As the digital landscape continues to evolve and there is growing interest among brands to shift more emphasis toward content marketing, many agencies are re-evaluating their role in the agency eco-system. Organizations seeking to select agency partners are challenged to determine alignment between their goals and agency’s capabilities.
In this post I focus on the roles of a content marketing agency. Full disclosure, Find and Convert is a content-centric digital agency. But, I’m not here to talk about our agency. Let’s look at the five roles of a content marketing agency.
As CMI’s Joe Pulizzi often rants, content marketing is a strategy, not a campaign. A client should own their content strategy, perhaps turning to a consultant or agency to balance internal thinking, which can be jaded, with external strategic thinking. An agency has the capability to look a client’s business objectively with a focus on their customer’s experience. The agency can help the client identify the customer personas, segment customers by needs or interests, develop key message points, and ultimately help develop the roadmap to a content plan that addresses each customer segment effectively. In short, an agency can play a key role in developing a content strategy, but the client should own it.
A content strategy requires creative thinking. The Chipotle Scarecrow video and app is an example of a creative approach to addressing Chipotle’s passion for a cause bigger than them – natural and sustainable food. The creative process to arrive at such an animated approach to content can be a collaborative one. Similarly, content intended to be used for lead generation can be developed through a collaboratively creative process between the client and the agency.
The actual creation or production of content is perhaps the greatest role of an agency in content marketing. This is what I call the “heavy lifting” of content marketing. In our world at Find and Convert, we work mostly with midsize companies who are often resource constrained. In our experience, an agency can handle between 50% to 100% of the production of content by interviewing subject matter experts as needed, write the content in a story format that meets the needs of the customer, and complete all the post production details to completion. A common example in B2B is interviewing technical staff on a topic and converting the interview into multiple pieces of market ready content. The resulting content can be produced in long form blog, white paper or e-book content, video/audio format and infographic format.
Contrary to what some are saying, SEO is not dead. It’s just different than it once was. All content must be produced and published with the end goal in mind. Even the most terrific content needs to be promoted. Some might argue that “promotion” is yet another role of a content marketing agency….The ability for great content to be “discovered” in digital channels is the new SEO. In other words, SEO is not limited to being found in a Google search, though that is still relevant and desirable. Content should have requisite SEO attributes such as a descriptive title, meta data, a relevant keyword focus, images with relevant tags, etc. Equally as important SEO friendly content should be shareable through social media according to its keyword theme. Designing SEO into the content strategy is requisite on the front end and as such is the responsibility of the content marketing agency.
Ultimately, a content strategy is intended to produce business results. The client should define the goals, though an agency can provide guidance in developing meaningful and realistic goals. Measuring an increase in website traffic can be considered a metric, but it’s a tactical one, not a strategic metric. Ultimately, all clients seek to gain more business. The steps to gaining more business should be identified. It is common for an organization to identify a dozen or more steps that lead to new business. For example a tech company needs to create awareness for their widget, attract their desired personas, build trust around relevant topics and usually establish 3 to 7 touch points before a viable sales opportunity is enacted. In this case, measuring the number of content touch points that lead to viable sales opportunities is a KPI. If “6 touch points” emerges as the holy grail, then it’s feasible to drive the content strategy toward producing 6 content touch points and constantly measuring outcomes against this KPI.
These five roles of a content marketing agency vary according to the needs of each client. There are several variables that influence the role of an agency which can include the size of the client’s internal marketing team, as well as the skills they possess. Clients should seek to augment their internal skills with an agency. Each client should assess their goals and their internal resources before deciding which skills they need to supplement. And, finally check the agency’s own content marketing strategy. No matter the skills you need, the agency you choose should have demonstrated ability to “walk the walk” in their own content marketing strategy.
My hope is that I’ve provided some guidelines for you to consider when evaluating content centric agencies. I welcome your thoughts on this topic through comments below or your tweets and social shares using the hashtag #contentagency.