Outsourcing some aspect of a marketing program is a reality for half of all marketers today. There are simply so many tasks to be performed and channels to understand that doing everything within a small department is often impossible.
And larger companies outsource even more frequently — up to 71 percent of companies with more than a thousand employees say they outsource some portion of their content marketing activities, compared to 37 percent of companies with fewer than 100 employees. (Source)
Outsourcing can be an excellent way for marketing departments to achieve goals, whether by bringing in help for a single large project or campaign, assigning one channel or content type—such as video development—to a specialty agency, or working consistently with a full-service agency that can provide flexible support in multiple areas and become an integrated part of your content marketing team.
Regardless of the level of service you need from an agency, there are a few things your team can do to ensure you get the best return and performance from the relationship.
Here are 5 things you can do to help your agency help you.
1. Provide customer personas, brand messaging and style guidelines up front.
A competent marketing agency will want to know who your target markets are, what messaging your current and planned campaigns center around, and specific style guidelines you use to create consistent, recognizable content. If they don’t ask for all of this information before starting content creation, consider it a red flag. (Here are four things you should expect from a partner agency.)
But why even wait for them to ask? Have it all ready to hand off early in your meetings with a new agency (or freelancer), so that you don’t have to correct the first round of content if it misses the target.
If you haven’t already documented all of these things, that could be a prime reason to bring a partner agency on-board to help get your marketing strategy set up for future success. Check out these blog posts and downloadable resources for templates and tips on creating customer personas and brand identities:
2. Provide access to in-house knowledge.
Not only should your partner agency have personas, key messaging and brand style guides at their fingertips, but it is also essential, especially early on, to provide access to company information, experts and institutional knowledge. If you choose agencies well, you should have a partner who is already well-versed in your industry, but they will also need to learn about the nuances of your company and brand.
Budget a little extra time early in the relationship to bring your partner up to speed on your products, your corporate structure, and new technology being developed.
Even once the partnership is rolling, continue to connect your content marketing agency with in-house staff who can provide insights into the materials being developed, whether that means a Q&A with lead R&D personnel, a tour of the production facility or sharing quarterly reports that highlight sales and marketing performance and metrics such as email click-through rates, web traffic and lead-to-sales conversion rates and average buying cycle timelines.
When your agency knows your company and brand well, they can craft more compelling, tailored content for your campaigns.
3. Provide detailed feedback on early drafts.
While your partner agency should return content that is free from grammatical and spelling errors (and that follows your in-house style guide, if you have provided one) right from the start, it may still take a little time to completely nail the voice, angles and approach you are looking for. If there are specific phrases you do, or don’t, want used in your content, or a tone you are seeking, provide that feedback right away in the first draft.
Don’t be afraid to be specific—your agency wants to provide you with the best content possible for your needs, and they can only do that if you tell them what isn’t working. If you only hint at changes, or wait until a third draft to provide feedback, it will take longer to reach the final version that you want—and that time comes at a cost.
With detailed feedback right away on the first draft of the first project, your agency can implement changes that ensure subsequent drafts and each new project meet expectations from the beginning, saving both of you time, money and frustration.
4. Include your agency in strategic decision-making.
Again, this goes back to the concept that the more your partner agency knows about what is happening, the better they can serve you by tailoring content to fit more closely with your overall marketing strategy. For example, even if you are outsourcing only social media content, that agency should know what other channels you are using so that each can be used to complement the other, for example creating social media posts that highlight when executives are interviewed in articles or when new webinars are posted to your website.
Your partner agency can also bring their objective views to the table, providing suggestions for how content from one channel can be repurposed in other ways, how successful tactics can be replicated (and lower-performing projects revamped). An outside agency may have a perspective on the overall industry and your company’s position within it that brings new ideas your in-house team has overlooked.
5. Share success stories.
We all like to hear good news. Sometimes as an extension of the marketing department, rather than an insider in the group, partner agencies don’t hear about the deal that was sealed by a great case study and customer testimonial, or the 25 percent increase in new leads following a specific campaign. Be sure to share those victories with your partner agency for two reasons:
- Knowing what is working well can help your agency replicate that success in future campaigns.
- It just feels good to know we are a part of something successful.
Choosing an agency partner
Of course, before you can team up with a partner agency, you need to find the right one. That means examining what your marketing department’s needs are, determining what resources you can commit (both human and budget) and finding an agency that matches both.
Read through these blog posts and resources for tips on determining the best way of meeting your marketing department needs:
- Agency Vs. In-House: Pros, Cons and How To Make The Most Of Outsourcing
- Choosing An Agency Partner Checklist
- 8 Benefits Of Hiring A Full-Service Marketing Agency
- Grade Your Marketing Agency’s Content Creation Performance (quiz)
Our goal at JONES is to help our clients achieve their goals. When they succeed, we succeed. And the best way for that to happen is for all of us to work together as a team, which is really what these five actions achieve.
Are you looking for a full-service marketing agency to help you achieve your content marketing goals? I’d love to chat about how we can team with you for mutual success—schedule a no-obligation consultation on my calendar here.