Choosing a content marketing agency for your business—whether outsourcing for the first time, or changing providers—is a big decision.
How can you be sure you’re making the right one? By asking lots of questions. Not their favourite colour*, Friday night tipple of choice**, or anything quite so contentious as where they stand on Brexit***, but questions that will give you the information you need to make an informed decision, and hopefully mark the beginning of a long and fruitful working relationship.
These 15 will help you separate the stunning content wheat from the utter bunch of chaff:
1. “Who are your writers?”
Your content is your brand; your brand is your baby. Whether content is to be written in-house, collaboratively, or by a team of freelancers, ask to see samples of work so you can feel confident it’s in safe hands.
2. “What’s your content strategy for your other clients?”
An effective content strategy is one that reflects your overarching business objectives, and therefore is a collaborative process. Every single tactic should be traced back to your goals, linking the big-picture stuff with the nitty-gritty deliverables to make it happen. Ask them about the strategy for their other clients and you’ll soon see how much thought they’re likely to put into you, too.
3. “What do you know about our industry?”
A content marketer doesn’t have to be a specialist in your field, but they will need a strategy for getting up-to-speed on your industry as quickly as possible. A content agency should be able to get to the nuts and bolts of your business, with all the insight and innovation of an outsider’s perspective. If they niche in your industry, all the better, but glowing testimonials ranging from chemical-bonding to vegan wholesalers show that they’re flexible enough to take you on.
4. “What do you know about our customers?”
Somewhat related to the above, a good agency will work collaboratively with you to get to know your customer persona inside out (and this time, that can include drink preferences and political leanings…)
5. “What about distribution?”
Producing sparkling content is only the beginning. Make sure they have the access and expertise to maximise your content’s impact with a multi-channel distribution strategy that includes social media and email marketing.
6. “What tools do you use?”
If an agency says they have no use for tools, they are either lying, in denial, or they are one. There are so many options out there – the best of which allow for multiple users to keep tabs of the various stages of your content. Ask them how it works, and why it benefits their clients as opposed to them.
7. “Do we need case studies?”
Anything less than “Yes. Yes you do.” should be viewed somewhat suspiciously: case studies are bread and butter content. They tell your story and give customers a real insight into how you work, while showcasing your expertise and personality. If you don’t have any case studies yet, your content agency should be pushing them.
8. “What’s the ROI?”
It’s not necessarily all about the money – content marketing is a long play. Nevertheless, there should be quantifiable metrics that can be directly attributed to content; and your agency should be able to prove their value with reference to hard numbers and qualitative evidence.
9. “Will you edit my work?”
A good content agency will have you leaving every meeting with fire in your belly, ready to go forth and create your own magnificent content. A great one should also offer a service to step-up your writing game with one-on-one editing support.
10. “What reports do I get, and when?”
The difference between meh-marketing and bloody-fantastic-marketing is Data with a capital D: if you’re not getting regular performance reports (or any reports at all), be worried. Of course, numbers alone are just numbers – a good agency will put results into context and help you understand why your bounce rate is up (or any other question about analytics).
11. “Where do you source your pictures?”
Underestimating copyright can be disastrously costly; so for your own peace of mind, you need to know your content agency have got your back. Whether your images are from open sources or paid sites, make sure attribution is always provided.
12. “What can I do to make my content work harder for me?”
A great agency should have tips and insights on how to get the most from your content. Whether it’s using them as direct sales tools, distributing to journos or turning into infographics, they should be able to explain the different channels of distribution, and how best to sweat the content for maximum impact.
13. “How quickly will we see results?”
“Now, now, we want results now”. While clients don’t often make demands quite so stridently, we are in the results game and clients have a right to know when they’re likely to see them. Of course, results are all dependent on the overall goals so a content agency should really be referring back to those. If the aim is to triple web traffic, that’s gonna take longer than, say, increasing newsletter sign ups. Whatever the goals, probe to see what metrics they’ll use to measure success.
14. “What are you reading?”
Your agency may have already asked you this as part of their ‘getting to know you’ routine, but fire it back at them and you’ll gain valuable insight into (amongst other things) their commitment to the industry and their clients.
15. “How can I prove ROI within my own team?”
Successful content creation requires buy-in across management teams, and a good agency will have tips on how to persuade reluctant colleagues that content works, and works well. Other than “it’s awesome – we need to do it, keep doing it, and then do some more of it” – which is all very true, but not wholly scientific.
If you’ve got any questions for us, get in touch.