At Tendo, we work with a range of clients—from companies just dipping their toes into content marketing to enterprises with sophisticated content marketing machines. Whether we’re helping them optimize an existing campaign or start a new one from scratch, we’ve found that there are a few shared traits that help us help them.
Like most relationships, the biggest contributor to agency/client success is clear communication. Whether you’re defining goals or setting service-level expectations, clarity is key. We’ve found that the following characteristics ensure alignment between agency and client—particularly when it comes to creating successful content.
Here are five tips for communicating effectively with your content marketing agency:
1. Define Your Audience & Goals
The first questions we ask—”Who are you creating content for and what do you want to achieve with it?”—are met with silence or embarrassed laughter more often than you’d think. Even with some of our more sophisticated clients, it’s surprising how often companies create content “because we’ve always done it this way” or “because we need something to put on social media.”
Your target audience and their informational needs should be the driving factor behind your content creation efforts. Take the time to consider your agency’s questions and let them help guide you to the answers.
When thinking about your audience and goals, be as specific as possible. “Technical decision makers” is a good start for an audience definition, but it doesn’t go far enough.
Ask yourself: What are their job titles or roles? What channels does this audience use to consume information and what type of information do they respond to? How often do they consume it? What keeps them up at night? How can our product or solution help them succeed or do their job better?
After you’ve thought about your audience, consider what you want them to do after they’ve interacted with your content. Are they really ready to make a purchase, or do you just want to make sure they open your next email? Having a clear idea of next steps and actions will help your agency craft a campaign that meets your goals.
2. Discuss Media Channels
With all the noise out there, it’s more important than ever to work with a content marketing agency that can help you navigate through the maze of converging media channels.
Talk to your agency about which channels (paid, earned, owned, shared) your company has had success with, and which channels you want to use in the current campaign.
Your agency should assess your company’s presence on these channels and make recommendations for how to use—or disregard—certain ones based on your intended audience and goals.
3. Disclose Your Real Budget
Be honest about your budget and your expectations. The wide variety of content channels, formats, and types available means some content marketing tactics can be pretty cost effective.
But the work still requires planning and resources to execute effectively. In our experience, the clients that hit their marketing goals are the ones that create compelling content and effectively deliver it to the right audience at the right time and place.
Creative ideas come in all price ranges, but if you misrepresent your budget, you’re wasting your agency’s time—and ultimately your own.
4. Consider Success Metrics
What does success look like? The big disconnect here is often between what the exec team envisions versus what can actually be measured based on the infrastructure and resources available. Many of our clients have multiple tools to “measure” success, but setting up, pulling, and analyzing those metrics often gets abandoned for being a time-consuming, low-priority task.
A content marketing agency that can help you utilize the right marketing analytics tools is worth its weight in gold. But if you’re not willing to invest in the process, it will be that much harder to validate return on your marketing investment.
“Hard” metrics (clicks, downloads, SQLs, MQLs, etc.) are often all companies think about, yet “softer” metrics can be just as valuable. For example, a client recently told us, “This project will be successful if we’re able to speed up the timeline for content creation and streamline the process.” In this case, the ability to come together to execute a plan was worth more than (almost) any hard metric.
5. Share Organizational Realities
The level of operational maturity and how effective a company is at creating, managing, and executing on content programs varies significantly. Every company has different infrastructures, processes, and culture, so be candid about how things get done in your company.
Is your social media team integrated with your marketing department? Will the campaign require approval from your legal department? Can the business unit really give same-day approval on copy and design? Does the exec sponsor hate the color yellow?
Give an accurate picture of your company’s operational and organizational realities so your agency can plan a campaign that takes them all into consideration.
So what should you do in order to get the most out of your content marketing agency? In a resource-constrained, time-crunched world, taking the time to communicate effectively with your content marketing agency may seem like a luxury. But if you’re candid, realistic, and amenable to suggestions, you lay the foundation for a long-term partnership with an agency that’s as invested in your success as you are.