Hiring a Content Marketing Agency? Ask These 11 Questions First

It’s easy to hire any content marketing agency. If you need to start pumping out content quickly, there are plenty of options out there.

However, the find the appropriate agency – Someone who really understands your business and can help achieve your goals – it’s tough. And if you want your content marketing strategy to be successful, hiring the right partner is absolutely essential.

The process of hiring a content marketing agency can be time consuming.

But having a clear outline of what your goals are and the key questions you should ask during the screening process will help ensure that you don’t waste time on discussions with the wrong vendors.

Here, you’ll find a list of important questions to ask before choosing a content marketing agency to help ensure that you’re hiring the right person for your unique marketing team and organization.

1. Do you do SEO?

If so, what are the best practices you use?

A lot of agencies claim to be SEO experts. While some certainly have solid SEO skills, the harsh truth is that many who claim to do good SEO are actually working with outdated best practices, if any at all.

It is important to understand the elements of SEO that a content marketing agency sees as well as the best practices that they apply.

Asking them to share best practice documentation will help you get a better understanding of their knowledge and whether they are up-to-date with the latest strategies.

If you’re not an SEO expert yourself, I highly recommend getting it run by someone who does or does some online research before starting the screening process for a content marketing agency.

2. How will you help our business?

This may seem like a very basic question to ask, but it is absolutely necessary. No matter how excited you are about an agency, please Don’t forget to ask this!

In the beginning, the agency may offer you a fairly straightforward or global content marketing strategy that you use across clients. That’s fine – it’s a good starting point. But read on to see how it will adapt to your specific business needs.

For example, the agency may set certain standards for word count or frequency of posting. But you may be in a very technical trade that requires more in-depth posts, or perhaps your work requires thought leadership style content, which will require interviews with subject matter experts (SMBs).

Not only will this give the agency an opportunity to offer strategic advice and show off their expertise, but it will also help you get a better understanding of how dedicated they are to your business and industry.

3. What results can we expect?

Successful content marketing strategies take time. If a content agency promises you the world, this is definitely a red flag.

Ask them to demonstrate this by explaining their strategy in detail and/or by sharing the results that they paid another similar organization.

More specifically, this is an automatic red flag when a content agency promises any kind of results further down the funnel. Obviously, this is the ultimate goal of all of our marketing strategies. But there are too many factors out of their control for content agencies to entrust sales, new clients, and so on.

It’s no secret that content success isn’t always as easy as we’d like to track and report. For example, brand awareness is difficult to measure.

At the same time, you want to ensure that they will hold themselves accountable for driving the results your organization needs to see, which is why you need to understand exactly how the agency will measure its success and the metrics they use to demonstrate it.

Setting goals around increased traffic, conversions, improved keyword visibility, and enhanced social engagement seems more realistic. Set goals they (and you) are comfortable with – and set them in stone.

4. How do you report results?

Performance tracking and reporting is critical, especially when you are building trust with your content marketing agency. Be sure to ask them how they track and report back to customers, and how often.

They may also have some sample unbranded reports that they can share with you to give you more ideas on how to present it all.

While they may have a standard reporting framework that they use for clients, it’s good to know if and how to customize it for your business.

As part of the onboarding process, your quality content agency will put together a baseline report for you. This way, you can finally see the progress from the beginning of your relationship.

5. What is required of our team?

Setting expectations about what the content agency will expect from your team – in order to deliver the results they promise – is key.

How much do they want you to participate? What types of reviews and approvals are required? How does this process work? There is a lot to cover here.

Addressing this before you choose to move forward with the agency will help you avoid more difficult conversations in the future.

6. What industries do you specialize in?

While you are searching for agencies, it is essential to consider their expertise. Some claim it’s a jack of all trades, but that’s not always the best thing.

In fact, many times this is a red flag. Rather than trying to be good at everything, content marketing agencies that find what they’re good at and stick with tend to be more successful at delivering quality content to their clients.

An agency that already has a solid understanding of your industry will ultimately be easier to work with.

They’ll have an understanding of your pain points and what resonates with your audience, in order to craft a content strategy tailored to your target audience.

