Mimicry 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.