Content marketing is one of the most cost-effective strategies you can use to build the visibility of your brand. You’ll attract more organic traffic, build a social audience, and retain your visitors by giving them something valuable. The downside is the sheer amount of effort it takes to create and manage a campaign. Fortunately, there are content writing services that can help you execute a campaign for a fraction of the time and money you’d otherwise spend.
The problem here is the sheer number of content marketing firms available; how should you choose the best one for your business?
Benefits of Outsourcing
To understand what you should be looking for, you first need to understand the main benefits of hiring an outside firm in the first place:
- Expertise: Content marketing firms usually employ dozens, if not hundreds of people, giving them far more collective expertise than you could get by hiring your own writers.
- Cost-efficiency: Even if you’re paying thousands of dollars a month for services, you’ll pay less for an external content marketing firm than you’ll pay in one full-time salary.
- Reliability: Content firms will almost always prove their worth to you; if you aren’t seeing the results you want, they’ll work to make it right.
What to Look For
Accordingly, these are the most important things to look for when hiring your first content marketing firm.
- Experience: The more experience a content marketing firm has, the better it’s going to perform. More experience means they’ve had more time to work out the kinks in their process, they’ve learned from more mistakes, and they have more examples of “good” work they can use to model future work. That doesn’t mean that every new firm is inherently bad, but if you want to make the most of your investment, it’s a good idea to look for a firm with at least a few years of experience.
- Area of expertise: Not all content marketing firms serve a general audience, so you’ll also need to look for your target firm’s area of expertise. For example, some content marketing firms specialize in image and video content, while others specialize in written content. Some target small businesses, while others go after big corporations. You’ll also find firms that specialize in specific industries. You may want a firm that specializes in your business, specifically, but a general provider may also work; just don’t choose an expert in an area that’s foreign to you.
- Writing samples: Before hiring anyone, make sure you see some writing samples. Most content marketing firms have a reliable minimum threshold for quality, but it still pays to see some live work. If you don’t see any on a portfolio page, make a formal request for some. Even if you’re not an expert, you’ll be able to judge the quality here.
- Cost factor: Prices for content marketing services will vary dramatically based on the services you’re receiving, but there are some industry averages that should guide your search. Paying too little for content services usually leaves you with lower-quality content, so don’t make your decision based on price alone; instead, compare the price to the type of services and quality you’ll be getting. It’s especially effective to evaluate this once you’ve narrowed down your potential providers to two or three.
- Communication: You’ll be communicating with your content firm throughout your campaign, working with an account representative to set the direction and tone of your campaign, giving feedback on your content, and address any questions or concerns you have. You’ll need someone that you can trust and communicate with easily, so ask yourself; is this provider easy to get in contact with? Do they listen to you and explain things clearly?
- Guarantees and commitments: Content marketing ROI is complicated, since you’ll be seeing benefits in multiple areas and it will take many months, or even years, before you start seeing your best results. That being said, most firms will guarantee some level of results; check the guarantees and commitments that a firm provides before making a decision.
- Reviews and testimonials: Finally, try to find reviews and testimonials. Every firm worth researching will have a good-looking website that makes them sound professional, but you won’t have a good gauge for their past performance until you see some hard metrics (or at least read a letter of recommendation). Get in contact with a handful of past clients and see what they have to say.
When you’re ready to start looking for a content marketing provider, run some basic searches for content marketing firms, get active on content marketing boards and forums, and look for key influencers on social media. (Here’s a list of some agencies on Curata.) Within a few minutes, you should be able to tell if the provider is worth pursuing; at that point, you can engage in interviews and deeper levels of research to narrow down your search. When you find a provider that meets all seven criteria and factors for consideration above, you know you’ve found the right match.