What’s in a Name?

In this article, we’re going to look at exactly what a digital content agency does. By the end of it, you’ll be clear about the services they provide and the work they do.

We’re also going to touch on why you may decide to hire a content agency and what to look for if you choose to do so. A digital content agency functions in much the same way as any other business but many people are unaware of the services it provides and the functions it performs.

On the one hand, the name ‘digital content agency’ means exactly what is says but on the other there is a sense of disconnect between the label and the work the agency actually does. Here are a few examples of businesses whose description perfectly matches their function: a bakery, a used car dealer and a web designer.

While there may be further specialisation involved, such as pâtisserie, prestige car sales or WordPress developer respectively, the primary notion of what the business does is rarely called into question. It’s self evident in the name. We know just what to expect from each one and precisely why we might hire them, without having to think.

The reason behind this disconnect in relation to a digital content agency is that there isn’t a product to identify outside of the content it creates for others. A content agency doesn't work in isolation. It exists as a service which can be employed by businesses with a specific need for content creation for the purpose of achieving set goals (we'll dip into what these goals might be in just a few moments). The need for content is widely understood.

With millions of articles, videos and visuals being produced each day, the thirst for new and engaging content is insatiable. Businesses of all types have an authentic need for content and this demand is only going to increase.

Why Would You Need a Content Agency?

For those who haven’t previously employed the services of a content agency, it may not be perfectly clear what purpose one serves or how content can be used to market your business. From the description above we can see that the agency creates content but what does this mean on a practical level?

What methods are used and what results can be expected? A digital content agency exists to creates a variety of visual and written content and follows a process known as content marketing. Content marketing can be understood as an approach to marketing which works by attracting customers through value driven content, as indicated in the quote below. "Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action." - Content Marketing Institute

The value content marketing - and by extension a digital content agency - can add to a business can, therefore, take many forms. For example, a company with an increased demand for a high volume of content production may employ a content agency to fulfill this quota. Specific skill sets unique to the industry, plus qualified and experienced writers can make all the difference to the type of content being created and how effective it is in its reach. There is also the matter of customer engagement and producing content which accurately reflects brand values.

A Holistic Approach to Marketing

A content agency takes a holistic approach to marketing and isn’t simply concerned with the piece of content they are writing at the time They may also focused on the fulfillment of predetermined goals and targets as part of a comprehensive content strategy. Others may opt to hire a content agency in an effort to outsource content creation, which may be favourable when compared to in-house staff and training costs.

Another determining factor may be due to ensure the creation of relevant and inspirational content for their brand. One thing that comes up time and again is just how many business owners feel their brand doesn’t lend itself towards a content marketing model. The answer to this is that provided your product adds value to its customers (and I’d imagine most business owners would say their product does), a content marketing model is almost always the best way to go.

In fact, failing to include content marketing as part of your long-term strategy could cost you dearly. A digital content agency comes into its own in its ability to draw up a goal orientated content plan for its clients and to create consistent and relevant content for their needs. It’s responsible for developing a well thought out content strategy which can provide you with measurable results and for creating engaging content which has a powerful impact on your audience. This dual aspect of content planning and execution (along with distribution and promotion) is the hallmark of a first-rate content agency.

The Customer Life Cycle

The image of the customer life cycle below show examples of types of content that can be created at each stage of the customer’s life cycle or journey. Ideally, you want your content to cover all bases but initially you might be interested in one or two specific areas.

For example, you might want to create an eBook to address people who are interest in your product or release a product demo for someone who may be ready to purchase. What types of content are most important will vary from business to business but the above graphic should help you visualise where different types of content fit into where a customer may be on their journey.

Types of Content Creation

So far we’ve looked at what a content agency does and touched on what goals it works towards but what type of content might it be expected to create? Here’s a list of common content types that I’m sure many of you will be familiar with.

Articles Social media graphics Guides and tutorials Landing Pages eBooks Infographics Videos Brochures

If you refer back to the customer life cycle infographic, you can see where these might slot into your content strategy. Again, this list is not designed to be all-inclusive and it serves more as an indication of the type of content an agency may be expected to create for a client. You’ll find that some content agencies will specialise in one or more areas while others will produce work across the field. You may find affinity with a particular agency and their work or have a specific need they cater for.

The caveat here is to make sure the agency is aware of the ultimate purpose for the work and how it fits into a comprehensive marketing strategy. Alternatively, this is something you can manage for yourself provided you are aware of the reasons why you are commissioning the piece and how it fits into the big picture but take care not to lose sight of the wood for the trees!

Goals of Content Marketing

Let’s take a look at what goals you might expect to achieve with a content marketing model. Please bear in mind this list is by no means exhaustive and expectations are usually met on an client by client basis, depending on the agency. It does, however, offer some useful insight into common objectives businesses are looking for and may help clarify your own goals, if you aren’t clear on this already.

Brand Awareness Lead Generation Customer Engagement Product Sales Customer Retention and Loyalty Customer Advocacy Customer Experience Enhancement

What ties all of these aspirations together is, of course, content. These goals are driven by the content you create which is also responsible for the perceived value you offer. Whether this is in the form of the product itself or the values you convey in your marketing material, the end result is the same. This goal centred approach to marketing is far from new but it is something which is fundamental to a digital content agency.

