The content marketing journey is no short trip.
I mean, that’s why it’s called a journey…
The point is, it's not something you can just haphazardly attempt and hope for the best, or something to which you can simply say “let’s give it a little try and see what happens.”
No, if you’re committed to growing and scaling your company through inbound methods, then you need to get serious about content marketing.
That means spending a significant chunk of time up front strategizing, planning, preparing, and scheduling. It means creating and crafting content on the regular, whether you’re feeling up to it or not.
In fact, 60% of successful marketers create at least one piece of content every day.
That’s a lot of time to dedicate toward content creation, especially when the average blog post can take anywhere from 3-6 hours to write. And that’s just the content writing components.
This (among other reasons, which we’ll get to shortly), is why many companies that are looking into the future and envisioning serious growth, turn to a content marketing agency to lend a hand, or ten.
Of course, as I’m sure you’ve realized by now, there are a lot of content marketing agencies out there. And they don’t all do the same thing, at least, not exactly.
So, what makes a good content marketing firm then?
When it comes time to choose a content marketing firm to take the reigns and help your company scale, there are a lot of things to consider, but you can really break it down into three main categories:
- Their expertise
- Their people
- Their processes
The Best Content Marketing Agencies Can Demonstrate Their Expertise
Aside from the lack of time, the biggest reason you’ll be seeking out a content marketing agency is that they can offer you something you don’t have - expertise.
Obviously, (or perhaps it’s, hopefully), they have significant expertise in the content marketing arena, but you should be looking for something a little more than that.
1. Niche & Subject Matter Expertise
Think about it like this. If you’re a dentist, and you need help attracting new business, are you going to go to a marketing firm who specializes in B2B?
No, you’re going to find a company like SmileShop Marketing who solely specializes in marketing dental clinics, because they know your needs, goals and industry inside and out.
Finding a content marketing agency is exactly the same.
If you’re a SaaS, then you want to find an agency that lives and breathes SaaS, has worked with several SaaS companies, and knows the ins and outs of selling software as a service.
If you don’t, you’ll probably find that any content that they create just doesn’t cut through. What’s more, you’ll have a hard time communicating to them the intricacies of your product, because they don’t have a decent background in working with similar companies.
Lesson #1: Choose a content marketing agency that knows your niche.
2. Previous Work & Case Studies
This might seem to be an obvious one, but it often gets overlooked.
When choosing a content marketing agency to work with, spend some time reviewing their previous work.
If they are hesitant to demonstrate their previous success it could mean they are fairly new in the game, or maybe it means they aren’t all that proud of what they’ve done to date.
Though some content marketing agencies have examples of their previous campaigns on their website, others may have them available upon request.
That’s because previous clients aren’t always willing to share their sensitive data, which is pretty reasonable.
If you do manage to get hold of an agency’s case studies, spend some time understanding if they:
- Can achieve the results you’re after,
- Have worked with someone like you, and
- Can demonstrate how the results they’ve achieved are linked to their actions as an agency
This last point is super important. It can be all too easy to claim a win where there is no real link to the agency’s efforts. This is where case studies are incredibly valuable.
Alternatively, reviews on authority resources such as Clutch and UpCity are super valuable in determining a content marketing agency's authority and expertise. Here, you can read through real life reviews from previous clients, which in some cases may be even more valuable than a case study written by the agency themselves.
When you’re scoping out a company you might want to work with, take a read through their case studies and see if they can prove their worth.
Lesson #2: Choose a content marketing agency with a proven track record.
3. Search Engine Optimization Skillset
Now, SEO is an entire world of its own.
There are entire agencies dedicated to helping you optimize your company’s website to be found on Google.
The thing is, a huge component of SEO relies on well-written content, and a huge part of content marketing is optimizing the content you create for search engines.
It might be a bit of a cliche, but the two go hand in hand. That’s why, when you’re looking to hire a content marketing agency, you should also be assessing their SEO skillset.
That means they should, at the very least, be conducting some form of keyword research, competitor analysis, and an audit of your existing website and content.
At the more extreme end, they may offer SEO services themselves, or have a partner agency who they work with to do the heavy lifting when it comes to the technical stuff.
