Modern digital marketing heavily relies on content production, and many small and mid-size businesses can’t keep up with this demand. And what does one do when in-house resources won’t cut it anymore? For many, the solution is reaching out to content creation companies.
Working with a content creation company can save you a lot of time, enabling you to refocus your energy on improving your core service. It can also provide valuable advice and bring years of relevant experience to the table, not something you always have ready access to yourself.
However, as it’s often the case with outsourcing marketing services, you never know who you’re going to run into. Some content creation companies boast immaculate ethics and offer top-quality work for affordable prices. Others demand extortionate prices for sub-par content.
If you want to keep disappointment at bay, take a look at the steps we outline below. They outline how to establish a fruitful and mutually beneficial relationship with the content creation company of your choosing.
The first step you should be taking has nothing to do with an outside agency. It involves defining your content goals and the budget you want to allocate for content production.
Define your content goals and expectations
In case you have your content strategy in place, you’ll easily share your goals, brand’s voice, and content development process with the agency.
On the other hand, if you haven’t defined your strategy or it’s still half-made, we suggest you speak about that with the agency’s experts and let them help you outline realistic long-term goals.
Define your budget for content creation
You should also think about your budget. While defining an exact budget won’t be an easy task, have at least a ballpark figure in mind you can use to filter out content creation companies that are simply too expensive.
Once you have given some thought to all of the above, you can start asking for recommendations, doing online searches, or placing an ad – however you prefer sourcing outside collaborators.
Finding the right content creation company
Before you even start looking for the right content creation company, make sure to be open-minded. Is it a must that you hire a company from your own country, especially if you’re oriented to the audience of English-speaking area? Likewise, hiring a company from an English-speaking area won’t necessarily mean they’ll produce better content.
To make sure you avoid disappointments, try one of the below approaches when searching for the right content creation company:
- Recommendations: ask your business partners and acquaintances if they have any company to recommend.
- Google search: try with search queries like “content creation company”, “content creation agency/agencies”, “content writing company/agency”, etc.
- Directories: fast and easy way to browse through dozens or even hundreds of companies. Except for basic company info, many directories also show user reviews. Don’t forget that most of the companies listed in such directories are full-service marketing companies (see the types below). Some directories are Clutch and Digital agency network.
An alternative to agencies are freelancers. If you’re searching for a one-off or need just a few content pieces every month, you can check platforms like Upwork, PeoplePerHour, or ProBlogger. They are the source of a wide variety of writers covering different niches. You can expect a lot of spammy offers, but don’t give up because the above-mentioned platforms hide some high-quality writers too.
Their pricing might be higher, but with good reason.
Types of content creation companies
Today’s supply of content creation companies in the market is vast. If you look at the number of digital marketing agencies in the USA only, you’ll find there are around 5,500 firms. To make sure you choose the right one for you and avoid disappointments, it’s important to be able to distinguish different types of content creation companies:
- Content writing companies – are focused on creating high-quality content based on your requirements. This service may (or may not) include creating custom images, illustrations, infographics and videos. They usually do not provide full content marketing campaigns – they’re usually just creating the content.
- Content marketing agencies – offer a broader pool of services in comparison with content creation companies. Besides creating different types of content, they can help you with keyword research, formulate your content (marketing) strategy, improve your online presence, increase organic traffic with optimized articles, and use other content to turn readers into paying clients and customers. This is a category Point Visible agency falls into.
- Social media content creation companies – companies that offer different social media services – paid media, content creation (brand pages, ads, posts), keeping track of how well is your social content performing, etc. They create content that is optimized for social media, not so much your regular blog posts.
- Full-service (marketing) companies – in short, they are a one-stop shop for all your marketing needs. These kinds of companies offer dozens of different services – creative services, branding, social media, SEO, PR to web design, 3D design, product design and development, and others. They are unlikely to take on a client that only needs writing services.
When searching for the right company, there are two important steps you should never skip:
- check what others think about the company
- ask to see examples of their previous work
Check their reviews, but don’t trust them blindly
Try to use independent sources to check the reputation of content creation companies you shortlisted. After all, it’s easy to manipulate and sugarcoat the digital channels we are masters of, and much harder to fake independent reviews.
Luckily, the internet offers plenty of ways to check if a company is not only legitimate, but if it lives up to its reputation.
Sites like Trustpilot are a great source of reliable and honest reviews. While you may not be able to find every single content creation agency there, it’s a great place to take a nosey too.
