If you got a cent for every time someone uttered, searched for or mentioned “content marketing” in an article in the last few years, you’d have amassed a rather significant amount of money.
Scratch that. You’d probably be one of the richest people in the world! By the same token, the number of content marketing agencies is on the constant rise as well.
Content marketing is defined by the Content Marketing Institute (CMI) as:
The strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.
That means there’s a little bit more to it than just saying the phrase ‘SEO’ repeatedly (that’s for all the skeptics out there!).
Nevertheless, it should be noted that in a survey of almost 300 marketing, business and sales professionals, as much as 72% of them said that content creation is actually the most powerful SEO strategy.
If you’ve been exposed to or worked in marketing over the course of the last five to 10 years you’ll know that what was once a titanic battle to get organizations to even consider a content-focused strategy, is now also a necessity for companies to compete against their rival brands.
Content has become the bread and butter upon which businesses are marketing their products and services to their desired audience. It’s worth mentioning that 88 percent of B2B marketers in North America employ content marketing in their digital marketing strategies.
However, that’s easier said than done. Every day millions of blogs, videos, images, podcasts, tweets, posts and ebooks are published, shared and liked. We don’t blame you for thinking “how the heck am I meant to break through all that noise and compete?”
Formulating a content marketing strategy is one thing, but executing on it consistently is another battle altogether. You not only need the know-how to put your plans into action, but you need the resources to execute on those desired actions. It might seem like a vicious cycle, and to many organizations, they simply opt to outsource their marketing.
Content marketing agencies and content marketers are most certainly a viable option, particularly if you’re keen to introduce a wide scale marketing strategy but don’t have the manpower to make it a reality.
There are several benefits of hiring a content marketing agency, including:
In terms of value for money, content marketing does pay off. On average, it costs 62% less than traditional marketing strategies and generates as three times more leads.
But does hiring a top digital marketing agency improve your return on investment (ROI) even more? Your gut instinct might cause you to think that hiring an agency is an expensive burden, but you might be surprised.
According to Daniel Lofaso, President and Founder of SEO and Content Marketing Agency Digital Elevator, “Partnering with a content marketing agency also means access to top talent. These agencies understand the formula to discover, research, develop, and promote high search volume content and can do so on an ongoing or project-based basis. Plus with digital, tracking and analytics can also help to point back to a true ROI, which can be challenging with traditional forms of advertising.”
The cost of hiring a content marketing agency to carry out an initial strategy launch and then maintain a series of tasks including content creation, promotion and performance analysis will almost certainly be cheaper than hiring two to three full-time employees to do the same.
With that comes the added benefit of not having to arrange office space, or buy new computers and software. An agency isn’t going to be eating away at your electricity or your office snacks/coffee supplies either!
As mentioned, if you opt for full-time employees and get two to three marketers who cover their own roles, you might be limiting yourself compared to what would be capable with the help of an agency. By that, we mean within an agency, there will be anywhere between two and 10 employees working on a project at any given time -- potentially even more!
Your project will ultimately benefit from the skills and knowledge of not two or three people, but many more than that. This is the power of hiring a specialist rather than hiring a generalist or well-rounded marketer.
Potentially the biggest benefit of hiring an agency is the reliability factor. You generally hire an agency to carry out a specific task or project.
Yes, there might be sub-tasks or unexpected challenges that come up. But for the most part, the agency will be dealing directly with that problem or task. They don't have to worry about other internal matters relating to your business.
For example, if you have full-time employees, they’ll be expected to tend to matters that relate to their department and company, as well as carry out their individual tasks. Say for example that there is a week when your marketing time is required to assist your product team in the testing and documenting of a new release.
How are they going to squeeze in the traditional tasks that they do on a weekly basis? They might well achieve it, but it will require extra work all round and the finished product might suffer because of the shift in priorities.
While the benefits are clear, it’s important to take a step back and view content marketing agencies from a wider perspective before you jump right in and indulge in everything they have to offer. An issue that affects the content marketing industry as a whole is that it suffers from rapidly changing circumstances, and constantly shifting expectations — both on the client and agency side.
