Seventy years ago, the marketing world was best represented by the sprawling advertising agencies of Madison Avenue in New York. More than just a TV show, these Mad Men were real-life experts who married smart business acumen with powerful creative to define an entire industry using the tools of their era. That meant beautiful billboards, well-produced TV spots, compelling radio commercials, and all of the art and copy that made the magazine ads of the era famous.
Fast forward to the 2020s, and those Mad Men still exist in some shape or form—but they’ve long since been joined by the essential content marketing. The digital world shapes so much of the average consumer’s daily experience that all the attention those magazine pages once drew has gone online. Today, content marketing agencies help produce the blogs, social media posts, YouTube channels, and other owned digital media platforms today’s marketers rely on to find and connect with their ideal customers. And while many of the top-performing brands today have learned to build their own creative content marketing teams in-house, you’d be hard pressed to find any well-oiled marketing operation that doesn’t rely on at least one content marketing agency to supplement, support, or take the lead in the important work of content marketing.
In fact, some estimates from groups like Digital Remedy put the number of ad agencies working in content marketing today over 13,000 in the United States alone. Where there’s a gold mine, there’s usually a gold rush to follow, and it’s no surprise that the ever-growing field of content marketing has attracted advertising stalwarts and new innovators alike to set up shop and get in on the action.
Here’s everything you need to know about content marketing agencies, how they work, and how to tell if you need one.
What are examples of content marketing?
First things first: What are some examples of content marketing? Not all marketing is content marketing, after all, and if we’re exploring the concept of a content marketing agency, it’s important to distinguish the tactics that qualify as true content marketing versus other elements of a robust marketing strategy.
Generally speaking, content marketing is largely a facet of digital marketing, in which interconnected pieces of content provide your target customers with valuable content at each step of their journey towards making a purchase. These pieces help to answer high-level questions, provide authoritative insights, and offer practical solutions to the same sorts of challenges your brand hopes to help your customers solve.
This can include (but is not limited to):
Any one of these types of content is a good example of content marketing; as long as a message your brand has published aims to empower, inform, inspire, or educate your target customers, it’s doing the work of content marketing.
What is a content marketing agency?
A content marketing agency is a specialized marketing services firm that provides technical and creative support for brands’ content marketing campaigns. With the advent of the social media era, many existing marketing agencies converted to content marketing agencies or at least added common content marketing services to their offerings to support the growing demand for quality content. There are many different types of content marketing agencies, each with its own unique focuses and strengths, including:
- SEO Agency: SEO agencies represent the analytical side of content marketing, leading the charge in reviewing consumer insights and analytics data in order to make recommendations for content topics. These agencies might also offer link building services in order to drive more traffic to key pieces of content and increase those content pieces’ authority in the eyes of search engines. Additionally, SEO agencies tend to handle technical SEO concerns like page load times, which can have a direct impact on the impact and reach of creative assets like blog posts.
- Creative Content Agency: Creative content agencies are the right-brain counterparts to SEO agencies, offering the creative muscle that fuels content marketing campaigns. These agencies might be full-service with their creative team, offering copywriters, designers, photographers, video producers, and audio engineers to help their clients produce any and all content needed for a given campaign. There are also many creative content agencies that specialize in one creative field; it’s common to encounter content writing agencies or design shops that can fill one need for your team.
- Digital Advertising Agency: Advertising is an example of outbound marketing, interruptive marketing tactics that seek to capture a customer’s attention with quick, direct messaging. Advertising also has a key role to play in the inbound marketing work of content marketing. In order to make sure your content pieces are being seen by the customers you hope to reach, you might enlist the services of a digital marketing agency that specializes in social media and search engine advertising. Though these agencies do work that doesn’t qualify as content marketing, they can play a central role in developing and executing advertising campaigns on social networks and search engine display networks.
- Full-Service Content Marketing Agency: Finally, there are many agencies that offer this complete suite of services or can act as a managed services provider to bring the necessary players to the team and manage them in one unified content marketing. That might be an agency that bills itself as a “content marketing agency,” or it could be an SEO firm that also enlists the help of creative content and digital advertising partners to execute on their recommendations.
Each of these types of content marketing agency is in effect an example of a digital marketing agency business model, though they might not operate in the exact same way. It’s common for a larger brand to employ the services of several of these agencies filling specialized roles to handle SEO, content creation, and digital ad management. In some cases, a single full-service content marketing agency can handle the work of the whole spectrum.
Is content marketing expensive?
Digital marketing can command massive budgets, but when done right, it produces a crystal-clear return on investment (ROI) that will help your brand strike the right balance between the costs and benefits of your content marketing campaigns. Depending on the size of your company, your physical location, the location of the content marketing agencies you work with, and the competition in your market, the costs of content marketing can vary so widely that it’s near impossible to report an “average” cost.
For example, a small services company with a staff of four earning $500,000 in annual revenue might dedicate $5,000 a month towards content marketing initiatives. That’s plenty to pay for the services of a content marketing agency and costs for advertising and software tools needed to pull off effective campaigns. A multinational firm with thousands of employees and a massive marketing staff may work with many content marketing agencies and spend millions on content development, staff salaries, advertising, and content marketing tools. On average, companies spend about 20-30% of their total marketing budget on content marketing. Those brands that are most successful with content marketing allocate closer to 40% of their total marketing dollars to the discipline.
