You don't want to hire the wrong content marketing agency.
Many companies decide they're ready to adopt content marketing, so they search for and hire the best-priced agency that can deliver the most content. They believe if they can get more content published, they'll see results.
The problem is that everyone is publishing content these days. There's over-saturation in the market, so just producing isn't good enough. The content needs to be optimized for search engines, the buyer's journey, and most importantly to provide value to your audience.
So if you think just hiring a content marketing agency will move the needle, you run the risk of watching your traffic and conversions stagnate. And they probably will.
If you hire the wrong agency, it'll get worse. Your metrics could move in the wrong direction, costing you more than the agency's bill
But, if you get the right one—an agency that pairs strategy with content marketing and understands that content isn't the goal, but an avenue to get there—you can focus on your business and trust them to achieve your marketing goals.
Don't Hire a Content Marketing Agency Without These 6 Traits
You should be critical about agencies you're working with. The content they create has a direct impact, for better or worse, on your brand. The decision shouldn't be taken lightly.
We've worked with a lot of companies, and we've heard some horror stories. You see, just hiring a content marketing agency doesn't mean you're going to get the benefits. Sometimes, it can even do you wrong.
We provide content for a lot of companies. But we do it differently.
We don't just create content or do content marketing. We do marketing.
We tell stories. We challenge beliefs. We create the content that is going to attract and convert the customers you want and repel the ones you don't.
It's not about just creating content and publishing. It's about pairing strategy with your content to deliver the results you're after. And if you're interested in the kind of content that'll position your brand and set you up for success, you should set up a game plan.
1. They're driven by results.
The first thing you should want to see from your content marketing agency is that they can produce the results you're after. The easiest way to see if they're worth hiring is by looking at the case studies and testimonials they offer.
With case studies, you can gain insights into their processes and see where they focus their efforts. You'll want to look for the baseline numbers their client had and how much they were able to improve it. You should also take note of how long it took them to earn those results, so you have an idea of how long it may take your company to earn the same metrics.
Something else worth paying attention to is which metrics they track. If the agency only focuses on traffic, they're missing a large amount of data that could illustrate your actual marketing performance. Things like lead generation, sales conversion, and post engagement can provide insights as to what your audience prefers and how you can best help them.
Testimonials are important because they show what customers have actually said. Pay specific attention to the testimonials that explain the results earned. While the company gets to handpick which they display on their site, the fact that they've achieved certain results can't be denied.
Finally, be wary of grand promises about quick SEO wins. SEO generally takes some time to build up, so unless your site has a high domain authority and lots of traffic, your articles won't reach the top of the SERPs immediately.
2. They have a proven track record.
Another requirement is how experienced the agency is. This works on two levels. First, it matters how many clients they've had and for how long. Too few clients and they may not know how to handle your work. Too few retainers, and it could show that their clients were unhappy with their initial contract.
Second, it matters who their clients were. While they may have had plenty of clients, specialized experience in certain niches can be beneficial. If you're working in a technical industry, an agency who's proven they can work with your subject can pay dividends.
Request a portfolio from any agency you're looking at hiring so you can view the quality of their work.
3. They use systems.
From the start, a good agency is going to walk you through the process of working together. From a comprehensive onboarding to streamlined content creation and publishing, you'll have a complete understanding of what's going on.
The reason you want an agency to be systems-oriented is that with a sound system, they're more likely to deliver consistent results. Without a system, you're at the mercy of circumstance. Some of your content may be well-created, meeting the goals outlined in your strategy. Other content may go from created to published without review.
Systems also mean the agency is more likely to hit all the deadlines they need to. Few things are as frustrating as an agency failing to deliver work at the agreed-upon time, because not only have you paid for their services, but you're losing precious time for your campaign to produce results.
4. They prioritize relationships.
Since you'll be working closely with a content marketing agency, having a company you'll enjoy fostering a relationship with is critical. The longer you work together, the more in sync your teams will become. And it could get to the point that they're able to publish content without needing as much input from your subject matter experts.
An agency that's driven to build a strong relationship with you is focused on long term success. An agency who doesn't care about the relationship aspect of the business is generally more focused on the short term wins, which are challenging to come by in content marketing.
If an agency isn't building a good relationship with you, you'll be spending more time searching for new agencies rather than getting your content published.
5. They're trusted in the market.
Trust is the basis of every relationship, and content marketing is no different. If you can't trust the agency you hire, you're going to run into problems with the quality of work being published. You may even find your brand damaged if they go unchecked.
This is another place where testimonials come in handy. Similarly, you can look for reviews. If other businesses can vouch for the agency being trustworthy, you reduce some of the risks. Because quotes are attributed to individuals, social media makes it easy to find people and ask questions about their experience. This is one of the easiest ways to validate an agency's trustworthiness.
A good agency should be transparent about everything they do. Their billing should be straightforward, and they should be voicing concerns if they spot any. It may seem counter-intuitive to want to hear about risks from your agency, but if they're bringing it to you, along with a solution, you'll be glad you hired them.
6. They're clear communicators.
Marketing is all about communication, so if your agency can't do that, it's already at a disadvantage. Without strong communication skills, they're not going to produce decent results for you.
It's up to a good content marketing agency to keep you informed throughout the process. You should have a constant idea of where your content is in the publishing process. There should be no confusion because everything step of the content creation journey has been made clear.
Any concerns you have should be answered relatively fast. And if they don't have an immediate answer, they'll acknowledge the question and give you a time frame for when they can.
Hiring a Content Marketing Agency for the Long Haul
If you're looking to hire a content marketing agency that's capable of producing results, you want to ensure they have all the traits on this list. While it won't guarantee that they'll be the best fit for your brand, if they're missing one of these, they definitely won't be.
Finally, when you start your search, plan for the long haul. Content marketing takes time, and if you can find the right agency, they'll be able to improve your results month over month.