You see, SEO isn’t just about content, there’s also a significant back-end component. Your content agency will know this, and should be prepared to either assist here or work closely with an SEO expert to help you attack this beast from all angles.
Lesson #3: Choose a content marketing agency that has deep experience with SEO.
Choosing A Content Marketing Company You Actually Want To Work With
There is NOTHING worse than bringing a company on board to help you grow, and quickly realizing something horrible.
You don’t actually enjoy working with anyone there.
When that happens, you’re on the fast track to a failed relationship, with months (and probably tens of thousands of dollars) potentially down the drain. That’s why it’s important to do your due diligence not only on the company’s previous work, but on their people.
4. Transparency and Trustworthiness
If you get even the slightest hint that a content marketing company isn’t being totally upfront, run.
In fact, that’s probably a good rule to have for working with any agency.
The thing is, when it comes to the big bad world of digital marketing, there are a lot of horror stories.
I mean, a lot.
You’ve probably heard one or two of them. Maybe you even have one of your own.
Regardless, transparency is key to finding a quality content marketing partner. Transparency around their pricing model, transparency around previous projects, and transparency around any potential conflicts of interest are all extremely important to building trust.
Lesson #4: Choose a content marketing company that is upfront, honest, and transparent.
5. The right character fit
Ask yourself the question, do you get along with these people?
Look, I’m not saying you need to take them out to dinner every week, but you’ll probably be speaking with them on a regular basis, and working very closely together.
When choosing a content marketing company to work with, you should approach it in the same way you would when hiring an internal staff member.
Ensuring they are the right character fit for your company will mean many more years of smooth sailing.
Lesson #5: Choose a content marketing company with the right character fit.
6. Walking the Talk
There are a lot of smooth-talking marketers out there.
You’ve seen the ones.
Posting videos in your Facebook feed of them standing in front of Lamborghini’s telling you about their “One simple trick that made them $1m in 6 months”.
But when you click through to see what’s in store, you realize it was all a ruse.
So, when you’re deciding on a content marketing company, make sure they can walk the talk. That means they are actually doing content marketing for themselves!
You’ll want to make sure that they:
- Post blogs regularly
- Publish case studies of their previous work
- Have a superbly designed website
- Share their content marketing secrets
Okay, maybe they won’t share all their secrets, after all, there has to be a reason for you to hire them.
But if they don’t share any of their expertise, it does leave you wondering if they are really the experts they claim to be…
A good question to ask yourself is: how did I come across this agency?
If you learned about them through a piece of pillar content or a blog post, that’s a probably a good sign, as it shows they actually know how to use content to generate leads.
Lesson #6: Choose a content marketing agency that walks the talk.
The Content Marketing Firm You Choose Should Have Solid Workflows
If they’ve passed the first two tests, then it’s time to dive a little deeper.
Any reputable digital content marketing firm worth its salt will have a firmly entrenched set of processes, systems, procedures, and workflows.
The best agencies have developed these over a number of years, and are constantly and consistently working to refine them to the needs of the market, and the ever-changing digital landscape.
Though they probably won’t share any specific details until you start working together (and fair enough), it’s pertinent to find out a little about what they’ll actually do once you sign on that dotted line.
7. Goal Setting
The first step in any successful content marketing strategy is to start by setting goals.
Your content marketing agency should have a clear process for goal-setting, and should be able to guide you as to appropriate targets, aspirations, and timeframes.
After all, they’ve done it several times. Right?
Chances are they’ll follow a process like SMART goal setting.
|S||Specific||The goal is refined and not too big or arbitrary|
|M||Measureable||The goal can be quantified, and it is easy to determine if it is achieved or not.|
|A||Attainable||You actually stand a chance of reaching your goal.|
|R||Relevant||The goal actually means something to your business, and is relevant to your content marketing strategy.|
|T||Timely||You’ve set a time limit to the goal, and some measurement intervals.|
Whether they use this specific framework or not isn’t the be-all and end-all, as long as they have some form of a proven process.
Lesson #7: Choose a company that has a firm grasp on goal-setting.
