Today, customers and clients want to know what brands stand for. Moreover, they are more likely to make a purchase from someone they trust. Educational content has proven itself as a great trust builder. It is why almost every brand has a blog section – and why you need a sound content strategy.
A piece of good content is like a magnet for traffic. When it is executed correctly, it can be used to bring in organic visitors, generate leads, and convert them into actual buyers.
Developing an actionable content strategy and a production process that includes text, visuals, and multimedia is not easy. You need to target the right audience with the right content, and that takes a lot of research and planning. On top of that, if you want to establish a recognizable brand image, quality is not enough – you need consistency – both in visual representation and output.
All of this means that you don’t want to cut corners on your content strategy. If you’re not sure what you’re doing, it’s only natural to outsource this part of marketing to a content strategy agency.
What can a typical content strategy agency do?
We have some breaking news: content strategy agencies do not really exist!
Virtually all content strategy agencies are actually content marketing agencies, as content strategy is an integral part of content marketing. The only reason why agencies have landing pages that promote them as a content strategy agency is that you keep typing this term into Google search!
If we dig deep down to try and define them as a standalone enterprise, here is what a content strategy agency should be able to help you out with:
- researching your target audience and developing target personas
- performing keyword research
- developing a content strategy and an editorial calendar
- content production, optimization, and publishing
- lead generation and lead magnet creation
- content promotion
Some of the agencies might also be able to offer lead nurturing, email management, PPC, social media management, and link-building services – which is often the case with full content marketing agencies.
When you’re shortlisting potential partners and deciding on an agency, you’ll want to get some info upfront. Use the questions you’re going to ask to poke around a little and get some revealing sub-text that will help you narrow down your choice!
8 questions to ask a content strategy agency
To make things easier, we listed some questions that we believe are a must-ask when deciding on a content strategy agency.
What makes us the expert you should listen to? We are a content marketing agency ourselves, and we’ve done work with other creative agencies in the past. So we have been on both sides of this process.
To help you focus on the right details during the review process, each “question you should ask” is structured in the following way:
- an explanation of the general idea behind the question; what information you’re aiming to get
- a list of red flags that you should be on the lookout for
- an example of how we do the thing in question
Let’s start things off with something that is usually first on everybody’s mind: money.
1) How do you charge for your services?
The easiest way to shortlist content strategy agencies is to disregard those that are too expensive (or suspiciously cheap).
Your goal here is to find out how they charge for their service. Is their pricing based per content piece? Hourly? Maybe they are selling certain packages on a monthly retainer. If so, what is included in that package? Details are important if you are looking for a long-term solution.
- Agencies asking for a long-term contract (6-12 months) from the get-go.
- They want you to sign contracts with a multitude of stipulations.
- They are significantly cheaper from most other agencies you looked at.
- They have weird or confusing packages/pricing plans that do not clearly outline what you get.
How we do it
Our approach is not to burden our clients with contractual obligations. We invoice them on a monthly basis, for the services they choose in that month. This means that any client can terminate the collaboration pretty much at any time. We have many clients that have been with us for years, with no contracts signed, so we must be doing something right!
2) What type of content are you able to produce?
Companies approach content marketers for various reasons, depending on their marketing goals and their niche. As your business evolves, your target audience will be in different stages of the buying cycle. Some types of content are better at attracting unsuspecting visitors than moving them through the funnel, and vice versa.
Can your content strategy agency produce blog posts, infographics, videos, quizzes, whitepapers, etc? A great agency will make sure that all content is in line with both the keyword research and the objectives that have been set up in the content strategy.
- Single-format specialization: if the agency only produces written content, that is not necessarily a bad thing, but it is a guarantee that it won’t be a one-stop-shop for your marketing efforts.
- No portfolio: if they can produce different types of content, they should have some examples to prove it.
How we do it
We have a team of creators who can produce different content formats, as well as a tight network of freelance associates. It is our way of making sure we can cater to all of our clients’ needs and requests. Showcasing our abilities through our social media outlets is one of the ways of letting our potential customers know that we can produce a variety of content types.
