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Kirsten Metcalf

Choosing an Agency: Requirement 9

Choosing the Right Agency: Repurpose Existing Content

By | Content Marketing | No Comments

Time is money. And creating new content requires both. Whether you create the content yourself or like many businesses, have an outside content marketing agency create it for you, it still takes your time and money to ensure it’s created and gets created right.

Content is what fuels your marketing initiatives. Without content, you won’t reach any of your marketing goals.

You know you need content, and an agency knows you need to consistently be producing and sharing content. But what you both also need to remember is that not every piece of content produced and shared has to be new content.

Enter, repurposing.

Reasons Why You Should Repurpose Your Content

Repurposing your already existing content saves you time and money. It saves time spent researching and actually creating the content; time that can now be spent focusing on your overall marketing strategy and implementing other digital campaigns. And like I said above, time is money so saving on time repurposing also helps save your marketing budget.

This method also allows you to reach a wider audience. Let’s say you created a blog post a year ago. It was a good topic that got some good views, which is great, but it doesn’t mean you just leave it at that to sit buried on your blog. Repurpose and add new life to it by writing about the same topic from a different viewpoint, or take that post and turn it into a video or podcast or infographic. Consumers learn in different ways, so you’re going to reach and teach more of them if you repurpose your content into various forms.

Repurposing also allows you to add more links and calls to actions to your website. More of these opportunities will result in more leads over time.

Steps For An Easier Repurposing Process

A general marketing rule is that for every piece of content you create, you need roughly 10 ideas to repurpose that piece in the future. Seems like more than you or an agency can handle, am I right? Well actually, it’s not.

To more easily come up with ideas, follow these two simple steps:

  1. Review your analytics and social shares to find content that truly resonates with your target audience.
  2. Go over your buyer personas to determine specific content types for each persona.

Once that’s done, together with an agency you can plan out the different and best types of content to create and the best repurposing locations for each content type.

How A Content Marketing Agency Plays In

Now that you really understand the importance of repurposing your already existing content, you have to find an agency that grasps the same, if not greater, understanding.

Some content marketing agencies want to jump right in and start producing content for you day one. That’s not a good characteristic of a knowledgeable agency.

A good agency first takes the time to take a full inventory of your owned content—every blog post, infographic, video, etc., you’ve created—and after reviewing the content and its analytics and social shares, they can determine which pieces should be used or repurposed.

This inventory process does take time to complete, but the time put in in the beginning will save you tremendously in the long run. It’s going to save you hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars that you can invest in other marketing initiatives.

So an agency may tell you that they understand the purpose and benefits of repurposing content, but if they don’t give you any specifics, especially about you and your content, get some specifics out of them. Ask them the following questions to see if they really understand and are interested in repurposing your existing content:

  • What’s your process for collecting all our owned content to discover what’s usable and what’s not?
  • How would you try and reuse some of the content we’ve already created?
  • How do you plan to save us money with our content creation?

Your sales team doesn’t send out one email to a customer and then never follow-up with them, and your content marketing agency shouldn’t do the same with your content.

Repurposing and resharing content gets you better organic reach as well as increases your website traffic and consistent leads. One of the biggest mistakes you can make (or allow an agency to make) is not repurposing and resharing your content—so don’t make that mistake.

Choosing an Agency: Requirement 8

Choosing the Right Agency: Sensitive To Your Brand

By | Branding, Content Marketing | No Comments

With an always-increasing number of competitors in the market, it is important to remember that your brand is what makes your business unique. Your business’s marketing team works hard to build and maintain constant messaging, awareness, and growth of your brand name—and your content marketing agency should be doing the same.

Branded Content

Good content marketing agencies know the importance of branded content. “If brands can create content that engages people, they will listen to it, remember it, download it, share it, post it, stream it and recommend it,” according to Matt Simpson of BrandRepublic. Good content should engage customers past an initial encounter; it should prompt people to keep reading and keep exploring what your business has to offer them.

Branded content ranges from your blog posts to your social media posts and everything in between. A content marketing agency that understands branding also understands how they can make specific content for each platform that is branded for your unique self.

Brand Engagement

Knowing you need branded content is the first step to improving your content marketing. The next is finding an agency that can produce the high standard of branded product you need. Good content marketing agencies will ask for brand engagement before they begin producing content for you.