8. Choosing The Right Marketing Metrics & KPI's
Just like setting appropriate business and marketing goals, your digital content marketing agency should be able to help you decide on which metrics to track, as well to set some realistic KPIs.
It’s important that the bar isn’t set too low here, or too high.
Their experience in your industry will help them dictate where the middle ground is. That’s why it’s important to choose a firm that has a solid background in your niche.
Some common content marketing metrics to track include:
- Website traffic
- Click-through rates
- Email open rates
- Time on page
- Bounce rates
- Shares on social media
- Post engagement
- Email opt-in rates
Lesson #8: Choose a digital content marketing firm that knows the most appropriate metrics and benchmarks for your niche.
9. Creating A Solid Content Marketing Strategy
Any digital content marketing firm that’s worth working with will know how to create an effective B2B content marketing strategy.
More than that, they’ll have done it time and time again, so they’ll be expert strategizers.
You see, content marketing is unlikely to be a successful endeavor if you don’t have a solid strategy and vision.
- Developing customer personas
- Crafting your marketing messages
- Creating marketing themes
- Defining what success looks like
- Determining the appropriate content marketing tactics and channels to leverage
If the content marketing agency you’re considering working with isn’t planning on starting with strategy, look elsewhere.
Lesson #9: Choose a digital content marketing firm that can create an effective content marketing strategy.
10. Customer Persona Creation
You’ll have noticed that one of the key parts of creating a successful content marketing strategy lies in creating marketing personas.
Marketing personas, also known as buyer personas or customer personas (I know, we just can’t agree on anything can we), are a fictional representation of your ideal customer.
They should outline your typical customer’s:
- Key influencers
- Job/role details
- Watering holes
- Business goals
- Buying preferences and decision making processes
Why are customer personas important?
Because they help you to envision who you’re talking to when you’re creating any kind of content.
It’s kind of like thinking of an imaginary person that you’re talking and that you have in mind during content creation, and it’s super helpful for whoever is actually creating the content!
Tip #10: Choose a digital content marketing agency that knows customer personas inside out.
11. Keyword Research And Topic Planning
This one’s super important, so take note.
Whenever you’re creating written content, keyword research is vital.
Though it is getting a lot harder to rank for most keywords, it still needs to be a part of your planning process.
You see, the people who are claiming that “keyword research is dead”, are the ones who’ve previously seen success by simply stuffing content with targeted keywords.
While it’s true that you can’t rank like this anymore, you still need to know what key search phrases you’re targeting with any given piece of content so your writer can create quality content around this term, and implement semantically related keywords that tell Google exactly what a piece of content is about.
It’s also super important to understand what people are actually searching for.
The perfect content writing opportunities exist at the intersection between keyword research and your marketing messages.
Wherever you can add value to a customer’s life by providing an answer to their search phrase, and also demonstrate your own expertise, that’s where you want to be playing.
And that’s where topic planning comes in.
Tip #11: Choose a digital content marketing agency that is an expert in keyword research and topic planning.
12. Building Out A Content Calendar
At this point you’re probably thinking, man, this is a lot.
Well, yeah, that’s why you’re hiring a content marketing agency, right?
Once the keyword research and topic planning is complete, your digital content marketing firm should be building out a content calendar, which dictates which content is being created when, who is responsible, when it’s due, and how it is going to be distributed.
The importance of a strong content calendar is second to none.
Otherwise, you’ll just be creating content willy nilly with no real understanding of when and why. And without that, you probably won’t end up achieving everything you dreamed of.
Without due dates, and clear individual assignments, businesses tend to fall into that old trap of “I’ll get to it when I have the time” or “Someone else is sorting it”.
That’s a recipe for disaster, every time.
Tip #12: Choose a digital content marketing firm that uses a content calendar.
13. Specialized Writers vs. In-House Jack Of All Trades
A lot of content marketing agencies have in-house writers.
I mean, after all, they are creating content all the time, so why wouldn’t they?
Well, here’s the thing:
In-house content writers are great for them, but maybe not for you. That is, it’s a lot easier to manage, and also tends to keep costs a lot lower.
The problem is, in-house writers are never going to be experts in everything. They might be great at one or two verticals, but the rest? They’re probably no better than the next guy.