3) How do you ensure content quality?
The real question you’re asking here is “How do I know I’m getting my money’s worth”? Answering it can get really complicated, and extracting information from the answer you get gets equally complicated. The idea is to find out how the agency handles content production, and what steps it takes to ensure accuracy and quality. Production can happen in-house, but it can also get outsourced, and the answer to this question might reveal some really useful info!
- Think twice about agencies over-emphasizing buzzwords like “SEO”, “traffic” and “conversions”, with no examples or case studies to back their claims up.
- Unless you’re talking to a known expert, be wary of anyone who tells you up front they can cover any topic, without asking any follow-up questions.
- Talk about production speed. If they claim they can produce and optimize a 4k words content piece in a few days, that is highly suspicious. Big content pieces need to go through many hands (writer/designer/editor…) and checks before they are ready to go live. It is not an impossible timeframe, but very challenging for a brand new client.
How we do it
It’s impossible to have in-house experts who will cover every industry or niche our clients come from – so we devised our own process of finding and testing out experts for specific niches. Once we take our pick, we work with those experts through all stages of content development, to ensure client requirements are met.
While we work with experts covering topics that are our clients’ forte, we handle all the project management work in-house. Every piece of content we produce gets the same treatment – a detailed, minuscule editorial check, plus a thorough optimization process – ensuring the high-quality standard Point Visible is known for.
4) Can you provide some examples and campaign results from previous clients?
Showcasing a client roster is a sure sign that an agency has experience in its field of work. Examples can illustrate exactly how much experience the agency has in the industry you’re coming from, or in producing the content type you’re after.
Having numbers (traffic, leads, shares, mentions from top sites, ranking position increases, etc.) to back up campaign results will clearly demonstrate how good the agency is in the part of marketing that is often a stumbling point – and that’s overall project management, all the way from content planning to content distribution. Only systematic, focused work, with everyone working towards the same goal, will yield results in the long run.
- Testimonials with just names: no title, position or company behind the name? Think again.
- Third party review sites: none, or bad reviews – yes, just like you’d check other services on Trustpilot and similar sites; after all, you’re in the market for a service
- No referrals: word-of-mouth referrals are still legit! A credible agency will be both able and willing to connect you to one of their clients, so you can get a first-hand picture of how things are done.
How we do it
At Point Visible, we try to be transparent about our client base and the work we do for them, making sure to respect discretionary requirements as well. We work with clients from a wide range of industries, so we are usually able to present case studies or samples of campaigns from relevant niches. We can also get you in touch with one of our many long-term clients to have a chat!
5) How can I track the progress of my campaigns?
Or, in other words – what is the level of communication? Finding out what the usual means of communication are will tell you a lot about an agency. Report frequency, communication channels, real-time insights into the budget and campaign progress, the responsiveness of your campaign lead – will give you an inkling of how transparent and confident the agency is in its ability to deliver.
- You do not get access to a project management tool or a comparable way to track work progress on your campaign.
- The content strategy agency you are working with has no flexibility regarding communication channels. You want Zoom, they stick to Gmail. While this doesn’t mean they will do bad work, it can mean you are just not compatible for the long haul.
- They do not provide you with a point of contact – lack of “campaign lead” is problematic for many different reasons.
How we do it
When onboarding with us as a new client, you will get all the info you need to keep the communication going at all times. The choice of the means of communication is up to you, and we can adapt to pretty much anything:
- on-going communication: emails, Slack, Zoom, etc.
- project management: we’re currently using Breeze, a tool that gives you access to all the tasks happening within your campaign, enables approvals, and makes you an integral part of the workflow
- reports: while our PM tools give you real-time insight into the campaign progress, we do not mind sending you weekly/monthly reports
On top of that, we prioritize communication that is clear and concise – so no big chunks of text, or vague explanations. Streamlined, quality communication is a huge time saver, so it’s one of our focal points. If something needs to be discussed in length, we can always hop on a call.