An organized and prepared agency will also ask you to decide on a style guide of sorts before they begin writing. This style guide will tell them what type of tone, voice, grammar, and overall feeling your brand expects in their content. By setting these expectations before writing, you can make sure your agency is producing a unified message that fits your branding and content needs. 

Production Process

The last step a successful content marketing agency will take to prepare your content is to suggest an editing process that utilizes your branding team. This editing process is not for catching spelling mistakes or pondering word choices. Rather it is for gauging the message and style of the content before it is published. This type of editing process is crucial for two reasons.

First, it ensures the content being produced is up to your business’s expectations. By having a member of your branding team look over the content you can be confident that the final product matches the style and voice you’ve requested to further your brand.

Second, by having your branding team provide editing and suggested changes, your content agency can begin to develop a deeper understanding of your brand. An agency that understands how your brand speaks can better produce content that matches your branding message. When an agency is able to develop their own understanding of the brand, your team will eventually spend less time and energy managing content as your agency’s comfort level and brand accuracy grows.

Effectively branded content, and the processes you use to create it, are the foundations of content marketing success. Your content agency should be able to provide you with methods and style proposals to make your content as effective as possible. Then, they should be able to adapt to your branding needs as they become more familiar with your expectations.

Good content agencies know—good content stems from branded and engaging creations. If the agency you’re looking at working with proves to you they understand this, then you’ve picked a winner. Download our free How to Choose an Agency guide for an agency scorecard and sample questions to ask along the way.

Choosing an Agency: Requirement 7

Choosing the Right Agency: Understand The Buyer Journey

By | Content Marketing | No Comments

Good content marketing agencies should do more than just produce content; they should understand how buyers make their decisions, how they move through the sales funnel, and how to maneuver prospects from leads to customers. A successful content marketing agency knows how to create content that maps to each stage in the buyer journey and sales funnel. Content that resonates with specific areas of these stages helps keep prospects interested in your product and will move them through the full cycle—all the way to a rewarding sale.

The Buyer Journey

The buyer journey maps how your customers experience your product marketing. There are three broad stages of the buyer journey: early, mid, and late. Each of these stages matches a section within the sales funnel that explains the buyer’s behaviors.

In the early stages of the buyer journey, consumers are gaining exposure to products and developing a real need for services. They are looking for educational content, testimonials, and even product reviews to get a sense of your brand.

In the mid stage of the buyer journey, they are delving deeper into specific companies that appear to meet their needs. In this stage, prospects are looking for content that helps them develop specific company comparisons while also detailing individual features of your product and a justification for purchasing your solution for their original need.

The last stage of the buyer journey revolves around the final decision to purchase or pass on your product. In this stage, prospects are looking to change from a lead to a customer. They are looking for content that includes demos, implementation guides, and best practices for your product.

The Sales Funnel

The buyer journey and sales funnel are extremely fluid. A general sales funnel also has three stages that are directly related to the buyer journey and necessary content.

In the first stage of the sales funnel your prospects are looking to gain awareness of your product. The prospect has developed a need and is seeking companies and information to satiate their demand. In the awareness stage of the sales funnel, prospects are looking to narrow the field of eligible companies while gaining awareness to your product. Good content should provide basic awareness about who you are, what you do, and why you do it.

The second stage of the sales funnel is interest. During this stage, your prospect has decided your company likely can provide a solution to their problem. They are looking for specific information on products so they can compare and justify their final purchasing decision. This is the stage where people begin to reach out to salespeople or initiate contact with the company.

The final stage of the sales funnel is the decision and action phase. In this stage, the prospect has decided to select your company. They are looking to discover content that shows them how your product works and why it’s better than your competitor’s.

Moving Prospects

Your content marketing agency should understand both the buyer journey and the sales funnel in order to provide you with content that fulfills all types of prospect needs. When your agency can provide you with a variety of content that fits each stage in the buyer journey and sales funnel, you are more likely to move prospects from interested consumers to dedicated customers.

To move prospects your content must be relevant, immediate, and robust. Content that is relevant drives prospects to stay engaged with your company. Good and relevant content pushes prospects to keep researching and reviewing your site instead of seeking another company for their needs.

