The success of inbound marketing has always been vexing. But when it comes to ad agencies, the very people who make their clients’ the best content marketers, they often fall short. There are two enemies in the battle for inbound marketing. Neither is insurmountable, and both are enemies of our own making. Rethinking and resetting your outbound program makes you more discoverable and more desirable to the prospects you want.
There is no doubt that marketers are increasingly looking for new resources and being proactive about it. Technology and tools make it easier and content plays a key role. A strategic and consistent inbound program will make sure you get noticed by the right people and be top of mind when they need a new resource. Like any project, it takes discipline, commitment and creativity to make it work – the same things you do for your clients. When your inbound is working well, your outbound becomes less necessary.
The first enemy of success is our social media bias. We know the more provocative the content, the more it gets shared and consumed. That is considered a good content metric but what if those marketing decision-makers you need to reach don’t care. It’s great to have high reach, clicks, shares, and love but not if it’s with the wrong audiences. Content that is relevant to your audience is not going to achieve significant numbers, and it doesn’t have to. One share by a CMO is worth more than 100 shares by other agency creative directors. It is the same old argument, quality over quantity.
The second enemy of success is the agency’s own paralysis. Too many times we make the process of creating content more involved than passing a bill in Congress. Once you have a strategic plan with your content categories set, the process of creating content should be simple and fast. Otherwise, it will grind to a halt. When you have to build consensus, overthink, over scrutinize, and manage the process like it is a client’s biggest campaign, your content will never get out. Set up some templates and examples, delegate and let your team go. If any problems arise, review the issue with your content producers and keep the process going.
When it comes to strategy, some agencies get caught up in the bias that their content can’t be something that sells the agency. Think about the content you produce for your client. Are you sharing dance memes and party Snaps for them? Do you shoot videos of their lunchroom antics or dogs running around the conference room? Their content probably conveys their USP, their customers’ successes, innovation, quality of service, subject matter expertise, vertical expertise, and whatever is helpful to get their prospects interested in what they offer.
How should an agency define its content strategy? It’s simple. First, consider what you want your prospect to think about the agency when they see your content? That pretty much sums up your content strategy. We know what prospects want when they look for a new agency. Your content should satisfy what they want while making a case for the agency that is relevant, informative, or valuable otherwise it just becomes more of the noise in the channel. Try taking your agency positioning and separating the key points that define what you offer and why you are different. Those become the content categories under which all your activity should connect. Depending on the channel and format, each piece of content is a bite-sized morsel of the agency.
When I talk to agencies about their content strategy I usually hear the same resistance – no way can we produce that much content. It turns out it is never as much as they thought. The first thing to do is to assess existing content on hand. Chances are you have a lot already; case studies, press releases, client testimonials, spec work, leadership bios, blog posts, copy in RFP responses, and the list goes on. These things will cover most of your needs. You may think this kind of content is boring. To the vast majority of people, it is but not to the ones looking for a new agency. For those few, it’s up to you to make sure it isn’t boring. But there will still be some content you should create to fill the gaps and present a fuller picture of the value of your agency. The combination of existing content and a couple of new things is much more achievable. Start out simple and work toward a complete program.
Another concern I often hear is about getting your content out into the hands of the right people. You have to go where the fish are biting. So where are they biting? Take a good look at the top prospects on your list to get hints about where they might go. For example, if they belong to the ANA, you want your content to appear all around the ANA, their website, blogs, newsletters, LinkedIn page, Twitter feed, Facebook, Instagram and everywhere else they look. The same applies to any industry trade associations, publications and website they frequent, even alumni associations, charitable organizations and the list goes on. The more your content appears in their world, the more likely they will see you. The better your content, the more likely they will know you.
A good strategy and good content are essential for agency success today. Making the right plan and working that plan is critical. There are so many good resources about timing and frequency, reshares and likes, best practices and guidance that are just a Google search away. It may seem hard at first but will become second nature once you gain momentum. I can’t tell you how many times a prospect told me that they saw my post on X or they were intrigued by the comments on my LinkedIn update. The key to long-term success is to divide up the responsibilities across the agency so that no single person can derail it. Remember who is responsible for agency growth? Everyone!
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