Making the decision to outsource some of your content marketing needs could be the best decision you’ll make for your brand. Of course, you’ll have to choose your partners wisely to ensure they’ll produce the type of content that is on point, and will elevate your message to develop stronger relationships with your audience.
“When you’re a brand looking for a content partner, there are many attributes to keep in mind but a few come to the forefront,” says Georgia Galanoudis, managing director, Imprint, a Sullivan Content Lab.“Recent research from The Content Council and AdAge uncovered several of the biggest marketer challenges with content marketing: the creation of quality/engaging content, lack of time, not enough resources, and demonstrating ROI. Any content firm you enlist needs to help you tackle those challenges head on.”
We connected with two content marketing company directors for a look at some of the unique attributes that keep their clients coming back to them. Find out what these qualities are, and how to identify them as you do your own content marketing company research.
1. A stable of professional content creators
The last thing you want to do is get mixed up with a content mill that produces tons of drivel just to fill up your website. Instead, aligning yourself with content teams comprised of professional writers will give your brand credibility.
“I take pride in my team of writers,” says Gina LaGuardia, owner of Gina LaGuardia Editorial Services, a content and social media marketing firm with clients including Chase Bank, BELLA Magazine, ParentSociety.com, and RealPage. “Since most of my group has been working together for 5+ years, I’m able to instantly assign the right team member to the right projects, and they all work well together. Even though we’re all freelancers with prestigious credits, projects, and responsibilities, we remain a cohesive group that is aware of each other’s assignments, shares sources, collaborates, and brainstorms our way to the best quality content for our clients,” she says.
What to look for:
Seek out a content firm that boasts a connected teamwork-based approach, says LaGuardia, and ask to learn more about the professional content creators with whom you’ll be working. “In the last year or so, I’ve started integrating information about my team’s writers at the proposal and presentation stage of my negotiations with clients,” she says. That’s because clients increasingly expect to work with writers who have their own well-respected professional persona or brand.
At NewsCred, our 500+ custom-content writers are established influencers in their fields, many working for decades in a particular industry before they began writing about it. They are experts and professionals at a fundamental level so that when they create content for our clients, the job is always well-researched, thoughtful, accurate, and unique.
Although you have a need for someone to help scale your content, more specifically you need results-driven content. Choosing a content marketing company that has a game plan for measuring results and tying them back to your goals is important.
“Great content isn’t created in a vacuum,” says Kathryn Hawkins, principal and editorial lead at Eucalypt Media, a content marketing agency with a remote office in Maine that focuses on content marketing strategies and content creation for national clients including LinkedIn, The Atlantic, and B2B tech startups. “We need to showcase the positive impact that it’s having on the client’s business, whatever their overall goals might be.”
What to look for:
While it does depend on the main goal of your content strategy, key metrics (or KPIs) for content marketing to look at typically include elements such as a rise in organic search traffic, increased search engine visibility, new subscribers to a mailing list or white paper, and guest blog post publications or mentions from established websites and publications, says Hawkins.
“When we begin an engagement, we interview our clients to learn about the metrics that are most important to them, and track that data on an ongoing basis,” she says. Ask if the firm provides reports on elements such as monthly search ranking data, details of new mentions or guest post acceptances on other blogs or websites, data on organic search traffic and the most popular content, and details of new subscribers, as well as other KPIs, she suggests.
Finally, be sure the content marketing company can also put those results into context, and use them in discussions on how to optimize results even further in the future. NewsCred’s comprehensive analytics tell you not only how your content is performing, but how your audience is accessing it (social, organic, email, etc.) and who those people are. That way you can put real faces, backgrounds, and personas to your content’s audience.
Whether you choose a content marketing firm that’s small or large is irrelevant. What should be more of a concern is if you’ll have a point person who will collaborate with you and be accessible should any issues come up.
“Accessibility is being available to hear clients out and to assure that their need or task is top priority, and – more importantly – that you value and care about the project at hand as much as they do,” says LaGuarida. In other words, seeking out a content firm that places value on attention and dedication is something clients must do when exploring their options.
What to look for:
Ask a lot of direct questions regarding how much time and manpower a firm will be dedicating to you. Questions like: How can I best reach you (email, text, messenger, Skype, etc.)? Will I have a specific editor or project manager available to me to discuss questions? At what stages of the workflow do you encourage such ongoing discussions? How long do revisions take?
“A firm may produce the best content out of the gate, but if they aren’t there to talk through a client’s concerns or suggestions, I guarantee the material will start to look tainted as the hours and days pass,” says LaGuardia.
“I really enjoy working with the NewsCred team,” says Celia Brown, managing editor of SAP’s The Customer Edge. “It’s not just about the software it’s really about the people and I find that the human relationships are sometimes just as good if not better than the technology.”
4. Case studies and testimonials
Even if you get a good vibe from a content marketing company, it never hurts to do some additional sleuthing by asking to see samples of their work and actual testimonials from clients that show their satisfaction. Most quality content services will offer this up front, but if not, be sure to ask.
“We believe that social proof and work samples are both powerful tools,” says Hawkins, who points prospective clients to reviews of her agency on the third-party site Clutch Research. Eucalypt also spotlights case studies in different industries on its website.
What to look for:
Look for client case studies and testimonials on an agency’s website or third-party platforms like LinkedIn – testimonials should include the client’s full name, so that you can confirm their validity. If the project involves content development, it’s also important to get samples of actual deliverables performed for other clients, suggests Hawkins.
There’s a big difference between just hiring a freelancer or two and outsourcing your content to an agency. When choosing a content marketing company, you want to be sure there is a mix of talent and experience in the core content marketing disciplines — editorial, subject matter expertise, strategy, design, and analytics — inside that agency, says Galanoudis. “Having a staff on board that has a broad, multi-channel experience and deep understanding of the nuances that go into creating and designing content that meets your business, channel, and audience objectives is critical,” she says.
What to look for:
Depending on your needs and your own in-house capabilities, choose a firm that helps fill the specific voids in your marketing plan. That could mean a soup-to-nuts agency that can handle content, design, and social media deployment. Or, you may decide that you need more help with a specific area of your strategy, say, video content. Either way, know that not all content marketing companies are one-size-fits-all, so don’t assume they’re all the same.
By putting the research time in at the beginning and making sure prospective content marketing companies meet the above criteria, you’ll be able to forge ahead with superior brand content in no time.
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