Should Your Company Hire a Content Marketing Agency?
Full disclosure: Boomjolt is a content marketing agency and this blog post was written with the intent of attracting people to our website (we produce content that targets long-tail keywords too).
That said, the answer to the question, “Does my company need a content marketing agency?” isn’t a definite yes. There is a lot to consider and this article will provide everything you need to know to make an informed decision. We’ll outline alternatives to hiring a content marketing agency and you may decide there is a better option for your particular company. And that’s okay with us. We believe in mutually beneficial client-agency engagements.
What does a content marketing agency do?
While a content marketing agency provides most of its value through writing, it isn’t all they offer. The leading agencies provide a combination of strategic advising and content production. After all, content marketing success depends on creating and executing an effective plan.
If you decide to hire an agency, they have to be well-versed in B2B content marketing best practices. That includes understanding what it takes to achieve marketing objectives using content and how the channel supports other marketing initiatives (e.g. SEO) and areas of the business (e.g. sales and customer retention). It also means they churn out quality content (e.g. relevant, well-written, and optimized for the channel) on a consistent basis.
However, those are baseline requirements. Let’s go deeper and outline everything you should look for in an agency partner.
A content agency learns about your company and brand
Quality marketing content hits the mark. It provides detailed information on the right topics so you educate readers, generate organic traffic, and support your colleagues in sales.
If you hire a content marketing agency, they’ll start the engagement by learning about your company, product, value proposition, and brand messaging. They’ll go through a similar orientation process as a new hire so the content they produce meets your standards and resonates with your potential customers.
A content agency understands your buyer persona profiles
In addition to becoming well-versed in your brand and product, a content marketing agency will learn who your sales team typically interacts with. They’ll create a variety of content meant for your general audience and the specific personas your sales team communicates with during the buying process.
If your company hasn’t yet formed buyer persona profiles, your agency partner should be willing to conduct that research prior to creating a strategy. They’ll identify the pain points experienced by each customer segment so they create content that responds to those unique challenges.
A content agency understands your industry and competitors
As your content marketing agency forms a strategy, they’ll learn about the different competitors that make up your industry. They’ll visit each company’s website and discover how they stack up when it comes to producing marketing content.
Depending on how crowded your industry is, there is likely a mix of brands that do and don’t partake in content marketing. And within the ones that do make it a priority, there are probably a few companies that do it well. Your agency should identify who is excelling and prepare to exceed their efforts.
A content agency supports your current marketing efforts
The agency will be open to working with your company in whatever capacity is needed. Most of the time, they’ll be focused on producing the content defined in the strategy they create on your behalf.
However, priorities shift and new projects emerge all the time, especially in startups. Your agency should have a collaborative mindset and be open to taking on any new project you send their way (e.g. rework previously published content or write a blog post about a product update).
A content agency supports your sales process
Too many companies view content as only a lead generation channel. However, content plays a role in every stage of the sales funnel. Providing prospects with product-related content that responds to their challenges or concerns can be the catalyst for them buying.
Although your content agency will primarily collaborate with your marketing team, they’ll also interact with sales. They’ll learn what common questions prospects have during the sales process and create collateral reps can use to support the answers they give. For example, an ROI guide, features guide, or competitor comparison sheet provides the prospect with supplemental information they can review after the demo.
A content agency sets benchmarks prior to the engagement
A content marketing agency won’t go into a client relationship without first measuring how your company is already doing. They’ll review metrics like website traffic, search engine rankings, bounce rates, demo requests, and downloads (in the case of content that lives behind a form).
They’ll use the data to benchmark the objectives they set for the engagement. After reviewing your content and that of your competitors, they’ll know how much room for improvement is possible and will set ambitious yet realistic goals.
A content agency creates a content marketing calendar
Content marketing success takes time. And like any long-term endeavor, creating a roadmap helps prioritize, allocate resources, and show incremental progress.
An agency organizes all the topics they come up with into a content calendar. They’ll share the document with your team and include details like the publish date, keywords, targeted buyer personas, and a promotion plan. A content calendar is a crucial document that transitions the engagement from the research phase to on-going content production.
A content agency produces a variety of content
B2B content marketing has multiple objectives, from simply building brand recognition to supporting each step in the sales funnel. Each distinct goal requires a different approach.
An agency partner will include a variety of content in the calendar they form for your company. For instance, long-form, keyword-targeted blog content generates organic traffic and showcases your brand as an industry authority. And product-focused PDF guides move prospects through the sales process.
The agency will also help your company differentiate from competitors with non-standard content, like customer case studies and thought-leadership articles written from the perspective of your executives.
A content agency produces quality content
It sounds obvious but can’t be overstated—quality content sets your company apart from the competition. Strategy and research are important but ultimately meaningless if your content is anything less than excellent.
Quality content isn’t just well-written and interesting to your audience. It’s also optimized for its channel, produced with certain objectives in mind, and supports the broader content marketing strategy. Content must pass the eye test while also following the content marketing best practices the agency has expertise in.
A content agency is open to feedback
Your agency will always strive to make your team’s job easier and help your company meet its objectives. But to do so, they’ll need direction from the people who know best.