Immediate content means you have both value and promotion in your marketing. Prospects can gain something immediately from coming in contact with your content regardless of the platform they discover it on.

And lastly, your content needs to be robust! Meaning there is more than one content option for each stage in the buyer journey or sales funnel. If someone is looking to research your product, you should have social media accounts, a blog, and testimonials instead of just your website’s ‘about us’ section. Moving prospects is all about understanding what they need from your content, as well as delivering valuable, useful, and diverse information.

Good content marketing agencies know that the first two stages of the buyer journey and funnel are the responsibility of a solid content marketing strategy. This knowledge is key to creating content that serves your prospect at every level of their journey. Make sure your content marketing agency understands your customer’s journey to purchase. If they do, their suggestions for content marketing strategies will be effective in turning leads into loyal customers.

If you loved this post, you can download the full guide and checklist here.

Content Resources for Universities

Digital Marketing for Universities: Tapping Your Content Sources

By | Digital Marketing for Universities | No Comments

In previous posts in this digital marketing series, we’ve discussed SEO basics, goal setting and social platforms to help you reach some of your goals. In this final post, we’re going over all the content sources available to higher education institutions and how to use them.

Importance of Content Marketing

In the U.S., there are nearly 5,000 institutions of higher learning—that’s a lot of competition your school is up against. And you each have three common overall goals:

  1. Attract and retain quality students and staff
  2. Maintain good relationships with alumni and receive donations from them to support school programs
  3. Build brand recognition.

To stand out from the enormous crowd of colleges, you need to put content marketing at the center of your digital marketing efforts. Businesses aren’t the only organizations that need and benefit from innovative content marketing strategies.

You need to educate as well as entertain people with your unique content. You need to use content marketing to share your story as a university. With good storytelling, you form an emotional connection with your audience through compelling stories, helping you attract and retain students and staff.

And there are several forms of digital content you can create. The following are possible content types universities should embrace:

  • Website
  • Blog posts
  • Infographics
  • Videos or mini documentaries
  • Podcasts
  • Mobile apps.

Taking Advantage of Content Sources

So now you know the digital content you need to be creating—but where do you start? What sources are out there to help point you in the right direction?

Answer: The people at your university.

Nobody knows your university, its students and prospective students and what students want from your university better than those who work directly with students, who attended your university and who are currently attending.

Admissions Officers and Counselors

The number of enrolled students is extremely important to every higher education institution. It dictates, well, everything. In order to effectively market your school to potential students, you need to understand the buyer’s journey, which in this case is your potential students’ journey to your school.

The students and their families are going to spend endless hours researching various schools—the good, the bad and the ugly—so the right schools to apply to are selected. Part of their research is talking with the school’s admissions office. Potential students talk to admissions officers before applying, asking questions about the school and/or finding out about the admissions process. They then talk to an admission counselor for needed nurturing, like guiding them through the application steps and making their application process as easy and enjoyable as possible.

Those in the admissions office talk to potential students via phone calls and emails. They hear their wants and concerns as they’re researching schools and applying, so they’re a go-to source of knowledge to help you create the content that answers their questions during this part of the journey to your school.

Tour Guides

Campus tours are an effective recruitment tool. Tour guides have face-to-face experience and conversations with potential students, as well as their parents. They spend hours upon hours each day walking and talking with those interested in your school. They share their knowledge about the wonderful scenery, classes and social life your university does, but they also spend a good chunk of each tour listening to and answering questions.

Your campus tour guides have a wealth of knowledge about everything prospects want to know about your university, whether it’s buildings, programs, events, what the best foods in the cafeteria are, etc. They spend time with a handful of new prospects each day, so it’s in your best interest to use their knowledge as you create a content marketing strategy.

Alumni and Current Students

Alumni and current students are two other content sources you can’t pass up talking to.

Alumni did their time attending your school. They’ve taken classes, attended games and events, eaten on the quad and lived the complete college experience. No matter how long ago they attended, they remember what they wanted to know about your school before they applied and what they liked receiving from your school while attending. Alumni are also one of your target audiences, so you can also email them a survey or call them to find out what types of alumni content and topics they’d like to see.

Likewise, current students are there right now. They’re easy access because they walk your sidewalks and hallways every day. Their admission process wasn’t long ago, so they can provide helpful tips in that area, as well as giving feedback as to what content types, channels and topics are important to them now as current students.

