Content Marketing, Agency Promotion

The Only 4 Reasons Agencies Should Care About Their Own Content Marketing

megaphone lady 300x252 The Only 4 Reasons Agencies Should Care About Their Own Content MarketingMimicry is not a strategy. Compulsion is not a strategy. Yet, far too many agencies are devoting resources to content marketing and social media solely because they feel they have to do so. Other agencies have a blog, and Webinars, and an active Twitter feed, so we need some of that too!

To what end? What are you really trying to accomplish – as an agency – with all of this content and social media? You’re not selling ads, so website traffic isn’t inherently valuable. Do clicks and retweets or Facebook fans really build your business? Not in a linear way.

There are only four reasons agencies should be spending even one scintilla of time on content and social media.

4 Reasons Agency Content Marketing Might Be Worth It

I’ve listed these in order of importance and feasibility.

1. Retain More Clients

With the exception of SEO-driven blog traffic (more on that later), the majority of agency content and social interactions will be with people who already know and support the firm. Who reads the blog? Clients. Who follows the agency on Twitter? Clients. Who is a Facebook fan? Clients (and employees).

Agencies need to stop looking at content creation solely as a customer acquisition vehicle, and start looking at first and foremost as a customer retention vehicle. Every single day your clients are thinking (perhaps subconsciously, but it’s still there): “Are these the best guys to help build my business?” The agency’s content initiative helps ratify and perpetuate the decision-making of clients.

“Look at that smart blog post, and Webinar, and infographic. These guys really do know what they’re talking about, and I’m glad they’re in my corner.”

That’s what you want clients to be thinking.

Measure It: Establish a baseline retention rate. After your agency truly commits to content, determine how that retention rate changes. Also be aware of which clients are consuming your content, and run reports showing retention rate of clients who do and do not habitually engage with your content and social efforts.

2. Up-Sell New Services to Clients

Like Justin Bieber to Usher, this is a companion benefit to retention.

One of the traps many agencies fall into (especially in blogging) is putting too much thought into thought leadership. Nobody wants to read your open-ended manifesto, Kaczinski. Blog posts need to have a takeaway.

At least one agency blog post per week should be tactical, describing how marketing can be improved in some fashion (software, process, thinking, etc.). It shouldn’t be a commercial, but should indirectly highlight a service the agency provides. (Convince & Convert provides social/digital consulting for agencies throughout U.S. and Canada – see how that works?)

For clients that might benefit from that particular product or program, make sure that blog post gets seen. Consider having your account manager or agency CEO email it to key clients.

Remember, content is not just for new customers. Even a big content machine like ExactTarget (client) has their sales reps send ebooks and white papers and Webinar invites to current clients – often before they are publicly released.

Measure It: Closely track client up-sell and cross-sell, noting which add-on services you sell, and which of them you have created content about on the blog and elsewhere.

3. Improve Your Conversion Rate

The worst thing that can happen in an agency is to consistently finish second in pitches and RFPs. (I lived through a streak of about 6 in a row once. Ouch).

Second is more damaging that seventh in almost every way, as to get to the finals your agency has to expend significantly more unpaid effort than if you’re knocked out in the early rounds. The only upside is being able to have more and closer dialog with the potential client, who may decide the victor is actually a sheep in wolf’s clothing someday, thus turning back to you in a “if Miss America is unable to fulfill her duties, the scepter and sash shall pass to the first runner-up” scenario.

But, sharp content and social engagement can help close business. You know who else reads blogs, beyond clients? Potential clients, during the comparison shopping and due diligence process.

If you’re pitching a telco, you damn well better be creating some brilliant blog posts about marketing advances in the telco industry. Surprise, surprise, those posts will be found and read by the selection committee. It’s like adding an unspoken section to your capabilities pitch. You have to be wise about the timing of this content, and you can’t make it too obvious – clients only like agencies to pander after they’ve been hired.

You’re starting to see how strategic your content calendar needs to be, right? You can’t just assign a date to each agency team member and ask them to blog about whatever they want on their special day.

Measure It: Establish a baseline conversion rate (win rate), if you don’t already have it calculated. After your agency truly commits to content, determine how that conversion rate changes. Also be aware of content created purposefully for a particular vertical, and measure conversion rate by vertical accordingly.

4. Generate More Leads

This is often the sole reason agencies offer for their blogging and social engagement efforts. But it’s by far the hardest execute, and requires far more time than most agencies are willing to devote.

To successfully use content as a lead generator, your agency needs to be very focused about what types of clients it wants, and specific services it wants to provide. Then, you need to create focused content that is exceedingly well-optimized for search. (we recommend inboundwriter.com for this).

It also helps if your agency (and more importantly, its personnel) are active in social media and other online communities, giving them the ability to contextually drive eyeballs back to the agency blog.

