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Content Marketing Service: A Guide to Evaluating Options

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Content Marketing Service: Finding the Right Solution

Just because you can take your own temperature doesn’t mean you can diagnose your own illness. Just because you can spot a leak in the roof, doesn’t mean you have the skills to repair it to prevent further damage. And just because you know you need a specific type of content marketing, doesn’t mean you are in the best position to create and promote that content in-house.

Using content marketing services to supplement the capabilities of a marketing department is a strategy that benefits business of all sizes, in all industries. There is a lot of creativity that goes into marketing, and even when your in-house staff is talented enough to do it all, that doesn’t mean they should. Everything from burnout to missed details and opportunities can start to manifest when a marketing team lacks the creative or administrative support they need. 

So, you might choose to work with a full-service marketing agency to take all the work of creating content off your plate. Or you can call on a specialist team or well-reputed freelancer to support you in one key area. 

But how do stakeholders know when a content marketing vendor is going to be a good addition? There are some basic elements of content marketing service that should be considered as you start the process of vetting providers. These range from the type of service you really need to pay for, to how you know the service provider can fit the bill. 

This guide will help you enlist the best content creation services for you, the ones that will move the needle for your business and make life easier for your team. 

The Basics of Content Marketing Service

What does content marketing service include? There are generally four main parts of the content marketing process that can be outsourced to a service provider:

    • Content Strategy transforms business objectives into a plan for the creation, publication, and promotion of content that will help achieve those objectives.
    • Content Creation is the process of writing, designing, or filming the content itself, as well as editing and revising the content through feedback.
    • Content Promotion means ensuring the content is distributed on the channels decided in the strategy, like email, social media, or print media, and that paid promotion is carried out successfully.
    • Content Analytics is the effort of going back over the performance of content to judge what has performed well and what hasn’t, and then using that to inform the strategy, starting over again at the beginning. 

However, that isn’t to say that every content marketing service will specialize in all four of these areas. Full-service content marketing agencies will certainly be able to support you in all of these areas, from strategy to execution and back around again. But if you have a marketing team in-house, you might not need or want that level of overlap.

That’s where a more specialized content creation or content marketing team may enter the picture. Perhaps you just need the help of a content creator like a videographer, writer, or designer. Or, you might have creation on lock but need a specialist to help you manage social media and email marketing. Maybe you can handle everything but the analytics—in which case, you might do better to turn to a tool like DemandJump rather than a person. 

Regardless of whether your marketing need is general or specific, there’s no doubt a content service professional or company that can handle it. In fact, you’re likely to find many options, sparking a vetting process as you decide which vendor to partner with.  

Qualities of Top Content Creation Services

Whether the content service provider is helping you with strategy, content creation, content management, or all of the above, there are key qualities to look for as a signal the relationship will go well:

    • Critical Thinkers: Is the individual or team skillfully analyzing and assessing your needs? Are they self-monitoring and self-disciplining when it comes to the scope, cost, and timeline of their recommendations? Are they offering unbiased advice? The ability to think about the project in an objective and critical way—including their own performance and input—is an essential quality to any good collaborator.
    • Good Listeners: Is the individual or team reacting to your statements and explanations by asking more exploratory questions? Are they repeating back to you what they have heard to confirm understanding? Are they interrupting you? The implications of listening go beyond your initial meeting to signal how well they will meet your needs, how strongly they will prioritize your vision for the content, and how well they will listen to your audiences to improve performance. 
    • Receptive to Feedback: Does the individual or team ask questions to clarify and deconstruct high-level feedback? Do they say thank you for the opportunity to improve? Do they ask for an opportunity to follow up later? While taking feedback, especially critical feedback, isn’t always easy, you want to work with creative partners who are willing to learn and adapt. You may not be able to judge this until the time comes to give the vendor feedback.
    • Detail-Oriented: Is the individual or team organized in the way they approach their work? Do they meet deadlines? Do they continually repeat small errors that you have commented on several times? This is another quality that may show up as you get to know the vendor better, but for their presence as an extension of your team to actually improve efficiency, this is a necessary quality. 
    • Impressive Samples: In addition to the attitude and demeanor of the individual or team, consider how their portfolio of samples align with your needs. Is all their work radically different than what you need or want, and you are expecting them to adapt? Alternatively, will what they produce for you look just like what they have done for every other client? Make sure their samples are close to what you want, but that there’s also still room to be unique. 

