What to ask when hiring a content marketing partner

Whether you’re aiming to beef up your strategy, scale beyond your current resources, or prove to the rest of your team that content works, there’s any number of good reasons you might be considering hiring a content marketing agency.  An ace content marketing partner can do the heavy lifting when it comes to strategizing and creating content for your business, freeing you up to focus on your core operations. Whether you’re testing the content waters for the first time or distributing a considerable content load amongst several partners, an agency is poised to align your business’s messaging across a variety of content channels.

You don’t need to be new to the field of content marketing to benefit from bringing on outside help. Even seasoned content pros find themselves looking to hire a content marketing partner, and outsourcing can be the first step in establishing equilibrium in the fast-moving world of content. Rather than the kiddie bumpers at the bowling alley, think of an agency as a skilled athlete. When it comes to bowling strikes, it’s our job to know how it’s done.

Questions to ask your potential content marketing partners

You know your current content challenges, and you have a sense that there is something greater out there in the contentverse for your organization. But how would you describe your dream agency? Are they responsive? Experienced? Fun-loving? Speaking with an agency provides you with the opportunity to peek behind the curtain and get a sense of who it is you’re dealing with. And a few well-positioned questions can help you probe the depths of the team across the table. Here are a few questions we love to answer.

1. How do you decide what content to create?

In today’s content landscape, if the answer to this question isn’t “data,” you may want to continue checking under the hood. Information on what content to produce is everywhere—in your competitors’ blogs, in question forums, in longtail keywords. These digital breadcrumbs allow the discerning agency to plan content strategically, based on data insights. We think Suhail Doshi, CEO of Mixpanel said it best: if you’re not using data, you’re “either lucky or wrong.”

2. What types of strategic planning do you do?

Any content marketing agency worth their salt should have an arsenal of strategic tools, frameworks, and methodologies at their disposal to help your company leverage content effectively. Here at Quietly, we assemble content strategies, editorial calendars, persona mapping, distribution strategies, email strategies, journey mapping seminars—the list is endless. The point is: your content marketing partner should have the strategic wherewithal to a) help you understand how content can be used to drive your business objectives, regardless of whether they’re marketing, sales, HR, or customer success goals, and then b) take you there.

3. How do you manage quality?

Is this agency planning on releasing your content to a network of freelancers? Or do they have a rigorous internal editorial process that guarantees every piece of content you receive is tonally consistent, on point, and delivers on the strategy it’s intended to? Drive hard for option B.

4. How do you measure ROI?

Assessing results is a crucial step in the content process—if you can’t tell your content is working, why produce it? The agency you want is the one that sets their ROI metrics depending on their client’s objectives, and has a suite of corresponding KPIs that measure against these goals. If you’re getting wishy-washy answers around ROI, you may end up in the weeds later on.

5. Where would you start?

Many agencies in the business today require minimum spends or an investment in a costly license in order to get their content show on the road. A bulk buy, if you will, regardless of whether or not you can actually fit that 10-pound bag of flour in your cupboard. Brands are racing to become publishers and getting lost in quantity over quality—and the wrong content partners are often to blame. Rather than investing in one-size-fits-all content solutions, find yourself an agency that is interested in discovering the minimum viable approach for your organization. The right agency should have the ability to scale up as high as your brand needs to go, but they shouldn’t begin at the top. We think solutions should be custom.

6. How have you done this before?

This is an important question to ask potential content partners, and we think you should ask it. But don’t get hung up here—just because an agency hasn’t rocketed your particular industry into the stratosphere via content yet doesn’t mean they can’t. An agency with a sound methodology should be able to serve any business successfully. That said, if they can’t recount any wins, you may have cause for concern.

What you hear is more important than what you say

While the questions we’ve laid out—and plenty more—are critical to sussing out whether a particular agency is going to suit your business, sometimes social cues can speak as loud as words. If the agency you’re speaking to is doing more talking than listening, you should walk—or rather, run in the opposite direction. You need an agency who is going to work to understand your unique context and how content functions across all aspects of your business, so that they can ultimately propose an approach that makes the most sense for you. If it feels like you’re being sold a bill of goods, you probably are.

Choosing the right agency is essential. Hiring the ideal partner will reduce costs, increase your efficiency in reaching goals, and make your content process seamless and effective. You don’t have to carry on content production alone—bring in a professional to bowl you a string of strikes.

Understand how Quietly can help play a role in your content marketing efforts.

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