You just got funding and you’re looking to scale your business with content marketing.
Or perhaps you tried working with a content marketing agency before but had a bad experience. And now you’re wondering what you missed while vetting the agency.
Not knowing what to look for when hiring a content marketing agency can be the difference between a lousy experience and dollars wasted—or an exhilarating experience and a whole lot of ROI.
One common mistake many SaaS companies make is being unable to tell the difference between a vendor and a partner. So they often fall hard for vendors—but that’s the wrong choice.
A vendor is a content marketing agency that puts their business goals over your audience and content marketing goals. It’s hyper-focused on sealing the deal and churning out articles without taking the time to understand your brand, audience, or product. As a result, the agency produces poor-quality content that yields—you guessed it—poor results.
A partner, on the other hand, is a customer-obsessed agency that puts you and your audience at the center of everything they do. From research to strategy to content creation to distribution, this kind of agency finds a way to align your customer needs and your business goals (as well as theirs). Everyone wins.
However, not all partners are meant for you.
Some may not have expertise in your niche or may not offer the services you need. So hiring them won’t be the best use of your budget, even if they have a solid approach. You need to find “The One”—the agency that understands you, offers the services you need, and ultimately shows you content marketing ROI.
Here are five questions to ask while hiring a content marketing agency so you find the right fit and make the right choice.
5 Questions You Should Ask When Hiring a Content Marketing Agency
1. Is the Agency a Jack of All Industries or a Master of Your Industry?
If you had a toothache that just wouldn’t go away, who would you visit: a general practitioner or a dentist? I bet you’d choose the dentist over a generalist, because the dentist has the expertise to solve your problem.
Similarly, you should choose an agency with proven expertise—one that has helped companies in your industry get results from their content marketing investment.
For example, Foundation Marketing focuses on helping B2B and SaaS companies build their content marketing engines, sometimes from the ground up. We only accept clients within our area of expertise because we’re better positioned to help them hit their goals. Many reputable agencies operate similarly, specializing in specific industries.
Here are three ways to uncover whether an agency is well-versed in your industry:
✅ Check the website to see if the agency has a clear value proposition that outlines the industries it serves. Does it use terminology that’s common in your industry or note areas of focus that make sense for your industry?
✅ Look for a little social proof. Check out case studies, testimonials, or partner logos to see who the agency has worked with.
✅ Ask the agency when you talk with them. Some agencies sign NDAs with clients that keep them from revealing the identity of brands they work with. This prevents them from highlighting clients on their sites or social feeds but it shouldn’t necessarily rule them out as options for you. These agencies should still be able to share broad information about the kinds of companies they serve.
2. Do They Have Proven Experience With the Services You Need?
After checking the industry box, the next step is to see if the agencies you’re considering have experience with the specific service you need.
For example, some agencies specialize in production—they can write you a blog post but won’t be much help with strategy. Others can do everything from creating a strategy to publishing a blog post, but they may not understand distribution.
You’ll want to confirm what services the agency offers and ask what retainer or package options are available so you don’t invest in services you don’t need. For example, if you don’t need a content strategy but need content distribution services, the agency may provide the service a la carte.
Finally, you should be careful about going in too hot too fast. You want to ensure the agency delivers on their initial promise first before expanding the scope of the project. So make sure you and the agency understand the scope of the project. Determine how much involvement you need from the agency at every step, and communicate it clearly.
3. Do They Try to Determine Client Fit Before Jumping to Take Your Offer?
Client fit is one of the most important ways to tell if you should partner with an agency.
Your ideal agency should be vetting you as much as you’re vetting them. If the agency comes across as desperate or willing to peddle just about any service to make a few extra bucks, that’s a sign it isn’t concerned with client fit.
Why is that a problem? Because an agency that isn’t concerned with client fit often won’t do the due diligence necessary to understand you and help you hit your content marketing goals.
Here’s how to tell if an agency has your best interests at heart:
- Do they offer a free discovery or consultation call?
- Are they asking questions about your company and marketing history—or are they interested in pitching you and telling you how great they are?
- Are they trying to help you clarify and determine your goals?
- Do they offer different service options based on needs, or are they trying to sell you a one-size-fits-all package?
- Do they have the resources and capacity to meet your needs?
Keep in mind that just because the discovery call is free doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be valuable. It’s a peek into the potential of your business relationship, so be on the lookout for insights or ideas that show your potential partner has the expertise you need.
Here are some questions an astute agency might ask you during discovery:
- What are your goals for investing in content marketing?
- What does content marketing success look like to you? What are some examples of content marketing you’re a fan of?
- Have you worked with an agency before?
- What worked well with the last agency and what didn’t?
- What’s your preferred method of communication?
These are sample questions that show the agency is invested in helping you find the right solution for your needs. If they aren’t a fit, don’t hesitate to ask if they can refer you to another agency who can serve you better.
4. Are They Asking About Your Existing Strategy?
Your strategy is a blueprint that details:
✅ Everything you know about your target audience
✅ Everything you know about your competitors and how you’re working to stand apart from them
✅ Your company and/or departmental goals—and how you plan to hit those goals
✅ The metrics you use to measure success
If the agency jumps into creating a content calendar or blog posts without asking if you have an existing strategy, that’s a red flag. Any agency worth its salt should ask for your existing strategy. They may also recommend revisions or updates.
The agency will also likely ask to see your:
- Style guides
- Messaging frameworks
- Customer journey maps
- Buyer personas
Any internal documentation that helps the agency learn more about your brand, product, and audience will be of interest to them. These documents will help them ensure they’re creating content that hits the mark.
5. Are Analytics and Reporting Part of Their Package?
Great content marketing goes beyond research, strategy, creation, and distribution. It also includes analytics and reporting. You can’t manage or improve what you don’t measure.
Analytics are key to ensuring you’re getting your money’s worth from the investment. You need an agency that knows the value of tracking performance and measuring the metrics that matter so you know what’s working and what isn’t. You want to ensure the agency you hire does regular reporting and works hard to improve the results.
The best way to find out if reporting is a priority is to ask the agency for specific results it’s gotten for other clients. Look for metrics that can be tied to ROI—such as qualified leads, conversions, and customer lifetime value—rather than vanity metrics like impressions.
Hire a Content Marketing Partner, Not a Vendor
As you shop around, remember to clarify the expertise, approach, and results of any potential agency. To recap, here are five factors that will help you hire the right content marketing agency:
- The agency has proven expertise in your industry
- The agency has the resources and services you need
- The partnership feels like a fit on both sides
- The agency wants to support your strategy (or help you create one!)
- ROI is evident through tracking and reporting
When you find an agency that checks these boxes, stick with ‘em.