During a recent podcast, my guest, C.C. Chapman, made a rather blunt statement about agency content creation. His assertion? Every day, agencies violate the “speak human” mantra. Instead of treating potential and current clients respectfully, they throw out acronyms and gibberish, making readers scratch their heads and ultimately turn away.
And we have the audacity to wonder why clients are tuning us out.
To be sure, Chapman is the no-nonsense, straight-shooting author of books such as Content Rules and Amazing Things Will Happen. In this case, he’s also brutally correct. If agencies want their content to have punch and traction, they need to stop writing for each other and begin writing for people who aren’t enmeshed in agency jargon.
In other words, it’s time to wipe the slate clean and start creating content your clients can actually appreciate.
Differentiate, for goodness’ sake.
What separates one agency from another? It’s not all the bold logos or shiny websites — every agency has those. Instead, it’s the culture and brand, the community of individuals who make up the agency. To truly distinguish itself, agencies have to define their uniqueness. Are they playful? Outdoorsy? Musically inclined? These are the differentiators that matter. When a prospect has to choose between three relatively similar agencies, chemistry counts.
Where does content come into this picture? Most clients do their homework online by examining digital footprints. According to Demand Gen Report, roughly half of all clients will read no fewer than three content pieces before contacting a prospective agency. Besides, marketers recognize and respect smart content. According to a survey by LinkedIn, nearly three-quarters of marketers have a content strategy for their businesses, allocating as much as 46% of their budget to content marketing. If an agency’s web presence is as sterile as a hospital room, it’s in dangerous territory.
Here’s the irony of this situation: Agency owners are branding experts. They know they need to develop strong brands that both attract and repel their clients, but they’re petrified to do the same for their own shops. Is the fear justified? Only for those driven solely by money and nothing else. The reality for agencies is that, in order to get on qualified targets’ consideration lists, they have to put out bold, unapologetic content so “stalkers” get the lay of the land instantly.
According to the previously cited survey by LinkedIn, effective content should be relevant, engaging and triggering. Agencies can achieve those objectives by making some clear alterations in their marketing tactics.
1. Develop content based on your team strengths.
As an agency, you already have the experts in-house. Do you employ a video guru? Make and post outstanding Vimeo and YouTube shorts. Is there a resident Hemingway on your team who could craft an e-book? Go for it. Perhaps you’re more comfortable blogging or creating a series of Instagram posts. The key is to play to your strengths. Don’t worry about where you publish content; publish it where it feels right and sounds authentic.
2. Put your own content on the calendar.
Too busy to whip up content because you’re taking care of clients? Truth be told, we all are — but some of us still make it happen. Chapman’s motto is, “Stop complaining and get to work.” He and I can relate to how tough it can be to get something on paper, but we both know it’s important. Not sure you’ll ever get around to it? Hire someone to do it for you. Excuses are only standing in your way.
3. Enhance your online and digital presence.
Someone’s probably looking up agencies in your area right now. If you’re not discoverable via Google, you’re toast. The days of people willingly hunting for “hidden gems” are long gone. Potential clients don’t break a sweat trying to find agencies they’ve never heard of. Instead, clients want to be able to get tons of information about you online. Not there? They’ll happily give your competitors business.
4. Study your fiercest foes.
Competitive analysis isn’t a one-time “set it and forget it” deal. Regularly investigate your enemies and pay attention to the content they’re pushing out. Nobody wants to be the “Ditto!” of agencies, but great ideas are great ideas and sometimes worth borrowing from. Don’t feel bad if you didn’t think of something first. Follow others’ great plays, and you’ll see openings for your agency to shine.
5. Give away your secret recipe.
When I launched our agency blog more than 10 years ago, I looked at my subscriber list and saw every other agency owner in my region. Rather than unsubscribing from them, I decided I had to be confident enough in my abilities to put all my “secrets” online. Hiding our attributes wouldn’t only make them invisible to competitors but also to clients who might hire us. Sharing our secrets hasn’t hurt us one bit.
6. Develop content with the help of sales (but spice it up).
What are the questions your sales force constantly hears? Find out, and you can create compelling content. However, chances are it’s been done before — you especially need to differentiate this content. Don’t just write up a bland, run-of-the-mill “Top 10” e-book or long-form article. Opt for a novel angle by spending money on a cool designer or partnering with an illustrator. The point is to put a unique angle on everything you do so readers exclaim, “Huh! Haven’t seen that before!”
Despite what you might assume, your clients are quite eager to read content. You just need to give them something enticing. Be brave enough to scrap all those lackluster content tactics and start fresh — just like you would if you were your own client.
This article originally appeared on Forbes.