To rise above the competition, you need a solid content marketing strategy and need to create unique, helpful content for all your audiences. Tapping into the content sources—the people at your university—readily available to you is how you’re going to know where to start with your content marketing efforts.

Choosing an Agency: Requirement 6

Choosing the Right Agency: Have A Strategy For Each Channel

By | Content Marketing | No Comments

We know that content is not a new technique, but when wielded with purpose it can give you new results. There are four keys to understanding content marketing for each social channel.

First, it is important to understand what each channel will give you. Improved SEO, effective PPC campaigns, and an amplified social media presence are all attainable goals. Second, understand the different channel approaches. What works for one typically doesn’t work for another. Third, pick your channels wisely. Find where your customers are and go to them—never expect them to seek you out. And fourth, build an audience that will overlap onto other channels. We always say build don’t borrow; turn your audience into an owned audience that engages on your terms. 

Understand Outcomes

There are plenty of options available to you in terms of where you can showcase your content, but there are three big aspects of marketing that can be shaped by your content and channel choices. These are your SEO, PPC, and engagement goals.

Good content on the right channel can improve your SEO quickly. Blogs are the easiest way to get your SEO moving. With keywords and meta tagging you can build optimization with every post. Facebook is a great way to make your PPC campaigns effective. You can target specific audiences and link to websites or other content you want to drive. PPC has become extremely effective on sites like Facebook that can monitor life events, purchasing history, and more.

Consistent engagement and social media presence can be grown through all your channels, but the right content is key to keeping your new followers. So how do you decide what to put on which channel?

Channel Approaches

Each channel requires a different content approach. What works on Twitter isn’t going to be as successful on Pinterest or LinkedIn. Unfortunately with content, there are no silver bullet content pieces that can be copied and pasted across your multiple platforms. You have to tailor each piece to match a specific channel, or in this case choose a content marketing agency that understands different channels require a different approach. Here’s a quick overview of a few popular channels and how to use them with your content marketing strategy.

Choose Your Channels

You really can’t do it all in terms of channels. Good agencies know to pick a few and then focus on being successful with those before expanding your content strategy. Choosing a channel is relatively simple in theory: you pick the channels your customers use. Seems easy right? But make sure the agency you choose is doing research before diving into any specific channel. They need a strategy to find where your target market spends their time online and how they utilize those channels before you start using them to share your content.

Build Your Audience

We believe build don’t borrow is a good motto to live by. Building your audience is the most important thing your content and channels can do for you. Building an audience takes a lot of time because you have to create trust between your brand and each user. You can build this trust by posting good content that is relevant to and useful for your customers’ daily lives. Answer their questions, identify their needs, and show them you have a solution to their problem. When you work with a content marketing agency that is able to create engaging content tailored to your target market, your audience will follow you from channel to channel because they believe in your brand. Building your audience stems from concrete content that is adapted for the channels they intake the most.

Creating a strategy for each channel is incredibly important. Before you dive in remember our four keys of understanding—and make sure the agencies you’re looking at do too. Ask them some of the following questions to gauge their understanding:

  • How do you use different marketing channels to promote content?
  • How do you decide which channels will be most effective for my campaign?
  • What happens if Facebook or Twitter disappears tomorrow? How are you building me an audience that I control?

Good content can get you the results you want if you choose a content marketing agency and your channels correctly.

Check back for our next post in this series about understanding the buyer journey, sales funnel, and how to move your prospects through it. You can also download the full guide and checklist here.

Identifying Platforms for Higher Education Digital Marketing Efforts

Digital Marketing for Universities: Platform Identification

By | Digital Marketing for Universities | No Comments

In an earlier post in this series, we went over all you need to know about goal setting and strategy within your higher education institution. Now, we’re going to provide a list of platforms to help you reach those goals you’ve hopefully set.

Your goals will slightly vary compared to other institutions, but every institution is sure to have goals centered on recruitment and retention, and using more content, emotive stories, various forms of mixed media and social media to help you reach your goals. And the following are platforms your institution should be implementing if you aren’t already.

Social Media Platforms

Today’s teens and young adults are online several hours each day. They do their banking, shopping and researching online, but they more so use their connected devices to communicate with their friends. Social media use continues to grow amongst high school and college students. Social media is where students are, and it’s where you need to be.