Okay, so what if you don’t exactly have a marketing budget in mind? The good thing about content marketing is it’s easily scalable. Starting small by hiring a content marketing agency to produce a few blog posts a month and to push that content out on social media and email platforms can help to build an effective foundation without breaking the bank. And consider this: inbound marketing activities like content marketing tend to cost 40% less than outbound marketing—and can produce as many as three times the leads.
If you want clarity around the real costs of content marketing, shop around or ask your preferred digital marketing agency for a price list pdf that breaks down their costs for the variety of services they provide. That can help you to identify your top-priority tactics and focus spend where you believe it will have the biggest impact.
One way to control costs and better understand your ROI is to make sure you’re tracking your content marketing efforts relentlessly. As you invest in content pieces and strategies to promote those pieces and capture your audiences’ attention, set key performance indicators (KPIs) such as a target number of new leads generated in a month. Make sure you have a reliable cross-channel analytics tool so you can track your leads’ movement through the different elements of your content marketing funnel—like your social profiles, email lists, blog posts, and lead gen forms—and identify which channels are contributing the most to your overall sales or generated leads.
Do I need a content marketing agency?
Depending on how you decide to organize your content marketing team, you may or may not need the help of a content marketing agency (or more). It’s entirely possible for a brand to build out their own fully-functioning content marketing department—but there are many facets to content marketing that generally require several different specialists to complete the picture. What kind of help you’ll need from a content marketing agency will depend on your answers to these important questions:
- Can my brand develop effective content strategies?
Are you experienced in developing comprehensive content marketing strategies? It’s not enough to just start writing blogs and hope it “works.” Each element of a content marketing strategy has to work together to lead prospective customers from a new awareness of your brand through the consideration stage of the buyer’s journey all the way to a purchase decision. The overarching strategy also needs to be guided by a solid understanding of your audience and their motivations. This is typically represented by SEO research designed to help you understand what your customers are looking for and how to get their attention.
- Does my team have the technical skills needed to manage and implement digital platforms?
Content marketing requires something of an orchestral conductor to make sure every piece is playing in concert. Setting aside the job of managing marketing creatives and other project stakeholders, a fully-functioning content marketing operation will require the use of several digital platforms. You’ll need a website you can easily customize to publish new content, add lead generation forms, and more. You will need a working knowledge of various social media platforms or social media scheduling and publishing tools, as well as email marketing platforms, SEO research tools, analytics tools, and more. Some integrated platforms like Hubspot bring many of these disparate pieces together in a single place but make no mistake: managing content marketing software is a job in and of itself.
- Does my team have the ability and capacity to write the necessary content?
While there are plenty of tools to help marketing writers understand how to reach their target audiences, there’s one element of content writing that technology hasn’t changed: it takes time and skill to do well. Experienced writers can deliver large volumes of content quickly, but they come at a premium. On the other hand, it can take inexperienced writers a lot longer to write the content you need to fuel your content marketing engine, and that can eat up a lot of bandwidth. How much available time and energy does your team have to write necessary content with consistency?
- Does my team have the design skill needed to complete our content marketing campaigns?
Everything we said about content writing can also be said for design work or any other type of creative work. Do you have the internal resources you need to lay out whitepapers, develop social media graphics, produce videos, or do any of the other creative projects you’ll need to complete?
- Does my team have the bandwidth to review, approve, publish, and analyze content marketing tactics?
Getting the creative work is only the beginning of truly executing a successful content marketing campaign. Key stakeholders will need to review and edit all creative assets to get them ready for distribution. That can take some time, as well, as you work to publish and schedule content across your various digital marketing platforms. Finally, when that content is out in the world, you’ll need to watch it closely to understand what works, what doesn’t, and where you should invest your time, energy, and budget moving forward.
- Does my brand have the budget needed to hire internally for all of these skills?
While content marketing agencies are by no means the “budget option” for filling key roles on your content marketing team, they can make sense financially when your brand is not ready to take on the overhead associated with salaries and benefits for the internal specialists you’ll need to get everything done.
If you answered “no” to any one of these questions, you may need a content marketing agency. The more “yes” answers you gave, however, the more specialized a role your content marketing agency partners can play. If you’ve got everything covered but the bandwidth to write truly engaging marketing copy, then you may just need to find a reliable copywriting agency. If your team can take care of creative internally, you might benefit from the guidance of an SEO agency to give that team the focus it needs to create huge marketing wins.
Power Your Content Marketing Agency Work with DemandJump
No matter your experience level, the toughest nut to crack in digital marketing remains the desires of those audiences you’re working so hard to reach. The same may be true for your chosen content marketing agency. There’s so much data out there thanks to search engines and social media platforms that it can be difficult for even the most mature of content marketing agencies to cut through the noise. That requires real, actionable insights into what motivates your best customers—and what your best opportunities are to capture their attention through compelling content.
At DemandJump, we partner with internal marketing teams and content marketing agencies alike to provide practical content marketing insights via our cutting-edge technology. We tap into the top questions and phrases your audiences are using to find answers to their questions. That gives you a view of the total content landscape so you can see exactly where you stand compared to your competitors in capturing valuable, qualified traffic. With our powerful consumer journey insights, smart content outlines, and cross-channel analytics, you can empower yourself and your content marketing agency partners with clear direction for your brand’s content marketing campaigns.
Ready to see how we can transform the work of your content marketing agency? See our platform yourself with a free account with DemandJump.