You’ve realized that building trust, engaging with your target audience, and attracting more qualified leads is important to your company. You’ve done a content audit and decided that it makes sense to outsource your content marketing needs to a specialized firm. Great decision! Now comes the difficult part: choosing the firm that’s right for you.
Nearly every company approaches content strategy and creation differently. So you need to know what you’re looking for before you can determine which approach best suits your needs. If you’re simply seeking a content farm for the sole purpose of tricking Google’s algorithm, then stop reading this, and learn how this tactic can harm your content efforts.
If you’ve decided you want a firm that can guide your content strategy, creation, publication, and optimization efforts to reach your business objectives, then it’s time to do your research. Ask yourself these three questions before taking the next step with a content firm.
1. Do they practice what they preach?
If you Google a firm, what do you find? Does it write and publish any of its own content? If the answer is no, then this is a red flag. Yes, I know agencies are notorious for marketing themselves poorly, but if they’re telling you that content can help solve your business woes, then they should be actively practicing this, too.
2. Do they produce high-quality content?
Whether these agencies distribute content through external publications, their own blog, or gated content, you need to examine its quality. It should be well-written with an effective strategy behind it. Are they writing click-bait articles to get views? Or are they producing articles that educate you throughout the buying process? If they know how to engage their audience, they can likely help you do the same.
3. Does their content compel you to contact them?
Ultimately, you’re hiring this company to develop a specific strategy to draw the right type of clients to your company. Does it accomplish this through its content? If it can’t attract customers through the services it touts, then be wary.
Once you’ve determined that a company passes these initial tests, you should continue the vetting process through a sales call. Getting on the phone with the firm will help put its process in perspective and see exactly what it’ll mean for your company.
Crucial Questions You Should Ask on a Sales Call
Ask the content firm these key questions before signing the dotted line.
How involved will I be in the content strategy?
Some content firms don’t consider themselves an extension of your team, which is OK if you already have a specific strategy in mind. But if you need help developing a content strategy, dig deeper into each step of their process to fully understand how involved they expect you to be.
Who writes the content?
You’re a busy business leader, so most content firms won’t expect you to write 100 percent of the content on your own. But be skeptical if the company only ghostwrites. If you’re an industry expert, it’s unlikely that an outside perspective with limited trade knowledge can convey your insight in a valuable and compelling way that’s also true to your voice.
At Influence & Co., we believe that a blended approach can solve these issues. We send clients specific questions structured around an article angle, and they answer them using their expertise in a stream-of-consciousness format. Our writers then utilize that specific industry expertise to craft a cohesive, well-structured article.
How will you determine where my content will be published?
People love the idea of seeing their bylines in Forbes or The Washington Post. But if firms tell you they can make this happen, ask why. Do they believe your audience is reading those publications, or are they sticking to the publications they work well with? They should provide concrete rationale behind each publication choice and clearly explain how it fits into your overall strategy.
If a company promises specific publications before knowing your expertise, your audience, or even your goals, it’s not taking your specific needs into account, and you likely won’t accomplish the content goals you’ve set.
What deliverables can I expect?
Ask the company what you can expect to see in the first month, six months, and year. If it communicates clear deliverables based on mutually agreed-upon expectations, you’re at the right place. If a salesperson says, “We’ll pitch 24 journalists each month, but we’re not sure what we’ll get” or “We’ll get 100 articles published in the first month,” warning bells should immediately go off. Inquire more about what you can expect and the anticipated time frame.
What results will I likely see?
Results are different than deliverables. For example, we aim to get one to two articles published for clients each month if they hit their deadlines for answering questions, but the results of those articles vary greatly depending on the clients’ goals and what they do with the content once it’s published.
If a company guarantees results before it knows what’s important to you, then it’s likely making shallow promises. If the salesperson assures you she’ll get results for things she has no control over, you should be cautious.
For example, we never promise clients a certain number of sales. Although we handle everything from their content strategy to getting articles published to capturing leads through gated content, we don’t manage their sales staff, so we can’t guarantee closed leads. Most effective content companies will provide examples of past client results and what contributed to those positive outcomes, then work with you to accomplish the same.
What does my time commitment look like?
Your commitment can look very different depending on the company. It’s a good idea to establish clear expectations upfront about how many points of contact the company’s staff will need on your team, the number of hours it will require each week or month, and what you’ll need to do overall to make the most of the partnership.
Our clients see the best results when they — and their team members — actively engage in answering questions, approving articles, and leveraging the content once it’s published. We often tell potential clients that the more effort they put into the process, the more they’ll get out of it. But we also know our clients don’t have endless hours to devote to producing content, so we create processes that involve about two or three hours of their time each month to reap great results.
Questions to Flesh Out Once You’re Ready to Get Started
Now that you’re confident you’ve chosen a reputable content firm and your expectations are in check, ask the company these three questions before diving into content creation.
1. How can we make the most of our content?
Hopefully, the content company you hire has helped other clients reach specific goals. Ask what you should do with the article once it’s published and inquire about any best practices the firm has already established. We send our clients detailed lists of ways to promote each article and extend its reach. Their account strategists also offer to absorb some of the work to save them time.
2. How can I be the best client possible?
Yes, you’re hiring this company to work for you, but it’s a partnership that requires a collaborative effort. Make sure you’re committed to your long-term content efforts by gauging the qualities of ideal clients. This will ensure your greatest chance for success.
When clients ask this question, we know we’re off to a fantastic start. If you exude dedication and enthusiasm when producing content, your content team will share that sentiment. And this will translate into quality content that excites your audience, too.
3. What are some early indicators that this is or isn’t working?
Although content marketing is an ongoing process, you don’t want to spend a year producing content before realizing it’s not working. Ask the company what deliverables and results you should see in months three, six, and nine, and constantly assess how well your efforts are aligning with these expectations.
Selecting a content firm shouldn’t be an impulse decision. When you ask these questions, you’ll find a partner that meshes seamlessly with your company’s goals and processes, and it’ll be well worth the time put into comparing your options
We’d love to answer any of these questions for you. Give us a shout, and we’ll set up a call to learn more about your company and see how we can help.