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content marketing Archives - STRYDE

The Cost Savings of Working With A Content Marketing Agency vs In-House [Infographic]

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in-house vs agency costs infographicThe Rise of Content

Content marketing is on the rise for Business-to-Business (B2B) and Business to Customer (B2C) companies. As both a cost effective and prosperous strategy, content marketing engages and retains customers while constantly building your brand.

  • 70% of B2B are creating more content than they were this time last year.
  • Companies with blogs generate 67% more leads than those who don’t.
  • Only 38% of companies who internally produce content report that their content is effective.

Agency vs. In-House Costs

Company leaders are having a difficult time hiring employees who have all the necessary skills for good In-house marketing. A fully loaded content team isn’t cheap and neither are their tools.

  • 96% of marketing leadership say that the skills needed to drive online results have changed.
  • 44% can’t find singular employees who have all the skills necessary to in-house market.
  • A fully loaded marketing team can cost upwards of $330k a year without benefits or insurance, sick days etc.

Keep in mind that these numbers are averages from across the US. Real amounts will depend on geographical location and current demand of marketing talent.

It’s also important to note that the only way to increase output in-house is to hire more people, it is not scalable like agency options!!!

Big Brands Trust Agencies

Agility, quick results, and innovative thinking are just a handful of the reasons the biggest brands in the world choose to partner with marketing agencies, in fact, 62% of companies now outsource some or all of their content marketing.

Content Resources for Universities

Digital Marketing for Universities: Tapping Your Content Sources

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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

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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.

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

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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

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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.

Choosing an Agency: Requirement 1

Choosing the Right Agency: Subject Matter Expertise

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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!

Stryde Featured by Clutch

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clutchStryde was recently featured by Clutch. Clutch is a Washington, D.C.-based research firm that focuses on identifying leading digital agencies, developers and software firms that have a proven record of client satisfaction.

Clutch reviews hundreds of agencies in the digital and content marketing space and selects those to feature on its website based on their ability to meet their clients’ needs. Their selections are driven not only by companies’ market presence and previous experience, but, most importantly, by what these companies’ customers have to say about them!

For instance, one of our clients, the marketing campaign manager for a medical device firm, said:

“Stryde has done a great job at driving the strategy… They’re willing to help us with anything from ad creation, to writing, to design. It’s nice that they have that broad range… Since we’ve started working with Stryde, I am seeing an overall web traffic increase. It has increased by about 43 percent.”

Another client, the owner of an events services company, stated:

Immediately we’ve had a much better rate of success. Our exposure has magnified a lot since we brought them on board. I know that our first month’s sales for January tripled. We have had more sales than we’ve ever done in the history of our company, which is four years old. For me, I would say that’s a huge impact. I’m very pleased.”

She later added:

“I have used other marketing groups before, and even paid less than what I’m paying for now, but Stryde’s product is much more superior to what I’ve ever seen from anybody else. I’m really pleased with the results. We’ve only been with them for a few months, and our sales have skyrocketed.”

We couldn’t be happier about our feature in Clutch, which shows the emphasis that we put on client success and satisfaction. For more information check out Stryde’s Clutch profile and reviews.

How To Choose The Right Content Marketing Agency

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Some of the more common questions we’re asked during the sales process are “how do I know that I’m choosing the right content marketing agency?” or “what makes a good content marketing agency?”. Because the idea of content marketing is so new to businesses large and small, I wanted to create a follow up post to one created by Shannon this summer called 7 Elements of Choosing a Content Marketing Agency.

This post should act as a guide and a resource to develop better questions to ask as you go through the discovery and consideration stages of the decision making process.

Subject Matter Expertise

When looking to engage with a content marketing agency, one thing you need to be sure of is that they can write for your industry. Creating good content is hard enough without adding in a technical element that might be foreign to general writers. Keep in mind that it’s okay if your agency outsources content to subject matter experts who know your vertical; you just need to make sure that someone who knows your industry is producing your content from the very beginning.

Practice What They Preach

One of the biggest signs that you’re engaging with a winning agency is that they practice what they preach! Take a look at their blog. Do they provide consistent resources that actually provide value to their readers? What do they offer their audience in terms of premium content like eBooks, guides, white papers, and videos?

Provide Thought Leadership

Any content marketing agency worth their weight provides thought leadership in several different areas. First, they seek opportunities to provide their expertise to industry publications. Second, they are invited to speak and participate at different events and conferences. You shouldn’t worry too much about agencies getting published in Forbes, Huffington Post, Inc.com or any other national publication. Truth be told, anyone can pay a writer can get their content onto those websites. That’s our one, dirty little secret to share with you in this guide. Welcome to the new age of online PR. 🙂 Instead, look for consistency in publishing content that speaks to their audience.

Provide Case Studies & Client References

Before deciding on an agency to go with, you need to make two specific requests. First, you need to request case studies. Some agencies don’t publish full case studies on their website (like us) due to agreements with current clients not to publicly share their data, but can share them privately.

Second, you need to request 2-3 introductions to clients who would be willing to talk with you on the phone to discuss their experience. It’s best if the clients are somewhat related to your vertical, but they don’t have to be.

Here are some questions you might consider asking:

  • Overall, how has your experience been?
  • Has the agency delivered on promises made during the sales process?
  • How is the quality of the content they are producing?
  • How is the quality of the customers they are generating?
  • How is their communication and reporting?
  • Do they treat you as a client or as a partner?
  • Do they work as though they are part of your internal team?
  • Do they think outside the box?
  • Do you believe they have your best interest in mind?
  • Would you recommend them to a friend, family member, or colleague?

