Hiring a B2B Content Marketing Agency – Everything You Need to Know
Did you know that it takes 6 to 8 touches to generate a viable B2B sales lead?
You might be attracting traffic with PPC advertising. Still, without a well-researched content marketing strategy that educates your visitors and positions you as an authority, you won’t be able to convert them into leads and customers.
But here’s a common dilemma when building a content marketing strategy – go in-house or hire a B2B content marketing agency?
I always recommend partnering with a content marketing agency not because I own one but because it’s a specialized field that goes way beyond generic blog posts and SEO.
In this article, I’ll help you understand how content marketing works and why it is significantly more profitable in the long run to hire a B2B content marketing agency than building an in-house team.
Let’s get started.
What Is Content Marketing, And Why Is It Important?
Content marketing is a strategic approach that focuses on building brand loyalty and generating leads by publishing educational and authority building content in various formats (blogs, videos, emails, social media, etc.)
Unlike direct marketing, content marketing aims to establish your brand as an authority in your niche by answering the most common questions of your audience and dominating the search engine results for your target keywords with high-quality SEO-optimized content.
This content exists on multiple platforms such as your website, blog, and social media profiles. Similarly, content marketing also includes featuring your content on third-party platforms in the form of guest posts, interviews, press releases, expert quotes, brand mentions, and backlinks.
Apart from publishing, the primary goal of a content marketing strategy is to add users to your marketing funnel using lead magnets and calls to action. Converting visitors into subscribers allows you to send targeted emails with additional value and eventually persuade them to buy from you.
Research shows that 61% of US consumers have made a purchase because of a blog post. Moreover, 70% of consumers learn more about a brand from its content than ads.
Content Marketing Examples From B2B SaaS Companies
B2B SaaS companies have been heavily investing in content marketing over the last few years because its high-quality content helps them stand out in their niche, dominate their target keywords, and generate leads more cost-effectively.
HelpScout, a leading customer service and helpdesk product, is among the companies fully invested in content marketing.
HelpScout’s content has established it as an authority on customer service. As a result, it dominates some of the most competitive keywords in the customer service niche that drives thousands of visitors every month.
And to convert those visitors into leads, subscribers, and free trial users, HelpScout uses sign-up prompts and other types of CTAs throughout its content.
Freshbooks, a leading invoice tool for small businesses, is another excellent example of SaaS content marketing.
It has a huge library of blog content, eBooks, case studies, tutorials, and product-related articles that drive thousands of visitors to its website every month.
These are just a couple of examples out of the hundreds of SaaS companies using content marketing to grow their leads and customers.
In short, content marketing is a long-term marketing approach that keeps generating leads and customers for years. Unlike advertising, where you only generate leads when you spend money to run ads, content marketing creates a content ecosystem that builds your authority, nurtures leads, and drives sales on autopilot.
What Does A B2B Content Marketing Agency Do?
A B2B content marketing agency handles the complete management and execution of content marketing strategies for its clients.
The best content marketing agencies are run by seasoned content marketers, SEO experts, and PR professionals with years of experience in developing and executing complex content strategies.
Here are some of the core functions of a B2B content marketing agency.
1. Audience Research
Audience research is the foundation of all content marketing activities. Accurate and in-depth audience research allows you to create specific and high-quality content that addresses the right problems and gives your audience the answers they’re looking for.
The best B2B content marketing agencies spend a considerable portion of their client budgets on audience research. They use the following research methods to understand the core issues of your audience.
- Keyword research
- Competitor analysis
- Social listening
- Heat maps
- Review mining
- Customer interviews
Using these insights, they create buyer personas for various customer types to help them create targeted content marketing campaigns. In case you didn’t know, a buyer persona is a sample profile of your ideal customer, created after thorough research.
Here’s an example of a buyer persona.
The trickiest thing about audience research is that despite knowing the methodology, not everyone is qualified to do it properly.
