Businesses of all sizes now use the internet as a weapon to gain more exposure than ever. However, they still need excellent content to outshine their competitors. Content writing services have proven their value so much that nearly every successful business has expanded its web reach by either hiring an experienced team of writers or outsourcing to one. Outsourcing content writing provides professionally written, well-optimised content for a fraction of what an in-house writing team would cost.
Deciding to hire a content writing agency is easier than finding the right one. Today, a significant industry challenge is that most digital media agencies, SEO firms and content marketing agencies recast themselves as content experts. How can businesses practically short-list a good agency amid the confusion?
Here are seven key considerations for choosing a content writing agency that will lead to collaboration for success.
Determining content needs
Businesses must do their homework first. Not all good agencies will be a good match for the business. Doing the initial introspection can save a lot of time.
Firstly, companies should set clear expectations about what they are trying to achieve through the content. That includes laying down the content goals, assessing key performance indicators and creating a brief that outlines their goals. Secondly, they should draft a list of competencies and assess the value additions of their internal staff. They can make a list of their key agency selection criteria and create a rating scale. Thirdly, they should measure and rank agencies based on this data.
After preparing a clear roadmap, the companies should research and ask their close network for recommendations, preferably based on first-hand experiences. It is then relevant to scour online platforms to find the best-in-class agencies.
Evaluating the agency’s content thoroughly
One of the first steps to access the potential of a content writing agency is to assess their content. Even before reaching out to them, one must read their website copy and blogs. One must also look for case studies that may showcase the agency’s problem-solving abilities for their clients. Another factor to look for is consistency in terms of the platforms they have chosen to share content. Having a sporadic presence on the web is a red flag as it reflects on their commitment to consistency.
A competent content writing agency will always show examples of relevant and specific subject matter. Understanding their content strategy will give a deeper insight into what they think and how they have translated their philosophy into creating high-performing content for their clients.
One should ask questions related to their writing style, adherence to a content style guide and their research methodology.
Assessing the skill set of the team handling the work
It is imperative to ask about the team that will handle the content and learn about their experiences and areas of expertise. A group of specialists working on the content, rather than one person handling it, should not just be an advantage but also a priority. Having a second or third eye to cross-check the content will leave little room for error.
Suppose there are several writers in a team handling different forms of content. In that case, one might ask the company for each individual’s portfolio to filter out the most suitable writers for the task. One must check if the team handling the content holds the expertise in the desired niche. The content team must understand the challenges customers face, the competitive situation and the specific industry dynamics to produce an ongoing stream of top-notch content.
Companies who continuously engage with an outsourced writing team must take the pains of knowing the individuals beyond their skills and ensure they are good at following instructions.
Verifying the credibility of the content writing agency
Most content writing agencies showcase a list of clients and testimonials on their websites. This helps to discern if they have worked with clients in similar industries or on projects of similar size.
When working with an agency with familiarity and prior success within a similar industry, it’s a big plus. In this case, one should ask for specific details about clients in similar industries.
Checking the client size is especially valuable for larger content projects and helps discern the content budget before approaching agencies vaguely.
If a company is looking for a long-term content partner, they must not hesitate to ask for a list of clients they may talk to to make an informed decision. Such an exercise will provide a more accurate and complete picture of the agency’s working style.
The agency will likely share a sanitised list of clients for which they produced successful results. One might tease out stories where the agency was not as successful and learn a few things about their potential shortcomings. An agency that is not afraid to talk about their mistakes and the lesson they learned is more dignified than the one that claims to have never failed at all.
Learning about the agency’s project management skills
One must ensure that the content writing agency practises good communication and client management. Communication, or the lack of it, can make or break any collaborative relationship. If the partner operates in a different time zone, one must know the degree of overlap in the working hours and work out the most convenient time to hand over work or hold meetings.
It is also a good idea to discuss the best communication channels, the typical response time and the standard project management tools to track the projects efficiently.
Determining the possibility of a long-term relationship
Any content writing agency can solve the immediate content needs of the company. However, content requirements evolve with time. A good content agency is willing to grow with its clients and guide them through growth phases.
One can gauge the way an agency approaches problems, whether they take accountability and help rectify errors. A good agency will provide a dedicated project manager as a single point of contact for queries, feedback and concerns.
One must focus on how much the agency is willing to build a genuine relationship with the company aside from the monetary benefit. A good measure would be a high client-retention rate.
Ultimately, the best collaborations evolve when both parties genuinely want to learn from each other, accept feedback humbly, see the positive results as a mutual win and view the partnership as a huge asset.
Evaluating the pricing based on the offered value
This one is a no-brainer. However, the aim should be to find a balance between cost and quality. One must steer clear from an agency that provides their service at the lowest comparative price because superior services cost higher than the average.
In the first place, businesses must evaluate and finalise the budget they are willing to allocate for the content project. That way, they will approach only those agencies with which they can realistically afford to work.
For an agile business, it is essential to know the cost of services the business may need in the future. Financial disputes can easily ruin the relationship with the partners in the long run, so it is best to get a comprehensive and detailed breakdown of the cost attached with every service. One must also ensure that there are no hidden costs attached while the agency documents every financial commitment.
In order to determine if the amount of money spent is proportional to the value that the content writing agency offers, one can start with a short project. It is wiser to test the waters.
Learning about the agency’s criteria for client selection
A crucial determinant is asking short-listed agencies how they select their clients. A sophisticated agency will always be willing to walk away from a deal that seems less than ideal. Like the company, a good agency also values solid partnerships and knows that short-term, contentious relationships damage the agency’s reputation and bottom line.
A good agency will not compromise its values by associating with a business that does not share them. One can observe if the agency seems equally interested in knowing about the business’ mission, vision and work ethics. Though companies want to take charge and share the overall vision, an agency that believes in its craft will take a stand to work with clients with a collaborative mindset.
One should steer clear of the agency that asks no questions and has all the answers before finding out the questions.
Hiring a content writing agency provides a valuable external perspective to a business. An outsourced agency does not have higher stakes and thus can be counted on for an honest opinion. Such a team will look at the content challenges with an unbiased view and draw in additional opportunities that the company may not otherwise leverage.
The bottom line for brands is to do their homework well and set the right expectations. One must consider the requirements of the strategic content plan and what that means in terms of skills.
Above all, let’s not rush the process of finding the right content partner. Asking a lot of questions, doing the due diligence, and above all, trusting one’s gut may pay off later. When two hardworking businesses come together, the outcome will be greater than the sum of its parts.