Search and social are the primary gateways to consumers, and quality content is the cost of discovery. This concept is fundamentally changing the way marketers interact with consumers and, subsequently, spurring tremendous innovation across the marketing services industry. To keep pace with an increasingly empowered consumer, marketing service providers across the spectrum are building out their content marketing service lines.
As the Director of Agency Development for the leading content marketing software platform, I’ve spent the better half of the last year examining this trend. From what I’ve gathered, most agencies rely on their heritage to differentiate approaches to content marketing. For example, PR agencies trumpet their access to influencers, search agencies showcase data-driven behavioral analysis and technical acumen, and creative shops focus on brand alignment and big ideas. However, legacy and complementary competencies are not enough to truly differentiate an agency content marketing practice. Here are nine ways to differentiate an agency content marketing offering:
- Incorporate behavioral analysis into strategy formulation. Content strategy sits at the intersection of consumer demand and brand promise. Any content strategy that omits a thorough and ongoing analysis of consumers’ search and social behaviors leaves opportunity on the table.
- Develop a process for the establishment and enforcement of editorial guidelines. Content strategy is not just an exercise in topic identification. The question of how to write is just as important as what to write. Agency content marketers must work with their clients to establish comprehensive editorial guidelines and a process for enforcement prior to scaling content production.
- Build integrated distribution and promotional strategies to support content marketing. Content marketing is much more successful when seeded with social and paid promotion. Agencies that build integrated distribution and promotional strategies around content marketing can deliver increased value to clients.
- Develop a curated network of talented, specialized, and influential content contributors. Every client’s content needs may demand creators with unique specialization, social influence, and interest. Therefore, it’s critical to develop a process to find, recruit, and build lasting relationships with expert content creators.
- Develop a curriculum for client education and evangelism. High levels of client buy-in and participation can greatly accelerate content marketing success. The ability to work with client organizations to uncover great stories and inspire employee participation in content marketing can really cement client relationships.
- Build a scalable content production process. Content marketing at enterprise scale requires management of a distributed workforce (freelance content creators), coordination across multiple stakeholders (brand teams, search teams, legal teams, media teams, tech teams, etc.), and clean technical integration. It’s impossible to scale content production without a systematic process for managing writers, facilitating content review, and delivering content to a CMS.
- Build a flexible content production process. Clients will desire a wide range of content review and publishing processes. In order to deliver against these expectations, agencies must have a flexible content production process that can accommodate custom review processes, content templates, and technical integrations.
Measurement and Analytics
- Standardize measurement of content marketing lift. Effective content marketing drives lift in website visitation, engagement, and social endorsement and subsequently produces valuable business outcomes (i.e., sales, leads, consumer perception). Agencies who can come to the table with clear frameworks for measuring these effects can add a ton of value.
- Incorporate analytics to drive content marketing strategy. There is a difference between putting an ROI on content marketing and extracting actionable insights from content performance data. Agencies that can seamlessly examine performance data at the article, writer, and category levels can pursue adaptive content marketing strategies in order to focus client investment on what’s working best.
If you’re an agency offering content marketing services to your clients, I’d love to hear how you’re differentiating! Please comment!
John T. Shea is the Director of Agency Development at Skyword. Prior to joining Skyword, John served as Senior Agency Sales Executive at Google Inc. and Vice President of Strategy at the Rimm-Kaufman Group, a leading digital marketing agency. A Boston native, John holds degrees in Political Science and English from Tufts University. Circle John on Google+