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Looking for content marketing services?  You’re in luck, because there’s no shortage of marketers willing to compose your next content plan. But how do you know which ones are worth hiring?

As content marketing continues to overtake traditional, interruption marketing, clients and consumers expect even better information from their favorite businesses. They want to be acknowledged, educated, surprised, and entertained—on the channels they prefer. And when they’re satisfied, they do all the selling for you. A great content marketing team will help you reach your target audience with share-worthy news and ideas.

If you’re looking for content marketing services, here are seven ways to find the right fit… and weed out the hucksters:

1. Review sample work (and self-promotions).

Okay, here comes the team from XYZ Marketing. Don’t just click through their portfolio and client list. You wouldn’t expect to see slapdash writing and lukewarm endorsements where the agency points its new business. So pull back the curtain, and stake out some of’s interior webpages, posts, educational offers and resources: content they’ve created to represent themselves. Are you blown away? Are you even mildly interested? Don’t assume you’re too new to judge…

2. …Assume you are always right.

Professionals like you, who are brilliant about technology, or finance, or whatever specific service you provide, sometimes back down from conversations about content. But remember that content marketing services are designed to attract, engage, and educate new customers, which is exactly what you are in this situation. As a prospective customer, you can’t be wrong about your impressions and criticisms. If you’re totally confused, disinterested, or turned off by the samples you’re reading/seeing, that’s all the background knowledge you need.

3. Ask about execution and strategy.

Some content marketing companies get into a groove that works well for them and their employees, but doesn’t necessarily address your business needs. And even though the plan sounds great—packed with a full social media schedule, regular blog posts, videos, white papers, etc.—it isn’t informed by your buyer personas, your customers’ buy cycle, your short and long-term goals. So ask about strategizing up front. There should be a clear-cut why behind every what in any proposed content initiative.

4. Ask about troubleshooting.

You don’t turn up the volume on a terrible song, just to see if you might like it played louder. And you don’t pump out more of the same content, if the message/medium isn’t getting any traction. Be leery of a marketing agency that’s all about ramping up content production, regardless of how (or if) your audience is interacting. Granted, you can’t predict how an agency will react before you’ve hired them. But you can ask about past experiences with underperforming content and ways the agency readdressed challenging KPIs.

5. Ask for brutal honesty.

When reviewing prospective marketing partners, it’s your right to be as fickle as a reality TV show bride. But sometimes it’s helpful to look outside your needs, and think about the project from your candidate’s perspective. Do they prefer free-reign accounts? In an ideal world, would they blow up your website and start from scratch? A good content marketing firm is not desperate for business. They’ll tell you which aspects of your business do or don’t fit their typical working style.

6. Give a test assignment.

Content marketing is a juggling act. Your content marketing services team shouldn’t drop the ball on SEO, brand building, thought leadership, prospect engagement, or client retention. Unfortunately, some agencies only bring one ball to the party.

If XYZ is selling you on—for example— their in-depth knowledge of Google algorithms or their widely successful infographics, ask for a specific example of how they’d accomplish something else you need created, something they haven’t been chatting up since you returned their phone call.  Be prepared to pay for their time and judge any test work with a grain of salt (they haven’t had much time to learn your focus or your voice).  Still, a test can help to convince you that an agency has multifaceted potential.

7. Go out for drinks.

This advice isn’t meant to undercut the importance of your marketing goals; it’s about judging chemistry. Content marketing services require a fair amount of give and take. You want to make sure you’re communicating with someone you actually like. Marketing partners are more likely to relax and show true colors outside of an office interview. Bonus: through casual conversation, you’ll learn more about content marketing in general, and be that much more prepared for your next candidate.

Still need to wrap your head around content marketing and why it matters?  Read 9 Things Your Website Is Doing to Drive Visitors Away. You may be surprised…

Free Download: 9 Things Your Website Is Doing to Drive Visitors Away

About the Author

Liz O'Neill
Liz O'Neill

Content marketing specialist (and current Director of Marketing at C&S Insurance), Liz O'Neill enjoys writing informative, engaging copy about pretty much anything—helping companies and their customers cut through all the digital noise; find each other faster; form deep, abiding relationships; and ride off into the sunset (while Instagramming the entire journey).

 Tags: Outsourced Marketing Content Marketing

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