If you’re developing your early-stage company’s go-to-market strategy, you probably know that doing a “baseline” level of content marketing is considered to be table stakes in today’s buying environment.

You’re also probably familiar with the idea that — somehow — content can result in more inbound lead flow for you and your sales team. You’ve also heard about the value of having content you can use to educate your buyers in every stage of their buying journey.

But how do you know what kind of content marketing you should be doing? And how do you disambiguate between the different types of content you could produce?

For the purposes of this article, we’re going to assume that you know you should be doing content marketing and you are ready to do what it takes to create inbound lead flow for your sales team.

If you look at the top search results for content marketing agencies, you’ll see a whole bunch of “top 25” style lists. That’s great but how do you actually find the right fit for you? There are so many different flavors of content agency that there’s no single list that can breakdown who your company should go with.

Instead, we’re going to focus on how to evaluate agency partners that can help you create a content plan and put it into action.

There are thousands of content marketing agencies to choose from — each with different focuses. This article will help you start understanding how to hire a content marketing agency so that you find the exact right fit for your company.

Know Your Buyer: B2B or B2C?

The first big thing to know when starting the search for a content marketing agency is who your buyer is.

In detail.

The biggest division between “types of marketing” is between whether you’re selling to businesses, or to consumers. B2B or B2C. Agencies often specialize in one or the other — or, they may specialize in marketing tech and SaaS products, but they have experience across both B2B and B2C.

Either of these are okay: just make sure that, if you’re in B2B, you don’t work with an agency that primarily works with consumer-focused companies. The complexity of selling to businesses, and the longer buyer’s journey involved, means that a consumer-focused agency will probably not understand the nuance well enough. Even if they understand it, they may not be practiced at it. Generating leads for a B2B company is completely different from B2C, and your content strategy needs to adjust accordingly.

Conversely, it’s also tricky, but not impossible, to ask a purely B2B-focused content marketing agency to work for your consumer company.

B2B agencies may be able to handle one piece of the overall strategy, as long as they can produce content at the velocity needed for B2C marketing, but they often won’t specialize in channels like Instagram or Snapchat.

What Are Your Marketing Channels?

As you go about hiring your content marketing agency, you should have an idea of what channels your buyers use, and what channels your agency specializes in. There should be significant overlap.

By the way, when we say “channels,” we mean anything from social media platforms, to forums, literal places your buyers hang out in, groups, methods of communication — anything that you can use for marketing. Direct Mail is a channel, and “sending handwritten notes” is a technique that you can use within the Direct Mail channel.

This is why if you’re selling an innovative new consumer tech product, targeted to millennial buyers with discretionary income, you’re probably going to need a company with Instagram expertise. That is in addition to doing a lot of writing so that you can start ranking for the highly-sought-after Google Search terms that your customers are likely to be searching for

Going to a B2B agency that focuses on LinkedIn and B2B SaaS work won’t be a great match for your needs in that case.

Conversely, if you’re selling an enterprise technology product, you’ll have little use for a content marketing agency that mostly creates content designed to lead to an immediate sale on the spot from the reader pulling out their credit card.

What Is the Working Culture and Relationship?

Aside from the professional skills that you need your agency to have, at RevenueZen we’ve found that relationships are most successful and profitable for everyone when there is cultural alignment, too.

Here’s an example of what we mean:

Are you a formal, all-in-the-office company that makes decisions slowly and sells to banks and hedge funds? Then consider choosing an agency that is on the same page as you.

On the other hand, our agency is a distributed, boutique team that communicates quickly and often with our clients over Slack, and one of our Directors has a blond mohawk and performs sold-out hip hop concerts on the weekends.

Just because a content agency has the experience and expertise you need, doesn’t mean the working culture will match. Be mindful of what you need from an agency partner. You not only have to know your customer, but you have to know yourself and how you work, too.

Do You Need a Content Marketing Agency or Just Freelance Writers?

It’s important that you know what you actually need from a content marketing agency.

Most of our clients come to us because they need help with everything content marketing related, with a focus on editorial and blog content: SEO, keyword research, writer hiring and management, copyediting, staging, research, and all the other 100 little things that make a content strategy go from good to great.

If you have the technical SEO and content strategy chops in-house already, you may just need to find more writers.

However, if you don’t have the team (or the time) to dedicate to all of the non-writing work needed to make a content strategy successful, that’s when you’ll need to find an agency to handle it.

Or maybe you have a hybrid need and so are on the lookout for help with one small piece of the content puzzle while letting your internal team handle the rest.

Some agencies can do everything. Some only focus on strategy, or SEO, or writing.

I’ve seen quite a few founders hire a writer, only to be surprised when the writer couldn’t handle their content strategy and SEO.

Don’t make that mistake.

When you’re evaluating different content agencies and getting started with your B2B content marketing strategy, make sure your needs align with what they offer. Otherwise, you’ll end up with an agency that does far more than you need, or not nearly enough.

Content Strategy vs. Revenue Strategy

One of the most overlooked but massively important pieces of any content marketing strategy is — How strategic is the content marketing agency?

Do they understand how content marketing will play within the rest of your revenue strategy? Do they understand how content will fit within your sales strategy? Can they advise you on bigger picture growth strategy outside of just content?

These days, content is a single part of a complex web of strategies that make up your larger revenue strategy. Because content is used at every stage of your sales funnel, you need content that addresses needs at every stage.

If you sell a complex B2B SaaS product, then your content strategy needs to align with your sales process in addition to being optimized for search engines.

When you’re talking to content marketing agencies to find the right one for you, ask:

  • Do they make an effort to understand how content marketing will play a part in the rest of your revenue strategy?
  • Do they care about what happens to your content after they write it?
  • Do they understand how to use content to lift win rates and increase leads and revenue?

Ideally, you can find an agency that can understand and advise you on your entire revenue strategy, even if they only help you with content marketing.

Taking Action

You’re best off doing research on different agencies and making sure that you get a good feeling for their brand and their own content, to make sure it jives with how you work.

If you have a hard time getting value from their speling-misteak-ridled blog posts, you’re probably in the wrong spot.

speling misteaksspeling misteaksIf their client list is all Fortune 2000 companies and you’re a 10-person business, you’re also probably on the wrong track.

Once you’ve done your research and asked your peers for their recommendations it’s time to set up calls with your “agency short-list” and listen for how they approach the conversation with you!

Do they call you back quickly?

Do they start meetings with you on time?

Do you feel philosophical alignment with them and how they work?

Good luck in your evaluation, and if RevenueZen deserves a place on your short-list, click the button below to meet with us!