As content marketing grows in popularity, many businesses are looking to get started crafting great content to draw in potential prospects. Not all business, however, are in the position to hire an entire editorial team so instead will turn to a content marketing agency to craft an editorial schedule, create the content and plan the distribution tactics needed to get leads.

With all the content marketing agencies available, choosing one that will deliver the best results is an undertaking in itself. To help you get started, we’ve identified some of the variables businesses should pay attention to when they search for an agency that will deliver results.

Do They Walk the Walk or Talk the Talk?

If a content marketing agency has no marketing content on its website or on a related website, then you’re wasting your time. Those dedicated to the art of inbound marketing should have an active community of people visiting their website to read the consistent postings on their blog (or blogs).

The same can be said for the agency’s social media presence. Content marketing is a much more expansive tactic than just publishing blog posts, and one of the most telling is a social media feed. Read up on what an agency may be posting and figure out the methods behind its social media. If a feed is rarely updated and lacks any branding initiatives, then do you really think that the agency you’re looking at will deliver anything different for you?

Who Will Be Producing Your Content?

While content strategy is a major variable that can define a content marketing’s success, the actual development of content can make or break content marketing initiatives. You’ll want to know how well the men and women behind the content can actually produce the right kind of asset for your needs.

During most agency talks, you’ll most likely be interacting with the department heads or business owners when discussing content strategies, and the people actually writing or developing content will be folks behind the scenes. Luckily, in today’s day and age, finding information about these individuals is as easy as it ever has been. Most companies have team pages that display the names of their employees. Any further details can be fleshed out through LinkedIn or a Google search, and you may be able to get a better idea of the content process when you know the writers behind the words.

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More than likely, the actual people producing your content will be behind-the-scenes.

Also, realize that some content marketing agencies may not actually be creating the content. There are plenty of writers and creatives looking for a few bucks, and some agencies will outsource to these individuals when crafting content, which can lead to less than spectacular results. Other content marketing agencies will just craft the editorial schedule, create SEO initiatives and other strategic concerns while leaving actual content creation to a business’s in-house employees.

Tip: Write up a question, and ask the writer who will be assigned the account to write a 150-word response.

Do They Know How to Use a Measuring Stick?

The ROI on content marketing has been proven time and time again, but that doesn’t mean that the ROI has been proven for a particular agency’s work. You’ll want to be sure of the effectiveness of the tactics that you’re paying for, and that requires some sort of system able to measure content’s ROI. Make sure that the agency you’re looking at has this capability and has used it in the past to prove its ROI to past clients.

Is the Agency Dedicated to Multiple Levels of Content Marketing?

While the “content marketing” buzzword means “business blog” to some businesses out of the marketing loop, real content marketing requires multiple disciplines to work well. Both social media and SEO strategies are extremely important when it comes to crafting content that people will find. From ideation to distribution, the content marketing umbrella continues to widen and adopt many different marketing methods.  You’ll want a content marketing agency who can deal with all these aspects of content marketing to create and implement one comprehensive strategy. However, realize that most businesses may not need the full breadth of content marketing services, and a content marketing agency won’t need every tool in its bag. Some businesses may be able to use these particular agencies if the fit is right.

Do Past Clients and Employees Find Success?

The one thing most marketing agencies excel at is marketing, and sometimes, you’ll want opinions not crafted by its messaging team. For that reason, ask for lists of past clients to talk to. A good agency will be more than obliging and help ease communication between you and a past client. On the other hand, ask for retention numbers and get in touch with past employees who may be in your network. The success of an agency is defined more than by the perception of past clients. A solid agency will have an innovative culture, and past employees will be able to provide insight.

Choosing a successful content marketing agency in today’s marketing environment is getting more and more difficult as marketing agencies try to take advantage of content marketing’s growing popularity. Businesses must be willing to ask the right questions in order to find the right answers and land an agency able to deliver the results that content marketing can promise.