Content marketing agency advice
How to save money, keep it simple & avoid the pitfalls when hiring a content marketing agency
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If your business is looking to hire an agency to help with content marketing, it’s normal to feel overwhelmed at first. I consider myself a content marketing expert and I often find myself a little overwhelmed with all the components of content marketing.
There are always new tricks and tactics, and somewhere else you need to be. You need to keep up with the ever-changing needs and wants of consumers. It’s not an easy task, but there’s a reason to do it — because it works! Content has become the very foundation of our online lives, so SMEs that want to be seen as experts and leaders in their fields must be in the business of creating their own branded content.
Who’s this guide for? Anyone who needs to understand their content marketing options and be aware of the common issues so they can make informed choices.
What is content marketing?
I prefer to think of content marketing as the main tool used to achieve your inbound and social media marketing goals. If you are looking to create inbound marketing streams to attract clients instead of chasing them, content is one of the main tools you will use to execute that plan. If you’re looking to grow a fan base on social media or sell your products through social platforms, you’re going to need content to do that. You should create, distribute, and publish valuable content online that is tailored to meet the needs of your unique audience.
I’m sure you have heard the term before: Content Is King. Well, twenty years ago it was true, and today it still is. Content is everywhere. You’re absorbing content at this very moment. It’s the blogs you read online and the newsletters that appear in your inbox. Those funny videos you watched last night? Content marketing.
My absolute favourite thing about content marketing is that it’s all about value. Strategically creating content that your consumers want. It’s attraction marketing at its best. You’re selling to people without them even knowing it because you’re creating content that engages them, interests them and causes them to choose you when that purchase time finally comes.
When is content marketing used and why?
Content marketing is used when businesses want to create value-based relationships with their audience and take a long-term inbound marketing approach. The basic principle of content marketing is this — you want to give people the opportunity to KNOW, LIKE, and TRUST your business. There’s a process involved to convert online strangers into paying customers. First, they need to know you exist. Then, they need to decide whether they like you. If they like you, they will keep absorbing your content — eventually, they will decide they can trust you and pull out their credit card.
When a business decides to invest in content marketing, they’re truly ready to invest in the long-term growth of their business. They want to give people who have never spent a penny with them something for free, over and over, until that person is ready to pay. Content marketing boils down to giving the consumer what they want or need in a strategic way.
It isn’t a way to get customers over night or save your business. It’s a slow and steady approach to growing a sustainable business that attracts customers.
Why is choosing the right content marketing expert so difficult?
It’s difficult to hire or choose any digital partner, but content marketing might be one of the trickiest. In my experience, the reason this is so difficult is that there are so many steps, stages and pieces that must come together. Then you can create, implement, and execute a solid content marketing strategy. You need to ensure you are getting an agency with the full scope of abilities and skills, and that can be hard to determine right out of the gate.
Why is content marketing so important for a SME?
Content marketing is essential for any business that wants to attract customers from the internet. We’re such a content-driven society, yet many of us don’t even realise it. Everything you read or watch was created with a purpose. Those funny videos aren’t just to make you laugh.
Social media has become one of the biggest opportunities (and struggles) for all SMEs. It’s difficult to find out the type of content your audience wants, and that’s just the first step. But think about it — we know that mothers make nearly all household expenditures. They’re making the buying decisions for their kids, their homes, their groceries, their pets, and maybe even their husband’s clothes. Where do mothers spend most of their time? You guessed it — Facebook.
If your business isn’t on Facebook, and mothers represent a major segment of your target market, you are losing a huge amount of business to your competitors who’ve managed to get themselves into that newsfeed. But how do you get yourself into the newsfeed? Right again — content. Valuable content that your consumers want. You can’t be visible online without content; it really is that black and white.
Content marketing questions that can help?
What are the best ways to save money?
I don’t recommend trying to scrimp and save when it comes to content marketing. There are so many pieces that fit together, and you get what you pay for. My suggestion here would be to try working with a small company, rather than a large agency. Often, the smaller companies can charge less than the bigger agencies, and you wind up with the same quality of work, if not better.
Which areas should I be aware of that take the most amount of time?
This is completely dependent on your overall strategy, but I find the actual creation of the content takes the most time. You invest the time upfront in creating a strategy, but creating content to align with it is a major task. The other thing to consider here is the amount of time it will take to see a return. It will take months, if not longer, to realise a return on your content marketing investment. This is a long-term approach, and you need to be prepared for that.
What should I do first to make sure I pick the right digital partner?
I think it’s important to have a solid understanding of the bits and pieces that come together, to make your campaign successful. Aside from the typical testimonials, past work, etc., you want to ensure that the agency has all the roles and responsibilities figured out. For example, you want to make sure there’s a writer, editor, videographer, social media expert, graphic design artist and maybe even more. Try to consider all the bits and pieces and account for each one.
How much should I spend and on what?