Our approach at Digital Toffee leans toward content creation, content distribution and content promotion for brand awareness and customer engagement. We use visual and written content together with targeted outreach to achieve these goals. The reason we take this three step approach to content marketing is to maximise the impact of any content we create for our clients. There’s nothing more crushing to a client than having wonderful and premium content fall on deaf ears!

The principles of content creation, distribution and promotion work together in harmony and prevent great content from going to waste. These principles are also built into each project from the outset, as a means to reaching this end.

What a Digital Content Agency Does

Other than creating awesome content for brands, a digital content agency will also be proficient in the following disciplines:

Buyer Personas Content Auditing Content Planning Content Strategy Content Creation Content Distribution Content Promotion Storytelling

Data Analysis & Measuring Results

This is hopefully where things start to fall into place and the digital content model becomes demystified. Content marketing encompasses an extensive range of skills for the purpose of achieving tangible, real world results for businesses. It’s not simply about publishing blog posts or creating slick social media graphics on behalf of a client, although naturally these things will form a part of it.

Content marketing done right should also accurately reflect your brand values, so make sure you are hiring someone who understands your company’s vision and can see the bigger picture of what it is you want to achieve.

Content Marketing vs Traditional Advertising Models

There’s one other important consideration to note and this is the distinction between a digital content agency and a creative advertising agency. This difference is the methods used by each one. An advertising agency will focus more on direct selling which is designed to interrupt the customer’s flow of attention to get their message across using paid advertising on rented channels and needs a continuous injection of cash to keep the campaign running.

Now while there is certainly a time and a place for paid advertising, such as promoting your content or testing your market, these don’t tend to form the core of what content marketing is primarily all about. With content marketing you are looking to do something which advertising rarely does and that is to add value with your content and speak to your audience on a permissive basis. The perceived value could be in the form of education, entertainment or a host of other things but essentially it boils down to a customer’s engagement with the content you put out there.

This leads to a genuine interest in the product or service you offer and helps develop customer loyalty, customer retention and brand advocacy. The premise here is that if you have taken the right steps to enrich your customer’s lives, they will in turn reward you in a variety of ways.

Additionally, if you’ve managed to generate a synergy between your own and the customer’s values, this relationship will also be connected on a personal level, which can only have a positive effect on your brand reputation. The other advantage with content marketing is that you get an honest interaction with your customers and they in turn listen to what you say by choice, all of which helps in building your own distribution channels and creating your own online communities.

It’s a far healthier and statistically better approach in regards to engagement to start using for your business and while some may at first question the value of content marketing with respect to their bottom line, the sooner you start to employ this strategy in your own business, the sooner you will able to reap the rewards. It’s also worth mentioning that any content you create is never wasted and will keep working for you a long time after the initial investment has paid off.

If you want to read more about how inbound marketing works and how it adds value to a business, check out this excellent post on inbound marketing vs outbound marketing from Vtl Design.

Core Values

Everything your customers know about your business is based around the content you create. This is true of your website, landing pages, social media graphics, blog posts and your storytelling.

Content marketing is about having a consistent and methodical approach to everything you create and to be mindful of value to maximise the impact of your content. A digital content agency blends these elements together to produce content that helps shape your brand into the name on everyone’s lips.

Any other approach is less than desirable and while you may bag a few extra sales with a one-off made promotional offer, it’s far better to attract customers who actually believe in the core values of your brand and who choose your services over those of you competitors. Then, when the time comes for creating product launches and promotional offers, there is less of a struggle to sell to the people who have already expressed an interest in your services and are open to your message, than to those you have intercepted through paid advertising channels that you do not own.

This is part and parcel of creating your own distribution network, which is an extremely valuable asset for any business.

How Do You Know When to Hire a Digital Content Agency?

You can consider hiring a digital content agency whenever visual or written content is required that has the specific aim of providing value which leads to customer action. The important thing is to be clear on what your expectations are from doing so.

You may be concerned with developing a comprehensive content strategy for your business or with scaling your existing operation. It could even be that you lack the resources at your disposal to do justice to your vision. Perhaps you want to accentuate your brand awareness or start building your own distribution channels to publish the content you create to a receptive and willing audience. It’s certainly a decision that you’ll want to spend some time thinking about and ask yourself the question, will a digital content agency be useful to achieve the goals I have in mind for my business?

If your goals are aligned in any way with the type of values we’ve expressed in this article, then the answer should be a resounding yes but that’s a decision that ultimately each person has to make on their own. Do you need to hire a content marketing agency?

Again, the answer to this will depend on what your goals are for your brand and how much time and money you can invest in learning the skills required and performing the work yourself.

There certainly are some excellent training materials available and if this is something that interests you, then you can always subscribe to our newsletter in which we’ll be sharing some advanced tips to help you get the most out of your content.

Over to You

What services do you look for most in a digital content agency and what has been your experience of using one? What types of content interest you and which ones have you had the most success with? Leave a note in the comments below, we’d love to hear from you! Ready to talk? 

Get in touch to see how we can take content creation for your businesses to the next level.