As a consequence, what was true for a content marketing agency 12 or 24 months ago might not be true today.
In fact, it could be completely irrelevant.
That’s why we’ve broken down some of the facts around content marketing agencies to discover 11 helpful tactics to maximize the services they offer. Without further ado — let’s get started!
There's a widespread misconception that content marketing is all about blogs and videos.
However, in 2018 voice content has also gained a lot of popularity. It may not surpass video content any time soon, but it’s set to become a strong contender.
Namely, as much as 50 million Americans listen to podcasts on a weekly basis. And this number is on the constant rise since 44% of the US population has lately claimed to have listened to a podcast. This is a 4% increase compared to 2017.
A great thing about podcasts is that it’s a sort of content that can be consumed anytime and anywhere, without users being forced to be locked to the screen. Thus the fact that they’ve been blooming over the last few years shouldn’t come as a surprise.
Moreover, podcasts represent a perfect content marketing format, since they often offer competent, narrowly-focused talks on industry topics. This is a great way to provide real value and gain trust among listeners.
In addition, podcast listeners are usually educated – which means that they will be able and willing to follow even highly technical conversations. They also tend to be loyal, with 88% of them listening to most or all episodes of the podcast of their choice. Loyalty is exactly the thing you want to build with content marketing.
Award-winning content marketing agencies understand the power of spoken word, too. If it fits your business growth goals and brand identity, partner firms will add some creative audio content to your editorial calendar as well.
Speaking of the future of voice-generated content, you should also be paying attention to the voice search queries. That’s why you should look for an agency that is well aware of the power of this particular sort of search.
The pace with which voice search is growing is borderline ridiculous. In only 8 years, from 2008 to 2016, it went through an incredible 35-fold increase. It is also estimated that in 2020, voice search queries are going to amount for 50 percent of all searches worldwide.
There are many useful tactics you can employ in order to prepare for this shift, including using a more natural language, utilizing structured data, as well as additional optimization for questions and local searches. Not all content marketing agencies have their voice search strategy in place -- but the best of the best know exactly what they're doing in that respect.
In her most recent book Content - The Atomic Particle of Marketing, Rebecca Lieb discusses how the rise in marketing tactics like native advertising and brand-sponsored content from influencers have caused consumers to be incredibly skeptical of anything branded that they see.
As a consequence, there’s a need for companies to be ultra-transparent with their content. Influencer marketing has worked in the past, but it likely needs to evolve going forward for consumers to truly care.
In an episode of the podcast Marketing Cloudcast, she mentions how important it is for publishers to have a solid grip on what they publish and why they do it.
“...publishers need to have strong policies in place that basically come down to disclose, disclose, disclose, but also ensure that the message, the voice, the tone, the look, the feel is congruent with the publishing vehicle.”
Top content marketing agencies both focus on the numbers at the end of a marketing campaign as well as the potential ramifications of an insensitive message. They won't let you sacrifice loyal followers for a few hundred extra shares or likes.
Joe Pulizzi, founder of the Content Marketing Institute, wrote about this in 2013 - that’s right, five years ago, and the same problem remains today. Some content marketing agencies ironically struggle to put into practice what they preach.
“Whether a lack of resources or a lack of patience is cited as the reason, agencies that offer content marketing services very rarely produce epic content that attracts and helps to retain their own customer base,” said Pulizzi.
A good content marketing agency will be able to identify your target audience and put forward a sound strategy proposal. A great content marketing agency will do that but show you how they applied the same principles to grow their own business.
A top-rated agency will be able to deliver an executable content marketing strategy that you can carry out over the course of 12, 24 and 36 months.
For example, let’s say you run a small arts and crafts business. You’re interested in seeing how far you can take it, but you’re unsure how to go about it. You’ve built up a loyal following of about 100 followers on Instagram who love your work.
An agency can suggest daily, weekly and monthly tactics and strategies that you can use to take the number from 100 to 1,000, without sacrificing the quality of customer loyalty -- or even manage these tactics themselves.
