How Agencies Should Sell Content Marketing Strategy to Clients

Advertising agencies know the pain of submitting proposals, RFPs and vying for new clients. That process is both time-consuming and often ineffective, especially when the resulting contracts do not lead to long-term business relationships. Selling content marketing strategy to your clients is one of the best ways to foster a long-term, equitable relationship.

According to Agency Spotter, more than 120,000 ad agencies exist in the U.S. today. Executives throughout the country feel that in the recent past, the industry has become increasingly competitive. If your business model depends solely on one-off projects like web design or branding, your agency won’t be able to compete without a stream of recurring revenue.

And yet, agency revenues continue to increase year after year. The key to their success? Recurring revenue and the ability to provide ongoing services to existing clients. Again and again, agencies that provide content marketing strategy to clients survive and thrive in this competitive environment. Because, as it turns out, becoming a strategic content partner for your clients comes with a number of considerable benefits.

The Danger of One-Off Projects

Marketing projects with a start date and end date are a tempting proposition. The scope is clearly defined. You help your client execute a project and once it’s finished, move on to the next one.

Unfortunately, the above scenario also comes with an inconvenient truth. If you depend on these types of one-off projects, your revenue stream will be hard to predict month to month.

Imagine each project requiring its own proposal, contracting, and introductory meetings. Before you know it, even small web redesign projects take more resources to set up than the revenue they generate.

Content strategy can be a common thread throughout each client project. Ongoing relationships with existing clients can be the key to success. Across industries, retaining current customers is cheaper and results in higher profits than acquisition. The lifetime value of clients to your agency naturally increases over time. Providing content strategies can help you get to that desirable long-term relationship. Focusing your efforts on providing continuous services for existing clients is significantly more effective than focusing on one-off projects.

The Rise of Content Marketing Strategy Within Agencies

As a marketing expert, the following statement will not come as a surprise: The last decade has seen a dramatic shift in marketing. Print ads continue to fall in effectiveness, as advertising revenue in newspapers is now at a fraction of its high point in the early 2000s. Digital banner ads do not fare much better, particularly considering the growing consumer resentment evident in the recent ad blocker craze. Even traditional PR, so dependent on print media, has seen a rapid decline.

We have seen the emergence of a new marketing philosophy: content marketing. Used correctly, it helps marketers provide value to their target audience while also marketing their services in a more helpful, and subtle, way.

Marketing experts are likely familiar with the concept, so we won’t bore you with a definition or explanation. If you’re not familiar, here’s a great introduction to content marketing.

As consumers are becoming more critical of traditional advertising methods, adding value to marketing outreach can be the difference in helping your clients succeed. That content can help your clients in a variety of ways, from social media efforts to newsletters and even sales calls.

By providing content strategy and creation services to your clients, you ensure a recurring revenue stream. Your clients market their products better, and you create a business model that is sustainable and profitable.

Moving from Project-Based to Strategy-Based

Agencies get caught in the trap of being production houses and “yes men” to their clients. And in turn, clients treat them like a production house. Agencies hate this and yet, often get stuck in that position.

Content strategy shifts an agency’s perception from being project-based to strategy-based. Unlike an agency that does one project in a vacuum, an agency adopting a content strategy helps maintain a common thread throughout the relationship with the client.

Content strategy requires looking at your client’s entire marketing scope and finding ways to leverage their marketing goals into a cohesive content plan.

By providing content strategy and creation services to your client, you can bring a one-off project full-circle. One-off projects become part of a bigger content marketing picture. You have also created a recurring revenue stream, establishing a lasting relationship with your client that will only grow in the future.

Client Education Leads to Opportunities

Seeing how one project can lead to further opportunities down the road should motivate agencies to become a strategic content partner to clients. Successful completion of one service can act as a “gateway drug” to future content opportunities and agency revenue.

For example, successful agencies are no longer just building websites for clients today. Successful agencies build a client website but now educate them about the value of content marketing. As a result, they’re entering into a long-term content strategy agreement with their clients. Agencies help clients establish a blog on their client’s site to improve SEO, educate customers and use the content across a variety of promotional channels.

Content marketing comes with countless benefits that range from increased web traffic and leads to more goodwill and, ultimately, sales. Showing your clients the value of content moves you from being project-based to strategy-based.

Agencies engaging in this type of content strategy with clients are thriving, even in an increasingly competitive environment. But, just how do you go about establishing and marketing content strategy services to your clients?

You also need to know how to approach clients about the need for online content and assist them in getting started.