Some of these qualities are values you may already prioritize internally in your own business operations. It’s essential that whatever content marketing service you choose to partner with, you feel confident they will fit well into your workflow and operations, not expect you to change all your processes and adapt to the way they like to work. While every good collaboration means compromise on both sides, as the client, you are certainly justified in expecting these qualities from any marketing vendor you work with. 

What to Look for in Visual Content Creation Services

Visuals have become an essential part of content marketing strategies. From 2016 to 2018, there was a 40% increase in the number of marketers using visuals in 90-100% of their content. This could be anything from a photo to a video, an infographic to memes and gifs. Whatever visual content aligns with your strategy best, choosing to call on a visual content creation service means you need the visuals to be high-quality and performative. Here are some questions you should ask a visual marketing vendor:

    • How Will Stock Images and Footage Be Used? Many graphic designers and video producers rely in part on stock images, graphics, and video. It’s important to understand from the beginning how these pre-created resources will be used by your vendor. This might include competitor research to make sure their visual content creators aren’t using the same stock. Also, you should discuss how these resources will fit into the budget and who is responsible for the costs. 
    • Do They Understand Image Copyright and Compliance? As a quality assurance step, make sure the content creator understands basic image copyright, as well as any compliance concerns that are specific to your industry. This may include making sure they have business insurance that includes coverage for intellectual property liability, to make sure you are protected if they break one of these rules. 
    • How Do They Ensure Cross-Channel Quality? Videos, graphics, and images can look different on different devices, web browsers, or operating systems. Asking the visual content creator how they ensure cross-channel quality is a way to determine their experience, as well as set expectations with them about how and where their work will be used. 

Essentially, you are looking for a visual content creator who has your brand’s best interest at heart. From making sure your content is unique and meets your expectations to keeping you safe under the law, it’s their job to make sure your brand makes a stunning visual impression. 

What Should Social Media Services Include?

What services does a social media marketing agency offer? These agencies offer everything from helping you determine the best social media channels for your marketing, to account and page creation, content publishing, and analytics and reporting. Depending on the scope of services, they may even write posts for your and manage the community that grows around your content. Social media community management are things like responding to comments, sharing the posts of others in your industry, and simply being active and engaged. But with lots of marketing agencies offering social media among many other services, it’s important to ask key questions like these:

    • How Will Their Social Media Services Help You Grow? This question puts the vendor in a position to show off their experience and explain back to you how social media will fit into your content marketing strategy. While there is no one right answer, you should be hearing something that connects back to your business goals. If you want to grow sales and they aren’t talking about how social will help you achieve that, they might not have the right idea about the situation. 
    • How Connected Are They to Influencers in Your Industry? Influencer marketing is a growing tool in the content marketer’s arsenal, especially on channels like Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok. If you plan to include those in your strategy, this question becomes essential. Connections with influencers will help your social media develop organic appeal and become more accepted by audiences.  
    • How Would They Handle a Social Media Crisis? It’s also important to know what the social media services provider will do if a crisis occurs related to your content. Whether it’s a troll being rude in the comments, an article that goes viral for all the wrong reasons, or even a cybersecurity issue, asking them how they will handle it is smart. Not only does this let you know a little about how they do business, it also shows you how much responsibility for the outcomes they assume for themselves, or send back to you.

Social media management is something that can be considered easy, but actually takes a lot of time and attention to be successful at. Services should include not just the practical work of posting and curating your content, but also an emotional sense of stewardship over the image of your brand—and a commitment to improving your relationships with current and potential customers.

