Let’s just get something out in the open. This is a blog about why industry expertise shouldn’t necessarily be the determining factor when choosing a content marketing agency.
But let’s acknowledge the obvious: Experience sure doesn’t hurt. After all, an agency’s job is to align a client’s brand, products, and services with demand in the marketplace. An agency with industry experience can make that happen by tapping past knowledge, successes, and insights to help a new client reach its marketing goals.
Things to look for when choosing an agency
Experience Matters, But …
Consider the elephant in the room introduced. But let’s also remember that experience isn’t the only — or even the most important — factor companies should weigh when selecting an agency. A few other considerations include whether or not an agency has a proven track record of marketing success and is staffed by a roster of smart, talented people.
Even more important is whether you think the agency you’re considering hiring is a good cultural fit for your company. Fit means different things to different clients, obviously, but good agencies have core values that guide their practice. For us, we seek to provide the following to our clients, adjusting as we go along, but always within these parameters:
- Service: As an agency you are only as good as the client thinks you are, and a large part of that is being a partner — one that solves problems and makes their lives easier. At D Custom, our goal is to become an extension of our clients’ marketing teams. That requires a lot of legwork: It takes time to learn a client’s culture and environment, and to understand the demands of internal stakeholders. And yes, exceptional service also means understanding a company’s business. An agency must be committed to learning all it can about a partner company’s industry, challenges, and opportunities. And no matter how steep the learning curve, you need people that can climb it fairly quickly.
- Value: Here’s a content marketing equivalent to the philosophical query about whether a tree that falls in the woods makes a sound if nobody is around to hear it. Does SEO-optimized content make an impact if nobody reads all of it or returns to read more? Clearly, no. The quality of content matters, which is why one element of fit involves producing stories, blogs, infographics, and other materials with which people actually read and engage. Content has to build affinity for your brand. Bad content does the opposite.
- Expertise: Content marketing is evolving quickly. From the emergence of new technologies to changes in social media platforms, this is a landscape that shifts continuously. It must be an agency’s area of expertise and you have to be plugged in to how these changes impact your clients and what you need to do to take advantage of new opportunities. In a rapidly changing landscape, clients expect their agencies to help them evolve best practices and be ready when new opportunities emerge.
You Can’t Learn Fit
Are there other things brands should demand from their content marketing agency? Sure, the list is long and includes measurement and reporting that proves improved ROI, information sharing, strategic thinking, and on and on.
Taken together, all of these factors can and should outweigh industry experience. Why? Industry knowledge can be gained, often quickly, by an agency full of smart and determined people. But if you don’t like an agency’s processes or think its marketing knowledge is thin, it’s just foolish to think any of that will change.
How do we know? Experience.