Facebook

Facebook is the most used platform in higher education; and for good reason since a 2014 survey revealed approximately 87 percent of high school students use Facebook. It’s by far the most used social media site for American teenagers. Facebook allows you to post photos and videos, as well as links to content you’ve written or that’s relevant to your prospective and current students. But even better, it’s a great tool to keep engaged with your alumni, which Ohio State University discovered after launching their Facebook page and saw that the most interactive and engaged members of their Facebook audience were alumni.

Twitter

Twitter is another top platform. Prospective students use Twitter as part of their researching methods to decide which higher education school they’ll attend. Help prospective students choose your school by posting links to your content on your Twitter account, interacting with them when they ask your school questions or make a statement about you and tag you in their tweet or use one of your hashtags. Twitter is also a great platform to reach everyone in your school’s diverse audience, bringing together future, current and former students using creative hashtags.

YouTube

Video is one of the most consumed forms of content. Your prospective students can watch hours of videos a day; some may even be up-and-coming YouTube stars. Most likely, as they scroll through their Facebook newsfeed, they’ll pass statuses and other wordy updates, but if they see a video, they’ll stop to watch. You can use YouTube to showcase school events, interview faculty and even to teach classes using webinars.

Hootsuite

If you’re going to effectively engage with your future, current and former students, you need a tool to manage all your social media accounts. Hootsuite is a great platform to keep all your social media efforts organized. With Hootsuite’s Enterprise feature, you’ll have access to unlimited social profiles and enhanced analytics. You can easily and securely send updates via various social media platforms, listen to the online chatter about your institution and collaborate your efforts with multiple team members. Hootsuite even provides a Higher Education Social Media Toolkit to help you get started with your social strategy.

Content Management Platforms

Maintaining your website (looking for how you can get more out of it, having the right content on it and reflecting your school’s best assets in a unique way) isn’t an easy task. It’s demanding, but with a good content management platform, you can alleviate some of that demand and stress.

OmniUpdate Campus

OmniUpdate Campus is used by more than 700 higher education institutions around the world that use this solution to manage their school’s website. This system, specifically designed for higher education institutions, has an array of first-rate features, including an easy content publisher, extension modules and helpful tools and gadgets to make your everyday site tasks easier. With its functionality and extensibility, OmniUpdate Campus can be your perfect solution in the content management sphere.

Hannon Hill

Founded back in 2001, Hannon Hill was one of the originators in the CMS solutions in the education sphere. Like other CMS platforms, you can expect quality features, like content publishing and editing, workflow management, personalized administration dashboards and scheduled publishing. But, one thing setting Hannon Hill apart, and that it prides itself on, is going above and beyond with its customer support. They encourage you to contact them as often as you want with problems and questions you have, and they don’t give you limitations on who you can talk to in terms of platform support.

Web Analytics Platforms

Understanding and being able to view all your web analytics is vital to tracking and measuring the progress of your institution’s digital marketing goals. From admissions information requests to your blog to your engagement goals with your website content, you’ll quickly see what’s working and what’s not with the right analytics tool. There are several platforms at your disposal, so we’ll present the facts and let you choose which one is best for your situation.

Google Analytics

Google Analytics offers a free version, as well as a premium version that costs $150,000 a year. That yearly cost may not be in your budget, and if it isn’t, it’s OK. The free version still provides plenty of data and tracking capabilities. With Google Analytics you get real-time data, tracking APIs, campaign measurement, Adwords integration, multi-channel reporting, mobile tracking, video measurement, custom reporting and more. With the premium version, you of course get more bells and whistles, such as more support services and integration options.

Kissmetrics

Another analytics option is Kissmetrics. This web tool offers people tracking, unlimited reports, user segmentation, a mobile app and a dedicated learning center. With Kissmetrics, which gives you four pricing options, you’re able to properly engage with your audience and accurately analyze which of your goals and actions are working and not working from the beginning across all devices.

In order to efficiently reach your goals, you need to the right tools to help you do so—we know from personal experience. The return on investment is high when you leverage these platforms, so use them and look to see a happy and productive year of attaining all your digital marketing goals.