What to Expect from Website Content Creation Services

Building impressive web pages and keeping them updated is one part of marketing that exists between the technical and creative. Website content creators almost always share advice about the site structure, helping you decide what should be on the home page, what other main pages to create, and how the smaller pieces of information can fit in. Here are some of the main questions you should ask a web content creation service as you decide if they are the right fit to help you build a website:

    • What is the Scope and How Many Revisions are Included? Some website content creation services will help with the writing of the web content, while others may want you to deliver the content and allow them to put the work in layout and get it live. Regardless of which type you are meeting with, make sure you understand how many rounds of feedback you will get to provide, and what the process is for taking your revisions into account. It’s also worth noting, just because they can write the content, doesn’t mean it will be the best possible option. 
    • What Kind of Research Will They Do About Your Business? This is another question without a particular right answer, but there should at least be some type of answer. In order to know your website will achieve your goals, the content creator may need to research elements like your reputation in the industry, your competitors’ web presences, and even talk with key internal stakeholders to make sure they fully understand what your business does. Only through these explorations and others will they know for sure they are creating your best possible website. 
    • Which Content Management System (CMS) Do They Use? It’s important to know what will be going on behind the scenes of your website. A majority of sites online today use the WordPress CMS, but others may be recommended by your content service provider. It’s important to ensure you or someone on your team also has the understanding to update, change, or improve the website as needed without incurring extreme additional costs from the vendor. 

Website content creation services can support your team in developing the site from beginning to end or come in as a valuable solution to a bottleneck if you’re creating lots of content, but it isn’t seeing the light of day. Whether these vendors help in a creative capacity, technical capacity, or both depends on the needs of your business. 

SEO Content Writing Services Explained

SEO content writing includes everything from web page copy, to blog posts, to social media posts, to back-end SEO concerns like alt text and metadata. While other content marketing service providers on this list may include writing in their arsenal, they may not be the best content writing services available for your industry. In situations where you know the writing of your content needs to be improved, ask these questions to test and evaluate the freelancers and writing agencies that come to the table:

Will They Audit or Edit Existing Content? Before talking about new content creation, it’s important to understand how the SEO writing service will engage with and potentially improve your existing content. They could review your library to see what can be combined, edited, or removed altogether—a process known as a content audit. Make sure it’s understood, if, when, and on what timeline they will make any changes to your current content. 

How Will Keywords for Content Be Chosen? The quality and readability of writing is important in content to engage your audiences, but your vendor also needs to think about search engine optimization. Take the time to explore not just what tools for SEO research they will use, but how they pick and choose keywords from the lists provided, and how often they will do new research to confirm the keywords are the right ones. 

How Do They Research the Target Audience? One of the most important things for a writer to know is the audience they are targeting. While you may be able to provide some audience research to the content writing vendor, it’s also fair to ask them how they will conduct audience research. This may take place before the writing, or after in the form of analytics that show the vendor which content is performing best. 

SEO content writing is a delicate balance of using keywords thoughtfully, to make the most of organic search opportunities while also creating readable content your audiences will value. As with website writing services, it’s important to define the feedback and revision process for content in addition to these other concerns. 

Invest Smarter in Content Marketing Services Through Data

Hiring any of these content marketing services represents an additional line item in the marketing budget that will need to be justified through improved ROI. That’s why it’s important to define the terms of the relationships early, set expectations, and provide the vendors with all the information they need to do the best job possible. 

We created the DemandJump platform to provide marketers and their teams with real-time insights into the state of content marketing in their industry. From the current top search terms and questions, to the competitor content that needs to be outranked, our easy-to-review dashboard puts all these insights together in real-time. DemandJump even integrates cross-channel analytics to let everyone see how well content is performing across the web, email, and social. DemandJump makes it easier for everyone involved in a brand’s marketing to do their job and understand how to do it better tomorrow. We invite you to try it for yourself - for free, and see just how much of a difference one week of insights could make for you.

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