Look for any red flags, like unsatisfied customers that sound like they’ve had legitimate issues. Disregard random and detail-less negative reviews that could be a part of a smear campaign.
Don’t trust faceless reviews that sound too good to be true, and use your best common sense to determine if a company sounds like an entity you would like to do business with.
Ask about relevant experience and proof of work
When you’ve found a content creation company you like and whose references you trust, there is one more verification step to take – check the level of their experience in your industry.
Ask about their experience of producing content in your industry and areas you are looking to cover. If they have not worked with a company like yours it doesn’t have to be a dealbreaker, but having some relevant experience means they are more likely to understand your needs and what works best for a brand like yours.
When creating content for our clients, we make sure to search for experts in the client’s niche. Sometimes we test dozens of writers, to ensure we find the person with the right skills and knowledge. The process can take time, but that’s normal when it comes to high-quality content.
Ask to see some relevant examples. Once you get them, you can also do some further research of your own. Google the name of the author and see what else comes up. Find other articles that have been published for the same client. If the examples you’ve seen are great, but some of the other examples are not, check with the company to see if this is their work too.
Lastly, make sure to be completely honest with them AND yourself about the kind of quality you are looking for. Producing high-quality content is always the absolute best possible route to take, but your expectations need to be in line with your budget.
How to work with content creation companies
Each company is different and has its own workflow. That being said, they should have some flexibility to meet your needs.
To ensure the collaboration goes as smoothly as possible, here is some advice based on our personal experience.
Get familiar with their workflow
When you first start working with a content creation company, make sure to get familiar with their workflow. Ask them how they handle the following:
- How do they come up with content topics? What is their content research process like? How do they sound out their resources?
- Do they use a content calendar, and if yes, how does it work?
- Do they submit an outline before a first draft? What kinds of timeframes can you expect?
- How should you be updating each other on progress made and on any last minute changes if they arise?
- When and how do they require payments to be made?
Consider how involved you want to be in all of these processes. You might want to approve both, the suggested topics and the outlines at the outset, to ensure you are all on the same page. As time goes on, you can slowly let the agency or their project lead take the reins and run with the creatives.
Decide how often would you like to be updated on the status of the campaign and which communication channel(s) would you like to use. The communication could be led via email or tools such as Slack, Skype, or similar.
If applicable, the best option would be to get familiar with the project management tool the agency uses – that way you would have full insight into the state of your campaign at any time.
Below is an example of how we lead communication with our clients through a PM tool called Breeze.pm.
If you don’t have enough time to lead the communication, assign the task to a specific person within your firm. The agency is likely to have a project lead. Having one yourself will make the entire process that much smoother.
Do a test run
Before you commit to a larger amount of work, do a test run with the content creation companies you shortlisted. Why? Because it is a smart thing to do before any kind of long-term commitment (and because it is a pain changing agencies and explaining yourself all over again). You can even choose to do a test run with several different companies and compare the work and the overall experience they deliver.
If everything in the test phase goes as you’d hope it would, you can look to increase your budget and develop a long-term relationship. This will help the agency as well, as they know they can count on a certain income and can plan their workload in advance.
You can write down all of the details of your agreement, like the agreed-upon pricing, deadlines, revision policies and any other relevant information. Both parties can then refer back to this document if any dispute were to arise.
Provide honest feedback
You need to be honest with the company you work with. Make sure to read through every single piece. Don’t settle for content below the quality you have agreed on. The quality of content you push will be a reflection of your brand authority.
Highlight the best parts of the work you’re receiving and point out everything you’ve liked, but do also ask for any changes to be made where you feel they are required. Be prepared to listen to the agency’s arguments too and keep an open mind, as they may have worded something in a certain way for a very good reason.
Never forget that all content is subjective. The main question to ask is will the content serve its purpose and achieve its goal – inform and engage the audience and rank well? If the answer is yes, then you’re on the right track.
Never intentionally put a content creator down, especially if they are anonymous and you are only speaking to a company representative. There are ways you can voice criticism and any concerns that are both honest and respectful.
Look for long-term solutions
Finding the right content creation company is not an easy task. Before you start searching, make sure to know what you want – in other words, set your goals and expectations.
Before you commit to a long-term collaboration, perform a test campaign. If a company only offers a big package or monthly subscription, you should think twice before choosing to work with them.
Remember, the right company is flexible, cares about your needs, and aligns with them.