How to Evaluate a FinTech Content Marketing Agency

PropelGrowth Blog - Financial Services Marketing and Content Strategy

If you represent a financial technology firm and are looking for help with content marketing, then you already understand the very real need to deliver a steady stream of helpful, engaging content to your readers. But if you’re like most FinTech firms, your marketing team doesn’t have the time or attention span to develop a customer-centric content strategy and produce all the content needed. Your subject matter experts represent a wealth of knowledge, but even if they write well, they are too consumed with their own jobs to sit down and craft effective content. Plus, they likely don’t know how to align content with your content strategy and the customers’ buying process.

To address these shortcomings, many FinTech firms are turning to content marketing agencies for help. According to a CMI study, 72% of large organizations and 33% of small companies outsource their content creation. But determining which agency to work with is not always easy. Here are five important tips that will help you pick the right content marketing partner.

Use an Agency That Specializes in Your Specific Industry

Lots of marketing agencies are hungry for work—any kind of work. They fear that focusing on a niche will cost them business. So they bid on any opportunity they uncover. They are jacks of all trades, yet masters of none. I confess that I often wonder how on earth can these “generalist” agencies expect to deliver quality content if they are constantly bouncing around dealing with a financial services client one day and medical device company the next? In my opinion, agencies that fail to concentrate on a specific industry or market niche are doing a disservice to themselves and their customers.

If you’re like most of our clients, you’re selling a very sophisticated product or service to a very sophisticated audience. The learning curve for someone to fully grasp your audience and your value position is probably fairly steep. If this is the case, it pays to work with a content marketing consultancy that has depth of knowledge in your industry niche. Working with a marketing partner that specializes in your company’s target market gives you access to a team with specialized expertise.

These agencies’ team members are probably talking to the buyers you target regularly. This means they already have a high level understanding of your customers’ buyer personas, buying process, needs and pain points. They know industry issues.

The agency should also have enough sales focus to know how to align content with the buying cycle in order to get the best results from a content marketing program.

Use an Agency Focused on Content Strategy

Every agency says they’re strategic. But frankly, most are focused on specific tactics. Some will spend a couple days with you in a “strategy workshop.” But they haven’t spent the time researching your company, your clients, your competitors or your industry. That’s the equivalent of “borrowing the client’s watch to tell them the time” and then charging for it. Your content marketing agency should be a partner who digs into figuring out your specific buyer personas, their specific needs and buying process. Ideally, the research they do should bring to light things that will help your overall company and sales strategy. For example, we often uncover more complexity and more constituents in the buying process than the sales team knew were involved. The insight helps them refine their sales strategy.

Marketing consultancies that focus on both strategy and execution get a lot of exposure to various strategies and tactics. They learn what works and what doesn’t. So, they’re well positioned to advise your marketing team on what approaches work with your target audience and what is likely to tank. They’ll put this knowledge to work to create a tailored content strategy that delivers on your goals.

Another benefit of using agencies specialized in content marketing is that, ideally, they are attending marketing conferences, constantly researching trends in content marketing, and testing their theories in their own marketing. If they’re doing that, they will be able to offer you a clear understanding of evolving best practices, and fresh ideas on how your firm can leverage content marketing — ideas that may not be readily apparent to you as an insider.

Investing in strategy costs more up front, but if you don’t invest in strategy, you’ll waste most of your content creation investment delivering content that doesn’t achieve your goals. Creating marketing content without a strategy is like building a house without architectural blueprints. You’re likely to waste a LOT of money and end up with a mess.

Use an Agency That Has a Heavy Client Focus

Look out for agencies that assign your content strategist to lots of accounts. If they are juggling a lot of clients at once, they simply don’t have time to be highly involved with individual accounts throughout the entire project lifecycle. One of our newest clients experienced this situation firsthand. Before finding PropelGrowth, they had been using an agency who’s content strategist was managing 27 different accounts simultaneously. The strategist’s attention was stretched too thin. She doesn’t have time to conduct interviews and fully understand customer problems for 27 accounts. But having these kinds of conversations and doing the research is essential to uncovering the major pain points that plague your audience in order to develop a content strategy that your targets identify with and respond to. I would imagine that she goes from meeting to meeting with little or no time to think. Strategy takes research and THOUGHT.

In contrast, a content strategist that stays involved and collaborates with your sales, executive and marketing team throughout the duration of your project can help steer the strategy. Without this, you run the risk of your content targeting the wrong audience, providing information that isn’t useful to your audience, and not getting the results you need. Solid agencies will assign you a dedicated content strategist who will develop the strategy at the beginning of your engagement and then continue to collaborate with you and oversee every step of execution. Ideally, the content strategist should be involved in every deliverable:

  • Strategy: The strategist should work with you to define the purpose and objective of the deliverable, what buyer persona it is targeting, and what buying stage it’s influencing. From there, the strategist guides the writer and creative team on how to deliver on the strategy.
  • Interviews: The strategist and writer should conduct interviews with prospects and industry thought leaders to ensure they understand the key issues from the customer’s point of view and that the messaging is going to resonate with the target audience.
  • Writing/editorial reviews: The strategist should guide the creative brief and content outline, review the writer’s drafts for accuracy and alignment with objectives, and redirect the direction of content where necessary. They should also guide the creative team.
  • Deployment: Where appropriate, the strategist should guide the direction of email promotions and landing pages to promote the content, and provide insight on social promotion.
  • Evaluation: The strategist should be involved in evaluating the audience response to the content, and adjust the strategy going forward to improve results. 

Use an Agency That Has Its Own Strategy and “Walks Their Talk”

A lot of marketing agencies fail to realize the importance of publishing their own content regularly. I’m always skeptical of an agency who claims to be able to help a company develop a revenue-centric demand generation strategy, yet they don’t have their own blog. They share their client’s press releases and news stories, but they don’t write content about their own craft. Some are old school and focus more on PR. Some don’t think it’s worth their time. Some are afraid that they’ll give away their secret sauce. But how can you evaluate their strategic approach if they don’t demonstrate it on their own website?

Another way to evaluate the credibility of your content marketing agency is to check out what kind of content they’ve published under their own byline on external trade publications. Is it quality, authoritative content? Is this content being picked up by reputable publications that are well-regarded in your industry? If so, you can feel more confident that such an agency can help your organization produce the kind of content that drives engagement with the right kind of audience.

Agencies that have their own effective content strategies in place will be better equipped to help you shape your own. Frankly, if your content marketing agency isn’t getting most or all of their sales from leads generated by their content, then they probably won’t be able to help you attract customers either.

Final Recommendations

Once you do select a proper agency that you feel meets your needs, be prepared to invest time participating in the strategy and content development. Don’t assume that they’ll fly solo and report in when it’s done. Your executive, sales, marketing, product management, and services teams should expect to invest time being interviewed and guiding them. Time invested up front in getting everyone on board is going to play a key role in getting the best outcome from your content project.

To learn more about why a strategy is essential to the success of your content marketing program, read our related blog posts:

Why You Need a Content Marketing Strategy
Get The Band Together For Content Marketing Success
Developing Buyer Personas For Financial Services

If you’ve read this far, you might be wondering if PropelGrowth serves your niche. After all, financial services is made up of a lot of very distinct niches. We work with companies that provide technology to support institutional investing, electronic trading, and wealth management. We’re more niche than most, but it allows us to stay focused on a specific target audience. If you’d like to learn more, explore our site or give me a call.
My direct line is +1 970.300.2280.

Candyce Edelen