Most businesses use some form of content marketing these days – from social media posts to blogs to videos. We’ve all seen how effective it is – from viral videos being forwarded on WhatsApp to hilarious tweets from American fast food chains shared by thousands of people.
Content marketing is an absolute behemoth of an industry – at the time of writing this, its global revenue was $42.15b and is expected to grow by 16% each year. Competition is fierce, and both new and old businesses are usually inundated with offers from content marketing agencies, both big and small.
Of course, like any industry, there are good and not-so-good players, and choosing the right agency can be a tricky decision. You don’t want to invest your hard-earned money to yield absolutely nothing back, so you need to make sure you’re getting the biggest bang for your buck.
Here’s five questions we suggest you ask before partnering with a content marketing agency.
What do you need my team to do?
A collaborative partnership is absolutely critical to success. In the fast-paced world of business, you don’t want a partner who passes you like a ship in the night – you want to work with people who are engaged in what you do.
It would be unreasonable to expect an outside agency to come in and have a total understanding of your business from the get-go, and your team might have to meet with theirs and share some knowledge. The agency can then (hopefully) leverage that knowledge into a successful marketing campaign.
You should also check whether you’ll have a dedicated account manager, what their availability is, and what workflows and lead times they have on projects.
Do they promise unrealistic results?
The old adage of “if it’s too good to be true, then it probably is” absolutely applies to content marketing. Is your aspiring agency offering results that far outweigh anything their competitors say they can give you?
There are many ways that unscrupulous agencies can make it seem like they’re getting amazing results for you. Maybe they’re promising that they’ll be able to boost your social media following by an outlandish number? Or, they might say they can increase your blog readership by thousands or quintuple your website traffic in a week.
While this sounds amazing and can be very tempting to businesses looking for a quick win, it’s likely the agency promising this is using some sort of black hat technique to inflate these numbers artificially. They could be using bot farms to increase your traffic, be purchasing social media followers, or a myriad of other underhand techniques that, at the very best, won’t get you any customers, and at the worst, could get you penalised by search engines.
Can they provide evidence of previous results?
If the content marketing agency you’re thinking about has previous experience within your industry they will have a better understanding of what makes compelling and engaging content, have access to thought leaders and experts within the field which provides opportunities for guest blogging, and ultimately have a better understanding of your audience. These are all great positives, and when executed properly, these tactics can drive traffic to your blog and increase both your page and domain relevance and authority.
However, while these are advantages you definitely want on your side, they aren’t the be-all and end-all when deciding who to work with.
Even if they don’t have experience in your specific field, it doesn’t mean they won’t be able to help you grow your business. What they should be able to do is show you legitimate strategies demonstrating how they’re going to access your audience, and most importantly, be able to provide data showing previously successful campaigns for other clients (anonymously, of course).
Can the agency actually meet your needs?
If you’re in talks with a prospective agency, ensure they’re trying to understand your audience and business in general. There is no template for successful content marketing – it’s a collaborative process between client and agency.
While most companies will want your business, it’s a good litmus test of agency quality to make sure they’ve got the skill set necessary to fulfil your goals. If you’re seeking to improve your SEO – have they got previous successful campaigns under their belt? If you’re looking to run highly specific advertising campaigns targeting a niche audience – do they know how?
How are you going to make me money?
Money. Cash. The all-mighty dollar (or pound, or euro, or yen, and so on). It’s what it all comes down to in business, but it is still something people feel awkward talking about. As lovely as it would be not to have to worry about the investment, it’s a genuine concern for all business owners, especially in the current climate.
A good Return On Investment (ROI) is the most important thing that a content marketing agency can offer. For the relationship to work in your favour, your investment should be less than what you earn back in business and quality agencies will measure this. If the ROI isn’t positive, they should be able to tell you why and explain how they’re going to change their strategy moving forward.
All things considered, it’s always best to shop around when it comes to choosing a content marketing agency – there are literally thousands to choose from. As enthusiastic as you might be about pushing your business to the next level, it’s important to choose the right partner to help you do that.