Why content marketing doesn’t count in 2023...
...unless you put quality first.
The good news: you've hired a content marketing agency to support your digital marketing efforts.
The bad? Content doesn't count.
Content is being created, distributed and searched for at a rate faster than ever before: no wonder you're breathlessly racing to schedule your next tweets or post the newest blog.
But to what purpose? If your content marketing agency's goal is to simply produce and post stuff, rethink your relationship - and fast.
Despite what they'll tell you, content is not king by divine right. It has to earn its status.
Your audience doesn't care about your content: they care about its quality - so here's our advice on how to work with your content marketing agency partners to make sure they create it.
Agency Relationships 101: Expectations of the Early Days
Agencies love autonomy - to plan, create, write, and produce. Heck, that's why you employ us, to take on the marketing burden with a bounce in our step.
But we need a bit of road to get to effective independent working.
While we could churn out 'features and benefits' style B2B marketing that was effective - ish - circa 2010, if you want quality content, it begins and ends with quality communication with your agency.
Particularly in the early days, we need you.
If your agency is to amplify your unique brand with unique content, they need to understand what makes you tick beyond the thing you do or sell. Your insights and expertise are the fuel that stokes the content marketing fire… because they offer value to your audience. And you'll find that with the best B2B content marketing agencies, a little fuel goes a long way: a spark of inspiration is all they will need to create great content and start returning fully formed editorial ideas.
Helpful and authentic content that serves your audience, not yourself (sales-speak should never dominate a digital marketing strategy) is content that connects, building your 'fanbase', LinkedIn network, blog reads and more.
If your agency hasn't already told you this, you'll talk a lot in the first few months.
It's not hand-holding. It's partnership-building, so enjoy the process!
Quality Content comes from Quality Comms
Every business and every agency has different working practices, priorities and vibe. Hopefully, you've already vetted your agency, so you know you're simpatico and ready to roll with them through thick and thin.
Although loyal and committed to each other, (hey, it's the start of a beautiful relationship), establishing expectations around what is effective communication is still a good shout: no one ever complained about up-front transparency, but surprises about process or feedback can leave agency-client relationships strained.
Here are our Tribe's thoughts on Getting Going and Keeping Moving with your digital marketing partner.
Getting Going with your Marketing Agency Comms
Simply, these are early-doors calls with critical agency team members - copywriter, web dev, creative - to your key members: a 'no silly questions', open-forum chat.
You could pose these q's over email, but the secondary aim is for the teams to get to know each other, build trust and sense the dynamics of each team to grease the wheels of your journey together.
Be Frank about Feedback
Establish that feedback loops (content given to you to return your thoughts on) will likely be more frequent and tight in the early days as the agency perfects your tone and visual style and learns your industry.
Best practices for feedback means establishing a few ground rules between each team summarised in three basic questions - when, how and who.
When will you receive content, how frequently, and when are you expected to produce feedback?
How will you receive it: what format works for you - emails, live working docs, Trello boards - and how will you return it.
Who is responsible for feedback, AND who is the key contact? In our experience:
It's great to have the whole team involved in content ideas - the more, the merrier to the production party - but when it comes to a final say… one person needs the final vote or veto, or the feedback becomes too noisy and confused for the agency to process effectively.
Again, while the teams' 'pro-mance' is something we applaud, it's cleaner for an agency to have one key contact in your biz to streamline comms.
Keeping Moving with your Marketing Agency Comms
Once you've got your business-as-usual comms going swimmingly, push further. We want to keep moving, not tread water, right?
Here are a few ways to sustain momentum in your marketing efforts.
Are we moving forward? That’s the premise of the traction call, covering the two sides to the agency/client journey. Here you should be asking questions about the qualitative and quantitative nature of your work together.
How do we feel things are going: processes, communication, collaboration
How do we know things are going: metrics, analytics, conversions etc.
(Note - and we've covered this before - creating quality content marketing that counts is a long game. Make sure everyone in your business knows this! We're not dodging providing ROI - but managing expectations of the timeframe as you build your base, develop industry respect and are hailed as the king of quality content.)
On-site strategy meets per quarter
Face to face?! You're a digital marketing agency suggesting we meet IRL?
Yep. We would like to insist on it.
An agency that cares wants to commit to creating an evolving and precise strategy, looking beyond next week's tweet. If you've worked together for a while, a strong agency will also have a unique perspective on your business and likely unique ideas for driving its marketing efforts forward. That autonomy we mentioned earlier? Here's the next level - when your CMA can take the wheel and reveal new avenues for your business' growth.