Choosing the Right Agency: Have Clearly Defined Roadmaps

Choosing the Right Agency: Have Clearly Defined Roadmaps

By | Content Marketing | One Comment

Content marketing agencies can create a lot of usable content for your online sources, but without clearly defined roadmaps, success metrics and thorough reporting you’ll never know if their content is actually making a difference. An increase in consumers and profit takes time when it comes to content; not only do you have to develop valuable writing, you have to grow your consumer base as well. Growth takes time, but you can see gradual quantifiable success with these three measurement tools.

Clearly Defined Roadmaps

A roadmap is a great way to plan out a detailed strategy for success with your content marketing agency. A roadmap should provide direction for all your content, social media and marketing strategies that help you attain your goals. A useful (and successful) roadmap has a schedule, frequent communication and end goals to aspire toward.

Schedule

Get your strategy scheduled out! Whether it is a week at a time or on a monthly basis, a good roadmap provides scheduled strategy that extends past daily tasks. Scheduling helps get your team on the same page and provides a valuable way to visualize and solidify the content and projects your team has coming up.

Frequent Communication

A good content marketing agency will also keep in frequent communication with you regarding scheduling, metrics and steps taken toward your ultimate goals. Reports on metrics and scheduling should happen twice a month with face-to-face meetings or phone calls in the weeks between. Frequent communication is the best way to ensure everyone is kept up-to-date on progress and important data.

Goals

A roadmap should also have clear and actionable goals. These should be developed based on your business’s growth and engagement goals. Your goals should be kept in mind while creating your roadmap; every strategy should lead to the attainment of one of your goals. Communication and scheduling will lead to meeting these goals (and hopefully exceeding them) in a timely manner.

Identify Success Metrics

Metrics are a great way to show how content is actually impacting your bottom line. There are four types of metrics that you should keep in mind when setting goals and reporting results.

Consumption

Perhaps the easiest metric to measure is overall consumption of your content. This regards how many people are viewing, sharing, liking or following your content.

Sharing

This metric shows how popular your content is by measuring how often it is shared through consumers. Shared content lets you know that what you’re creating is so valuable because people feel the need to share it with their online following. .

Lead Generation

With this metric you learn whether the content you’re producing is making financial sense. If leads aren’t being generated the content isn’t producing a profit. This metric shows you how often your consumers and sharers actually turn into potential customers.

Sales

The last important metric measures sales, or actual profit for your business. Sales metrics gauge how often content consumers turn into customers, and the right tools provide the metrics that show how much and which types of content they consume before buying.

Thorough Reporting

Reporting success metrics is the most important communication point between yourself and a content marketing agency. These metrics display how your content is working toward your growth. A content marketing agency should be able to correlate all four of these metrics to the content pieces they’re creating for you and should utilize the results when making your roadmap.

To better understand how an agency operates, ask them some of the following questions:

  • How do you plan and schedule your work?
  • What are some of the normal success metrics you regularly check?
  • What do you report on? How often?
  • Can you send me examples of roadmaps and reports you’ve created?

Roadmaps, success metrics and thorough reporting are three areas where you can measure the achievement of your content marketing agency. If the metrics aren’t producing numbers you are proud of, then you can adjust your roadmap’s direction and execution in search of better outcomes. No matter what agency you choose roadmaps, metrics, and reporting should be expected during your partnership.

If this was helpful, grab the full copy of how to choose a content marketing agency.

Choosing an Agency: Requirement 4

Choosing the Right Agency: Ask For Data Up Front

By | Content Marketing | No Comments

Data is a critical part of any marketing strategy; without it your content marketing agency can’t create an impactful plan of action. Data helps create a holistic understanding of your company by analyzing your online analytics and overall online presence. Data shows user behavior, which helps you understand where you are succeeding and where you need to improve in your current marketing strategy.

Data is Research

There are very few plans that can start without research, including a strategic content marketing plan. Data is research—and research shows you and your agency a variety of information. Not only can you learn about your target market demographics that will drive your brand, but you can also discover a lot about where your place is in the current market. Research would never be skipped when putting together plans in finance or development. so don’t skip it with your content marketing efforts!