Although meaningful results won't be instantaneous, great content marketing companies will work with you to continuously captivate new consumers and engage existing ones through various forms of content.
Content marketing agencies are great at suggesting what your business should do based on predetermined information or surveys carried out historically. However, 2017 brought about an increase in the use of social media for users to choose products based on recommendations or preferences of their peers.
Research carried out by Brand24 on ‘The State of Social Selling’ showed that the term “can anyone recommend?” is on the rise, prompting the age of ‘asking’, rather than ‘Googling,’ for information. There is more authenticity in user-generated content and personal experiences than targeted campaigns. This social media marketing trend has major impacts for the future of your content strategy.
Content marketing agencies know that ‘social listening’ is important -- and they have access to the latest and greatest tools that allow them to track and analyze social trends and discussion.
People do want content from brands. In a 2017 survey, 84% of people said that they expect content that will entertain, tell stories, provide solutions and create experiences.
However, does that necessarily mean that you should create as much content as possible? That is not always the case.
David Tinson, head of communications at Electronic Arts (EA), the video game giant, has spoken at length about the importance creating less, well-pieced-together content, rather than having a more, more, more attitude:
“The strategy can’t just be more content. It’s hard to not just follow the shiny object and just do more and more and more and not know what we’re getting at it,” said Tinson.
The best content marketing agencies will analyze your target audience, business objectives and brand identity. Then, they will formulate a comprehensive content marketing strategy that suits these needs. That campaign will include new content to be created as well as existing evergreen content that is always valuable.
What's more, marketing experts will help clients re-optimize their evergreen content so it always has the latest information, best SEO edits, and matches current marketing promotions.
Over the last few years, there has been huge emphasis placed on content marketing being a data-backed, science-oriented practice. More than 70% of B2B marketers claim that they have a sound content strategy in place.
Although that definitely helps businesses improve and track their performance, it doesn’t have to be, and shouldn’t be, the only approach.
In his book Martketing: Heart and Brain of Branding, Javier Sanchez Lamelas discusses how marketing is a fine balance between an art and a science. Through his experiences as VP of marketing at Coca-Cola, Lamelas identified that by using the power of both art and science you can generate “incremental value… resulting in iconic brands.”
The good news? Top content marketing agencies deliver on both the data and creative side.
As we’ve mentioned, data shouldn’t be the answer to everything, and there’s a good reason for that. The good and the ugly part about tracking data is that you can track just about anything.
However, that doesn’t mean that just because you can track it doesn’t mean you should. Tracking metrics just for the sake of it is just as bad as not tracking anything at all.
The best marketing firms won't cherry-pick the data that makes their results look impressive to a client. Instead, they will gather information about consumers and competitors that is vital to the campaign's success.
Then, when content marketing experts present this information to your brand, they will be forthcoming and transparent with the important numbers that you need to know. This straightforward information will be accompanied by an analysis of what the numbers mean in terms of campaign success and changes they plan to make to further improve performance.
This dedicated to the most important marketing analytics and data is what enables content marketing companies to provide a strong return on investment.
The truth about businesses is that they will generally tend to avoid polarizing ideas or topics. But lacking the courage to differentiate can be a limiting factor.
It really is true that it’s always easier to launch the next flavor of vanilla, but without trying a new flavor you’ll never know what was possible. Content marketing companies know when it is appropriate to take a public stance or add a new spin to a piece of content, and will ensure it matches your brand identity.
Hopefully, our list of truths will get you asking some interesting and challenging questions the next time you’re approached by an agency. Just to recap, they are:
Keep these at the forefront of your mind the next time you're looking for an agency to partner with, to-do list tasks to get done, or if you’ve just got content marketing on the brain.
It’s a lot easier to think of it as a black and white concept with strict, outlined goals, metrics and tactics. But just like most marketing initiatives, content marketing efforts should be tailor-made for every client based on past, present and future goals.
Tactics should be tracked, content marketing analytics should be taken, and results and statistics should be taken into consideration at every step of the process to ensure the right people are finding your content. But the world is evolving, and so is marketing.
Don’t rely on the old, or you’ll never be new.
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