This stuff happens when you get around a table and collaborate.
Newsflash: people mistrust you. Well, not you, we're sure you're an upstanding sort, but your adverts - and possibly your messaging if it sounds like one.
People believe people, though. The power of people advocating for a brand is not just for B2C marketing but packs a punch in B2B buyer decisions too: 61% of B2B buyers rely on peer recommendations and review sites.
And where do you have your most loyal fans? Hopefully, right next to you.
Whether it's reshares or more engaged posts commenting on your industry or their professional insights or experience, encouraging your crew to find their voice online helps humanise your business and create the trust you deserve in the wild west of the world wide web. (Psst… if you're interested in getting a spot of help with this, we run a programme to upskill our clients' employees on platforms like LinkedIn.)
In summary: quality content comes from quality communication between you and your agency. These conversations, in turn, help your agency connect to your audience with content that truly speaks to them.
Quality Content and Creative Control
So you've plugged in effective comms with your agency, and you're providing them with sufficient fuel to fire up their creativity to create quality content that's getting traction.
Except… Nothing stays the same for long in this game. One of the reasons you probably reached out to a CMA was that they constantly refresh their expertise to find footing on the ever-shifting sands of the digital landscape: new algorithms, apps and audience behaviours…
And this is where the relationship between you and your agency takes a leap of faith.
Because at some point, they're going to suggest something that might well be innovative but could be a surprise, or even feel uncomfortable to people in your team - 'not what we'd normally do'.
An expert digital marketing agency who knows you well can see your business objectively and probably see creative ways that you've never thought of to deliver your message and speak to your prospects. Our advice: if you trust them, listen to them. The combination of marketing expertise, intimate knowledge of your organisation - and their scintillating creative brains - is a potent mix.
Let's look at a quick case study on marketing that breaks through the noise.
Spotify the difference: let's create creative B2B marketing
One of the bugbears we have about 'traditional' B2B marketing is rooted in the misconception that B2B buyers are corporate robots - and that creative, emotionally authentic and compelling messaging is only for the business-to-customer world.
This is plain daft: the B2B buyer journey may be longer and more complex (B2B buyers read thirteen pieces of content on average before making a purchase decision), but people still drive it.
And B2B marketing stats show that while B2C brands score between 65% and 80%, the B2B customer experience index sits woefully below 50%,
B2B buyers are grumpy - and rightly so! Why? They’re sick and tired of being homogenised as 'suits' and wading through self-serving content that does not care about them as individuals.
When making B2B purchase decisions, millennials (aged 26–41) want a personalised shopping experience similar to that of B2C. And as this demographic makes 73% of B2B buying decisions, personalisation is an excellent area for great marketing to jump in, turn their frowns upside down, and make your brand stand out from the grey-suited crowd.
As proven by Spotify.
The streaming giant's recent impact campaign using personalised messaging made a song and a dance about the power of personalised audio advertising. Literally.
Digital audio advertising accounts for only 2% of media buy, yet Spotify knew its ability to personalise its ads for each of the listening habits of its 35.7 million listeners.
The intimate nature of audio means that, more than any other medium, listeners stay connected even during adverts:
Ninety-three percent of the brain's engagement with audio content transfers directly into ad engagement.
Eighty-six percent of consumers recall ads on podcasts more than any other channel.
To prove the power of their targeted advertising, Spotify created the campaign 'A Song for Every CMO'. Selecting the world’s top CMOs at companies like Cheetos and Kimberly-Clark, they wrote original songs not for the companies themselves - but their CMOs - based solely on their listening habits (complete with personalised cover art.)
This high-risk but highly creative campaign proved more than a gimmick. The CMOs not only tuned in but bought in, demonstrating the power of personalisation to convert. The platform saw a 75% increase in year-on-year advertising sales and hit a $1 Billion ad revenue in 2022.
Dubbed the most creative B2B marketing campaign of all time, spotting the difference made all the difference.
Content for its own sake is dead
Quality content - defined as offering value to your current clients, future prospects and wider industry - is the only output that matters.
And if you want quality you need to establish and sustain a relationship with your digital marketing agency that helps deliver it - based on communication, collaboration and with the trust to lean into their creativity.
If you’re interested in more pioneering B2B marketing and how you can tap into it, we’d love to share our Buzz. Subscribe for passionate, to the point and purposeful B2B marketing tips and insights.
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