So, you’ve decided that now is the time to get a little assistance with the content your business is creating. How do you go about it? Who do you contact and how do you get the most from engaging with a specialist? If you’re thinking this, this blog is for you.
I see a lot of businesses on my travels. They range from solo owners who do everything (I’ve been there, I feel your struggle) through to multinational corporations with large marketing teams. There are different challenges in every type of business, but there are some recurring themes, regardless of size.
Whether you’re struggling with ideas for social media or finding it hard to get buy-in from the wider team, for the purposes of this article, I’m going to assume that you’ve decided to get some help from a content marketing professional like us at LikeMind Media.
Please don’t come to a marketing consultant without an understanding of what it is that your business is trying to achieve. Any consultant worth their salt will certainly be able to help you work out what they are, but you will be paying for their time to do this.
Of course, if that’s what you need help with, then get the help. There is an array of business support programmes on offer from Chambers of Commerce, Federation of Small Business, local authorities or business coaches. Often these are funded so you don’t need to outlay for this.
At this point, think about business goals, not marketing goals. If you’re looking to increase sales by 40% year-on-year, that’s a great piece of information to give a marketing consultant. How marketing contributes to that is the detail they’ll offer strategy on.
You may have specific marketing objectives that you’ve set (or have had set for you). These are equally important to understand. A good consultancy firm will ask why these objectives have been set and will challenge them. Be prepared for some tough questions – all of which should be delivered respectfully and in a way that ensures you understand the reasoning behind the challenge.
How can anyone help articulate what it is you do and why your customers should buy if they don’t understand what the offer is? Never be brushed aside with a quick, ‘Yep, get it.’ A good consultant will delve into the proposition and ask many questions of you until they totally understand.
Where they don’t understand, it’s reasonable to give them time to go away and conduct research, or for you to invite them to learn more at another time – for example, giving them a tour of your factory to see the product being made, or bringing a free sample to try for themselves.
You may not have intricate detail on audience persona. That’s fine. Indeed, that’s precisely what a good consultant can work with you on. You understand your organisation better than the company you’ve engaged (despite what they may say). After all, you’re in it day-to-day.
It’s helpful to have identified a market that you’d like to target. This forms the basis of research your consultant will want to do. Geography, age range, lifestyle are all examples of who you might want to target. Don’t be afraid to stereotype in your description. Good consultancy will identify opportunities and potential biases that can be worked through to get a series of audiences to create content for.
I’d always want to know what has been tried in the past, whether it was successful or if it failed to deliver in some way. There’s no shame in showing past content. Where previous campaigns have worked well, your consultant should be able to establish why it resonated well and think about how to bring in elements to new ideas.
Where campaigns haven’t delivered, there may still be parts that can be used again, or refined to form better decisions going forward.
Equally, where something has completely bombed, we’d want to understand why so those mistakes can be avoided.
Your thoughts matter. Those ideas you’ve had are based on your expertise, even if that expertise is not content marketing. These are important – please don’t let anyone just rule them out because you’ve brought them to the table.
It’s likely you understand your product or service much better than the consultant you’re working with. Make sure any business you’re working with gives you a voice and keeps it at the table. You should be approving any ideas that a consultant or a consultancy team comes up with – don’t be afraid to say you don’t like something.
In the absence of an infinite budget, the team you’re working with should be asking you what that budget is and, comparing it to your objectives, what resources are needed to implement any strategy. You may want to outsource the content creation, or you may be happy with the strategy so you can implement it yourself. A professional consultant should be able to create a plan that takes these factors into consideration. They should not be using it as an opportunity to sell you services you don’t need.
That said, be conscious of your skills. If there are gaps in your knowledge and capabilities, you’ll need to close these if you’re to implement the plan yourself. Perhaps there’s some training that the company can offer you, or some ongoing support. Increasingly, we’re finding this option, where a business implements a strategy with regular handholding and support, is becoming attractive.
You can find out more about how we do this here.
Be clear if you have any target dates for the activities you agree to. Actions should align with objectives.
Content marketing in particular changes all the time. My advice is to be wary of timescales that are pushed out a long way into the future. Three, six, nine or twelve months for a plan is more than adequate.
Hand in hand with agreeing timescales is the need to review. Hopefully, you’ve selected a consultant or company with whom you’re going to have a long-term relationship – that’s certainly what we’re looking for – so there should be no issue with frequent reviews of the plan so that tweaks and amendments can be made.
Imagine Microsoft decides to close LinkedIn, or the government bans email (both unlikely scenarios). You still need to meet your objectives, so, together, your consultant and your company need to swerve with the change or pivot entirely.
Agree a frequency that works for you and the different hats you probably have to wear, and don’t be bumped to a long time in the future. You need to work with a company or consultant that is available to you in a reasonable way – not waiting for your call every minute, but responsive and attentive enough to serve you.
These are my thoughts based on my nearly 25 years’ experience of working with businesses like yours. If it’s helpful, and if you’re looking for this type of positive consultancy, but you have more questions, please feel free to reach out to me directly for a conversation.