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Alistair Norman

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Alistair Norman

Mar 27, 2018

FAQs: The good the bad and the ugly of working with a content marketing agency


We cover everything you need to know about successfully working with a digital content marketing agency, and how you can achieve the best results.

We’re nearly at the end of this walkthrough in making your client/agency relationship a match made in heaven. From the roles of people on both sides, to the dos and don’ts of briefing a project, to the different types of content we create for you and how you review and approve them before introducing the practical standard tools that boost productivity and profit.

So this instalment pulls it all together, with a short FAQ of the most common bugbears and successes a client/agency relationship goes through. Let’s take a look at the good, the bad, and the ugly of working with a content marketing agency — from both sides.Things-that-drive-content-marketing-agencies-crazy

Things that drive content marketing agencies crazy

Q: What is this individual’s role on the project?

A: Too many projects have them: the odd person (or two) without any clear role, yet who seems empowered to make or change every decision. They’re loose cannons who can damage a project’s success and suck the energy out of your agency.

To pre-empt problems, always make sure everyone on your client team knows the boundaries of their participation. The content committee may be empowered to critique copy, but not have any role in design; the project sponsor is there for strategic insight, not to micromanage approvals. Just as important as getting the right people together is making sure they know the limits of their role.

Q: How to handle a subjective opinion masquerading as feedback?

A: Subjective opinions are anathema to effective execution — because for feedback to work it must be based on how it affects the campaign goals.

So for every piece of feedback, ask whether it brings the project closer to the objectives, or further away from them. And ask such questions of the individual making the feedback. When people realize their opinions require backup, you get much better opinions.

Q: How to focus attention on what’s happening beyond the brief?

A: Like seeing the tree but not the forest, it’s easy for a client to not see things in overall context. (Particularly a client brought in to inform one campaign only.) And for the experienced team already familiar with your overall marketing goals, it can be a nightmare. Too much time between an attention-getting TOFU and action-driving BOFU, or a change in flow between an email and its landing page, then churn is the only outcome.

Your project (in fact, your entire marketing activity) takes place in a context of other content, and the ideas we’re trying to plant in your audience’s heads. So before people join your client team, offer an induction into the major goals of your marketing plan, and how each campaign fits into it. This will give your tree-loving colleague a sense of the surrounding scenery — and he or she will be far more valuable as a result.Things-that-drive-clients-crazy

Things that drive clients crazy

Q: Why does the agency seem more interested in its ideas than my business?

A: Common in traditional agencies, because many such agencies judge themselves on the number of awards they win. You won’t see creativity for the sake of it at Tomorrow People.

Many creatives go into the advertising and marketing business under the delusion they’re artists. We take the view they’re artisans — craftsmen creating a product, not artists working on their vision — and the people we attract to work for us share that view. Our content creators and designers are interested in effective communication, not in-jokes and awards ceremonies.

Q: Why do I keep being asked for things outside my expertise?

A: You have your experience and we have ours — but too many agencies expect clients to be available instantly, on any subject, and to know how agencies and marketing processes operate from the get-go.

In reality, there are a million different ways to work and an ocean of tacit knowledge to uncover before a client/agency relationship really starts charging. So if you need help writing a brief, or a session to pin down what really matters in your USP, let us help.

Q: Why does there seem to be one rule for the agency and one for the client?

A: This is the big one, and it’s the one that leads to the breakup of client/agency relationships. When apportioned responsibility turns into a “blame game”, it’s time to seriously review your agency.

It’s usually due to a mismatch in expectations. Perhaps you’re asking for major campaigns at 24h notice; perhaps your project sponsor wants creative work in two days but an approval process stretching to nine weeks. (It has happened!) So if you feel you’re being beaten with a stick rather than collaborating for gain, talk to your account manager immediately. Things-that-lead-to-great-results

Things that lead to great results

Q: How does deadline discipline affect a project’s quality?

A: An eye on the dates and times lets everyone’s energy go into executing great campaigns, not chasing around for missing people and sign-offs. Let that crackling enthusiasm work for your marketing, not someone else’s calendar.

The best way to develop it is simply to practice. If you get into the habit of always knowing each milestone and what’s required by a given date, you’ll unconsciously start treating each deadline as the absolute cut-off it should be, and always be ready on time. (Work always expands to fill the time available; fix the deadline in your head and that available time is no more than needed!).

Remember your sign off dates: if you miss them, your timeline will move.

Q: Why are standard software and processes more than administration?

A: Standards are everywhere. They always emerge as solutions to people’s time, energy, or resource hassles. Therefore, using a standard approach (in whatever area) is reliably better than not using a standard.

When you use standards, like Workfront and GSuite, all the flotsam and jetsam of a “normal” project — the files and tasks, communicating with people — happen in established ways that people expect. Nobody’s on edge, everyone gets what they’re expecting. And because our minds tend to prioritize “comfortable” tasks first, it boosts productivity massively. Expectation management is the name of the game.That’s-a-wrap

That’s a wrap…

Thanks for reading this 10 part blog series on How to Work With a Content Marketing Agency. If you want to read anything in depth again, you can visit our blogs at any time. Working together, in a way that’s mutually beneficial, matters to us. We hope it matters to you, too. If it does, it’s match made in heaven, right?

In the ideal client/agency relationship, the client’s voice is as much a contributor to success as the agency’s — so why not end with a few quotes from our clients? Their words say it better than we could.

Tomorrow People provided the perfect mechanism to fill the gap we had post-implementation of our new marketing system … we looked at the content that was provided at each part of the customer journey.” — Carmen Bury, Head of Marketing, Unify

We chose Tomorrow People because they impressed us with the way they challenged us… to work out who the personas were visiting our website, so we could work out the pain points and address those concerns.”— Melanie Davis, Marketing Manager, Apteco

It was one of our most successful campaigns in public sector and health to date … over 1,500 web visits giving us a 30% average conversion rate.” — Tony Rich, Head of Market Segments, Unify

Tomorrow People interviewed us to get a good understanding of what we wanted out of the campaign… and a view of what success looked like!” — Rachel Brown, Marketing Communications Manager, Claranet Soho

I’ve really, really liked Tomorrow People’s process and methodologies, which really gives us confidence as we go to market.” — Helen Lancaster, Head of Marketing (Northern Europe), Arkadin

For more insider insight into how content marketing relationship operate, check our our report with the Content Marketing Institute: Content Marketing in the UK 2018: Benchmarks, budgets, and trends

Topics: Content Marketing Working with a content marketing agency

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