Have Clearly Defined Roadmaps & Success Metrics

One area where agencies tend to really struggle is in identifying success metrics for your unique business needs and mapping a plan that will help you get from point A to point B. The content marketing agency you choose should have a very good idea, before you close the deal, of what your business does and how you generate revenue. They should be able to provide you with some KPIs that are unique to your business. You should also request some sample client roadmaps that they’ve created so you can see how they operate on a weekly and monthly basis.

Provide Thorough Reporting

Along the lines of roadmaps and success metrics, your agency should be providing thorough reporting to you on a regular basis. Reports should include what’s being worked on, what’s scheduled, and any road blocks that they need your help in overcoming. Reports should also include your unique success metrics and how far along they are to meeting/exceeding your goals. At minimum reports should be delivered once per month. A good agency will deliver twice per month and hold in-person meetings or calls on a regular basis.

Have A Strategy For Each Channel

A good content marketing agency knows that content should fuel all other channels and create demand for a product or service. When engaging in content marketing, your agency should know how to leverage their content to improve your SEO, create more effective PPC campaigns, and skyrocket your social media presence and engagement.

A good agency knows that different channels require a different approach; you cannot take the same content and submit it to Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Instagram and see success. Your audience is conditioned to use each channel differently and requires a unique strategy to reach and engage with them.

It’s also worthwhile to note that you don’t have to attack all channels at once. In fact, a good agency will pick a few channels and focus on getting them right before moving on to additional ones. 

Use Marketing Automation/Lead Nurturing To Convert More Prospects To Customers

Agencies that really understand content marketing know that not all leads coming through a website or any other channel, online or offline, are created equal. Every prospect is in a different part of the decision making process and require different touch points to move them through the funnel. When choosing a content marketing agency, make sure they understand and deploy a strategy for nurturing leads through a marketing automation platform. The platform used is irrelevant, but they should be able to make recommendations based on the stage your business is in.

 

Understand The Buyer Journey, The Sales Funnel, & How To Move Prospects Through It

If you can find an agency that understands how buyers make decisions, how they move through the sales funnel, and how to encourage prospects to take next steps, grab them and never let go. A lot of content marketing agencies just want to build and market content and don’t take the time to map the buyer journey and individual pieces of content to each step. Doing so will not only help you convert more prospects into customers, but also will help position you as an industry leader.

Build An Audience, Not Borrow One

Good content marketing agencies are interested in building you an audience, not borrowing one. If you think back to the days or MySpace, what happened when they shut down their services? Brands lost all that they invested in borrowing an audience on their platform. What happens if the four hundred thousand followers you have on Facebook disappear tomorrow? Smart marketers work to tap an audience, bring them to your “playground” and work to turn them into an owned audience that can be engaged with on your terms.

Sensitive To Your Brand

Every business is unique and every brand is unique as well. Agencies that understand this and know how to work with brand teams to make their lives easier is a huge win. You should look for an agency that has checklists and a process for creating content that’s in-line with your brand and can easily be reviewed by someone internally without sucking a lot of bandwidth.

Interested In Using/Repurposing Already Existing Content

Money is a sensitive topic, even in the business world. Many content marketing agencies want to get in and start producing content day one. Good agencies take a full inventory of all the content owned by a business and determine what can be reused/repurposed for other uses. This process can save businesses thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours that can be invested in other initiatives.

Make It Easy To Work With Them

Flexibility is huge when it comes to working with an agency. A good content marketing agency should be able to plug into your systems and processes without skipping a beat. Be wary of any agency forcing you to operate in a certain way in order to do business with them.

Ask For Data Up Front

You know the old adage — you don’t know where you’re going until you know where you’ve been? The same applies to any form of marketing. Unless your potential agency understands where you are currently at, they cannot effectively put together a plan of action, scope of work, or accurate pricing to deliver the results you are looking for. You should plan on providing access to, or at the least, providing PDF exports of your analytics data, webmaster tools data, and lead generation data. Be wary if your agency doesn’t ask for this fairly early in the process.

View You As A Partner, Not Just Another Client

Solid marketing agencies view and treat you like you’re a long-term partner, not just another client. Pay attention to the words they use in referring to your potential engagement. Do they refer to you as a client or a partner? Do they send contracts or agreements?

Integrate With In-House Teams

Along the same lines as above, you will want to find an agency that integrates with your in-house team. Some agencies want to come in and run the show. This usually ends poorly. Good agencies understand that there are always going to be strengths and weaknesses inside of organizations and if they can plug the holes and make weaknesses, strengths, they are likely a good agency to do business with.

They’re Not Cheap

Good marketing — online or offline — requires a significant investment. Creating valuable content that drives brand awareness and gets a prospect to take action is expensive. There’s no way around it. One of the first things you should ask agencies is what their minimum retainer is. If it’s under $3,000 – $4,000 per month for a minimum of 6-12 months, they are going to have a really hard time producing results for you.

If you have a smaller budget than that, ask the potential agency where they feel you would be best to invest it. Good agencies will provide answers like, “hire an intern to help with x, y, or z”, “invest in a redesign of the website”, invest in conversion optimization to turn more if your visitors into leads”, or “invest in a marketing automation solution to convert more of your leads into paying customers”. These are the agencies that really have your best interests in mind and don’t just want your money.

I hope this was helpful for you in your quest to find the perfect agency. In the next couple of weeks we will be turning this into a downloadable guide/worksheet, so make sure you check back. We will also send it out via email, so make sure you subscribe to our newsletter.

If you have any follow up questions please fill out the form on our contact us page and either I or a member of our team will be in touch.