6) What are my pre-approval options?
The answer to this question will basically let you know how much you can be involved in the whole process the agency is doing. A great starting point is to first ask yourself: how much do I want to be involved?
Some clients like to pre-approve everything, while others just like to see reports; the choice should be yours, and a good content strategy agency should be flexible enough to accommodate your requests.
That being said, you should want to be involved, at least in the first couple of months. It’s the only way to ensure everyone is on the same page. It also helps in establishing a workflow that is comfortable for both sides. It is much easier to build collaborations when you have a strong foundation!
- Being non-transparent about the whole process – a good agency will want to talk about the steps involved – regardless of how much the client plans to be involved.
- The agency does not let clients be involved in the process, just review the final product and report.
- No flexibility – you might be walking into an office from the street, or you might be coming in with prepared keyword lists – neither should be an issue.
How we do it
We’re ready and welcoming for any type of client – from the ones who know nothing about content marketing, to those who already have a clear vision of what they want (or need). Likewise, the pre-approval options are entirely up to you: keyword research, content calendar, outlines, custom graphics, finished articles – wherever you, or someone on your team, want to give their seal of approval, we can accommodate that.
The Point Visible crew will be happy to talk to you every step of the way, but can also simply crunch numbers and put them in a (nicely designed) report.
Most of our clients want to be highly involved in the beginning. And we found that works well for us too. When we get to know each other better, we can cover most of the day-to-day decisions.
7) How much time before I start seeing tangible results?
This question works great as a litmus test: anyone offering overnight results should be avoided. Tangible results from content development and link building take time to manifest. In general, six months of systematic work should yield noticeable results. However, these timeframes are highly dependent on variables such as the competition in the SERPs, the size of your budget, and how niche the product/service is.
- As mentioned above, step away from any promises that seem irrational.
- The term ‘results’ will depend on your specific requests and needs. Be mindful of agencies churning out buzzwords and generic terms – you decide on the direction of your campaign, with the agency acting as an advisor.
How we do it
We understand that our clients can get confused or discouraged if they don’t see immediate results. This is the reason why we put a lot of emphasis on being as transparent and as inclusive as possible – at every stage of our workflow.
That way, our clients clearly see what is happening, which efforts we are taking in order to reach the desired results, and the overall quality of our service.
8) How long do your clients usually stay with you?
This is a tricky question because you often have no reliable way to check their answer. If push comes to shove, you can always ask them to get you in touch with some of their long-term clients. Remember, as it takes a few months of consistent work to see real results, a good agency should have clients that have been there for years, not months.
- If the content strategy agency has a big turnover of clients, you might want to ask yourself why this is happening, and whether they are doing something wrong?
- If most clients stay with the agency for less than a year, the agency was either too expensive for them, or they did not see results – so they had no reason to continue their campaigns.
- Poor independent reviews. One bad review doesn’t mean much, but a multitude of them is a serious red flag.
How we do it
Most of our clients prefer long-term cooperation. Since we can usually cover all of their SEO and content marketing needs – they tend to stay with us for 2+ years. We were initially focused on link building, but we slowly expanded into the content marketing space as our team and experience grew.
The best part of ‘How we do it’ is our Trustpilot page, where the reviews speak for themselves!
All right, now that you have the low-down, it’s time to ask away! Here’s a hint: one agency has already answered all of your questions 🙂
Hey, we can help you out with your content strategy!
Yeah, ok: you just read this whole mammoth of an article, to land on this heading, and you’re thinking that we could’ve just placed this on top, right? True, we could have – but then we’d miss the opportunity to let you know how we do things at Point Visible, and to give you some actionable tips on how to go agency-hunting!
The fact of the matter is – we really can help you out with your content strategy! There’s real-life evidence, case studies, and a bunch of satisfied clients to back us up, so maybe your agency hunt stops here! If so, it’s time you get in touch with us and tell us what you need, or even schedule a call and get crackin’ real fast!
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