Yeah, content marketing is cool. It’s hands-down the most consistently profitable marketing strategy you can pursue, thanks to its effects in multiple areas (including referral traffic, organic SEO, and customer retention) and general affordability.
But because not everyone is a great writer, and not everyone has time to dedicate to learning content marketing fundamentals, a number of people eventually seek out content marketing agencies to do their dirty work for them.
As a content marketing consultant myself, I endorse this pursuit.
However, before you get involved with a content marketing agency—and before you even start to do the research—there are a few things you need to know about the working arrangement.
- Agencies aren’t the solution to all your problems. First, understand that hiring an agency isn’t instantly going to solve all your business problems. Getting more traffic to your site is a good thing, but if your products aren’t profitable, it’s not going to do much for your bottom-line revenue. Before seeking an agency, your company should be in relatively good health and you should at least have basic brand standards in place—or else you should seek them from your agency of choice.
- Not all agencies are the same. This one should be obvious when you start comparing blog posts of agencies you’re researching. Not every agency will offer you the same line of services, nor will they offer you the same caliber of services. Some are hastily thrown together on an arrogant amateur’s whim, while others are tangled bureaucratic nightmares of hierarchical content writers and whip-crackers. Every agency has something to hide, but it’s all different.
- Quantity doesn’t matter as much as you think it does. Most agencies will try to impress you with numbers, because numbers are logical, orderly, and impossible to disprove. For example, they’ll claim to write you 10 blog posts a month and build you 15 links or earn you X percent higher traffic by X number of months. The numbers are worth considering, but remember the golden rule in content marketing—quality over quantity. Quantity doesn’t matter a bit unless the quality is there first.
- Content marketing and SEO aren’t synonymous. Content marketing and SEO share a lot in common, and it’s practically impossible to have one without some piece of the other. However, don’t mistake expertise in one area for expertise in the other. They’re still distinct disciplines, and you need an agency that can handle both at the same time.
- Good content strategies are multifaceted. Remember, content marketing is powerful in part because of how it affects all your other strategies; it’s a brilliant tool for enhancing your personal branding, email marketing, SEO, social media, and customer service campaigns—and that’s just for starters. A good content strategy will hit on multiple areas at once, not just filling up your blog with fluff.
- You’ll need to do some legwork. You’re hiring an agency to save yourself some work, but don’t forget you need to be invested in this process too. You need to do some of the legwork if you’re going to lead an effective strategy, and that means working with your agency of choice to establish your brand standards, set direction, and provide feedback on their efforts.
- The results won’t come overnight. Remember, content marketing is a long-term investment; it’s going to take you many months, at a minimum, to see results. Just because you haven’t seen monumental results after the first few weeks of your contract doesn’t mean your agency’s worthless. Pay attention to the quality of their work, and give it time for the results to come.
- Don’t underestimate personality. You’re going to be working with these people over the phone, over email, or in person. When you collaborate, or when you need to discuss a problem, you need to have someone you actually enjoy talking to on the other end. Don’t underestimate the power of personality in a working content agency relationship.
- Big names aren’t always the best bet. There are a ton of big-ticket content marketing agencies out there who dominate the search engine results pages (SERPs) and have blogs with thousands of posts and dozens of eBooks. Trust me, they’re good at what they do. But that doesn’t mean they’re a perfect fit for your brand. There’s more to a valuable service than raw clout, so don’t be afraid to dig a little deeper to find what you’re looking for.
- You get what you pay for. Finally, understand that you generally get what you pay for in content marketing. You can go with a cheap agency with little experience, as long as you understand that you probably won’t get much quality in return. Conversely, if you want top-tier work in your corner, you’ll have to be prepared to shell out a little extra.
Once you accept these 10 basic truths about content marketing and working with a content agency, you’ll be in a much better position to make a final decision. Content isn’t all fun and games, but working with the right agency—rather than a shitty one—can mean the difference between achieving that sexy ROI you’ve been lusting after or committing some marketing variant of Hara-Kiri as penance for your mistakes.
If sexy ROI is what you’re after, we’re the people who can get it for you. Contact us and learn what we can do to give your company the content marketing foundation it deserves.