So you want me to write for your content marketing agency

Are you a content marketing agency in need of content?
Photo by Dustin Lee

It seems like now is the time a lot of advertising and digital firms are transforming into a content marketing agency. I’ve been averaging one or two requests a week by Sydney digital agencies since about November. The reason why I keep getting requests agencies is the shift towards content marketing. It appears there was a memo (or conference or something in the air) that says marketing via content is a viable add-on for your clients.

I am happy that content is finally getting the place on the podium it deserves. I think it’s smart to broaden the reach of your client’s products across blogging, social media and the rest.

Yet as flattering as these approaches are, I’m only one freelancer. And I am already working in content marketing with my own roster of clients.

So I’ve put together a guide for a future content marketing agency looking to make the transition with my (or another content marketing freelancers) help.

This guide should help you work with me (and other content marketing freelancers) in your content marketing agency endeavours

It’s time to ask some questions.

Have you got paying customers interested in investing in content marketing?

I know there is an audience for my services. I also know through almost 14 years of trial and error who will and won’t pay for it.

While it’s trendy right now, content marketing is an acquired taste and not every client will go for it. Not every client is able to go for it.

Here are some of the questions your clients will need to consider before entering into a content marketing campaign:

  • Have we got a central point of content to supply information and to sign off assets?
  • Have we got 6 to 12 months grace before the bosses will start asking where the ROI is?
  • Do we have to negotiate with PR and legal on a regular basis to make this work? If so, is that going to be possible?
  •  If so, is that going to be possible?
  • Do we have evidence our customers are self researchers who use content to make their purchase decisions?
  • What kinds of content do they use to make those decisions?
  • How simple would it be to add content to the mix with our existing marketing channels?
  • Does our team need to be able to use video, graphics, scheduling tools and CMS’ to make this work? And if so, who can do that?
  • Is the client in question going to be OK with the experimental nature of content marketing?

That’s before they consider where the budget is going to come from.

Content marketing is an amazingly powerful tool. But a company needs to know if it fits their audience and is going to fit in their marketing strategy.

I expect an approaching agency to have done this homework already. Or to pay me to do that content marketing research. It’s far too important to assume a brainstorming meeting will cut it.

If you don’t know if there is a need for content yet, find out please.

What kinds of content are you looking to offer?

I used to work in agency land and on the client side. I spent 15 years dealing with these sorts of relationships before freelancing.

And I know the success of the project comes down to one thing: the quality of the brief

Content marketing is as broad as it is appealing. So you need to know what sorts of content might be interesting to your clients. And if the content freelancer you’re approaching is the right person for the job. And what the job is.

If you’re coming from a potential content marketing agency with:

  • No blog
  • Less than 100 people on your Facebook page
  • Channels with unloved social media content from months or years ago
  • Nothing other than a website in the content realm

I’m not convinced your clients will buy your claims about your content marketing abilities.

Think of it this way:

Would you trust the gardener to do an amazing job if his garden was unkempt and it looked like it was fairly sporadic between watering and weeding? 

Don’t get upset if someone who makes a living in content marketing (that’d be me) asks you about your future plans in the arena. Or think I’m being unfair if I tell you that you need to lift your own game before trying to sell it to paying clients.

Be sensible.  If your content sucks, to be a content marketing agency in the future you’ve got some work on your hands.

Do you know how to sell content to your clients? 

If you don’t have the experience with selling content marketing, you can learn. You can also ask seasoned freelancers if they’d like to take the lead on it. People like me can help you help your clients make an informed choice about content marketing.

But selling content isn’t always straight forward.

In fact, selling content is a tricky undertaking. It goes beyond its SEO powers or matching what the competitors are doing.

It’s about telling the story of a business. And alleviating customer service traffic or closing the sale through research. It’s also about humanising the company and going behind the scenes of a business. From there, it becomes part of community engagement.

Presenting a content marketing case to a client is an art. You’ll need to learn the art of upselling content through demonstrating long term value. A successful content marketing agency doesn’t just allow a writer to riff off a bunch of blog topics and call that a strategy. You have to do research and respect the process so the content hits the mark.

A lot of existing or future content marketing agencies are scared of giving freelancers access to clients. I understand, but I also think it’s rather unnecessary.

Paranoia about client theft impedes proper briefs. And it’s baseless paranoia, considering there’s these great things called contracts. Plus it makes your content freelancer realise the trust isn’t there.

Play to your strengths, not your weaknesses.

If you don’t know how to sell content, be willing to learn or to give freelancers access. Let us help you. We know what we need and what to sell.

What are the terms of the arrangement?

I have set prices I charge for individual content work and for ongoing retainers. I do this because I know how long the work takes and what sorts of margins I need to make.

Content marketing sadly suffers from the assumption that any old piece of crap will do. And that paying $50 for a blog is OK. And that blog ideas are found on cocktail napkins. And that content marketing rains from the sky at a million miles an hour.

It isn’t. And they aren’t. And are you freaking kidding me?!

Persuading people to buy takes more than stringing a bunch of SEO friendly words together.

Delete these phrases from your content marketing agency to freelancer phrasebook please: 

“It’s just blogging.”

“But I can get a student (or someone on eLance) for much less than that”

“Why do you need to plan the topics? Can’t you just write/film/design?”

“There’s more work available for the right person”

“Our brands would give you the credibility you need”

“It’s great exposure and might get you X later on”

Please don’t make yourself look silly by thinking I’ll write for your product for free or at low cost. The whole “more work and connections for you later, sweetpea” lines are a way we spot underpaying, clueless jerks in the business crowd.

You’re coming to me. So you need to offer me what I want (hint, it’s called money). You want us to do business together, remember?

Is a coffee meeting really necessary? 

Each week, it’s a 2 line email asking for a coffee chat I won’t be paid for to see if you might hire me. Most of the time these agencies don’t even know they have a client interested in content yet.

If you want to pick my brain, can you at least save me the money in lost productivity and in travel costs? What’s wrong with Skype? I can send you a demo on how to install it if you like.

You’ve got to respect your suppliers time, guys. Hell, you’ve got to respect your own.

I don’t mind making the journey for paid work or a productive and fruitful project meeting. But we don’t need to hang out in the same room to get a great content marketing relationship happen.

The bottom line on content marketing agency work

I’m happy to work with well organised agencies who brief well and value productivity. So if you want me to work with you, get in touch. 

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