Creating content that moves the needle has gotten a lot harder.
And, content marketing is no longer the simple game it used to be ten years ago, when just publishing a decent piece every now and again would be sufficient.
Not anymore — with over 2 million blog posts published online every day, the occasional piece of average quality just won’t cut it. To cut through the noise and produce strong results for clients, agencies need to deliver high-quality content that provides significant value to the reader.
But, that isn’t always so simple or easy.
From our experience, many agencies are faced with multiple dilemmas when it comes to writing content for their clients. I’ve reached out to a number of digital marketing agencies and asked them what the most common challenges in content writing for agencies are.
Here are the most common challenges they reported.
The Need for Expert Insight
Finding a capable writer — who also happens to be an expert on a specific niche or highly technical topic and is available to produce content when you need it — is no more different than hunting the proverbial unicorn.
Simply because the vast majority of content writers are generalists. Sure, they possess excellent language skills, the ability to adapt their style to effectively capture the unique voice of each brand they’re working with, and a very good understanding of different content structures — from blog posts to press releases, whitepapers, product descriptions, and beyond. Their SEO knowledge is also pretty polished and they know how to work in the right keywords to boost the reach of every piece of content they produce.
While talented, content writers may lack the expertise required to create top-level content in extremely specialized industries. They’re jacks of all trades.
But, they can’t deal with the more advanced stuff. Like, say, gramework, or the golang web framework.
What does that mean for your agency?
Simply – finding expert writers among a sea of generalists could prove challenging. And, for certain clients, finding those experts could be critical to creating content that’s going to help their business.
According to Julien Raby, president of web marketing agency Combustible, “In the past, we tackled this issue with extensive research on our end, but the result was bland, uninspiring content and our clients weren’t happy with the results.”
There are many industries that require that expert knowledge to create content clients will be happy with. For your content to stand out, you need someone who is intimately acquainted with that industry area or niche; someone who can artfully combine their professional expertise with their exceptional writing skills to produce expert-level content sprinkled with some good humor and a dash of personality; someone ready and willing to pour himself into every bit of the creation process.
In these cases – you need a specialist.
For most digital marketing agencies, it’s downright impossible — and decidedly unrealistic — to have specialists on staff for every single industry area or niche there is.
Successful content marketing is “a byproduct of strong planning and consistent execution,” as Ben Sailer of digital marketing giant CoSchedule very well puts it.
Before any content is created, agencies need to articulate an effective plan, with both short- and long-term goals, and share it with clients.
There’s no shortcut to achieving content marketing success. It doesn’t happen overnight, and there’s no telling exactly how long it can take to see any results.
I’ve chatted with agencies whose clients regard content creation and content marketing as a small part of their overall marketing mix and under-appreciate the great deal of work that goes into every step of this process. And, they often don’t appreciate that it can take time to yield results.
Writers and content marketers work really hard to produce content and promote it.
And writing exceptional content is no easy task, especially when there’s a specific goal or need to be addressed.
According to Nelson Jordan, co-founder of Agency Match, “Although most clients understand that content creation [and inbound marketing] can take months or years to bear fruit, other stakeholders with a lesser understanding of content marketing can sometimes questions why results haven’t been achieved, particularly if they’re more familiar with the instant results that paid advertising can generate.”
When clients realize their content isn’t garnering any ROI, they may get concerned. They want results — the kind of immediate results they get when boosting a Facebook post or running a Google AdWords campaign. Instant. Almost palpable.
We all know it’s not going to happen in a flash. But there’s no definite answer as to how long content marketing takes to produce positive ROI. Three, maybe six months, seems to be a good estimate.
It’s only natural that your clients will fear they’ll invest in content marketing for months on end without anything to show at the end.
But that’s all the more reason why agencies should educate clients on the huge potential they have for generating ROI with content marketing. Results from paid advertising will stop generating anything the moment you stop your campaigns, whereas each piece of content you publish will continue to generate compound traffic growth and leads over time. It’s a bit like real estate.
There’s so much potential, but you’ll need to prepare your clients to be patient.
The U.S. is the largest market for content marketing, with spends estimated to have exceeded $16 billion in 2016. A 2018 study by the Content Marketing Institute shows that successful B2B marketers spend a staggering 40 percent of their marketing budget on content, which is higher than the industry average of 29 percent. At the same time, as much as 37 percent of marketers who aren’t successful with content marketing blame it on their inadequate budget.
The average recommended budget for content marketing ranges from 7 to 8 percent of gross revenue for companies with annual revenues below $5 million and a net profit margin — after all expenses — in the 10 percent to 12 percent range.
Unfortunately, smaller companies often don’t have the financial resources necessary to map out and execute well-articulated content strategies consistently. “Smaller budgets see smaller campaigns and smaller results. Rarely will clients invest all that is truly needed for a really impactful content strategy,” says Katie Mayberry, senior director of social media marketing agency Releventure.
