Agencies are notorious 'cobbler’s children' when it comes to so many aspects of their business. They develop innovative, strategic, and targeted marketing plans and tactics for their clients that deliver results. But when it comes to their own marketing, most agencies are doing a fraction, if at all, of what they recommend to their clients. Few have formal marketing plans or any lead generation process other than relying on personal referrals and getting on RFP lists.
(Are your toes feeling chilly?)
We all know that content marketing is a valuable and essential tactic for almost any business, yet it’s an area where the majority of agencies are lacking. Ironically, many agencies are selling content marketing services to their clients, for crying out loud!
One of the most obvious and simple vehicles for content marketing is blogging.
That being said, did you know that 30% of digital agencies have no blog?
And of the agencies that do have blogs, only 7% post once a week.
36% only post a few times a year.
These alarming digital agency blog stats come from Content Kite, an Australian company that helps digital agencies increase their leads through content marketing. Founder Simon Thompson kept hearing that traditionally agencies weren’t good at creating content for themselves, instead relying on referrals for 90% of their sales leads. Simon wanted to see what the data had to say, so he and his Content Kite team analyzed the websites of 1,000 digital agencies.
They categorized each agency website site as:
Had a blog and posted once a quarter (None)
Had a blog and posted 1-3 times /quarter (Poor)
Had a blog and posted 1-3 times/month/ (Mediocre)
Had a blog and posted once a week or more. (Great)
Simon considers posting once a week as optimal digital agency blog activity. (If you’d like to hear more about Content Kite’s results, listen to our Proposify Biz Chat interview with Simon)
These results are staggering when you think about it, especially when good content marketing can help agencies bridge the ‘feast or famine’ gap that many suffer from, bringing in quality, sustainable leads. Leads that can keep their funnel, and their business afloat.
"30% of agencies have no blog, yet content marketing can bridge the feast or famine gap by bringing in quality leads"
Why your agency needs a blog
Do I really need to tell you, a marketing agency, these other eye-popping stats about the value of B2B blogging?
B2B marketers that use blogs get 67% more leads than those that do not.
SEO leads, many of which come from quality blog articles that have been optimized with keywords, have a 14.6% close rate, while outbound leads (such as direct mail or print advertising) have a 1.7% close rate.
Marketers who prioritize blogging are 13x more likely to achieve a positive ROI on their efforts.
An agency blog can help you establish your position as a leader in your industry. It can authenticate your expertise in whatever service or niche your agency specializes in. It allows people — potential clients— to get a sense of who you are as a company and whether you might be a good fit for them.
Need I go on? Pretty sure you know all about why it’s smart to have a blog.
What to write about
Many people, including agencies, are scared off by the idea of a content strategy. It can feel overwhelming. The team at Content Kite approaches it with a simple framework called ‘hub and spoke’.
They suggest that their agency clients come up with a central idea or topic that helps a specific person solve a specific problem. For example, Content Kite’s specific person (AKA target audience) is a digital agency owner, and their specific problem is getting more leads. So all the blog content they create reflects that — its purpose is to help a digital agency owner get more leads.
That’s one type of blog, the client resource blog.
Client Resource Blog
Client resource blogs are meant to attract new clients by providing them with free, timely, up-to-date information and resources that help them improve their website or marketing strategy. Typical examples of posts would be top 10 lists, how-to articles, ebooks, and infographics.
This is perhaps the most targeted way to drive new leads into your sales funnel. Often, people who run their own business or work client-side in a company search online for tips that will help them learn design, coding, or marketing.
If you appear in a search and they find your post helpful, they’ll likely come back to your blog for new posts. Eventually, they may decide it’s easier to hire you than to DIY it themselves, and by then they already have a positive association with your brand. It’s inbound marketing 101.
Keep in mind that there’s already a lot of content online to help novices and intermediates improve their websites/marketing efforts. The hard part is standing out. That’s where having a speciality and using the hub and spoke approach is helpful.
Thought Leader Blog
In every creative industry, you have the hacks at the bottom, a vast middle-ground of mediocre-to-great, and the rare cream of the crop at the top. The directors who inspire other directors; the comedians who inspire other comedians.
Thought leader blogs are meant to inspire and educate your peers, designers, writers, coders and marketers, keeping them up-to-date on the bleeding edge of your industry, sometimes even leading the changes themselves.
While it may seem counter-intuitive — why write blog posts for people who aren’t potential clients —if done well over time, this style of agency blog can help you stand out as the clear leader in a given industry or subspecialty.
Once you become the person or group who teaches other agencies how it’s done, you’ll start to get more opportunities in the form of guest posts, interviews, awards, and speaking engagements. And with that, of course, comes traffic, exposure, and larger sales opportunities.