Audience research is the most time-consuming part of a content marketing strategy. But its accuracy largely determines the success or failure of a content strategy.
2. Content Strategy Development
Content strategy development is a dedicated skillset in its own right. Without understanding the content marketing lifecycle, you can’t develop a strategy even with the best audience insights at your disposal.
A content marketing agency uses the findings from the research stage to develop different content plans for each buyer persona type.
Moreover, they create content maps that outline what topics your content addresses at each stage of the content marketing funnel.
Here’s a sample content mapping template to help you understand how it works.
Then comes the content ideation stage, where they find relevant content marketing ideas that answer the questions in every stage of the buyer’s journey based on the audience research performed in the previous step.
This is also the stage where an agency determines the types of content it wants to create for a client. For example:
- Pillar content pages
- How-To posts
- List posts
- Product reviews
- Product tutorials
- Thought leadership content
- Case studies
A person in the Awareness stage is more likely to investigate what is the nature of the newly discovered pain point.
This means their search intent is not based on investigating your product/service specifically, but rather on learning more about the problem and its common solutions. A common type of content relevant for this stage would be How-To posts.
Now, let’s talk about the Decision stage. A person in this stage already knows about your brand and is considering talking to you. Your brand name is now part of their search intent. Therefore, a common type of content relevant for this stage would be a product review.
All of this comes together to create a content plan based on which an agency develops a content calendar for its writers.
3. Content Creation
Most amateur marketers jump directly to this step which is why their content marketing is more guesswork than a calculated strategy.
But a B2B content marketing agency reaches this step after thorough research and audience analysis.
However, despite all the research, content creation is still quite challenging if you’re looking to create expert-level content that positions your brand as an authority.
This is precisely why 63% of marketers consider content creation as their biggest content marketing challenge.
How does an agency handle this challenge?
Firstly, most B2B content marketing agencies specialize in a few closely related niches. This allows them to build teams of subject matter experts who create advanced-level content for their clients.
However, when needed, agencies also recruit niche-specific writers to work on technical content that a generalist can’t handle.
Many agencies also manage large pools of freelance writers specializing in different niches and can take up projects when required.
Here’s what these writers do when creating content.
- Researching the specific article topic.
- Gathering data for the article.
- Finding case studies and examples.
- Creating screenshots and images for the content.
- Proposing at least 3-5 different titles for the article based on research for the editor’s approval.
- Writing the first draft.
- Finalizing the first draft with the editor.
Ultimately, the goal of this step is to create link-worthy content that not only provides value to your readers, but also gets backlinks from other high-authority sites in your niche.
4. On-Page Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Consider On-Page SEO an extension of the content creation process because both these steps are very closely related.
Landing articles on third-party publication is a nice feat, but it isn’t enough. You also want those articles to rank on Google when your target audience is searching online.
For example, if you google “how to check email spam score”, you’d find this article in the first page, recommending the reader to use a third-party tool called Mail Tester.
Needless to say, this is excellent for Mail Tester. But if this article was buried deep inside Google’s SERPs for this keyword, the effect this article had would be drastically smaller.
So to streamline content creation, content marketing agencies use known templates for various content types, which their writers use to create SEO-optimized content.
For example, a product review article template is different from a list post or a How-To tutorial.
These templates indicate where the writers should use their target keywords (e.g., in the title, H1, H2, etc.) and also give them an easy-to-use content outline to follow.
Here’s an example of a basic content template for a How-To article.
Using such templates, the on-page SEO team ensures the following.
- The target keyword is used in the article title
- Keyword in the H2 and H3 tags
- Keywords in the Intro, content body, and conclusion.
- Keyword in the image alt-text.
- Relevant internal and external links in the content.
- Creating an SEO title, URL, and meta description.
- Adding a featured image to the article.
- Using additional optimization elements such as questions from the People Also Ask section at the end of the article as FAQs.
Lastly, a good content marketing agency would also do some off-page SEO work for its clients’ articles.
