What to Look for When Hiring a Content Marketing Agency

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What makes a great content marketing agency? And, how do you know which one is for you?

If there were an award for Business Cliche of the Decade, the 2010s winner would be “content is king.” This phrase was uttered thousands of times over the last decade by everyone from Gary Vaynerchuk to Garr Reynolds to yours truly (basically anybody with the letters G-A-R at the beginning of their name). And agencies touting their ability to do content marketing, an old concept which got a new name in the early 2000s, began to pop up everywhere.

But how do you know which content marketing agency to hire? How do you know which ones are legitimate and which ones are just jumping on the content marketing bandwagon?

1. Before you find a content marketing agency…

Probably the most overlooked aspect of hiring a great agency for almost any type of project is crafting a good brief. A brief lays out the goals for your project clearly so anyone working on the project—someone on your team, your agency, your boss, anyone—can read the brief and immediately understand the desired outcome of the project.

Wrinkled marketing strategy with iron - What to Look for When Hiring a Content Marketing Agency
It’s always good to iron out your strategy first.

A good project brief is especially important when hiring a content marketing agency because your content goes out to the public. Your content is often the first thing people learn about you and remains their lasting impression of your brand. So your brief must provide clarity about your brand’s attributes. The brief should provide a roadmap for your project. If the map isn’t clear, you will not only fail to reach your destination. That failure will be a very public failure.

I can already hear some of you out there thinking I don’t have time for some navel-gazing strategy mumbo-jumbo, I’ve got a business to run! It makes sense to think that way. After all, you wouldn’t be hiring a content marketing agency if you had the time to run a content marketing program yourself.

But, if you’re trying to reach a destination, doesn’t it make sense to spend a few minutes figuring out which direction you’re headed, rather than just getting in the car and driving down random roads until you run out of gas? That’s all your content marketing strategy needs to be, just a basic direction for your content marketing agency to go in. As the good folks over at the Content Marketing Institute point out: 65% of the most successful content marketers have a documented strategy vs. 14% of the least successful.

2. Table stakes for a great content marketing agency

Table stakes, the minimum requirement to even consider a content marketing agency is a track record. With everyone and their mother jumping on the content marketing bandwagon, how do you know who’s for real? You look at their previous history.

Has the agency worked on content marketing projects in the past? What were the goals of those projects and the criteria for success? How successful were those projects? Would previous clients rehire the agency for content marketing projects in the future?

These questions can be difficult to answer, but using a tool like TDA’s case study reviews and client scoring, you can do your homework and assess thousands of agencies around the globe.

Once you’ve determined who you’ll consider, now it’s time to separate the best from the rest. But how? What are the signals to look for?

3. What makes the best content marketing agencies stand out?

Remember a few paragraphs ago we noted the importance of a clear brief so everyone, on your side and on the agency side, is guided by the same brand goals? This attitude is also what lies at the heart of great content marketing agencies.

“The agency should be concerned with things like your brand’s tone and voice, your goals, and how you will measure the success of your content marketing activities.”

You’ll know you’ve found a great agency by the questions they ask when they review your brief. Beware the agency that is only interested in the deadline and the budget. A good agency will surely want to know the answers to those questions. But when developing a pitch, the agency should also be concerned with things like your brand’s tone and voice, your goals, and how you will measure the success of your content marketing activities.

LIstening to your answers- What to Look for When Hiring a Content Marketing Agency
A great marketing agency asks great questions and really listens to your answers.

You’ll know a good agency by the quality of their answers to your questions, but you’ll spot a great agency by assessing the quality of the questions they ask you. Look for listeners who express a genuine interest in your success. Collaborating with these agencies is not only a better, more fulfilling experience, but almost always leads to better results in content marketing.

So that’s it. Now that you know how to assess a content marketing agency, is it time you found one? TDA can help. Post your content marketing project on TDA for free today.