But it’s not just smaller companies that don’t invest. Larger companies with more sizable revenues aren’t always willing to allocate reasonable budgets for their content marketing, either, which limits agencies’ ability to grow their content marketing efforts.
If you don’t have a robust strategy in place with both short-term and long-term goals and a well-laid-out plan to achieve them, your efforts will fall flat, point blank. And, if you don’t have the resources to execute in both the short and long term, your efforts will fail.
Quality Versus Quantity
Marketers are under pressure to create more content than ever. The 2017 B2B Content Marketing Report by Content Marketing Institute shows that 70 percent of marketers expect to produce more content this year.
It takes a lot of perseverance to make content marketing work, and delivering content consistently is of the utmost importance. Eighty-five percent of top performers publish content on a regular basis, compared to 58 percent of the overall sample and 32 percent of bottom performers.
For every digital marketing agency, the same old dilemma almost always crops up: should you scale back on the sheer volume of content you’re producing for clients and focus on quality, or should you increase the volume and let the quality suffer in the process?
For agencies with limited creatives, this dilemma becomes a serious concern. Spending more time producing less content means you’re paying more for less — not to mention you could be delivering more content in that same time. But churning out content that is devoid of any value won’t help your content marketing efforts, either.
Why? Simply because:
- Every piece of content you produce should accurately capture the unique voice of your clients and portray their values.
- Your content must address very specific content marketing goals.
- Your content must be authentic, engaging, and valuable.
- Google is rewarding content that best solves searcher intent, which means your content needs to comprehensively address each topic you cover.
But as I always say, your content marketing strategy isn’t measured in volume or quality — it’s measured in results. And you’ll often find that, to get results, you need to strike the right balance between the two.
You need to produce content consistently, and the content you produce must really resonate your client’s target audience, rank well with search engines, and showcase thought leadership — something I talked about in this post.
Content is just words until you put motivational goals behind it.
A Mismatch Between What the Client Wants and What Works
According to Jason Lavis, managing director of Out of Box Innovations, one of the biggest pain points when managing a content strategy is the mismatch between what the client wants and what actually works.
“A business owner might genuinely care about their technology or processes, whereas the customers — and the public in general — might prefer entertainment or fundamental information. This mismatch makes it harder to achieve growth in page views or social media following.”
It’s all a matter of trust, as Steve Page of Giant Partners points out: “Getting them to trust you to do what’s right is a struggle. They know they need to do something different to transform their business but are hesitant to do so.”
And it’s no surprise, given the great level of commitment that comes with every content marketing strategy. If digital marketing agencies cannot earn their clients’ trust, they cannot build the kind of campaign that would actually produce results.
Not Committing to Content Promotion
In the content marketing world, creating and publishing content are just the very first steps of the journey — critically important but scarcely sufficient on their own. To maximize the reach and visibility of the content you produce, consistent promotion is a must.
Overlook it, and you’ll end up missing a huge chunk of ROI.
Yet the need for consistent promotion might catch some clients by surprise — isn’t content, in itself, already designed to market their business?
Sure, provided people see it.
If the content sits without any promotion, then nobody is likely to just stumble upon it. Promotion means more people will see the content, and this increased visibility will eventually pay off later on.
Content promotion starts with an initial distribution across key external channels. Think Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and even email, if that’s what works for your client. Spread the word, spark some interest in the content, and you’ve got yourself a solid audience that wants to hear what you’ve got to say — or to be precise, what your client’s got to say.
After the initial distribution, you need to think about ongoing distribution, which usually takes place in the long term. There likely are many who’ve missed the initial distribution, so why not give them a few “in case you’ve missed it” opportunities along the way?
For many agencies, content promotion is a time-extensive process. If you’re one of them, you’ve very likely come across at least one client who was unwilling to commit to promoting their content.
After all, if they’re already paying you to write great content to promote their business and generate ROI, they may not want to spend more.
If you can convince them that ongoing content promotion actually helps them maximize their ROI, you can often alleviate this concern.
Content promotion shouldn’t be an option, like having an extra dollop of chocolate drizzled on top of your vanilla ice cream or a brand-new garage door with built-in smartphone connectivity (heck, I’d love one for myself).
Content promotion should be an integral part of any effective content marketing campaign — and the keyword here is integral.
Addressing Content Writing Challenges
I could probably list out a dozen more challenges, but you’ve probably picked up on a couple common themes by now — clients won’t benefit from sub-par content, nor by overlooking or neglecting any of the steps involved in content marketing.
If your agency simply doesn’t have the manpower or resources to produce the kind of content your clients need to achieve content marketing success, consider checking out our agency services.