No relationship is perfect. The relationship between a company and their content marketing agency is no exception. As such, you should always be vigilant to identify and respond to content outsourcing mistakes.
When these mistakes pop up, it’s rarely caused by just one side. And if you take the time to address them, you can avoid a fallout and, worse, permanently damaged relationship.
This can help you if you want to:
- Start off a relationship with a new agency on the right foot
- Improve the relationship you have with your current agency
- Identify why your relationship with your current agency is failing
- Determine whether your relationship is something that can be salvaged
Here are five content outsourcing mistakes to watch for and actively work to avoid at all costs.
1. Staying out of the process
You’re desperate to get things off your plate. So the approach of “set it and forget it” is probably tempting. However, if you do that, it’s going to come back to bite you.
Your agency is the subject matter expert in content marketing strategy and execution. But what they’re not an expert in is your business and industry. Even if they make a concerted effort to get to know your customers and your business (which any good agency will do), no one knows them like you do.
There’s no replacement for your unique insights and expertise. A good content marketing agency will want to leverage that, rather than replace it. And if you’re smart, you’ll work with them to bring the best of both worlds together.
Besides, your content represents your brand, your voice, your expertise. Why would you want to leave that in someone else’s hands entirely?
Here are some ways to avoid making this one of the content outsourcing mistakes:
- Stay in regular contact with your agency
- Help your agency select and prioritize content topics based on customer insights and your business goals
- Provide feedback and review content to ensure it’s consistent with your brand and voice
- Update your agency on key insights you gain from customer conversations, listening to the industry, etc.
The ultimate power of content marketing comes from combining your business expertise with your agency’s experience in creating and deploying great content. So take advantage and let the two work in tandem.
2. Not setting clear expectations
Whether you’re entering a personal or professional relationship, everyone has both spoken and unspoken expectations. If you don’t take the time to define them, you’ll automatically default to the unspoken ones.
The trick there, of course, is that it’s really tricky to meet an expectation that you don’t know exists.
I don’t want to make it sound like setting clear expectations is easy, because it certainly isn’t. Sometimes, establishing expectations puts people off. But if you don’t do this, it’s only going to create problems down the line.
Here are just a few of the things to discuss with your agency before you get too far down the road:
- Determine what your creative and collaborative process is going to be, including deliverables
- Make sure everyone knows how quickly they should respond to communications
- Make sure everyone knows their point of contact
- Clearly set expectations around results, both for your company and for the agency
- Discuss longevity. For instance, is this a year-long commitment or a 3-month sprint?
Setting these expectations may take a little extra work up front, but it’s going to save you time and headaches down the line.
3. Not holding your agency accountable
Your agency isn’t an automated entity. It’s a group of humans doing human work. So sometimes they’re going to screw up. No matter how much redundancy and review they have in place, there will be the occasional mistake.
It’s not just the human factor. By virtue of the fact that they aren’t your company, your agency will likely experience some misfires when communicating with your market. This is simply because they don’t know your product, the market or your customers like you do.
The absolute worst thing to do in this instance is to silently judge from afar. This does nothing for the relationship and, frankly, only hurts your business in the long run.
When you see a mistake, call them out on it. Let them know what they’ve done wrong and why. I promise you, your agency will appreciate this forthrightness and learn from the mistake. If you don’t, they’ll just assume business-as-usual until that last straw, and then everything explodes.
Sure, these conversations might suck. And feelings will be hurt. But we’re all professionals here. We can handle a few barbs. What’s important is that issues are addressed, problems fixed, and obstacles removed to achieving success over the long haul.
4. Not leaning on your agency enough
I mentioned before the dangers of being totally uninvolved in the content marketing process. But the inverse is true as well. If you don’t lean on your agency, you’re also going to see problems.
You’re paying for their expertise and work product. If you don’t lean on them, you’re not going to get your money’s worth.
Think of your agency as problem-solvers. Your job is to pose the problem, their job is to provide the solution. You should give them the freedom to do that.
Of course, you shouldn’t be too vague in the feedback you offer them either. Saying “I don’t like it” is probably the least helpful piece of feedback. Instead, say something like “this doesn’t adequately solve a problem that our customers are facing in real life,” or “it sounds like you’re making up a problem our customers don’t have.” That’s helpful.
You brought your agency on board because you thought they were the best option for getting your business where it needs to go. Hold them accountable, yes. But trust them in the areas that they know best.
5. Staying with a bad fit
Maybe your agency isn’t a good fit for your business model. Maybe they aren’t performing at the level you expected or need. Maybe you’ve reevaluated your marketing priorities and no longer want to invest the funds in an agency. For one reason or another, the relationship just isn’t working out.
At some point, you have to make the decision to walk away. If you don’t make that decision when the time comes, then you’re making what may be one of the biggest content outsourcing mistakes of all: knowing they’re a bad fit and staying anyway.
Of course, many agencies require a 12- or 24-month contract, so getting out of a bad relationship can be tricky and costly, although the cost of an early cancellation fee may be less than if you continued pouring money into a relationship that isn’t working.
If you don’t make the shift, problems will arise. Also, for you, why would you spend money investing in something that’s not working for you when you can take your business elsewhere?
Work to keep the relationship going. But if that doesn’t work out, bow out gracefully.
Are you considering changing your content marketing agency? Take a look at what FEARLESS has to offer in terms of content creation, strategy and promotion.