Data Allows for Analysis

Your content marketing agency should plan to analyze this data before they present you with a full marketing plan. Analyzing data lets them discover the root of successes and failures in your current marketing strategy. Analysis happens in three steps:

First, analyze past data. Find out which strategies provided good returns on investment for your company. Did Facebook succeed like you wanted? Which blog posts yielded legitimate leads? And on the flip side, which media platform didn’t succeed? Which blog topics were uninteresting to customers? Understanding these issues is vital in developing a content marketing strategy that avoids repeating errors or tactics that didn’t work for you in the past.

Second, analyze the current market to give you a better understanding of where it stands. Ask how your customers are responding to your current marketing plan. Look for ways in which you can improve your practices for the future. Have your agency of choice find out what your competitors are doing that you aren’t and see if you should adopt a similar practice. Analyzing the current market gives you a look into what strategies you should continue and which ones you should dump.

Third, analyze the future market. Use your current data to predict your next steps. Are there market trends you can already see? How can you utilize these? Analyzing the future market helps you, along with your agency, decide which direction you should take your content marketing strategy. Looking forward ensures you develop a plan that will have longevity in your market.

Data Helps Develop

Since we know data helps us understand our current markets, we can concede that data is necessary to help your brand develop. Any marketing agency worth their salt will ask you to give them all this data near the beginning of your working relationship so they can analyze it all and effectively create a strategy that works for you and helps you achieve your marketing goals. Also, early on, ask agencies on your radar what kind of research they do up front to provide a more accurate proposal and quote for you.

Data not only helps develop a strategy, it ultimately helps you develop your brand and sets you up for a successful future. It is a crucial part of any marketing agency’s initial preparation. With data, you can understand your customers’ behavior and better tailor your online efforts to fit their needs. Look for a content marketing agency that values data in their marketing plan, so you know they’ve done their homework.

Stay tuned for our next post, or grab the complete guide to selecting the right content marketing agency by clicking here.

Choosing an Agency: Requirement 3

Choosing the Right Agency: Provide Case Studies & Client References

By | Content Marketing | No Comments

If you’ve been following this series of posts we’re creating to help companies know what to look for when choosing the right content marketing agency to hire, then you know we’re on thing No. 3 to look for. And our third blog post topic focuses on the two specific things you need to ask potential agencies for: case studies and client references.

In the last post, we went over why you need an agency that practices what they preach. A quality content marketing agency that truly understands and practices good content marketing, for their brand and their clients, should be able to show you successful results of their content marketing efforts and provide contact information of their current (and satisfied) clients.

Case Studies

More often than not you’ll have to request case studies from an agency. Like us, many agencies have numerous client case studies, but they don’t publish any of those case studies in full on their website. This is due to agreements most agencies make with their current clients, stating that they can’t publicly share their data, but they can share it privately.

If an agency doesn’t have any case studies, that’s a red flag. Case studies provide so many benefits to agencies. A client case study offers real-life examples of how valuable an agency’s content marketing services are and how their efforts helped their client reach their goals. Case studies establish credibility and evidence of their success through facts and figures. They tell a story—a narrative taking you through the beginning, middle and end of a client’s success story.

When you ask to see some of an agency’s case studies, ask for ones where they solved a company’s problem that relates to one you’re facing. Also, as you’re reviewing, specific things you should look for in their case studies are subject matter expertise as well as the quality and voice of the content.

Don’t be afraid of asking to see multiple case studies. Like many of their potential clients, you should want to physically see data showing they know what they’re doing rather than simply taking their word for it that their services work. Good agencies know providing case studies helps increase a potential client’s trust in their business and its services, and they should be doing all they can to earn your trust and your business.

Client References

After asking to see case studies, ask if they’re able to give you 2-3 clients who would be willing to spend a few minutes talking with you about their experience with the agency. It’s a good idea to get clients who are somewhat related to your vertical, but they don’t necessarily have to be.

Most agencies expect potential clients to make this request as further proof that they can achieve the results you want and fulfill the other promises they’ve made. They may already have a list of references ready to give you, and if they don’t, it shouldn’t take them long to send you a few.

Once you’re given the names and contact information, be sure to give the client references a call or at the least, exchange a few emails. Here are some questions to consider asking when you talk to them:

  • How has your overall experience been?
  • Has this agency delivered on their promises during the sales process?
  • How’s the quality of the content they create for you?
  • Are they good with communication and reporting? Why or why not?
  • Do they listen to your wants? Needs? Goals?
  • Are you treated like a client or a partner?
  • Do they work like they’re a part of your internal marketing team?
  • Is their thinking outside of the box?
  • Do you believe they always have your best interests in mind?
  • Would you recommend them to a colleague, family member or friend? Would you recommend them to me?