5. Content Promotion And Amplification
Creating well-researched SEO-optimized content is the first half of content marketing.
The other half is promoting and amplifying that content to drive relevant and consistent traffic.
This is where an agency’s services are priceless.
Why? Because established B2B content marketing agencies have predefined processes and frameworks for promoting your content on the right channels. Plus, their network and relationships with other website owners, influencers, journalists, and content creators help you secure valuable media coverage for your brand.
Here are some of the main ways agencies promote your content.
- Sharing snippets from your content on social media to drive clicks.
- Creating press releases for your content to get media mentions. For example, here’s how Backlinko promotes its new posts using press releases.
- Pitching your content to the relevant journalists who might feature it in their stories.
- Developing outreach campaigns to get backlinks from websites that are likely to feature your content.
- Getting your content featured in round-ups (such as the one in this screenshot.)
- Running coordinated guest blogging campaigns by engaging their network of content creators already writing for the various top publications in your niche.
- Reaching out to the top ranking websites for your target keywords to secure brand mentions and backlinks.
- Partnering with influencers to share your content with bigger audiences.
- Based on your content quality, pitching your founders as guests in the relevant podcasts in your niche.
- Securing interviews for your company founders/representatives.
- Getting your founder’s quotes featured in the top niche publications (here’s a good example.)
These are some of the organic methods of content promotion. But agencies also offer advertising services and sponsored promotions to generate the early momentum for your content.
The Benefits Of Hiring A B2B Content Marketing Agency Vs. In-House Team
Partnering with a B2B content marketing agency has several advantages compared to managing an in-house team.
Let me share some of them.
1. Agencies Specialize In All Aspects Of Content Marketing
Successfully executing a B2B content marketing strategy requires various skillsets like SEO, content creation, content strategy, conversion optimization, graphic design, PR, networking, sales, etc.
If you hire an in-house team for all those skillsets, you’ll have to manage a separate division in your company (which comes with its own challenges.)
In comparison, a B2B content marketing agency already has experts with years of experience in those areas. Instead of building a team yourself, you can simply partner with an agency and hire their services to get the job done more efficiently.
2. Agencies Use Proven Frameworks
Established content marketing agencies have the experience of managing diverse content marketing campaigns for thousands of companies in different industries.
As a result, they have proven frameworks for all aspects of the content marketing lifecycle. Plus, they’ve tackled and solved numerous content-related problems over the years and know how to run campaigns in an optimized manner.
And above all, their teams have refined processes that ensure there are no communication gaps and everything is streamlined.
In comparison, hiring an in-house team means bringing together professionals from different backgrounds for a new mission. So expecting them to produce results immediately won’t be practical.
3. Agencies Are Cheaper Than Managing An In-House Team
Let’s take a look at the average salaries (in the USA) of some of the skillets you’ll need to hire to build an in-house content marketing team, according to Payscale.
SEO – $48000 per year
Digital Marketing Manager – $65000
Content Marketer – $53000
Social Media Marketer – $56000
Content Strategist – $63000 per year
Remember, these are the average salaries. You’ll most likely have to pay significantly more to attract the best professionals.
In comparison, you can start your contract with a B2B content marketing agency from as low as $10,000 per month to access the best talent in these skillsets.
4. Agencies Are More Resourceful
Even if you build an in-house content marketing team, you’ll have to work for years to build the network and industry connections of an agency.
Agencies thrive on their connections with leading publications, content creators, editors, journalists, and media owners.
This allows them to quickly secure valuable PR and media coverage for their clients without following up for weeks and months.
Similarly, agencies also have the right software and tools to run, manage, and track complex content marketing campaigns. In addition, they have well-defined B2B content marketing KPIs to measure the effectiveness of and success of their campaigns.
5. Agencies Manage Change More Efficiently
Content marketing dynamics can change pretty quickly because of new technology, Google algorithm changes, a new content type, or an emerging marketing trend.
Content marketing agencies have the experience and expertise to manage these changes efficiently without any significant impact on their clients.
