10 Sep 2015

Why Your Agency Does NOT Do Content Marketing – Even If They Say They Do

September 10, 2015Content Marketing

About six years ago, I invited Joe Pulizzi to Phoenix to speak to the Arizona Interactive Marketing Association (AZIMA). Between a meeting I had with Joe prior to the event and his presentation that night, I was totally convinced that content marketing was the future for our agency. I have always had a soft spot for the small and medium sized business and I felt content marketing might just help level the playing field for the Fortune 500,000.

We immediately began to transform Vertical Measures from a pure SEO agency to a content marketing agency. I even wrote my first book on content marketing in 2011. Over the past several years we have been through a lot as an agency. We lived through the Panda, Penguin and Hummingbird updates from Google, we watched the Inbound Marketing vs. Content Marketing debate, we saw all the “SEO is Dead” posts, the “New SEO” posts, and we made plenty of mistakes as we worked on implementing content marketing for our clients.

We also watched many marketing agencies (SEO, digital and traditional agencies) add content marketing to their list of services. In some respects, they almost have to, after all, look at the following Google Trends chart. This indicates the interest level from a search perspective of content marketing, TV advertising, radio advertising, and newspaper advertising. Clearly content marketing is the future.

Google trends for content marketing

If I had to guess, as of today, I would say that 80% of the agencies that say they do content marketing, do not really do content marketing for their clients. Many of them cannot even really define what content marketing is truly all about. Those are bold statements, but I stand by them.

Content Marketing Definition

What is the definition of content marketing? Well according to the source on the subject, Content Marketing Institute, it is:

“Content marketing is the marketing and business process for creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action.”

We have actually developed our own content marketing definition. It’s a little longer, but I actually like it even better (but that is just me):

“Content marketing is the art of providing relevant, useful content to your prospects without selling or interrupting them. Instead of pitching your products or services, you are delivering information that makes your prospective customers more informed before they buy. If you deliver consistent, ongoing valuable information to your prospects, they ultimately reward you with their business and loyalty.”

As you know, it is a very search centric world. We are constantly searching online – from our desktop, from our tablet and more than half the time, from our phone. Before we buy something or hire a company, we conduct research. We do a lot of research – on Google. If we are going to buy a car, we might spend 8 to 10 hours researching before we ever go to the dealer. We might spend hours trying to figure out the best vitamin supplement to buy. I cannot tell you the hours we just spent researching an enterprise project management system.

Brands Doing Content Marketing

As in most cases, the big brands are some of the very first to discover and try new marketing techniques. They have the big budgets to play with and the potential gains for them can be enormous. I am not going to list all of the success stories here (at this point there are hundreds of them) but if you want to do a little deeper dive into some content marketing successes, you can check out these links. Later of course… right now I’d like you to stay focused and continue reading this post.

Companies Doing Content Marketing Well

I don’t want to pretend to know all of the agencies and companies out there doing content marketing well, but I have been around a while and speak at dozens of conferences every year. So I tend to hear about them if they are truly making progress and doing a good job implementing content marketing for their clients. Here is a short list of some solid agencies that actually do content marketing (in alphabetical order):

  • Avalaunch Media – they do content, PPC, lead gen, creative, SEO & social.
  • Influence & Co. – specializes in extracting knowledge to create and distribute content that fuels companies’ executive branding and content marketing.
  • King Content – is a multi-award winning global content marketing agency.
  • Marcus Thomas – is an integrated marketing communications agency focused on audience insight, idea generation and alternative delivery.
  • Meredith Xcelerated – content-powered engagement for a hyper-connected world.
  • Seer Interactive – a digital marketing agency with offices in Philadelphia and San Diego..
  • TopRank – serving B2B & B2C companies. Sharing integrated marketing & PR news world-wide.
  • Velocity Partners – specialize in B2B content marketing for tech companies.

If you would like to see the ultimate list of content marketing agencies, click here.

Even looking at the list above, you need to be careful in selecting an agency that is a good fit for your specific needs.

Is Your Agency Really Doing Content Marketing For You?

As I mentioned above, I have talked to a lot of agencies and I have looked at a lot of agency websites over the years. What I see is lots of traditional agencies adding content marketing to their list of services and justifying it under the guise of content creation.

Yes, they create content. But often this comes in the form of ads, videos, magazines, billboards, and images. If you really look, you see that most of the content they are creating is really just advertising or branded content such as brochures, manuals, and maybe case studies. In my humble opinion this is not real content marketing (see definitions above).

Branded content vs content marketing

Agencies should know the difference between branded content and content marketing. Image source: Moz.

And SEO agencies are doing the same thing. Yes, I know we were once a pure SEO agency that has made the transition to content marketing, but once again, I know the SEO industry well and I see the same thing there as I see in the traditional space. Far too many of these agencies say they do content marketing, but what they are really doing is “cranking out” blog posts without truly understanding the sales funnel and everything wrapped around increasing leads and revenue for their clients. Or worse yet, they think content marketing is just another tactic to gain links.

In fact, most of the employees who have come to us from other agencies (some very well known agencies) say to us something like “I thought I knew content marketing, but I can’t tell you how much I have learned since I have gotten here. My previous agency just does not get it.”

The Bottom Line

Content marketing takes courage, effort and time. It’s not for those without vision and the willingness to invest. If you are the type that prefers to buy the home rather than rent, content marketing is probably for you. Content marketing done the right way will build a foundation for your business, and eventually will be one of the single best investments you have ever made. Just make sure you understand what you are getting from your agency or you just might be renting forever.