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Alistair Norman

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Alistair Norman

Sep 4, 2018

Stripped bare: The content marketing secrets to know — before you sign up an agency


Stop flirting with your content marketing agency — build a loving relationship with them and get the most out of your marketing investment in our new 10-part blog series.

In our new 10-part series, we’re going to pull back the curtains on the client-agency relationship, showing you how to get the most out of your content marketing agency spend. Ready to get going? Let’s start with secret number 1: How to manage the content marketing agency relationship

We all think about success. Every day (or at least most days, right?). We think about delivering success to our clients. About how we can deliver a successful content strategy. How we can become more successful each time. We think about how we can have a successful working relationship with our customers and partners.

Most companies are searching for “the one”. A content agency they can rely on during the tough times, as well as the good. An agency they can build an enduring relationship with. But in practice, this can be hard to sustain.

Marketing consultancy R3 recently put the industry average for the length of a client-agency relationship at just 3.2 years. So it’s more important than ever to set the scene for a beautiful agency-client relationship the moment the ink dries on the contract.

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So, what’s the golden ticket?

Well, there might not be one. Like all loving relationships, it takes time and hard work from both sides. But here are a few important things to bear in mind:

  • Education. Do all parties have the required knowledge to build a strong agency relationship? What are the deliverables, the KPIs, and the methods needed to get there?
  • Expectation. Do all parties know what the agency is delivering and isn’t delivering?
  • Transparency. Honesty is the best policy. Keep your communications clear and open. And make sure the same key people stay in the loop from start to finish.
  • Planning. If this falls down, so does everything else. Know your project plan inside out.

A creative content agency will look beyond the mile markers on the customer journey and explore the rainforest of opportunities around it. That means taking an exceptional interest in you — how you work, what matters most to your success, your customers’ key drivers and motivators.

Your content marketing plan needs to be your competitive advantage. And that means not doing expected and not doing generic.Blog-image-insert-02

Look beyond the tell-tale signs of the agency cliché

Offices with sleeping pods, climbing walls, and murals by Banksy may look great on the front page of The Drum or in your quest to become the next Seth Godin. But many of the best content agencies delivering the greatest bang-per-buck are more about moneybags than beanbags.

The best content marketing agencies are focused on the finer details of your business. They are ready to make your data work harder, reach a global audience, and manage the entire customer experience from first touch to repeat sale and advocacy.

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You can’t force a fairytale relationship

But it’s important to keep in mind that some companies just aren’t a good fit for some agencies: you can’t please everyone, and it’d be foolish to try and do so.

Remember that old adage? “There are no bad clients, only bad client relationships.” Well, something like that rings true, anyway…

So what do successful advertising agencies, media agencies, and top content creators have in common? They’re all about the people.

No matter how smooth their strategy or competent their click-throughs, a content marketing agency performs best when client and agency share strong personal ties.

When you engage a content marketing agency, you’re trusting them with the future of your business. So the best clients and agencies invest a lot of time in each other.

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So what are COMMON TRAITS of the best working relationships?

According to R3’s Global 40 report, client-agency relationships that have stood the test of time bear the following characteristics...

They look to new models. All the cases in the report had experimented and tried new ways of working, this is integral to success in a constantly evolving industry.

They know that face time matters. Despite the proliferation of videoconferencing and communications technologies, getting that quality, face-to-face time in is the best way of resolving issues.

They focus on outcomes, not inputs. R3 praised the McDonald’s and Omnicom agreement as an exemplary relationship that had succeeded by focusing on meeting mutual objectives.

They take digital seriously. Too many brands are “buying digital by the yard, not by the year”. They need to partner up with an agency that employs solid long-term strategies — digital transformation isn’t just for Christmas.

They know that immersion goes both ways. Both sides of the relationship need to properly understand (and more importantly care about) each other’s business.

They benchmark and evaluate their progress. The advice is that global CMOs and agencies need to share a ‘Dashboard of Best Practice’, tracking and measuring their results with a view to always improve.

Well, that’s one down. Nine to go. Next up, it’s secret number 2: Good to have you onboard: what you should be thinking and doing during kick-off.

Your content marketing agency should be equipped to differentiate your business and act as your competitive advantage. Read: Dare to be different: How B2B companies can use a content marketing agency to stand out from the crowd.

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