Also consider mixing content curation with content creation, as being the arbiter of what’s good and worthy can be valuable to the professionals you seek to impress. Note that this only works if the agency has a fairly tight niche. It’s a lot more realistic to build a following for your agency as curator of important content in health care marketing, or marketing for the bicycle industry, than it is to be the curator of insights about marketing in general.

Measure It: Several potential metrics here, including new visits to the blog/website; visits to the blog/website from search; social interactions – especially with people working at target accounts; social mentions; and volume of branded “agency name” searches.

Notice that number of Twitter followers and Facebook fans didn’t make the list.

Next week: What it takes in staffing and resources to do it right.

  • tillypick

    I’m curious what kind of response you’ll be getting to this post.

    A couple of observations here: One is that your retention measure (in #1) needs a few steps BEFORE the actual retention of a client. If the goal is for clients to feel and believe that “these are the best PEOPLE to help build my business”, a set of progressive metrics can chart the strength of the relationship before it’s too late.

    Two is that content marketing via social media can make it a lot easier for an agency to EXPAND ITS FOOTPRINT within a client organization, the outcome being client retention (#1 reason) and organic growth (#2 reason).

    Last, I’d flip three and four around. The pitch process is fraught with so much peril. Content marketing via social media makes it easy for the TOP TALENT that drives an agency to have personal visibility and open doors to new relationships for the agency. I spent much of my career at great agencies and saw again and again that our leaders were hesitant to lean on their personal relationship capital to help grow the agency. Why? The need to protect the escape hatch?

    Looking forward to a follow-up from you with how agencies respond to your post.

    tp

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com JayBaer

      @tillypick Great comment, thanks very much.

      I agree about funnel within retention. Thought about going through all that, but the post was going to get crazy long at that point, so kept it more concise. Good point about 3 vs 4. But do you really think it’s the escape hatch protection, or fear of doing it “wrong” and looking foolish? I’ve seen a lot of agency owners (who aren’t protecting a next move) be hesitant about committing, so I presume there’s something else at play in those cases?

      • tillypick

        @JayBaer

        It’s perhaps not the agency owners, but the group of people around them. Senior leaders in the acct groups, media, creative, planning etc. I do think it’s about not fully investing themselves emotionally and all they got. It’s part of the game that will probably always be there, and maybe not just in this industry.

  • DerKleineEngel

    With the social media the first steps can be made that other users take notice of your business or agency.

    I believe that the quality and not the quantity of friends/followers or readers have the highest impact in the company’s success – if these online connections are treated like relationships – with care.

    I personally find the most interesting company blogs that share their story, their daily excitement and headache with their readers answer customer question and keep an open dialog with their blog followers.

    ~Anja~

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com JayBaer

      @DerKleineEngel Excellent point Anja. I find that too many agency blogs lack the human qualities that the best blogs possess. Either because there are so many authors, it’s hard to establish consistent tone, or because some agency bloggers don’t feel empowered to “let their hair down” on the humanization front.

  • http://www.element-r.com/ BobReed

    Thanks for addressing this, Jay. You’ve helped me validate my approach for content creation and new business acquisition.

    Similar to your telco example, for our blog, I’m gathering stories about various B2B social media successes and spreading them to groups operating in the same vertical, via LinkedIn, as an example The idea is to share knowledge that could benefit others to (hopefully) draw eyeballs back to our site and possible further engagement.

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com JayBaer

      @BobReed Very smart Bob. Exactly what I’d expect from you!

  • nicksargent

    Great post, Jay (and very timely for our discussion at Standing). When we’ve been discussing our blog/website revamp, we haven’t considered the retention aspect nearly enough. I have a feeling this post (and the insightful comments from your readers) will be required reading for the agency during the next couple months. cc: ashlynbrewer .

  • mmhemani

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  • margieclayman

    Thanks for writing this, Jay.

    I started blogging and tweeting on an individual basis so that when needed, our agency would be able to inform clients about best practices, how to navigate the crazy online waters, etc. I actually just wrote today about how from an agency standpoint, my social media efforts would get a C- because most of my connections are really closer to being competition than potential customers.

    It’s a tricky line agencies have to walk. I believe it’s important to show that you can actually walk your talk whatever you are talking with your clients about. However, as is the case for anyone in social media, you have to keep this perspective clear and prevent yourself from going down the path of, “This is about me and me getting a lot of followers.”

    I’ll have to think about this s’more.

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com JayBaer

      @margieclayman Think about it! Would love to have a post from you on this topic.

      • margieclayman

        @JayBaer I will meditate on this. Thanks Jay :)

  • http://amberpagewrites.com/ amberpagewrites

    Just wanted to say thanks for giving me more fodder to feed my crusade over here. I’ve spent the last couple of years trying to drive a similar message home at my agency…and I’m finally getting traction. The more content I can throw at them proving my point, the better!

    BTW: I think the phrase “thought leader” should be banned from agency-speak. It drives me bananas.

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com JayBaer

      @amberpagewrites I’m happy to be your gasoline Amber!

