10 questions B2B companies should ask before selecting a content marketing service provider

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By Alexandra Reid

It’s all over the headlines: B2B businesses are investigating and investing in content marketing en masse.

In fact, B2B marketers are employing an average of eight different content marketing tactics to achieve their goals and are spending more than a quarter of their budgets on content marketing. As a content marketer myself, I understand the appeal and regard it as a superb marketing option for authority-based businesses and for any company for which establishing thought leadership is a critical marketing objective.

But, as I have argued before with regards to social media marketing, marketers have a way of putting the pressure on businesses to adopt (supposedly) new practices. Content marketing done right can be expensive and it isn’t for everyone. Businesses must take a step back, do their research and ask the right questions before diving in headfirst. This is especially important for content marketing because its success rests entirely on the quality of the content produced and how it is shared with the target audience.

If you’re a B2B business seeking content marketing services, here are some questions you should ask, after doing your own research, to ensure you select the right people for the job:

1. Why do I need content marketing?

If the answer is “because everyone is doing it,” run for the hills. The answer should include details on your business, what you are already doing right and how content marketing could support those existing initiatives, details about your industry, what your competitors are doing (if anything), a clear description of your target audience and how you would reach them through content marketing, how content marketing could elevate your business into a thought leadership position, and specifically what you should see as a result of your investment.

2. How have you been successful in content marketing?

Ask for client case studies or specific examples of how content marketing worked for the agency or consultant in question.

3. Can I see some writing examples?

Ask for blog posts, whitepapers, ghostwritten articles, and other content that could demonstrate writing proficiency. Look at the quality of writing itself. While it’s not necessary to look at the specific industry areas the writers have focused on in the past, look closely at style — if you need a solid technical writer, it’s probably not the best decision to hire a fashion reviewer. If you are outsourcing these activities, the writers you hire should be able to learn the details of your industry quickly and mine the internal resources of your business for more in-depth knowledge. That they can write, have the right style, and know what makes for good content should be your primary concerns.

4. Can you define the scope of work?

All content marketing agencies and consultants have different processes and internal capacities for workload. Ask about your responsibilities, what the agency/consultant will take on and overall scope of work.

5. What will you include in the content marketing strategy?

While the scope of work lays out responsibilities, asking about the content marketing strategy will give you a good idea of what it is you are purchasing. While practices may be similar, no two strategies should be completely alike. Ensure what you receive is tailored to the specific needs of your business.

6. How will you promote my content?

This information should be included in the content marketing strategy, but it’s good to get a clear understanding of how your content will be distributed before signing a contract. You should ask: what channels will be used and why, how often will content be posted, how will my accounts be managed, how will my content be managed and how will the agency/consultant ensure my target audience is seeing my content?

7. What is your knowledge in SEO?

This is part of the promotion process. In addition to social media accounts, how will content be created for search engine optimization? Does the agency/consultant have specific knowledge in this area, or have a specialist on call to ensure best practices are being followed? Great content should speak for itself in search engine rankings, but there should be some strategy in place to ensure it receives the best ranking possible.

8. What is your lead nurturing process?

Once your audience sees your content, how will they be led through the sales funnel? If your agency/consultant cannot link their efforts back to leads and sales, run for the hills.

9. How will you measure success?

The definition of success in content marketing can be very broad, depending on your goals, which should be established at the outset of your program. What is your agency/consultant’s definition of success, and what is the measurement process to determine success?

10. What is your management style?

Content marketing programs are for the long haul. Can you see yourself working with these people for a year or more? You should look for an agency/consultant that pushes back. While they are entirely on your side, they should be confident enough in their abilities that they should voice their opinions, tell you when you’re wrong, and send content back edited and full of red ink without remorse.

But that’s just my opinion. What do you think?

/// COMMENTS

One Comment »
  • Nick Stamoulis

    June 20, 2012 12:04 pm

    There are lots of great content writers out there. There are also lots of bad ones. Of course, the better ones are more expensive but it’s worth the investment. These people are writing on behalf of your brand. You want it to be written well and speak to your target audience. It’s important to get writing samples and speak to the writer about their process beforehand.

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