Explaining the Importance of Content Marketing

First, your clients need to understand just why digital content is so important to raise awareness of their business. If they are not willing to buy into content marketing to begin with, your efforts for recurring revenue through content creation will be fruitless. That’s why any of your efforts to become a content provider have to include a pitch on the importance and effectiveness of content marketing.

That pitch can take on many forms, and depends greatly on the niche you’ve carved out as an agency. But generally, clients will be convinced by two messages: statistics and social proof in the form of case studies.

You can get content marketing success statistics from published studies all around the web. Case studies are a bit more complicated, and require close cooperation with clients who are already using your content offerings at the time. At the same time, social proof is a powerful tool for showing the value of content marketing.

Going from “Why” to “How”

Convincing your clients about the success potential of content marketing is only the first step. In most cases, many will be hesitant to consider a content strategy because of the effort required to create content regularly. Content marketing and strategy isn’t a quick win like buying an ad or running a pay-per-click campaign. It’s a long-term investment.

Your task as an agency is to show them the benefits of content marketing’s value to their business and creating content that resonates is possible.

This is where your copywriters and expertise come into play. If you can offer content creation services to your clients, you’ll be much more likely to convince them about the value of content marketing for their needs.

To help convince clients about the quality of the content your agency can provide, showcase content examples on your own website.

Using Content to Support Marketing Goals

As with any type of marketing, content marketing cannot be consistently successful without an effective strategy. That strategy, of course, depends greatly on setting marketing goals. Without goals, your clients will have no way of measuring the success of their efforts or making adjustments to their content strategy as needed.

Ideally, these goals should influence the types of content you provide your clients. A SaaS business looking to convert more trial users, for example, should publish very different types of content than a local retailer looking to raise awareness in their neighborhood.

Understanding your client’s marketing goals will influence the type of content strategy they need.

The Importance of Editorial Calendars

Even small businesses who understand the value of content marketing too often fail because they lack the time or resources to keep the content flowing on a consistent basis. This type of consistent content flow comes with very tangible benefits.

But helping your clients set up a goal-driven content marketing strategy is not enough. In addition, you should be able to help them set up and manage an editorial calendar.

As you probably know, an editorial calendar helps your clients stay on track and keeps the content organized and flowing on a consistent basis. Your clients should know two things about editorial calendars:

  1. Editorial calendars are necessary and need to be populated for successful content marketing
  2. Editorial calendars need to be flexible enough to allow for spontaneous changes as needed.

If your clients know about these two points, they’ll be more likely to come to you for help in setting up and managing their own editorial calendars.

You can download the editorial calendar we developed to get started.

Promoting Content

Adding consistent, fresh content to your website can have major SEO benefits. Promoting that content through other channels, however, increases the value of the same content exponentially. Derek Halpern of Social Triggers even suggests an 80/20 rule, arguing that content creation should only take 20% of your content marketing time. The other 80% should be devoted to promoting that content.

The possibilities for promoting content beyond a client’s website are almost limitless. Opportunities like social media, paid social ads, search and display ads, newsletters, and marketing emails help your content be seen by a larger portion of potential customers.

But your clients are not likely to be marketing experts. They will need help determining which of these channels match their audience, and how to promote their content as effectively as possible. Your digital expertise can help them develop a content promotion strategy.

Incorporating Gated Content to Drive Leads

If your clients are willing to venture into the content marketing realm, gated content is the fuel that makes their digital engine go. Gated content consists of long-form articles, eBooks, whitepapers, and webinars accessible to visitors by submitting their contact information.

Content marketers use visitors’ contact information to create a database of leads, which can then be nurtured toward becoming paying customers.

But again, your clients are not likely to be marketing experts, and the mere mention of content marketing may simply add to their confusion. Explaining to them that long-form, high-quality content can actually result in contact information from readers can be a crucial step to getting them to buy in. Even more importantly, you can now leverage your expertise in creating the system that allows your clients to “gate” their content behind a sign-up form.

Because that long-form content takes significantly more effort to create than a blog post, it will ultimately result in higher revenue for your agency. It also works well together with simpler forms of content. A blog post, for example, can be a perfect vehicle for promoting an eBook or in-depth resource guide that requires readers to subscribe or sign up.

Providing content strategy and creation services to your clients helps your agency build a consistent revenue stream. Keeping the above steps in mind can help you build a relationship that provides consistent value to your clients and consistent revenue to your agency.


Originally published at www.blogmutt.com.