For example, before video marketing became mainstream a few years ago, the best content marketing agencies identified the trend early and converted their best articles, guides, and blog content into high-quality videos, giving them the early mover’s advantage over their competitors.
In comparison, in-house teams are often the last to adopt such trends and adjust their strategy because of organizational hierarchies, approval chains, and lack of innovation.
5 Steps To Choosing The Right B2B Content Marketing Agency For Your Business
So far, we’ve discussed the functions of a B2B content marketing agency and why partnering with an agency has a better ROI than building an in-house team.
Let’s now discuss the factors you must consider when choosing a content marketing agency.
1. Evaluate The Niche Expertise Of The Agency
The fundamentals of content marketing remain the same across industries. But every industry has unique customer needs that determine the content types, tone, and strategy that works best for them.
This is why working with an agency that specializes in your niche offers an immediate advantage over generalists.
For example, InboundJunction specializes in software marketing which is why some of the world’s leading SaaS companies and tech startups are our clients.
Similarly, Rankings.io is a well-known SEO and content marketing agency that only caters to law firms and legal consultants.
So the first thing to evaluate in an agency is whether their team understands your niche and has worked in it before. Ideally, the agency should have subject matter experts from your industry to ensure that they can create the highest quality content for your blog and social media platforms.
2. Review Their Work And Past Clients
How do you determine if an agency is a real deal? First, look at their past clients and the results they delivered for them.
Review the agency’s past work in detail, especially the following:
- Their content strategy for a client.
- Audience research methods and tools.
- Published content quality.
- The search rankings of their clients for their target keywords.
- The publications where they’ve featured clients in the past.
- The various content types they’ve published for their clients and how they’ve performed in terms of audience engagement.
Most agencies have a portfolio or past clients section on their website (like we do.)
Randomly choose a few companies from the agency’s top clients and contact them for feedback about their experience of working with them.
Similarly, look for any case studies or testimonials on the agency’s site to get specific details of how they helped a client.
3. Understand How Your Budget Will Be Spent
You want your content marketing budget to be spent on the most important tasks that drive results and build your brand value online.
This is why it’s crucial that an agency shares exactly how it will spend your budget and what will it deliver against the monthly retainer.
For example, here at InboundJunction, we tell clients how many articles and backlinks they’d get for XXX amount of money per month. And if we don’t deliver what we promised, we don’t issue an invoice.
Most agencies don’t do that.
So make sure your agency has a transparent service package that details all the deliverables against your budget.
4. Call Them To See If They’re The Right Fit
If you’ve been corresponding with an agency on email or chat, take the time to discuss things on a call before finalizing the deal.
Why? Because it will help you understand everything they offer and the precise value you’ll get against your money.
And most importantly, it’ll allow you to determine if they have the required expertise to establish your brand as an authority through high-quality content marketing.
Demand work samples and share your own quality guidelines to ensure they deliver the service quality that you expect for your brand.
5. Review Their Processes And Terms
Finally, take a good look at the terms & conditions of the agency and the processes it follows to get things done for clients.
For example, what’s their payment cycle, and how much time do they require to deliver the promised services.
Let’s say they commit a couple of PR hits per month but fail to achieve it. What happens in that case, and how do they adjust the billing amount?
Similarly, how do they ensure the confidentiality of your content strategy? How will they guarantee the security of your content assets (blog, social media profiles) if they access them?
Get clarity on all these things before working with an agency to avoid any problems mid-way through your contract.
Are You Ready To Hire A B2B Content Marketing Agency?
Hiring a B2B content marketing agency is a strategic business decision that can completely change your brand’s perception and help you generate thousands of visitors, hundreds of leads, and numerous customers every month from your content assets.
But to achieve those results, you must carefully evaluate different agencies and choose the one that understands your niche and has a proven record of delivering results for its customers.
If you enjoyed this article and want to consider working with us, contact us today for a free consultation call to discuss your content strategy with our experts.