However, becoming a thought leader is easier said than done. It won’t happen overnight, and you have to love what you do and be committed to it to succeed - living it, breathing it, constantly experimenting and staying on top of your craft.
This takes time, blood, sweat, and tears that not everyone has to offer. It’s also essential that your thoughts are original. If you’re going to be a thought leader you can’t hack on someone else’s theories.
Agency news blogs are like your Facebook news feed — they report what’s happening within the agency, from strategic hires and new clients to recent awards. This type of blog is usually a good fit for mid-large agencies who often have a steady stream of newsworthy activities to share. They’re pretty easy to pull off as long as there are interesting events happening in your agency.
The problem with a lot of marketing, creative, and web agency news blogs is that they are blatantly self-obsessed and can come across as narcissistic because all you’re doing is talking about yourself. While self-promotion is necessary, this type of blogging approach doesn’t offer tangible value to potential clients, and they’re hard to keep regularly updated since you can’t exactly plan for a big event to happen.
The advantage is that gives readers a sense of the kind of work you do and the strength of your team.
Daily Antics Blog
Of the agencies that have blogs, many of them take the daily antics approach as it requires very little time or energy. If someone in the office is doing something goofy or having a birthday party (or doing something goofy at a birthday party) they snap a pic, publish it on their blog and post it on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. “Aren’t we zany? #agencylife #ourjobiscoolerthanyours”
There’s nothing wrong with daily antics as long as the posts are authentic and your people are truly having fun (“Smile, dammit!”). It shows a human side to your agency and can make clients feel emotionally connected to your team. It’s a good way to showcase the culture of your office and your brand and give potential clients an idea of what it might be like to work with your agency.
The challenge is that most people don’t care if one of your developers was dressed up like a carrot last Friday. If you don’t know him, it’s one of those 'had to be there’ jokes. It can also appear to clients that all your team does is play beer pong and Playstation all day instead of tending to their marketing needs. The next time they look at their invoice for 100 hours, they might think back to your post when you were having a birthday party for all the office dogs, complete with ‘pupcakes’, and wonder, “Is that what I’m paying for?”
Work Teaser Blog
Work teasers are the more professional version of the daily antics blogs. They feature sneak peeks into the process behind the agency work. Due to the visual nature of this type of blog, it lends itself better to design agency blogs versus marketing agency blogs.
Think of the work teaser blog kind of like Instagram, where brands offer their followers the feeling of being behind the scenes, the “time to make the doughnuts” moment. Dribbble works like this too. It's a social network for designers to show off their work and process, and it’s often inspirational for other designers.
But showing off rough work can backfire if your clients aren’t aware that unfinished comps are being shown to the world. It can infringe on the confidentiality they’re entrusting you with. Also, your design work has to be damn fine if you hope to pass off even early-stage concepts as eye candy.
Drive traffic to your agency blog
Your agency blog can’t deliver leads if no one sees it. Once your content writers have a few juicy, targeted blog posts ready to go, you need to have a good distribution strategy in place to drive traffic to it. If you’re not already familiar with some of these basic blog promotion practices, you need to be:
Organic search traffic - Follow search engine optimization (SEO) best practices to ensure your agency blog content has the chance to appear when your leads are actively looking for a solution to their problem. Perform keyword research on topics your target audience is actually looking for and make sure you have answers to their queries.
Email - Send out a weekly email to your subscribers promoting your agency blog, and develop email drip campaigns to add value and inform leads of the value you can provide.
Social media - Regularly share your agency blog posts using the social media platforms your target audience uses and engage with influencers to get them to share your content. Build relationships with like-minded content creators who may be willing to share your agency’s blog posts and increase your organic reach.
Paid media - Experiment with paid ads on Facebook, Twitter, and Google AdWords, which can have high ROI due to granular targeting. Paid social media ads have proven to be extremely effective for all types of business because you don’t need to spend a lot of money to share your content with a niche audience. Using the data these platforms have on their users in combination with retargeting visitors of your own site is a great way to drive traffic and convert leads.
Q&A sites - Sites like Quora and Reddit are great for promoting blog content because people post questions the community can answer. Answer the question in as much detail as you can, but post a link to your agency blog for people to learn more. The better your answer, the more votes you’ll get to push the answer higher on the page.
Blogging for agencies: key takeaways
Despite a blog being a vital component of any business’s content marketing strategy, 30% of digital agencies don’t have one. Posting relevant, helpful content that’s optimized to drive traffic on your blog once a week puts your agency ahead of the vast majority of the competition. Agencies who prioritize blogging are far more likely to be found online and enjoy the ROI that comes along with that visibility.
“Create blog topics around solving a specific problem for your target audience. If you put that in a schedule, then you’re doing more than 93% of other agency owners” - Simon Thompson, Content Kite