuring out how to deliver it to them in an efficient way that minimizes headaches and maximizes profitability.

  • How do you set up and manage all your clients’ content projects from start to finish?
  • How do you source for the best writing talent at the best price?
  • How do you find the right technology, system, and processes that will allow you to scale it up as you grow?

Agencies must get good — very good — at creating custom content. Here, I share three steps you can take to start transitioning your agency into a top-notch content marketing firm.

But first, you may be asking…

Does my agency really need to become a content marketing agency? 

Bottom line: if your clients don’t succeed in the long run, your agency won’t either, and custom content is perhaps the single biggest factor that will determine your clients’ ultimate success online.

In fact, according to HubSpot’s The State of Inbound Marketing in 2012 study, 56 percent of sites that blog once per month have acquired a customer through their blog, compared with 78 percent for sites that blog daily and 92 percent that blog more than once daily.

Content is crucial for any business looking to succeed online. More of your clients are starting to catch on, and are demanding content like never before.

All this demand for content services has created a race for agencies to deliver the quality, volume, and value that drive client results. The challenge is finding the perfect balance of writers, tools, and costs to make content services a profitable part of your business.

If it were easy, everyone would be doing it. But for those agencies willing to seek out the right technology, build the right team, and set the right pricing, the rewards can be great.

Step 1:  Find the right technology 

Finding the right content marketing platform can make your content production and management processes quicker, smoother, and more organized. Many agencies aren’t even aware that web-based content marketing platforms exist that offer both project management tools and built-in networks of professional writers.

While market conditions may have driven down the cost of content, you still need to provide high-value, optimized, original content that will drive results. This is where efficiencies that are driven by the right technology can reduce time and costs, without sacrificing quality.

These efficiencies include:

  • A simple yet effective method for planning each client’s content strategy
  • Discovering the right keywords/topics to write about for each client
  • Creating engaging headlines
  • Developing an editorial calendar
  • Sharing and editing documents
  • Allowing your clients to provide feedback, and review completed content through a private-labeled portal
  • Automatically publishing to CMS platforms like Hubspot and WordPress

… all while keeping content affordable and accessible to your clients that need it most. 

Step 2: Build the right team — in-house or outsourced 

If your agency has a wealth of in-house writing talent that can fulfill the premium content needs of your clients, by all means use it!

However, even if you have some of your own writers, having access to a network of additional freelance talent can still come in handy. Best of all, the right content marketing system can allow you to manage your own in-house writers, as well as give you access to outsourced talent whenever you need the additional help.

Many agencies don’t have the time or resources to hire in-house writers of their own. By using a content marketing platform with a built-in writer marketplace, these agencies can access a wider scope of talent and control costs at the same time.

One of your greatest competitive advantages lies in the ability to effectively establish and manage an outsourced content team. Here are some crucial tips to do just that:

  1. Learn to crowdsource quickly: The only way to truly know if you and/or your client will like a writer is to request customized samples of their work. Take the time to sample a wide variety of different writers; identify which ones deliver the quality you need at rates you and your clients can afford; and build a virtual team made up of these writers. The right technology can even help you move quickly through this sourcing process.
  2. Consider each piece you receive from a writer to be a rough draft: Accept that no writer will ever write exactly the same way you would, but if the writer can get you 90 percent of the way there for a good price, and your editors only have to spend a few extra minutes tweaking a piece on occasion, you’re way ahead of the game compared with writing it in house from scratch.
  3. Involve your clients in the process: Let your clients tell you which of the writers they have worked with in the past they would recommend. This will help you build your virtual writing team over time. (Once again, the right technology can make this simple.)
  4. Build long-term relationships with writers so they get to know you and your clients. Reward them by treating them as content partners. You may even wish to offer bonuses when they go above and beyond your expectations.

Step 3: Set the right pricing and packages 

Some agencies only target the 20 percent of large businesses that have larger budgets as potential clients, while others primarily focus on working with the smaller businesses that make up the other 80 percent.

The good news is that when it comes to providing content services, you don’t have to target one or the other. Rather, you can offer pricing and packages that give your potential clients a choice that fits their budget.

For higher service levels, you can offer a higher-rated writer, as well as add-on services, such as strategy consulting, phone interviews, keyword research, title development, proofreading, and reporting.

For companies that can’t afford these premium services, you can still provide quality content from a skilled writer, but you can cut costs by offering fewer of the other services that take up your time.

Again, technology solutions can help you manage costs for your smaller-budget clients by offering services like questionnaires (avoiding phone time), providing their own keywords/topics and titles, and publishing completed content. They also might help you reduce the time your editorial team needs for editing and revisions.

In this way, you can develop pricing and packages that offer a wide range of options for various budgets, while managing your agency’s costs and ensuring profitability.

How will you meet the demand?

According to the 2012 Digital Content Marketing Survey research report from Brandpoint and CMI, 70 percent of agencies and 71 percent of brands are planning to outsource at least one content type in the next 12 months.

How do you manage content marketing services and production in your agency business? What challenges and opportunities do you see for agencies in delivering content marketing services? 

Want more content marketing inspiration? Download our ultimate eBook with 100 content marketing examples.

Image courtesy of Zerys

Author: Steve Lazuka

Steve Lazuka is the founder of Interact Media, the software development firm behind the Zerys Content Marketplace and Zerys for Agencies platform. Follow Steve on Twitter at @SteveLazuka.

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  • http://twitter.com/Rogercparker Roger C. Parker

    Compelling 3-step business plan for success.

    Also an excellent example of content marketing at its best; proving competence by providing useful, relevant information.

  • http://b2binbound.com/blog Greg Elwell

    Steve, Thanks for sharing these practical insights on how to build a content business. Glad I hooked up with you and Zerys for Agencies a year and a half ago. It’s allowed me to stay small and keep my overhead low while focusing on the value-added things clients really need, like content strategy, search optimization and social. The efficiencies gained with a robust platform and writer marketplace help scale and accelerate growth.
    Greg

  • iancleary

    A content agency is a fantastic term to use and would really help differentiate an agency.  There’s a big opportunity for comes in this area!

  • Alex Morask

    Awesome post! An idea for a follow up could be reviewing some of the technologies available that match the objectives laid out in the article? 

  • http://allmarketingsolutions.co.uk/social-media-marketing-services Ayaz

    Great post! certainly combination of all the points you have mentioned above are really crucial to build an strong repo on internet world especially in content marketing. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/stevelazuka Steve Lazuka

    Thanks everyone for your comments.

    Alex – i agree. A follow up post on the various platforms is a great idea

    Ian – I think you’ve touched upon the single biggest opportunity that exists out there today when it comes to the content marketing revolution… Content Agencies that focus on providing great content to their clients. In the past, it was too much of a headache, and was not profitable. Technologies are changing all this.

    Greg – thanks for the kind words about our Zerys for Agencies platform. You’ve been a great partner and it’s been amazing to watch your business grow over the past few years. I think you’re a perfect example of an agency that is seizing the moment and focusing on getting really good at content development for your clients. I know it will continue to pay off for you in the long run.

  • http://www.dzierza.com Michal

    I know a few people who should read this, great post, thanks.