This leaves you at risk a little.
By contrast, some digital content agencies contract out to a number of specialized writers, bringing them on board for specific projects where their skillset is especially relevant.
This allows them to pick and choose specific writers for a given project, and for given content types in which they are most skilled.
Tip #13: Choose a digital content marketing firm that has specialized writers.
14. Using The Right Types Of Content
It sort of goes without saying, but not every form of content is appropriate for every goal or aim.
Your content marketing agency should not only know this, but know when to use specific types of content to achieve certain goals.
At Roketto, we believe in content that is:
Let’s break that down a little.
Obviously, everyone prefers high-quality content over low-quality content.
What we mean by high-quality is content that is 10x better than anything else that is ranking for that search phrase, is highly relevant, and actually leaves the reader with something they can take away and implement right now.
If it doesn’t, then what's the point in reading it?
When it comes to frequency, we know that pumping out content on a regular basis is extremely important. It tells Google that you’re active and relevant, and it tells your customers that you care about their challenges and are motivated to help them solve it.
We also know that long-form content gets shared way more than short-form write-ups.
That’s why our blog posts are consistently at least 3000 words. Plus, we know that it’s kind of hard to deliver any real, actionable value, with a blog post that is only 1000 words long.
Google is tricky, fickle beast, but we believe that its #1 goal is to show the most relevant, highest quality content for any given search query – every time.
Tip #14: Choose a digital content marketing firm that knows the right type of content for your purpose, goals, and mission.
15. Traffic and Lead Growth Through Content
Creating content that is educational and highly actionable is important, but if it doesn’t generate leads and traffic, then it’s kind of useless.
I mean, you want to see a decent return on investment right? And content marketing can deliver some really nice ROIs.
You want scalable growth and sustainable results, right?
If the answer is yes, then it’s important that the content marketing agency you decide to work with has a solid track record of generating traffic and lead growth through the content they create.
This means knowing how to generate traffic using
- Organically ranked content
- Social media tactics
- Email marketing campaigns
- PPC ads
Tip #15: Choose a digital content marketing firm that knows how to grow traffic and leads for your company.
16. Landing Pages & Conversion Paths
Once you’ve got traffic there on your website, your content marketing agency should know just how to turn it into leads.
There are a number of reasons someone might reach your website. It might be through your blog content that ranks organically over time, it might be a click-through from an email campaign, or maybe it's the result of an ad on social media.
Whatever the case, your website needs to be optimized to turn traffic to leads.
- Building landing pages for marketing campaigns
- Creating high-converting lead funnels
- Knowing how to create successful CTAs
- UX-focused web design that creates a path to lead conversion
- Building out lead nurture campaigns that turn Awareness-stage leads into buyers
You’ll notice that that last point is less about turning traffic into leads, and more about turning those leads into sales, which is obviously highly important as well.
The thing is, not every lead that comes in is a buyer, at least not straight away. In fact, there are three kinds of leads that most companies target.
|Lead Type||Stage of Buy Cycle|
|IQL (Information Qualified Lead)||Awareness - they’ve recently become aware of a challenge.|
|MQL (Marketing Qualified Lead)||Consideration - the prospect is considering their options in solving the problem.|
|SQL (Sales Qualified Lead)||Decision - they are poised to buy, and it’s time to give a demo, quote, or trial.|
It’s clear, then, that each of these three types of leads need to be handled and nurtured differently before they can be converting into a paying customer.
For example, offering a demo or quote to an awareness-stage lead isn’t going to secure the deal. In fact, it’s probably just going to make them think you’re hungry for sales and quite likely scare them off.
Tip #16: Choose a digital content marketing firm that knows it’s landing pages from its conversion paths.
Conclusion - It’s Time To Choose A Content Agency
So, now you’ve got the downlow on everything you need to consider when choosing a content agency, it’s time to make some assessments.
And make a decision.
After all, you don’t want to spend so long humming and harring that you never actually choose someone to work with. You want to get started as soon as possible, right?
Well guess what, we’re content marketing specialists. Keen to chat? Let’s do it.
Or, if you’d like to give it a crack yourself, start with our content marketing strategy template.