Sometimes it’s hard to know which content marketing services you need. It’s made even harder when a large variety of agencies say they ‘do’ content marketing.
But if an agency specialises in SEO, will they offer the same kind of content that a PR agency would? If someone promotes their video content, will they also know about blogging? Or print production?
Many content marketing agencies will tell you they can do all of the above. And they may be right. But all agencies will tend to have a bias towards a particular style. This post will show you the five basic questions you can ask that will show you where any agency’s strengths lie.
Three approaches to content marketing services
The five questions work because they uncover what an agency might be best at. If you know what they’re best at, you can figure out which one will best fit your needs.
Have a look at what agencies do for other clients, and you’ll quickly get an idea of where they’re coming from. There are three general approaches:
- The publisher model, which says all you need is an audience
- The marketer model, which says all you need is a channel to the market
- The sales model, which says all you need to do is capture that segment of the market that is ready to buy something.
All of these types of agencies will offer strategy. About a year ago, everyone became content strategists. Research from CMI in Cleveland identified lack of strategy as a key problem companies were having with content marketing. And agencies rushed in to fill the void. And the dirty secret of content marketing is anyone can do strategy. Including you.
The USP for each model
So if the agency leans towards the publisher model, they may promote the custom magazines or content-rich websites they produce for clients. The greatest strength of the publisher model is lead generation. If the agency has grown out of a publishing company, they’re probably really good at building audiences.
Many digital agencies fall into the second model—the marketer. Reaching an audience, rather than building one, is a marketing skill. Agencies that come from this marketing background will emphasise their knowledge of SEO, marketing automation, strategy, and social media marketing.
The sales model is a natural fit with agencies that come from PR, or that describe themselves as offering branded content. They are very used to working with brands, and will be keen to talk about the brands they have worked with successfully.
What each service targets
The strengths of each of these different models correspond with positions in a sales funnel. That’s why you can have three such different beasts in this jungle.
The publisher-style agencies are very good at getting subscribers and leads into the top of your sales funnel. That’s because that’s essentially what publishers have always done. They build audiences.
The ‘marketer’ style agencies are very good at managing the middle of a sales funnel. They don’t always have access to large numbers of content creators. But they do have the software that can automate regular contact with your audience. And they’re not afraid of spamming people, because they know a lot more marketing theory than publishers do.
The sales model are great at connecting with you, as a client. They will get in there and understand your brand, then create content that explains your brand, your values and product to an audience. That’s invaluable for moving people from the bottom of your sales funnel to closing the sale.
The weakness with each type of service
None of these types of agencies will talk about their weakness. The weaknesses come because a sales funnel isn’t an actual funnel—it doesn’t work from top-down pressure. Just because you get a lot of people into the top of your funnel with great content, it doesn’t follow that those people will automatically become customers.
Even if you have all the tools and tricks to move people through the middle of your sales funnel, it doesn’t mean they can get leads in the top. Or get people converting to sales at the bottom. All the marketing automation in the world doesn’t work if you sell a solution to a problem that your competition is more closely associated with.
And even if you’re good at associating brands with certain values, and promoting products, that’s no guarantee you can build an audience. Or that you can lead people through a sales process.
The 5 basic questions to ask about content marketing services
If you’re just starting out with content marketing and don’t really know what you want, it’s a good idea to find an agency to help. As I said earlier, all of them will claim skills in strategy. And a strategy is important. Beyond that, you can ask them:
- How have they built audiences for other companies?
- Do they actually produce content, or do they schedule and distribute content you create through social media?
- Do they write blogs for clients, or just manage them?
- What software do they use for scheduling, social listening and social amplification?
- What campaigns have they worked on for other brands?
The answers to those questions will help you understand where they’re coming from, and how they can help you. For example, if they’re working on campaigns, they’re more likely to have come in from a PR or advertising perspective.
This will also help if you’re some way down the track with your content strategy, but have hit a wall. For example, you might have plenty of press releases loaded up on your site, but you’re not getting a lot of web traffic from them. Or you might have a great newsletter, but with an open rate stuck around the 10 per cent mark.
The hardest task in choosing an agency to help you with content marketing services is knowing if they have the right skill set. Once you recognise where they are coming from, you can ask a few simple questions to work out what those skills are, and how they can apply to your business.