Good content marketing isn’t just forgettable filler

All agencies understand they should be putting out more written content. They’ve read the articles, seen the stats, and assume that any extra content marketing will be a useful tool for improving their agency’s new business pipeline. The problems begin when agencies start content marketing for new business without a proper plan in place. Creating marketing content without considering a targeting strategy does little more than waste time and make noise. To really generate leads and convert clients, you need to create unpredictable, stand-out content, that speaks to a niche audience.

That niche can be defined by an industry sector, a small group of brands, or a specific job title. Then, done well, your content marketing should help you attract new prospects, and convert them into clients.

The key aspects of useful content marketing

Caveat no 1. No content marketing is going to deliver new clients by itself! However, by producing the right type of content, your new business team will be able to use your content as a tool to progress their conversations.

1. Make it interesting

This is obvious. The ideal outcome of your content marketing is that it is compelling enough for your prospects to remember it a year from now, cite it to their colleagues, and forward it on to their friends. Your content marketing should be more than social media fodder.

2. Make it specific

As with any marketing, the more specific you make your content, the more likely it is to resonate with your ideal client and make them feel listened to.

Example 1:

“10 trends in the health & fitness category”
This is not specific enough.
This is not going to be ’new information’ to people working in the health & fitness category.
This doesn’t help with the business challenges faced by Marketing Directors in the fitness category.
This isn’t good enough.

Example 2:

“How 10 fashion retailers are driving footfall in-store again post-lockdown.”
I would read that!
I would learn from that!
I would apply those strategies in my fashion business.
This is good.
If I was in charge of lead generation for the agency who produced that, I’d feel confident that I could open up new conversations with fashion retailers off the back of the insights gathered from that research.

3. Make it valuable

To be truly valuable, your content marketing should go well beyond a collection of facts gathered via Google.

Regular social posts and emails are great for keeping your agency name front of mind, nudging people along your pipeline, and building your brand, but if you find the right topic to write about, an industry-leading report or study can be the catalyst for many new introductions. It may well cost you to make something stand-out, but the impact should be ten-fold.

Topics that will move the dial

Number one tip for what to write about? Talk to your clients. This should be obvious, but surprisingly few marketers are doing it well. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with asking your clients what they’d like to learn about in a report, or what insights their business is lacking. If you don’t want to be so transparent about mining them for content ideas, get your team together to brainstorm these questions:

  • What challenges are you seeing in your clients’ businesses. What are they grappling with? Would those same challenges apply in other businesses or categories?
  • What questions have you heard being asked on webinars?
  • What challenges are you uncovering in new business conversations? Set yourself a challenge to ask prospects what issues their incumbent agencies have not yet managed to help them overcome. (Not only will that open up a more valuable new business conversation, but you should also come away with some good marketing subject matter.)

Content distribution

Your options:

1. Spray & pray distribution to a mass database

For mass email content marketing to work, you need to have a hefty database. The name of the game here is volume over quality. Not every contact on your database will be the right prospects for your agency, but you hope that within the thousands, and few might be a good fit.

You can buy email databases, but, in our experience, even the most expensive rarely hold the contact details of the hottest prospects.

Another drawback is the likelihood of getting a heap of unsubscribes which, as per GDPR rules, means a complete shutdown on any future comms with that individual. Aside from GDPR, lots of people are so turned off by spammy approaches that you may well be burning bridges from day one.

We rarely advocate this route.

2. Carefully curate your own bespoke database

A better option than flinging your content at innumerable uninterested prospects is to manually build up a custom database and deliver your content directly to these contacts. This is, naturally, enormously time-consuming. And you’re still likely to end up with a big chunk of those emails ignored at best. Less risky than off-target mass marketing, but still not our top choice.

3. PR

If you’re looking to build your agency’s reputation, PR is a great long-term option, and fresh content is an essential element.

The downside of PR is that you have even less control over who sees your thought leadership. It’s a gamble that the right eyes will land on your content, which isn’t ideal if you’re working to a tight budget and timeframe. PR is a great asset to any agency, but it’s less helpful when you have a lean budget and a short timeframe to get some new clients through the door.

4. The Future Factory strategy

And the absolute best way to use content marketing to generate leads and convert prospects? Get precise. Which is exactly what we do. We identify the exact companies or industry niche that an agency wants to win business in, and then guide the creation of content to speak directly to that group of individuals. Once we have that super-specific content, we get in touch directly with decision makers to share it, detailing why we think they’d be interested in hearing what we have to say. If you’ve put all that effort into creating some proper great content, you want to be sure it’s getting noticed by the people it was intended for!

In many cases the content can be used as a nice juicy carrot to book in a meeting. Because going into an initial conversation with solid, shareable findings from a study you’ve conducted makes that introduction several degrees warmer than it would ordinarily be.

“But doesn’t this approach mean fewer people will see my content?”

Yep. Done with precision, content marketing might only reach 100 people instead of 10,000. But 100 pairs of interested eyes is worth way more than 10,000 disengaged social media impressions, or 8,000 unopened emails and 1,000 unsubscribe notifications.