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How To Hire The Right Content Marketing Firm

A handy guide to help you choose who can best help you with your content marketing.

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BY Michael Schein - 04 Jul 2017

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

Content marketing has been popular for at least a decade and shows no signs of slowing down. Having been in the industry since its earliest days, I have seen a lot of great content marketing professionals transform their clients' businesses. Unfortunately, I've also seen a lot so-called content marketers whose only real skill is talking their clients into paying them.

It has always been my philosophy that the cost of making the wrong decision is less about the money you spend than the opportunity you could have had if you had done something better. This article is a guide to help you make the right decision the first time around. It summarizes the four different kinds of content marketing firms you will encounter, along with the plusses and minuses of each.

None of these approaches to content marketing is wrong, only different. That said, by understanding the various types of firms out there, you will be able to make an informed choice about who to hire.

1. Pure Producers

At its core, what makes content marketers different than other kinds of marketers is that they specialize in the production of tangible material--blog posts, articles, podcasts, videos, white papers, etc. Certain content marketing companies are exclusively about producing this sort of material.

This can be a very valuable service. Many companies have a lot of great ideas, but simply can't seem to figure out how to put it into a form that potential clients will understand and find interesting. Having someone on hand to do this for you can make a big difference.

There are, however, a few questions you should ask before deciding to invest in this kind of content marketing firm.

For one, what do they intend to do with all this new content after they create it? It is all-too-common for marketers to create a lot of wonderful blog posts and video clips for their clients, only to bury them on some back page where no one will ever find them. You should also ask whether they have an actual strategy for using the content to drive new leads and sales? It is easy to become enraptured by all the great material you are putting out, while forgetting why you hired someone to produce it for you in the first place.

2. SEO Focused

The reason Google destroyed their competition when they came onto the scene is because of the beauty and simplicity of their algorithm. Their central idea was that if other high quality websites linked to your website, then your website deserved to be ranked higher than the competition. And the reason high quality websites choose to link to your site instead of another one?

Quality content.

Many content marketing firms focus almost entirely on search engine optimization--or SEO. They create content--or advise you to create content--that is specifically designed to raise your page rank on Google and other search engines. This can be extremely important. For many businesses, being invisible on Google means you may as well not exist.

But there are a few potential pitfalls to this approach. Some SEO-oriented content marketing firms are so focused on getting inbound links to their content that the quality of the material they produce comes second. Many of the generic blog posts and keyword-crammed articles you see floating around come from agencies with this mindset.

This is not to say this is always the case. Far from it. Many SEO-focused content marketing companies take care to produce meaningful material. That said, it is important to remember that search engine visibility can actually hurt you if what people see when they click is a degraded brand.

3. Authority Builders

On the other side of the spectrum from the SEO-oriented agency is the content marketing firm that focuses exclusively on building its clients' authority.

Being seen as the authority in your industry can make all the difference between whether you have to continually hunt and hustle for new business or whether new clients fall in your lap. Niche authorities get to choose who they want to work with and get to name their price. Content marketing firms that specialize on building authority know this and they specialize in making it happen for their clients.

The potential benefit if you choose a firm that knows what it's doing in this regard can be endless. If your podcast or blog gains a large and dedicated following, your company will inevitably take a leap forward. If you become a bestselling author or top keynote speaker, the potential upside can be limitless.

On the other hand, many business owners and executives have released fantastic, authority-building content into the world only to be met with silence. To prevent this from happening, make the firm you're considering has a plan for using the high-quality content they produce to attract massive attention.

4. Multidimensional

Then there are those content marketing firms that say they do it all. They focus on steadily producing content designed to establish you as an authority in your field. They work on getting other websites to link to it so it helps you with SEO.

Of course, if you manage to find content marketing firm that is really able to accomplish all this, you've hit gold.

But remember it's a whole lot easier to say you're a multidimensional content marketing firm than to actually be one. Writing, creative strategy, and tactical lead generation often draw on very different skill sets. Does the agency's team have the full range of abilities they would need to deliver on their promises? Is it possible their broad focus will result in a weakening of everything across the board?

In the 21st century, the right content marketing firm can be essential to your success. Just make sure you don't let your excitement about jumping into this brave new world keep you from taking the time to ask the practical questions that can make all the difference between success and failure.

Michael Schein is the CEO of MicroFame Media, a content marketing agency of his very own.