To use a creative content agency or not—that is the question. Not everyone needs to, and it can be tough to decide. You’d think it would depend on your budget, but that’s not true. We’ve seen some very scrappy marketers build strong content operations, sometimes with only two people. We’ve also seen global brands with enormous departments struggle to succeed more than their tiny counterparts.
A creative content agency may help, but it really depends on your goals, your capabilities, and how you want to grow. If you’ve been toying with the idea of hiring a creative content agency or need a little backing to convince someone to let you do it, here are some things to think about before you pull the trigger.
First, Examine Your Operation
A healthy content marketing operation comes down to three things: your team, your resources, and your infrastructure. Sometimes you’re lacking in one or two of these areas (hopefully not all three). When you’re assessing your capabilities, you need to take an objective look at how you’re stacking up in these areas.
Your team: We’ve talked a lot about how to build a strong content marketing team. You need different people to manage many things. That can include a marketing leader, marketing manager, SEO expert, managing editor, copy editor, writer, designer, developer, distribution strategist, or more.
When we talk about teams, we don’t look at it through the lense of job titles but through the lense of job roles. One person may wear many hats (as every marketer does). What’s important is that the person in charge of that role has the capability and expertise to perform it well. According to a 2016 Content Marketing Institute report, 25% of marketers face knowledge gaps in their internal teams and 21% have trouble finding or training skilled content creators. Consider where your most pressing gaps may be.
Your resources: Resources can be time, money, energy, expertise, support, etc. It’s what you need to see things through and keep things running. According to the Content Marketing Institute report, 35% of marketers struggle with a lack of budget and 24% struggle to understand or choose technology.
Your infrastructure: No matter how large your budget or team, your infrastructure can have a huge effect on your success. If you’re siloed, overloaded, or inexperienced, your production pipeline may be halted or interrupted, preventing you from creating what you need.
5 Questions to Ask
As you assess your operation, ask yourself the following questions to determine whether or not extra support may be useful.
1) Is Your Content Working?
It seems like an obvious question, but it’s by far the most important. According to the Content Marketing Institute, 60% of marketers say creating enough engaging content is their biggest challenge.
Again, we’ve seen large operations flounder, and we’ve seen small operations nail their content. Size doesn’t matter. Results do. You may have a million-dollar budget and a well-documented content strategy, but if the stuff you’re producing just isn’t connecting and you don’t know why, an expert eye might help.
A creative content agency can help you regroup and re-strategize, spot opportunities, propose alternative solutions, or give you a game plan. Even if you plan to execute that plan in-house, they can still help stop the bleeding.
2) Do You Publish Consistently?
Churning out a decent volume of content consistently is also one of the biggest challenges for marketers. This happens for plenty of reasons. Sometimes brands are too ambitious; sometimes they just don’t have the resources or internal production processes. Regardless, it’s a problem. If you can’t maintain a steady cadence, you’ll be easily forgotten by the people you’re trying to reach.
No matter the root cause, a creative content agency can help you come up with a more manageable strategy or take some of the workload off your shoulders. Plus, they have a well-oiled production process, so they can share some of their best tips to help you make every deadline.
3) Are You Trying Something New?
There are many types of content to create, particularly visual formats. Infographics, interactives, video—it can be a lot. (Learn more about which visual formats are best to help you tell your story.) Sometimes you want to mix it up and experiment with a different type of content, as you certainly should from time to time. But if your designers are used to knocking out infographics and you suddenly want to dive into interactive design, they might be out of their league. Every type of format requires its own expertise. It’s not just about designing something; it’s designing it optimally, following best practices, and creating the most effective piece of content.
It’s always better to do something small well than something huge half-assed. If you’re trying something for the first time, it might be best to give it to a pro. Creative content agencies specialize in all sorts of content, so you can always find one to do it the right way.
4) Is There a Task You Hate?
For many of us, there are certain tasks that no matter how much time, money, or energy you have, you just hate to do it. You may wince at the idea of handing off a ton of work to a creative content agency. (It’s a natural reaction from the micromanager within us all.) But offloading some of the more pesky tasks can free you up to devote energy to bigger-picture things.
5) Is There an Area Where You Are Relatively Weak?
It’s hard to do everything well, and sometimes it’s hard to admit that we’re not as educated or skilled as we’d like to be in certain areas. Ego aside, it’s better to bring in reinforcements than stumble through stuff you’re not well equipped to complete. If there are things you know you need to do but haven’t had the time, energy, or brainpower to really invest in learning, it might be better to use an agency as an extension of your own team.
If You Need to Stay In-House…
If you and your team are doing fine with what you have, continue to challenge yourself to expand your knowledge, improve your skills, and create better content.
If You Need to Find Someone…
It’s important to find a creative content agency that will work as a true extension of your team—not as a replacement but as support to fill in the gaps and build on what you’re already doing. They should be able to execute your work, guide you where you need, and bring their own expertise to help you find the absolute best solutions for your communication problems.