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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 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

By | Content Marketing | No Comments

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.

Choosing an Agency: Requirement 1

Choosing the Right Agency: Subject Matter Expertise

By | Content Marketing | No Comments

Content marketing isn’t a new term. It’s been around for years. But even so, you’d be surprised at how many companies we’ve met and talked to that don’t understand what it takes to examine and choose a quality content marketing agency.

We don’t want you to be one of those companies lost in the dark when it comes to choosing the right agency for your business—and you don’t have to be. We’ve come up with everything you need to know, from specific qualities to look for to the right questions to ask, and organized everything nicely into a blog post series to make the selection process a little easier on you.

A must-have quality on your radar, and the topic of this first post, is subject matter expertise.

First and foremost, a content marketing agency should be able to write for your specific industry. If a certain agency doesn’t know how to navigate through your vertical, then they’re obviously not the right fit for your business.

An agency can’t create quality content with the right verbiage unless they have a thorough understanding of your industry. Besides knowing correct terms to use, they need to understand the challenges your customers face, common questions your customers want answered and your competition. This is why subject matter expertise is so critical and the first quality on our list of things to look for. Creating good content that really resonates with a target audience is already a difficult task, but throw in the technical components of your industry and it can be a near impossible task for writers with little to no experience in your industry. Without thorough knowledge of your industry, an agency isn’t going to be able to generate a constant stream of valuable content.

You’re not paying an agency to learn what your business does; that should be done on its own time. And if an agency doesn’t have experienced writers within your respective industry, they might have subject matter experts within your vertical they can outsource to. Some agencies outsource content, and that’s totally fine. Don’t let that worry you if that’s what they plan to do (unless the content comes back horrible then you have a problem). All you need to worry about is that from the get-go, someone knowledgeable with your industry is creating quality content for your brand.

So, how do you gauge a content marketing agency’s subject matter expertise? You ask them questions. The following are good ones to ask:

  • Do you have experience working in my industry?
  • How do your writers get up to speed on my industry?
  • Do you ever have to outsource content for certain industries? If you would with mine, how do you find quality freelance writers?

Besides these questions, also ask an agency if any of their writers are journalists. If they answer yes, you can rest assured that your content is in pretty good hands. Journalists are taught to research, interview, provide the facts and be good storytellers. While an agency’s journalism-trained writers may not know everything about your industry, they’ll know who and what to ask to produce well-written, educational and valuable pieces of content.

Another way to assess a potential agency’s subject matter expertise is following them on social media. LinkedIn and Twitter are two good places to start. Review the content they post and the responses they make to comments on their posts or any online discussions they take part in to determine whether they have knowledge in your industry and to find out if they’re a respected agency.

If the agencies you have in mind will allow it, also ask to speak to some of their clients and see some case studies. Being able to talk to any clients is a great way to accurately find out the agency’s subject matter expertise for those clients’ respective industries. Ask how clients feel overall about the agency’s performance, why they first chose them and how they are or aren’t meeting their expectations. Talking to any client, even if it’s just one, can only help you in making your decision.

As you can see, subject matter expertise is a must-have quality of a good content marketing agency.

Make sure you check back for the next post in our series to find out another quality to look for and questions to ask as you search for the best-fit content marketing agency for your business.

If you can’t wait, download our free eBook on Choosing the Right Agency. It even includes a free scorecard and sample questions to ask!