A common adage states that ad agencies are “cobbler’s kids with no shoes.” Because like for the upstart shoemaker who needs to turn a profit, at most modern shops the client work takes priority. The agency’s own content marketing falls by the wayside.
It’s true that producing consistent, top-notch client work is a great way to generate buzz. In fact, 90% of agencies cite referrals as their best source of new leads. But what about agencies that want to scale faster than word of mouth allows? Content marketing (coupled with inbound best practices and a smart paid media strategy) is the best way to fill the top of a hungry agency’s sales funnel and achieve scalability.
If you’re nodding your head, perhaps your agency has already committed to trying content marketing. Awesome. But do you know what to write about to attract quality leads to your website?
In this post, I’ll break down BlueWing’s approach to roadmapping a content strategy for our agency clients.
1. Create Buyer Personas
The first step in developing a content strategy is to articulate features of your ideal client (for now, we’re talking the person, not the organization). Taken together, those features help define a buyer persona for your agency.
According to HubSpot, a persona is “a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer based on market research and real data about your existing customers. When creating your buyer persona(s), consider including customer demographics, behavior patterns, motivations, and goals.”
A few question to get started on your persona(s):
- What is their job title?
- What are their goals or ambitions?
- What are their daily challenges and pain points?
- How do they make a buying decision?
- What are their frustrations with other providers in the industry?
- When you take a meeting with them, what questions do they ask?
- Where do they go for information? What are they reading online?
Don’t skip that last question. The sites your persona visits will play an important role in step two.
2. Execute Data-Driven Keyword and Social Research
Today, people find content in two primary ways: search and social. We want to develop a content strategy that considers both of these platforms to maximize clicks. We’ll need some tools to get this done.
One the search side, you’ll need access to a keyword research tool. (At BlueWing, we use the keyword research tool in HubSpot, which is simple and effective. We also SEMRush with some of our clients.)
To get started, put yourself in your persona’s shoes. What questions would they type into Google related to the problems that you can help them fix? Write down at least 300 different options and plug them into your keyword research tool. The trick is to find keywords that have a relatively high search volume and a relatively low difficulty score. This fraction of your initial 300 keywords represent the best opportunities to drive traffic to your site.
Now comes the social research. First, create a list of your competitors’ sites and like-minded blogs that your target persona would read. (For example, if you are targeting someone who works in media, Nieman Lab and DigiDay would be excellent options.)
Next, run an analysis of these sites to see what their most-shared content is. You’ll need a subscription to BuzzSumo, which is worth every penny of the $99-a-month fee. We wrote a post last summer breaking down how we use BuzzSumo to run a competitive analysis:
BuzzSumo also allows you to view the most-shared posts from an individual website. First, put together a list of your company's competitors or other sites within your niche. Perform a search for each domain and export the results to a .CSV. To make this information actionable, clip the top 20 or so posts from each website’s spreadsheet and combine them into one master competitive content audit. Order them from the most shared to the least.
This simple strategy is the most time-effective way to identify the content that's driving the most social shares within your niche, and even among your competitors. It’s a data-driven approach to developing ideas for your next blog posts.
Armed with your keyword research and BuzzSumo reports, you’ll have plenty of insights to reverse engineer blog post and white paper titles that will grab attention from your target personas.
3. Create a “Buyer Journey” Content Matrix
Not all content you’ll produce will serve the same purpose. Each blog post, whitepaper, and webinar must be designed to address a specific stage of the buyer’s journey. Since the vast majority of your site visitors are in the awareness stage, more than half of your content ideas should tap into that step of the buyer’s journey specifically.
A few examples of how this works:
Awareness stage: Should be about 60% of your content.
Generally, content that taps into this stage is relevant to your target persona but may have nothing to do with your agency’s specialty services. Your target buyer has a problem and they are figuring out how to fix it—that’s where you come in as a trusted advisor. As an example, let’s look at some potential blog titles for an agency that specializes in running digital campaigns for real estate companies.
Ex: How to Reach Millennials Who Are Ready to Buy Their First Home
Consideration stage: Should be about 30% of your content.
Content addressing the consideration stage is both relevant to your target persona and closely related to the specialty services your agency offers. At this point, your target buyer has discovered a strategy that could fix their problem, and they want to learn more about it.
Ex: 5 Ways Real Estate Agents Can Use Social Media to Bring on New Clients
Decision stage (should be about 10% of your content)
This content will help a prospective client choose between you and a competitor. Your target buyer is all-in on using the strategy you embrace to solve their business challenge, and is deciding which vendor or partner would be the best.
Ex: How We Helped Coldwell Banker Double Their Market Share for Millennials
The culmination of the above steps is the creation of a Content Matrix, which will draw on both the target personas and the keyword research that you’ve already completed. This simple table will help you organize your content ideas (inspired by your research), and match them to your personas and the different stages of the buying journey.
Once you’ve filled out your Content Matrix, your production roadmap should be clear, along with the next step: write, write, and write some more.