This is completely subjective, based on the scope of your program. If you were to hire an agency to create and execute something truly comprehensive, you would be spending a few thousand pounds a month, if not more. If you want something smaller, maybe a few blogs and newsletters, it will be significantly less. I always suggest you get a few quotes to get a general idea what the fair market value is for your set of objectives.
What can I do myself, if any?
There are areas where you could jump in once the initial strategy is done. For example, you may want to save a few hundred each month and handle the social media scheduling yourself. Or, maybe you love writing and want to do the blogging yourself. This will be something you need to discuss with the chosen agency upfront, as they will all have their different preferences in this department.
What are the signs that my digital partner is ripping me off?
If the agency doesn’t seem capable of putting the small pieces together, I would be worried. If the written content comes back with typos or deadlines are being missed, it may be cause for concern. Part of any content marketing strategy relies on the agency genuinely understanding you, your brand and your business. If the agency isn’t investing that time upfront to understand you and your customers, they may not be fully committed to delivering stellar results.
Pitfalls and problems – before you hire a content marketing agency
They start without a strategy
No content marketing plan will achieve optimal success without a strategy. Never jump into creating and distributing content just for the sake of it, or just to put something out there. You will wind up wasting a tonne of time, and money.
They don’t take the time to understand your customers
This one is all too common. Businesses are eager to get started and get paid, so they dive right in. They may take the time to strategise, but end up making assumptions rather than doing the actual work to understand what your target audience wants. Understanding your business is one thing, but content marketing goes so much deeper than that. It’s about what your customer wants, and it’s crucial they uncover that.
Not having clearly defined roles and expectations
You can’t get into a partnership with another company and expect it to go well if no one knows what is expected of them. Who is writing the content? Who will edit it? Who will create the visuals? Who will schedule the social media postings? Who will film the videos? These things need to be figured out early on so that roles and responsibilities are decided. Don’t accept the “we’ll figure it out” response. You need clear answers to your questions.
The golden rules
Make the initial strategy priority number one
What is the bigger picture here? Why are you sending out newsletters, or posting on Facebook? You need to figure out what the objectives are, and clearly define how these efforts will lead to meeting those goals. For example, make sure they clearly define how your actions on social media will eventually result in paying customers.
Are you just pumping out blog posts, or are you creating opportunities to capture email addresses, so you can be sending them down a sales funnel? You need to think long-term, and short-term, with your strategy. A solid content marketing specialist will do this upfront and explain what is going to happen now, and how that will lead to action in the future.
Ensure there are plans for transparency and open communication
This can be hard to determine until you are well into the project, but there are some things you can look out for initially to gauge how “on the ball” your new partner is. Are they late with initial work? Do they send a confirmation before your appointments? If they make a mistake, what’s their reaction? Do they take accountability and make things right?
Push yourself out of your comfort zone
Don’t get stuck in old ways or patterns. Content marketing is all about meeting your customers where they’re at and trying new things. You might be uncomfortable appearing on video, for example, but that doesn’t give you an excuse to pretend that online videos and live-streaming aren’t the biggest things since sliced bread. Just try it.
Complete your due diligence when hiring an agency
Make sure you ask plenty of questions that pertain to the bigger picture, to ensure they have the skills and abilities to make the overall plan come to life. Ask for testimonials, reviews and look over their other work. Ask who your account agent will be and make sure you have access to the actual person you’ll be working with. It’s a partnership, and you need to make sure you’re able to connect with your content marketer on a personal level.
Expect to wait a while for your results
As with many types of marketing, this too will take time to see results. It’s normal to wait six months or more before seeing solid results. Building that KNOW, LIKE, and TRUST factor takes time. And before you even get there, you’re doing all the behind-the-scenes stuff first.
Listen to the advice of your content marketing specialist
If you’ve hired the right person, they understand your target customer and the industry. They can also look at the bigger picture and understand how all the smaller pieces fit together to create the final outcome. If they’re telling you something won’t work or needs to be done a certain way, there’s probably a reason why.
Go big or go home
This isn’t a phrase I use often, but when it comes to content marketing, you really do need the full-meal-deal. If you can’t afford the full investment, this may not be the right strategy for you. What I mean is that if your agent puts together a full plan and you can only afford bits and pieces of it, investing partially into this type of program is unlikely to yield good results. You’re often better off to keep your money and try something else on a smaller scale.
Highlight sales offers on your product, special occasions when a different campaign might work and general feedback on a campaign’s individual performance.
Tell them if something really worked for you just as much as something that nosedived. No agency in the world will get it right all the time.
Make sure the agency has analytics and will be monitoring and tweaking as you go
Creating a strategy doesn’t mean you can set it and forget it. As you begin to create, publish, and distribute content, you’ll eventually have analytics to measure and monitor. These help you to see what topics and forms of content get the best response. This allows you to get stronger results as you continue to create and publish.