About this time last year, I wrote about how to choose a content marketing agency. Revisiting the topic this time, a few things have changed. The seven points are still relevant, but the agency landscape has evolved greatly in the last 12 months.
Spending in the sector has accelerated significantly as the skill set of content marketing seeps into mainstream marketing budgets. We’ve seen budgets transferred from search, PR, digital, and traditional publishers into our coffers, and now we are seeing agencies from those segments race to respond and reform to get their share of the lucrative content marketing dollar.
We’ve also seen mainstream creative, media, and digital agencies jumping on board, so for marketers it’s become even more difficult to get a handle on which agency is best suited to help them with their content marketing programs.
With this in mind, let’s see if we can demystify some of the key points to help you pick a content marketing partner:
1. Look at their strategic capabilities
Therefore, it is critical to find a content marketing agency that has strong strategic capabilities. This means more than just having a head of strategy – the agency should have a consistent approach, a strong methodology, and most importantly, a good track record.
Look at their case studies and get in touch with clients. How have they helped other brands develop successful content strategies? What kind of approach have they taken? How does that translate to how they could help engage your audience, enhance your marketing strategy, and achieve your business goals?
2. Ask which tools they offer and how they can give you actionable outcomes and results
I touched on this last year, and it’s getting more and more important to find a data-driven agency. How will they measure the success of your marketing program and help boost your ROI?
Look specifically at the data and measurement tools, processes, and indicators they have to measure success and identify areas for improvement. As we all know, nothing works well all the time, so how do they identify problems and operate when they need to change course?
3. Look under the hood (so to speak …)
My No. 1 thing is people. You meet the boss, you meet the head of “this” and “that,” and then you sign the deal and you don’t see those guys for dust!
Question whether they have a solid layer of account and project management – smart and experienced people who will be there to communicate effectively with you day in, day out. The sort of people you would hire yourself.
As the market diversifies and more agencies jump in, you must question whether the people within their agency are the right fit for you and your business. Do they understand your values, motivations, and business goals, and do they have the skill sets to help you live up to them?
Early on, make sure you meet those who could be on your team. Have an idea of what questions you want to ask so that you feel comfortable they are up to the task and will meet the values of your brand.
4. Get a better understanding of the marketing technology the agency has at its disposal and how you will interface with it
Marketing technology is a must-have – it can help you identify new audience segments, measure engagement, and attribute action and revenue to your marketing programs.
If you are using a technology in conjunction with the agency, look carefully at the user interface. If you and your team are using the program daily, you want to ensure it is simple to use and the results are easy to understand.
If you have your own marketing technology platforms that will play a role in measuring or assisting with the work your agency does, ask about its experience with the platform and/or how the agency’s campaign will plug in to or complement it.
In the last 12 months, technology vendors have become involved in the content marketing segment. While there is now a plethora of platforms and marketing automation software, remember that they all require quality content to make them function well.
5. Longevity and retention are key
Do they have a roster of clients that have gone the distance? Over and above a great pitch, can they actually execute over time – managing the ups and downs of a program, remaining agile to address any challenges?
What I’m saying is, can they deliver? You will only gain this knowledge by checking with the agency’s clients, looking at those that have renewed contracts or signed on for additional campaigns. Play the devil’s advocate – find clients who are not listed or provided as references.
So there you have it – another five points to consider as you go through the process of finding a content marketing agency that can work well for you. Good luck.
Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute