You’re moving out of your dreary London flat to the gloriously sunny shores of Algarve, Portugal.
Grey skies. Blanket of clouds. That oh-so-familiar tinkle of rain. All gone. Soon to be replaced with sun, sea, blue skies, and a dollop of relaxed Portuguese culture.
You’ve booked your one-way ticket – the flight’s tomorrow.
That happened sort of fast, didn’t it? No planning. No preparation. Nada.
You’re going into it completely blind. You haven’t researched properties, locations, jobs, the language, or your budget.
Seems pretty reckless.
It’s exactly the same with content marketing.
You wouldn’t churn out content without any plan or idea in place. If you did, you’d just be creating content for content’s sake. And content that’s churned out on the fly usually doesn’t go down well with customers.
This is where content strategy comes into play. It’s the foundation of your content marketing. It’s the hand that envelops and guides every piece of content you’ll create, both now and in the future.
And you can dazzle up your content marketing efforts – right now – with a top-notch content strategy agency.
Now I know what you’re thinking.
“Holddd up! What is content strategy? Doesn’t a content marketing agency do the exact same thing? How do I pick an agency that’s best for my business?”
This blog post is about to answer all your questions, so you’ll be a content strategy whiz in no time.
But first, Spongebob.
The Link between content strategy and Spongebob Squarepants
How the hell could a talking sea sponge be even remotely related to content strategy?
Truth is, there’s no relation.
Not even close.
But it does serve as a nice little analogy for what I’m about to explain.
Content strategy is pretty much the “how”, “why”, and “when” behind your content creation. It’s essentially the master plan of how you’ll manage your content and involves starting with a clear objective. An objective around what you hope to achieve with a piece of content, whether it’s a blog, video, podcast, or graphics.
It’s answering questions like:
- When will I produce this piece of content?
- How often will I produce it?
- Who is my target audience?
- Which channels will I use to promote my content?
- What kind of user experience do I want to create?
- What kind of content calendar do I need to map everything out?
This article by Forbes will take you on a deep dive into content strategy essentials.
Now, back to Spongebob.
Let’s say Mr. Krabs has set an objective to get as many customers as possible into the Krusty Krab on Valentine’s Day, and he wants to do it with digital marketing content. Blogs, videos, newsletters – you name it.
He could go down one of two routes:
- Create a bunch of random content and get it out ASAP.
2. Hire a content strategy agency and map out his entire content marketing plan.
Instead of creating random pieces of content with no real objective, an agency will open Mr. Krab’s eyes to the importance of creating content specifically geared towards Valentine’s Day, highlighting offers and targeting couples for a romantic night out.
That’s content done right.
Sounds like something you should probably get on board with – pronto.
So, here are some of the top qualities to look out for when vetting potential content strategy agencies.
They’ve got a clear methodology (and aren’t afraid to share it with you)
Every agency you work with should present you with a clear methodology that outlines the processes they’ll use and the steps that they’ll take in working with you.
Methodologies are incredibly important because:
- They show you the agency’s approach to content strategy (and whether it fits in with your business).
- They give you a clear overview of how you’ll achieve your goals and the processes needed to achieve them.
Though every methodology is different, there is a common outline that many content strategy agencies follow:
2. Gap analysis
And remember, content strategy agencies can work as an extension of your content marketing team or simply assist your existing content team with their services – how those relationships work is ultimately up to you.
They put on their detective’s hat
You’ve just signed up for a cooking class to make pasta.
You get there and voila, the chef steps out in all his grandeur – only to hand you a piece of paper with all the recipes.
He then silently retreats back into his kitchen.
The class is over.
You didn’t have time to ask questions, understand the pasta-making process, or even engage in any conversation.
Now imagine that but with content strategy.
Imagine an agency coming to you and immediately handing you a roadmap of all the things you need to do to achieve X, Y, and Z.
You’d be pretty dumbfounded. After all, they haven’t even got to know your business.
How do they know what you even want?
Content strategy isn’t just creating an editorial calendar or pushing out mountains of content.
It’s planning and putting in the hard graft before you’ve even created anything.
Strategic services – including content strategy – require in-depth research and insights. That means asking questions, showing interest in your business, and carrying out a content audit to figure out how much usable content you’ve already got.
This will help an agency understand where your business is at right now and what needs to be done to achieve your objectives.
An agency might ask questions about:
- What you want to achieve with your content
- Why you’re looking for a content strategy in the first place
- Your company’s organisational, technological, operational, and user needs (the four pillars)
This is super important as it enables them to gather as much information as possible about how your business operates.
By touching on each of the four pillars they’re also able to get key insights into what’s needed to make the content successful on every front.
There might be specific technology that’s needed to deliver the content or a gap in a certain department that needs to be filled to carry out all the processes – these are things that can only be revealed through thorough research.
They think about full-funnel optimisation
What would you do if a complete stranger asked to marry you?
If you’re anything like 99.9% of the population, you’d probably be inclined to think that they’re joking. Or just a tiny bit psycho.
It’s sort of the same with content.
Whenever you send out a piece of content willy-nilly – without any inkling of your customers’ stage of awareness – you’re no better than the bloke that gets down on one knee on the first date.
A great content strategy agency will be aware of this and make it explicitly clear how they’ll use content to move customers down the funnel (psst, read our blog post for the low-down on full-funnel optimisation).
Take a look at the graph below. It outlines every stage of awareness from TOFU (top of the funnel) to MOFU (middle of the funnel) to BOFU (bottom of the funnel) to AFFU (after the funnel).
An agency that’s worth its salt will know exactly what kind of content to produce and distribute at each stage of the funnel and why.
Here are just a few examples:
These customers aren’t even aware they have a problem, so an agency might carry out some keyword research to find out more about their pain points and create a highly informative blog post.
These customers are looking for a solution, so an agency might write up a few case studies to show your product/service in action.
These customers are ready to buy but need a slight nudge – an agency might present a few product comparisons or produce a product demo to highlight what sets your offering apart from the crowd.
Often overlooked, AFFU is all about retaining customers and making them huge fans of your brand. Think weekly newsletters, emails, and up-sell/cross-sell content marketing.
They specialise in your niche
Now I don’t know what your business is.
Maybe you sell software. Maybe you sell cookie cutters. Maybe you sell radioactive dynamite.
Point is, they’re all very different businesses.
All within their own niche.
And though it’s not super-duper important, you’ll be scoring an extra brownie point if you can find a content strategy agency that specialises in your niche.
These agencies will understand the ins and outs of your industry.
They’ll know your product or service back to front and will have plenty of juicy insights when it comes to your target audience and marketing tactics.
They definitely won’t deliver a cookie-cutter content strategy service.
The same goes for the kind of content you’re looking to put out. If it’s all copy, then try finding an agency that specialises in copywriting.
FIND YOUR PEANUT BUTTER JELLY AND SANDWICH
Soaking up all this juicy info will only take you so far.
You actually need to get out there and start looking for an agency.
One that preferably has all these qualities – and then some.
Don’t settle for one that sorta-kinda fits your checklist.
Go for the agency that fits exactly right. The one that’s as good for your business as peanut butter is to jelly and salt is to vinegar.
In other words, feel every agency out. Hop on a few discovery calls. And ask lots of questions.
Here’s to finding your peanut butter and jelly sandwich of the agency world.