By Kathryn Hawkins published January 6, 2015

How to Know When You Need a Content Marketing Agency

Content_Marketing_Agency_0116_Hawkins_CoverContent marketing agencies don’t try to compete with the full-service marketing agencies. They aren’t the be-everything-to-everyone resource, but they do offer unique value to a cross section of the business community that can benefit from an agency dedicated to content.

Here are five situations where this specialized service might be what the business needs:

1. Early-stage startups that need a flexible marketing solution

You worked out your business plan, logo, website, and all that important stuff. You have seed or Series A funding, but still need to be frugal. Until you receive a more significant investment round, you’re not ready to hire a full-time marketing employee.

You can pay a retainer to a content marketing agency and gain a dedicated content solution that can be customized to meet your evolving needs. Look for agencies that allow clients to modify their retainer packages at least quarterly to allow for the flexibility that a startup requires. Content marketing agencies can assist with planning your online marketing strategy. They can assist in developing written content that meets the diverse needs of a startup, including web copy, case studies, blog content, and white papers. Because your marketing strategy may evolve quickly, an agency gives you the ability to tap into a pool of talent that can be scaled to meet your company’s demand.

2. Mid-sized or large organizations without sufficient internal resources

You’ve got a solid marketing strategy, but when it comes time to execute, you don’t have staff members who have the time to produce content along with all the meetings, trade shows, and other tasks on their plates.

A content marketing agency can collaborate with your internal team to create the content on your editorial calendar, including working with your CEO and subject-matter experts to create blog content and demand-generation papers on their behalf. However, as CMI’s Michele Linn points out, if you don’t have executive buy-in for your content marketing efforts, it will be difficult to tie in an outsourced provider’s work with your larger marketing strategy. To be most effective, it can be helpful to first plan a content marketing strategy and rough editorial calendar internally before you contract with an agency. In addition, a several-month trial run with an agency can help you determine how successful the effort is, and whether it may be worth investing in a full-time employee to assist with content marketing.

3. Organizations with temporary staffing challenges

If your marketing manager just put in her two-week notice or needs to take a three-month medical leave, your blog, and other content marketing efforts don’t need to take a hiatus. A content marketing agency can fill the gaps to sustain your content efforts.

When possible, it’s important to bring in the agency while your employee is still working. While an agency’s role may be limited to content development, it is important to give the agency a clear picture of the company’s overall messaging and voice so that it can develop appropriate content to meet your goals. Many agencies are willing to step in for a set duration, which can be much more fruitful than hiring a temporary employee who is likely on the hunt for a full-time job.

4. Business professionals who want to build their industry reputation

Many business professionals, including CEOs, consultants, doctors, attorneys, and other leaders, want to build or manage their reputations online, but don’t have the time to blog regularly. Hiring a content marketing team to ghostwrite content on your behalf and develop an influencer outreach strategy can be an ideal solution. It’s important to ensure that your content accurately supports your opinions, so you can’t put your strategy on autopilot. By collaborating with an agency to identify the key messages to share with a broader audience, you can build your reputation with minimal time investment. If the agency acts as your ghostwriter, it is important to have a non-disclosure agreement.

5. Marketing agencies without in-house content marketing expertise

You may not have the content expertise to complete a client project that relies heavily on long-form content because your agency focuses on ad copy and design work. In this case, subcontracting to a content marketing agency can be helpful. You can choose to brand the content as “white-label” content, which does not reveal the content marketing agency’s involvement, or identify it as outsourced work so your client can correspond directly with your subcontracted team. While white-label content may help maintain the image of a firm that can do it all, you’ll need to be careful that you don’t run into communication errors when passing feedback to the subcontracted agency or a project could easily get off track.

If you run a content marketing agency or you’ve hired one for your organization, what are some other scenarios where a standalone content marketing agency might be a good choice? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Want more expert insight on how to address your content marketing challenges? Check out all the fantastic CMW sessions that are available through our Video on Demand portal.

Image courtesy of Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

Author: Kathryn Hawkins

Kathryn Hawkins is a principal in Eucalypt Media LLC, a Maine content marketing agency that provides consulting and creative services to corporate, educational, and non-profit clients in New England and beyond, and a freelance writer for media publications. Eucalypt Media also owns and operates, a website and daily newsletter dedicated to good news and self-improvement, which averages more than 100,000 unique readers each month. Follow Kathryn on Twitter @kathrynhawkins.

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  • Ed Marsh

    @kathryn – why would a mid size firm have in house counsel AND use outside firms for some matters? Or have a CFO and controller but also engage an M&A advisor? Because strategic perspective and execution expertise isn’t simply a matter of clock cycles and body count.

    Point #2 misses that, and in fact permeating the entire piece should be a theme of “any company that hasn’t yet generated the scale of revenue growth their stakeholders expect.”

    That also leads to the assessment of which content marketing agency is optimal. If a company engages them for outsourced bodies, then head count would be the way to screen agencies. Of course that’s folly. Many putatively successful content marketing agencies don’t have a clue about how to move the needle in many B2B sectors.

    I wholeheartedly agree that many companies which undertake DiY content marketing would benefit from outside assistance, but I think it’s a bigger topic than presented.

  • Kathryn Hawkins

    Hi Ed,
    Thanks for your feedback! Yes, that’s a bigger issue than I had the opportunity to get into here, but I wholeheartedly agree that companies of all sizes can benefit from outside strategic advice and expertise when it comes to content marketing — the focus here was more on the ongoing content creation piece of the equation, rather than overall strategy. In many cases, companies choose larger marketing agencies to tackle everything strategy-related, which is not necessarily the best idea — by instead working with smaller specialized marketing agencies, they can get a more in-depth, expert perspective on building their companies’ brands and revenues.

  • Tommy Landry

    Ed makes an interesting point, but I personally like this post. Aside from the personal branding category, our company tends to sign clients in each of the other four groups, and it works out fine. The two sweet spots for Return On Now are the smaller but growing companies who can’t afford a FTE to manage content marketing, and the mid-sized companies who have too much to do already and aren’t experts in modern marketing techniques. “Why hire when you can rent just what you need from us?”

  • Kathryn Hawkins

    Thanks Tommy! Yes, my agency works primarily with both startups that may want to invest in marketing staff at some point, but are still ramping up, and with mid-sized orgs that have some sense of their agenda but need help with execution. These are needs that are usually too large to be filled by a single freelance writer, so working with an agency helps them scale without having to put time into managing an external team.

    • Mark H

      Hi Kathryn,

      Thanks for this informative post.
      I have two questions:

      1) I think there’s content marketing and then there’s content production. How can I find a white label content firm that can do both?
      2) What software do you recommend that can allow me to have various ‘clients’ who I can project manage and use their staff for content production?

      Thanks so much!

  • Kevin

    Nice post, Kathryn. I especially like #’s 1 and 5. Start-ups/entrepreneurs are very difficult to identify, however. A future post on best ways to do so would be helpful.

  • Cathy Mayhue

    Kathryn, very informative post. Since I am also an aspiring content marketer, just started my business, I know now where my potential pool of clients lie, lots of interesting pointers here.

  • Advertising Agency

    How about when you don’t have the skill and/or the time for good content marketing? Some of the best clients my Phoenix SEO company has came to us because they didn’t feel like putting in the work for putting good content marketing material together.

  • Kate

    Forum posting is one of the most effective ways to reach the right audience, if done correctly. D2M doing it right and can tailored it up to suit with budget. I therefore recommend them.