B2B Articles - December 21, 2022
By Jenny Goldade, Content Specialist
All content marketing agencies are not creating equal. To get better insight into an agency's process, B2B companies must ask detective-like questions to better understand the agency's content marketing strategy and decide if they're the right fit for the business.
Here are some questions to ask a potential content marketing agency.
1. What metrics do you track to measure success?
2. How do those metrics help grow my business?
3. How do you use data to improve your content marketing strategy going forward?
4. How would our team communicate with you?
5. How does your team keep track of hours and budget?
6. Do you use an agile marketing strategy?
7. How would you go about conducting research on our industry?
8. How much effort did they put into their proposal?
9. Do you have an understanding of our customers and industry?
10. What do you prioritize in your content marketing strategy?
11. What types of content marketing do you specialize in?
12. Does design play as important of a role as writing?
13. What educational resources do you offer your team?
14. Do you have some recent case studies I can review?
15. What drove you to pursue a career in content marketing?
Businesses want an agency to track metrics that drive results for their business. Metrics like increasing qualified leads and conversion rates are two key metrics Ironpaper focuses on. After all, the main goal of any business is growth, and converting leads is how to do that.
Only tracking "fluffy metrics" is a warning sign that a business shouldn't go with an agency. Page views and social media post likes are two examples of fluffy metrics. Even if a page or post gets many views or likes, views don't directly correlate to increased conversions or revenue. So while these metrics can be helpful, it's a red flag if they're the only metrics they track.
Get insight into why they choose to track the metrics they do. A business should see the direct relationship between those metrics and how they boost their company's revenue. If they track fluffy metrics, get clarity into how those metrics play a role in the bigger picture.
Tracking the results is only the first step. An agency should make data-driven decisions and use the data they collect to improve conversions and revenue. According to a report by Ascend2, 35% of participants said increasing content engagement is their main goal for a data-driven marketing strategy.1
B2B companies need an agency that prioritizes growth over writing content for content's sake. They're wasting time and resources if they write and publish without a plan or data to support it.
An agency should have a process for effective communication. The first part is knowing who to reach out to. There should be a primary point of contact who acts as a go-to person for project updates and answers to general questions. Additionally, a business should understand what other roles make up the team, such as content specialists, digital marketers, and market analysts. Then, they can direct more specific questions or ideas to the right people.
The second part of effective communication is the where. What platform(s) will the agency use to stay in touch? For example, they may use a messaging platform like Slack for quick communication and a video platform like Zoom for in-depth meetings or project syncs.
The third part of effective communication is how often. Often, a B2B business will meet with its marketing agency for weekly project syncs. During these meetings, they can discuss what projects are in progress and any blockers getting in the way.
Besides creating high-quality content, businesses must also ensure that their content agency stays within the agreed-upon budget and the allotted project hours.
An agency should create a Statement of Work (SOW) or a similar document. This outlines agreed-upon project details so everyone working on the project knows what is within the scope of the project, the budget, and the allotted hours.
Agile marketing is a best practice for many businesses. An Agile Sherpas report found that 77% of respondents used agile for content creation.2 With an agile strategy, companies can:
When an agency uses agile, that's a good sign that they prioritize productivity, collaboration, and data-driven decisions.
Get insight into their research process. What research tools do they utilize? What are some examples of topics they would research? What are their go-to publications for finding relevant statistics and studies? Questions like these can help businesses better understand if they're on the right track and how invested they are in learning about your industry.
When looking at a content proposal from a marketing agency, check to see how detailed it is. Did they take the time to conduct in-depth research to understand the industry and customer base better? Or is it more high level and shows they didn't spend as much time on it as they could have? If it's the second option, that's a sign to not go with an agency.
Understanding a company's customers and industry is key to creating content that drives growth. Salesforce found that 89% of buyers are more likely to purchase from a business if they show that they understand the buyers' goals.4 Any agency being considered should have strong research capabilities and be able to demonstrate their ability to understand new markets. With time, an agency should better understand their client's customers' challenges and ideal outcomes.
In other words, what best practices do they follow to create the best content possible? Remember that 44% of buyers read 3-5 marketing pieces before talking to the sales team.5 This means companies must create content for all stages of the buyer's journey to attract, engage, convert, and delight customers.
For example, one of Ironpaper's content methodology best practices is to create buyer-centric content that isn't autobiographical. Content must focus on the buyer's pain points and goals, not the company's product or service.
Writing content for a decision-level case study differs from writing an awareness-level blog post. Businesses should choose an agency that has experience writing a variety of pieces for different stages in the buyer's journey, such as pay-per-click ads, blog posts, and email campaigns.
Writing copy is the first step to creating great content. After that, it needs to be designed to grab readers' attention and drive engagement. Even the most well-written content will go to waste if the design is sub-par, so before a business chooses an agency, they should make sure the team's design capabilities live up to their design expectations.
Marketing strategies constantly change, so there's always something new to learn. To ensure they're keeping up with trends and market forces, businesses should choose agencies that prioritize ongoing learning for their employees through webinars, online courses, training sessions, in-person events, or other educational resources.
For agencies that offer educational resources, ask them if they require their employees to complete these ongoing learning opportunities. If not, get insight into how many of their employees use them.
Case studies let businesses see real-life examples of success other businesses had with the agency. This way, companies get insights from someone outside of the agency itself. It's also a good idea to read online reviews about the agency.
While it might seem unimportant, businesses should look for an agency that's passionate about what they do and truly cares about the work. Agencies only in it to make money are less likely to prioritize what works and push their team members to innovate.
How these questions can help you choose the right B2B content marketing agency
By having a potential content marketing agency answer these questions, B2B businesses can feel more confident in their decision to partner with them. With the insights they learn, they can better evaluate agencies against each other and uncover warning signs that they shouldn't go with an agency. Ultimately, after this Q&A process, it will be easier to select an agency that will create measurable growth for the business.
1Ascend2, Using Marketing Data To Make Better Decisions, Strategies, Tactics & Trends, May 2020.
2AgileSherpas, 4th Annual State of Agile Marketing Report, 2021.
3McKinsey & Company, The big reset: Data-driven marketing in the next normal, March 25, 2021.
4Salesforce, Fifth Edition State of the Connected Customer, 2022.
5Demand Gen, 2021 Content Preferences Survey Report, 2021.
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