They will have tested strategies in your industry and learned from past successes and even failures, which can help you avoid making the same mistakes.

For agencies that claim to have expertise in your field, feel free to ask them for case studies and examples of achieving similar goals to the ones you set.

7. How will the project be managed?

No matter the size of the agency, this question is essential to ask. Once you sign the contract, many agencies will turn the software over to a general project manager or account manager who has very limited experience.

A good agency will have a content marketing expert who handles your program. If not, you may want to reassess before drafting contracts.

Having an experienced content manager involved in your project strategy is absolutely essential to laying a solid foundation and achieving your goals.

It is also important to understand how the writing team is organized. Will you have a dedicated team of writers on your project? Or will the book rotate? If you like or dislike the way a particular person writes, is there any flexibility to work with them in one form or another?

Staff turnover is a real challenge for agencies, so it’s also helpful to ask about writers’ qualifications. How many years of experience do they have? Are they technical writers?

If there are constantly new writers on your project, maintaining a consistent writing tone and style can become an issue with many others.

It’s also a good idea to inquire about the calling process – how often will you speak with the agency and what tools.

8. Can you share proof of results?

This is something I briefly mentioned above but it deserves a deeper discussion. When evaluating an agency, don’t just ask for examples of their work. Demand real results, too.

If the agency doesn’t have proof of the results, this is an easy way to rule them out. On the other hand, if the agency can share results similar to those you expect – whether it’s traffic, conversions, keywords, or all of the above – it will give you confidence in your decision.

It probably goes without saying that you should take the time to research the case studies they have available on their website. But they should have more evidence in their back pockets too – screenshots from Google Analytics, testimonials, etc.

9. What types of content do you create?

To be honest, this is kind of a trick question. But it is still necessary to ask.

A quality content marketing agency should be able to provide you with many different types of content including general blog posts, thought leadership articles, sales collateral, glossary pages or some kind of meta-based content, and premium content assets such as e-books and papers. white, and more.

Even if you have another hand in the content creation process, if the agency can’t provide you with any of these types of assets, that’s a little worrying.

Different types of content will generalize different things, and knowing that an agency can provide you with the content you need to reach your goals is key.

10. What tools do you use?

This is one of my favorite questions to ask – not just in content marketing discussions but to make any hiring decisions. It’s a great way to check their level of experience, as well as discover new tools in the space.

For example, if you hire someone to do SEO and they don’t mention SEMrush, Ahrefs, or Moz as one of their go-to tools, they probably won’t be a good fit for the role.

One of the many benefits of working with a content agency is access to specialized tools that may not already be in your MarTech suite. It is also important for reporting purposes.

Choosing an agency that uses the best tools for the job will help ensure that your investment is worth it. It’s also a great way to help leading agencies stand out from the rest.

11. What will it cost?

Last but not least, you obviously need to understand the investment required of your business.

Keep in mind the popular saying, “You get what you pay for.” The cheapest proposition does not mean it is the right choice for your business.

In fact, if it’s priced too low, you might want to go back to the drawing board.

You can bring it to the agency’s attention and ask them directly why it’s more affordable than others – how can they keep prices down and are you putting content quality at risk because of that?

If nothing else, you should do some checking and research yourself to make sure you’re not completely wasting marketing money.

At the same time, that doesn’t mean the most expensive proposition is the way to go either. Use all of the research and examinations you have done during this process to come to the best decision.

Final thoughts

Remember that part of making this decision will require using your own judgment and trusting your intuition. Some considerations you may not be able to bring up directly during the sorting process and need to do the digging yourself.

One of the most important things – do they practice what they preach?

An easy way to tell if a content marketing agency is full of it (for lack of a better phrase) is by looking at their content. It is safe to assume that they provide the same quality of content as they have on their website to their customers.

Is it up to your standards?

If you need more validation, ask them if they can provide you with a reference, so you can hear directly from the customer.

By asking the questions outlined in this article, we hope that you will find the right content marketing agency and partner for your business. Good luck in your search!

More resources:

  • Top 10 business benefits of content marketing
  • The difference between content marketing and content strategy
  • Content Marketing: The Ultimate Guide for Beginners

Featured image: Shutterstock / View Apart

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