Selflessness is a hard thing to come by. A lot of people are more interested in unlocking opportunity for their own personal gain than using their talents and resources to help other people. For agencies, however, the opposite is usually true.
Agencies make a habit of putting others before themselves — especially when it comes to marketing. In fact, agencies are so consumed with delivering the best services to their clients that they forget to dedicate time to their own marketing initiatives.
I’d go so far as to say that most agencies out there make a conscious choice to prioritize their clients’ needs over their own, and that’s understandable. There are only so many hours in the day, and when someone is paying you to help them, you kind of have to deliver.
But what agency professionals often forget — as they spend hours in brainstorm sessions, mapping out strategies and creating editorial calendars — is that their own marketing representation is in dire need of some attention as well. After all, if you aren’t invested in your own marketing, how are you going to attract new clients?
Historically, agencies have been able to rely on referrals, either from their existing clients or their leaders’ networks, to sustain business. Client referrals are always great and tend to lead to strong, reliable relationships. But as cold, hard research reveals, referrals are dropping as a primary new business source, and that means agencies need to get real with their own marketing strategies if they want to win new business.
If only there were a scalable strategy that could effectively and efficiently help agencies break new ground on their marketing tactics.
Oh wait, there so is: content marketing.
Content can be used for so many needs within your agency, which is good news for anyone with limited resources. You can use content in your recruiting process, to update or revamp your website (which we recently did ourselves), to enable your sales team, to educate your team and existing clients, and to aid your company leaders in seeking out speaking opportunities and awards.
When you commit to using content, you’re committing to a resource that can fuel your whole agency — which should help you rest a little easier knowing that prioritizing your own marketing will help your entire team grow and serve clients better.
Here’s how any agency can hit the ground running with a content marketing strategy that generates exposure and wins new business:
Let’s make one thing clear: You’re going to need a team to run your content strategy. It doesn’t have to be a large team; in fact, we’ve found that you can achieve impressive results with a small content team.
For best results, this team should focus exclusively on your content marketing, as opposed to trying to do all your agency’s marketing and client work (and whatever else pops up). Your team should include at least a writer and editor, a content strategist, and a distribution specialist, but we probably don’t need to tell you that more is better. If budget is a major concern, then start small with just a strategist who can coordinate with freelancers, and as your program grows, so can your team.
Next, you’ll need to map out your plan and actually document it. You already know how to do this because you likely do it for your clients before getting started on the work you do for them. This documented strategy will help keep your team aligned and accountable. You’ll want this document to include your goals, target audience and personas, content deliverables, an editorial calendar, and a distribution plan.
Once your strategy is set and your plan is documented, it’s time to start creating content. The easiest place to begin is with content on your own website — specifically, your blog.
When creating blog content, it’s crucial to focus on your audience and the kinds of clients you’re looking to attract to your agency. Reference your audience personas from your strategy, and develop content that answers their questions, meets their needs, and positions you as the expert in your space they can trust most.
Use your content to generate leads by creating high-quality gated content for your visitors to download. This could be long-form content, quizzes, whitepapers, guides — whatever it is, the point is that you offer more value to your audience members, and they trade their contact information for access to it. This can help you turn your site visitors into potential future clients.
If you want to take it a step further and truly enhance your strategy, consider guest posting content to relevant publications in your industry. Done right, this will help you reach new audiences, highlight your agency’s thought leadership, and earn third-party recognition that can help you impress potential clients. (For a pretty meta example of this, check out an article our president, Kelsey, published on the HubSpot Marketing blog about turning your agency leaders into content creators.)
Not all leads are created equal, and especially if you’re using content to generate leads, it’s important to set up a system for qualifying them. This helps you understand which leads are deeper in the funnel and may be closer to being sales-ready, which leads could use more education about your services, and which leads just aren’t a good fit.
One of the best ways to go about this is to create an ideal customer profile. This profile will make it easier for your team to separate leads that are highly qualified from those that aren’t. Think through things like industry, company, role or position within the company, budget, and needs to determine whether a lead is a good fit for your agency. (Pro tip: The fields on your gated content and contact forms should reflect some of these areas to make this process simpler on your end.)
The right customer relationship management tool and marketing automation software are incredibly important pieces of the puzzle. The right tools allow you to keep track of all your leads, organize them based on where they are in the sales process, and set up an effective way to nurture them.
If you’re more familiar with referrals and person-to-person network building, then this might sound a little complex. But trust us — it can streamline just about everything once you get it all set up and ready to go. Our agency uses HubSpot to manage both our marketing automation and CRM needs, and it’s made our whole process more efficient and effective.
If you’re going to spend resources creating content, don’t let it sit on the shelf and collect dust. Put it to work nurturing potential clients, enabling your sales process, and actually winning new business.
One of the most effective ways to distribute your content is to set up email drip campaigns that automatically send your audiences the right content at the right time or to create weekly or monthly newsletters that share your published content.
Your sales team members can even use your agency’s content in their outreach to prospects. Any material you have that can further educate leads, answer questions, restart cold conversations, or reinforce your credibility is great for salespeople to send along in their correspondence.
This tactic is particularly valuable when you create sales enablement content, or content that’s created specifically for your sales team to use in communication with leads. This could be a blog post you’ve written, a gated guide you’ve created, a video or infographic that explains how your agency works with clients, or an article you’ve contributed to a trustworthy publication — anything that gives sales a good reason to reach out and your prospect a good reason to engage.
Phew! That’s a lot of ground to cover, and I know it might seem overwhelming. But if you want to better serve your clients and continue to win new ones, then you have to start prioritizing your own content. With referrals shrinking as a source of new business, agencies need to practice a little self-care and put themselves and their strategies first. These steps can help you do just that.
Natalie Slyman is a content marketing and social media professional. She enjoys reading her favorite blogs, perusing Instagram, and talking about her cats (even when no one is listening).