  • SethTowerHurd

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    • emmaemail

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  • jaybaer

    @arikhanson Thanks Arik!

  • Lajartbreiker

    RT @M_Schneider_ Las 4 ÚNICAS razones por las que #agencias digitales deberían generar contenido propio. http://t.co/BY3zdxne @RdeGuerra

  • CPollittIU

    Jay:

    Your post is dead on and describes our approach to content marketing to a tee for all four reasons above. What I find funny is that I don’t have enough fingers and toes to count how many agencies don’t produce ANY content at all, let alone have a strategy for it. Many of those same agencies are using social media w/out any content marketing for themselves or their clients.

    Mike Volpe, CMO of HubSpot, said it best – “Social media campaigns without content marketing are hollow.”

    Given Google’s massive indexing and algorithm changes last year content marketing is the best SEO strategy too. My hope is that folks quit trying to find the “internet marketing shortcut” and commit to content marketing using the reasons you laid out above.

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com JayBaer

      @CPollittIU If you don’t have content, what are you talking about in social media? Only yourself. And that’s a problem.

  • AJamesEditing

    Hi Jay and Everyone Listening,

    I love that you’ve made it clear beyond a doubt that it’s not just about collecting followers and likes. It’s also (mostly) about creating quality content that those followers want to read and find valuable.

    I was having a conversation with a fellow copywriter last week and she mentioned some new social network I’d never heard of that was on the rise. She said she was exhausted with trying to keep up with all the latest. I suggested she focus on a few methods that worked best for her and her target audience and do those well. I’m happy to agree with you, Jay.

    Thanks for this,

    Amber James

  • AJamesEditing

    Hi Jay and Everyone Listening,

    I love that you’ve made it clear beyond a doubt that it’s not just about collecting followers and likes. It’s also (mostly) about creating quality content that those followers want to read and find valuable.

    I was having a conversation with a fellow copywriter last week and she mentioned some new social network I’d never heard of that was on the rise. She said she was exhausted with trying to keep up with all the latest. I suggested she focus on a few methods that worked best for her and her target audience and do those well. I’m happy to agree with you, Jay.

    Thanks for this,

    Amber James

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    • melnazar

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  • http://www.secondglancedigitalmedia.com/ SecondGlance

    Terrific read, thanks for sharing yet another thoughtful and focused post!

    @amberpagewrites – Lol, I think the term “thought leader” needs to be trashed altogether. It’s even more arrogant than calling yourself a “guru”, which is bad enough.

  • topher_mallory

    @JennaL15 whats the best low cost place to start for running giveaways/contests on facebook fan pages? @NickWaltz1 wants to know!

    • JennaL15

      @topher_mallory @NickWaltz1 I would recommend @wildfireapp– the biggest brands use it, it’s super inexpensive and very effective.

      • topher_mallory

        @JennaL15 @NickWaltz1 are there any alternatives?

      • wildfireapp

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  • http://www.marketingsense.wordpress.com/ Colin_N_Clarke

    I believe this is likely touched on among your 4 points, Jay, but one “reason” that tends to stands out: We sell social media and content management strategy services… therefore we need to prove that we can follow our own recommendations. I’ll be the first to admit, the agency group I work with (you know us) does a very good job for our clients, but we’ve struggled with assigning internal resources to take care of things for ourselves. It’s an ongoing challenge when the paying client’s needs always come first. We can do better.

  • daveraley

    Thought-provoking post Jay – challenged my thinking on the chief goal of our digital marketing strategy. 

  • http://www.velocitypartners.co.uk/ Doug Kessler

    Great post.
    We do lots of content marketing for our agency (Velocity Partners in London) and your four big reasons definitely justify our efforts.
     
    I might also add:
     
    — To learn – we’ve learned a huge amount from our own content marketing and take that learning to client projects.
     
    – To demonstrate we know what we’re talking about – I guess that could feed into any of your four reasons but it feels important enough to break out.  If I were a client I wouldn’t want to hire an agency that wasn’t great at its own content marketing.

  • http://twitter.com/freighter Marty Thompson

    Jay,
    Another aspect of this issue has everything to do with active participation, and almost nothing to do with the regime of content creation. It is in some way more a reflection of the minds of those at the helm of an agency. I always look for a couple of key indicators, outside of the daily grind of traditional content (blog posts, white papers, all that stuff). I look for active participation in a larger ecosystem, such as a CMO actively contributing to conversations on other sites. I look for folks who stretch. By that I mean those who sometimes challenge the assumptions of the prevailing winds, the herd. I look for those who are not afraid to be introspective, to openly talk about what works, and what hasn’t worked. I admire those who can talk about failure, since it is a daily part of this business discipline. And most of all, I look for those who can say they were sometimes wrong.
    We also as marketers get so caught up in the act of marketing that we can become almost agoraphobic. The worst thing we can do is show up to the party, and stand on the sidelines. Get out there and dance.
    Marty