A Google search for a content & inbound marketing agency generates millions of hits. But choosing the right agency for your company is not that easy. And maybe you've already asked yourself why you need a marketing agency in the first place. Do you sometimes get annoyed with your agency because they don't implement things the way you envisioned or they don't understand exactly what you mean? Given that feedback loops are an everyday occurrence, it may be tempting to think that you could just do it yourself. This is exactly what we have been looking at, coming at it from the other perspective.
Perhaps an agency is not the right choice for you, maybe you need someone to take you by the hand and coach you? An obvious reason why this might be true is that no one knows your company as well as you and your employees do. No one is closer to the relevant issues, and no one is more aware of what is important to your customers than you are.
From our beginning in 2016 as Content Glory, we have positioned ourselves as a full-service inbound & content marketing agency. In doing so, we have helped our clients generate the right, relevant content for their respective target audiences. In the process, we have been able to gain a lot of valuable experience and important insights regarding the advantages and disadvantages of this approach. Ultimately, this led us to question the traditional agency model, which is primarily designed to produce content FOR clients.
Ultimately, at the end of 2021, we decided to reposition ourselves and transform our agency into a coaching and training-based business. A big step? Definitely, but for good reasons, which we are happy to share with you here. In this article, we compare the "traditional model" with the coaching-focused consulting agency model and share the pros and cons, based on our experience as well as insights from a client perspective.
Traditional marketing agency vs. consulting agency
Outsourcing marketing activities to agencies has been the method of choice for years. And rightly so, since clients, on the one hand, benefit from many years of experience and expertise as well as the creativity of an agency, and on the other hand, can fully concentrate on their own business. This approach works very well in many aspects. Nevertheless, there are downsides to this kind of collaboration, which gave us the incentive to rethink the classic relationship between agency and client.
To help you understand what we are referring to in this context, we have contrasted the traditional marketing agency with the coaching agency on three points:
1. Content that looks great, but lacks substance
Pretty convenient when the articles for your website, your social media posts, and your newsletters are provided by the agency and you can fully focus on your own business, isn't it? It is indeed common when working with a traditional content marketing agency that the content is delivered fully ready for publication. One could almost call it convenience content, because this type of content is comparable to convenience food. If you are at the stove yourself, you have more influence on the individual flavor of the food being served - and you also know exactly what's in it. The same applies to your content - ready-made doesn't only have advantages.
Naturally, agencies often perceive information and statements differently and sometimes even misinterpret them. An external editor or copywriter is obviously never as close to the day-to-day activities of the company as an employee who works in the organization every day. This is something that even regular meetings and well-thought-out communication processes can never completely prevent. Particularly during the past two years of the pandemic, when information became even more fast-moving, it was almost impossible for an outsider to react with the same immediacy and speed as might have been necessary in some cases. This made it even clearer to us that content produced in-house is much more authentic, tangible and up-to-date.
Although content pieces created by an agency are ultimately visually impeccable, catchy and very well written, they can never fully live up to the content expectations of their clients.
2. Agency-marketing relationship vs. 360-degree corporate culture shift
While the traditional content marketing agency primarily communicates and develops plans with the marketing department, the consulting agency focuses on more extensive buy-in within the company. This aims to generate a shared mindset from the management level across all departments, and particularly from the sales team all the way to marketing.
Therefore, a coaching agency goes beyond consulting and training. After all, in order to collaborate successfully, the first step has to be establishing a mindset and thereby initiating a change in corporate culture.
3. Marketing & Sales: Marriage of convenience or alliance for life?
Another major difference is that traditional content marketing agencies are primarily focused on working with the marketing department. Frequently distributed content has as its primary goal the creation of awareness. It's well worth taking the approach of defining marketing and sales as a unit that works together on a daily basis, possibly even as a "revenue team". Marketing is there to help sales generate leads, while sales assists marketing in producing content to meet customer demands. Together, both departments are responsible for revenue and share the success of their efforts.