They’ll expect feedback from your team on the overall strategy they create and the individual pieces of content they produce along the way. That doesn’t mean what they write should require extensive editing. Only that they’ll be receptive to minor changes that result in content better aligning with your company’s value proposition and marketing messaging.
A content agency stays on pace
Like we mentioned earlier, content marketing is a long game. Small successes each day lead to major milestones being met down the road so staying on track is a must.
A content marketing agency will adhere to the tight deadlines they include in the content calendar. Even if priorities change and they take on a new project, they’ll be adaptable and work to get back on pace with little interruption.
A content agency measures and shares progress
While digital marketing is driven by analytics, content is one of the more difficult channels to measure. That said, there are various metrics that can be used to gauge progress.
Your agency will check in with your team regularly to provide general status updates and highlight any big wins. After all, they’re an extension of your marketing team. And like any team member, they must keep their point of contact updated on what they’re working on and how they’re progressing toward goals.
Some questions to ask yourself before hiring a content marketing agency?
Outsourcing content to an agency isn’t a decision that should be made on a whim. Your company should first consider if content is a channel it wants to invest in, then determine the best way to create and execute a content marketing strategy.
The following questions will help you decide if it makes sense to make content one of your primary marketing channels:
- Do you need to boost brand recognition? – Content showcases your brand as an industry authority.
- Are you in a competitive industry? – Sharing informative content helps your company stand out in a crowded landscape.
- Are you struggling to attract leads? – Providing educational content in exchange for a prospect’s contact information fills the top of your sales funnel.
- Do you have a limited marketing budget? – Content marketing is one of the most cost-effective channels.
- Are you willing to wait for results? – While content marketing doesn’t require a hefty budget, results can take 6-12+ months.
- Are you executing a comprehensive SEO strategy? – If you’re serious about SEO, you’ll need long-form blog posts to rank for certain keywords.
If you conclude content is a worthwhile endeavor, engaging an agency could make sense. However, let’s review some alternatives you should consider.
A content marketing agency versus a full-time content marketing employee
There are plenty of advantages to employing a full-time content marketing professional. They’re in your office every day, focused solely on accomplishing your company’s marketing goals. They’ll become familiar with your brand and learn exactly what topics to cover and points to include.
The downside is one person will hardly move the needle. And paying their salary and providing benefits is a large commitment. While an agency isn’t as close to your daily operations as a full-time employee, they’ll have a lead strategist and multiple writers serving your company. And they’ll provide those resources at a cost comparable to the compensation of an on-staff content marketing professional.
“Yes” to a full-time content marketing employee if:
Content is a secondary marketing channel for you. Perhaps your company has a blog that can be updated a couple times a month or needs a go-to writer for emails and website copy. An internal copywriter is fine if you’re okay with a partial content marketing strategy. This approach can also work if you’re willing to pair them with a freelancer, as we’ll cover in the next section.
A content marketing agency versus a content freelancer?
It has never been easier to hire a remote freelancer thanks to sites like Upwork and Fiverr. You can find a low-cost writer in minutes and have them working on content for your company right away.
But the truth is many freelance content marketers aren’t strong writers and will rarely be familiar with your industry. You’ll likely find that you have to rework much of the content they produce, both for grammar and flow and the main points they include.
A content marketing agency costs more than an independent freelancer but will deliver much better work. As you’ve learned, they’ll conduct research upfront so they know what topics are likely to pay off and the information each should include. Their writing team will then collaborate to create high-quality, ready-to-publish content.
“Yes” to a freelancer writer if:
You’re willing to have them work with an in-house content marketer or team member who has the capacity to manage them. Freelancers often need outlines or detailed content briefs so they know how to frame the content they write.
Hiring a content freelancer also makes sense if you need someone for a one-off project, like writing a single E-book or reworking old blog posts.
A content marketing agency versus a full-service digital agency?
There are countless digital marketing agencies that provide an array of services to their clients. In addition to content, they offer SEO, paid search, social media, email, web design—the whole shebang. These agencies strive to be an outsourced marketing department for companies with multiple needs.
Many of these agencies try to do too much, which prevents them from excelling in one area. You’ll likely find that some of the subject matter experts who serve your company are better than others.
Full-service digital agencies also tend to skimp on content since it’s the most labor-intensive marketing activity and doesn’t deliver instant results. And you can’t be half in with content marketing. It requires daily effort to achieve results.
“Yes” to a full-service digital agency if:
You have multiple marketing needs or a barebones internal marketing department. Negotiating a package deal with a full-service agency can be a cost-effective way to expand your marketing efforts.
Engaging a full-service agency may also be ideal if content marketing isn’t a top priority for your company. For example, you can hire an agency to focus on SEO and find that they also write keyword-targeted blog posts as part of their services.
Recap: The benefits of hiring a content marketing agency
We provided a lot of information in this article so we’ll conclude with a quick recap of the advantages a content marketing agency provides:
- They are experts in content marketing best practices.
- They have a team of professional writers who produce top-notch content.
- They take time to learn about your company, product, and industry so your content is accurate and on-brand.
- They learn about your buyer personas or will do the necessary research to create persona profiles.
- They create a comprehensive strategy with content aimed at accomplishing different objectives.
- They collect feedback to create content that exceeds your company’s expectations.
If your company is ready to dive into content marketing, we here at Boomjolt would love to be your agency partner. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know how we can help.