Agencies are special businesses, brimming with creative and strategic people who have made a career building someone else's brand—but the irony is that some of the best marketers in the world are also some of the worst in crafting their own personal story.
I work with agencies every day, helping them focus their efforts and generate new business via content marketing. However, I see the same pitfalls, day after day, whenever I ask an agency why it deserves to own content marketing and tell brand stories. People do a lot of scrambling, spouting buzzwords and giving an occasional blank stare.
So you have to ask yourself: "What are the most important elements to getting content marketing right at an agency?"
I spoke with some experts and came up with three clear elements to the effective implementation of a content service offering.
1. You're going beyond delivery
One major challenge involves the nature of marketing services. From the ideation of strategy, through execution, optimization, and measurement of campaigns, the process is arduous and antiquated.
Agencies spend the majority of their time getting to know a brand during the discovery process, with the remainder of their time spent conquering tight deadlines and high (sometimes unrealistic) expectations. And once an agency finally reaches a notable milestone, it's most likely time to discuss contract renewal.
Agencies need to shatter traditional workflow bottlenecks and demonstrate to their clients that they're capable of engaging and reacting to the always-on consumer, suggests Anjali Ramachandran, head of Innovation at PHD UK.
"What needs to change at traditional agencies is the pace at which they work," Ramachandran says. "A lot has been said about agile planning… but being flexible and quick to listen and respond to the needs of people is more important than ever before."
2. Your company successfully communicates interdepartmentally
A few agencies have already taken the next step to combine successful campaigns into sustained storytelling efforts. And those agencies also invest effort in communicating the total value of their integrated marketing efforts across the organization.
Steve Kerho, chief strategy officer at Meredith Xcelerated Marketing, states that "good digital content takes a village. Well, so does innovative problem-solving. I have seen creative teams develop groundbreaking ideas about measurement. And analytics teams that have created brilliant campaign ideas. This is only possible when teams work in an environment where this type of problem-solving is not only respected but also encouraged and rewarded."
Smart agencies are placing both creative and analytically minded people closer together. And the result is better communication of success to the client.
3. Your people on the frontlines are setting trends
The C-suite is always excited about new product offerings and growing the business. However, the people on the frontlines are the ones delivering creative work and communicating value back to the clients daily. Agency account teams understand the brand, understand the story, and understand the objectives. However, most employees aren’t necessarily empowered to suggest new agency initiatives on the client’s behalf.
That old-school mentality needs to change from the bottom up if an agency wants to attract young talent, grow its business model, and evolve faster.
Take a page from Kiersten Lawson of Waggener Edstrom’s book: "We also walk our talk to stay ahead. For example, a group of us just conceived and brought to life a WE Love Brews project as a 'pint-sized' off-site project. They employed a range of techniques and technologies that we can also offer our clients to demonstrate and increase their savvy and skills, and they got to taste a healthy sampling of Oregon craft beers in the process."
Unfortunately, not every initiative will result in a craft beer tasting, but it can lead to sustained growth and constant innovation.
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