A consulting agency as a sustainable model
The points outlined above have led our team at Content Glory to look further into other forms of inbound marketing & sales. Ultimately, we discovered Entrepreneur & Impact Plus founder Marcus Sheridan's framework: They Ask, You Answer (TAYA) has resulted in a holistic shift in our mindset.
TAYA is a methodology that focuses on all customer questions concerning products and services. By answering these key questions directly and honestly, businesses distinguish themselves from the mass of competitors and become the most trusted voice in the industry.
With regard to collaboration, this means that the selection of content is done in a completely different way: The topics that interest your customers shortly before they make a purchase are prioritized.
Therefore, it is essential to make the BIG 5 topics the central, trust-building content of your communication measures in marketing and sales:
- price and costs
This means that, in contrast to content that only generates attention, the information provided is best suited to conveying unbiased knowledge and earning your customers' trust. The goal is to provide answers to all questions that a customer might have in advance, thus making the purchase decision much easier.
You can find out more about the BIG 5 in this article.
Why? Because it offers the right content at the right time and in the right place. Just the way people want it. Without being interrupted. It's the only marketing that's left.
What is required for a successful partnership?
For successful coaching and training, in the framework of the underlying philosophy of They Ask, You Answer, the commitment of both parties – agency and customer – is the fundamental prerequisite. And when we say "client", we really mean the entire company. Because the strategy workshops and discussions require the involvement and understanding of everyone, from the management level to marketing and the sales team.
Here we have summarized the expertise and skill sets required on both the agency and client sides for successful collaboration:
- Years of inbound marketing and sales experience, as well as in content marketing and storytelling
- Qualified coaches and trainers who have a profound understanding of the topics of marketing, channels, processes, analytics and optimization
- A hands-on learning organization that knows the latest trends and how to put them into practice
- Know-how and practical experience in the utilization of video
- Skills and expertise in a variety of systems in the field of marketing & sales automation
- Awareness of one's own goals
- Willingness for a change in corporate culture and a focus on customer issues
- Commitment to building a learning, result-oriented culture for internal content creation
- Profound marketing and sales knowledge
- Close ongoing collaboration between marketing and sales for content creation
Pros and cons of working with a traditional agency:
- All services are from a singular provider
- Responsibility for the creation as well as the workload falls to the external service provider
- Fresh input from teams working in different fields
- A variety of creative ideas and creatively designed content
- Time required in advance for briefings and coordination meetings to clarify information
- Several sometimes long and time-consuming review cycles are necessary to ensure that the content is in line with the customer's ideas
- Lower accuracy of the content, since external parties are never as involved in the content as the company's own employees
- Dependency on an external agency and its employees
- Higher costs in the long term
The benefits and drawbacks of working with a coaching agency:
- The collaboration is structured much closer to the business and is more agile
- The employees are more in touch with the problems and needs of the customers
- Establishment of a certain culture
- "Ownership" of the communication activities
- Less expensive and more effective in the long run
- Not reliant on staff changes on the agency side
- There is at least one more person on the payroll
- The team, especially the Content Manager and videographer, has to be properly trained in order to fulfill all requirements.
- Staff management falls to the customers
To conclude, ask yourself the following essential questions one more time:
- How closely does your company's content meet your customers' needs?
- How tightly is the marketing content tailored to sales to inform and advise customers in the best possible way and ultimately to close deals?
- Do you answer all of your customers' important questions on your website?
- How do marketing & sales work together in your company?
- Are you ready for a change that will eventually require a corporate culture shift?
With the proper support of coaching and training, the creation and maintenance of website texts, the management of the corporate social media channels or e-mail marketing activities can be successfully achieved at a lower cost in the long term. Thus, collaboration with agencies can reach a new standard of quality, offering creative, strategically important input and elevating the partnership to a new, higher level.
Developed a taste for a consulting agency? We can help you produce the best content for your business!