The content marketing agency you want to partner with should be able to fulfill both of these requests for you, and you should see nothing but solid, convincing data and hear nothing but good things from their references.

We’re only a third of the way through our blog post series of elements to look for in a compatible content marketing agency, so be sure to stay tuned for our next post or grab the complete guide on how to choose a content marketing agency.

Choosing an Agency: Requirement 2

Choosing the Right Agency: Practice What They Preach

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Choosing a quality content marketing agency that’s compatible with your company is vital to your business success, especially in the online scope of things.

In case you haven’t noticed, traditional marketing isn’t what’s effective with today’s consumers—content marketing is. Your current consumers aren’t looking for in-your-face marketing about your products and services. They want to find valuable content that gives them the needed intelligence to make their buying decision.

If a content marketing agency says they know how to effectively communicate with your target audience and will attract and retain customers with useful content, then they better practice what they preach.

In an earlier post, we discussed that an agency that possesses subject matter expertise with your industry is the first thing you should look for when choosing the right agency for your business. The second thing to look for is one that practices what they preach.

Go through the following steps to find out if an agency does that or if they’re hypocritical.

Take a Look at Their Blog

An agency’s blog is the first place to look. They’re telling you that you have to provide unique, useful content to your target audience—but do they?

Do they regularly post content to their blog? Is their blog organized and structured in a way that’s pleasing to a reader’s eye?

Besides just looking at the structure of their blog and skimming over the titles, see how consistent they are with posting. Sporadic posting is bad for any organization—but it’s really bad for a content marketing agency. Also go in and read several of their posts. As you’re reading, see what kind of images they use (if any) and if they’re good and if the topics are useful to you as a reader or if they mainly talk about themselves. A promotional agency is not the kind of agency you want.

Thoroughly Review Their Website

Once you review their blog, look over their entire website.

Do they provide other learning resources besides blog posts? Today’s consumers are different. Some like reading blog posts, while some prefer watching videos. Different industries and topics necessitate different content forms to thoroughly and valuably get the message across to the target audience, i.e. eBooks, guides and white papers.

Is their website user-friendly? If you’re able to easily navigate through their site, find resources and answers to your questions and the pages’ content and images look good, then that’s a good sign. If not, then that agency isn’t who you want running your content initiatives.

Check Out Their Social Activity

Now it’s time to do some minimal cyber stalking—and in this case, it’s totally acceptable and encouraged.

Possessing a good social presence and having social etiquette is important. Do they consistently promote their content through major social channels, such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn? Do they also share other sources’ content? Any company that only shares their content isn’t being as useful to their audience as they could be. Sharing content from other sources shows confidence in their own brand and their ability to be collaborative.

Also look to see if they’re interacting with their audience. When people comment on their Facebook posts or send them a tweet, do they respond? Good agencies listen and engage with their audience. When an agency doesn’t, you can’t be 100 percent positive they’ll listen to you.

Ask Questions

After you’ve taken some time to research an agency via their blog, website and social activity, it’s time to go straight to the source. Whether you’re communicating face-to-face, over the phone or through email correspondence, make it a point to ask an agency some of the ensuing questions:

  • What does your agency do to generate new business?
  • What are some of your best-performing blog posts you can show me?
  • What are some of the publications you’ve written for or been mentioned in? Can you show me any of those?
  • What’s your content promotion process like?
  • Do you find it valuable to share content from other sources? Does your agency do that?

If they can’t provide the information you’re looking for or their answers don’t match your research, then it’s likely you’ve got a hypocritical content marketing agency on your hands instead of one that truly believes in and practices what they preach.

You can’t trust an agency with your brand’s content if they don’t follow their own advice.

You want a content marketing agency that truly understands, believes in and practices content marketing with its own brand. You want a content marketing agency that lives and breathes content marketing itself every single day.

Be sure to keep your eyes peeled for the third thing you should look for when choosing a content marketing agency.

If you’d like to download the step by step guide to choosing a content marketing agency, click here.