Maximise your content agency investment: onboarding is a two-way street

I let out a most satisfying ‘YES!’ when I spotted this tweet by Joel Klettke back in April. In just a few characters he’d managed to encapsulate several of our team debates about the importance of investing time and energy into agency-client immersion sessions when starting any content project:

He’s right – and we can all be guilty of it. Our clients are busy, we want to hit the ground running. But hiring a content agency is a big investment and I truly believe that in order to make sure such an investment pays off, we both need to devote time and effort into getting to know each other before any content strategy or production begins.

Content agency kick-off: what to expect and how to maximise your investment

At the bottom of this article, I’ve listed some of the non-negotiables you should expect of your content agency, but to start, here are five valuable steps you (as the client) can take to make sure your new partnership sets off on the right foot.

Prepare to answer questions about your business

As a bare minimum, we need to understand the why, how and what behind your business. Why does your business exist, how do you set yourself apart from the competition and what products do you sell?

Outside of this, we also need to understand your short and long-term business goals and marketing objectives, so make sure you’ve got the latest versions to hand.

These fundamentals feed into everything we’ll do – from the topics we discuss in ideation to the direction of the content strategy we propose and the final copy and assets we produce.

How we can help

Don’t worry if you don’t have the answers to these questions, our consultants can help you unlock and articulate that expertise with tailor made workshops and bespoke documentation.

Builtvisible group shot, working

Dig out your documentation

No doubt you’ve got a wealth of useful information floating around in your inbox, on shared drives, in Google sheets or employee handbooks. This stuff is like gold dust to our content strategists and copywriters so please, share what you can. Every client is different, so don’t worry if you can’t tick every box, but hopefully the below list helps you dust off some long-forgotten gems.

The brand immersion pick ‘n’ mix:

How we can help

If your documents are in a jumble, our content and data specialists are experts at spotting the diamonds in the rough. We’ll happily unpick, organise and prioritise your data, research and legacy projects ready to put them to work in our strategies and campaigns.

Clarify your brief

One of the most valuable things you can do to protect your investment when working with a content agency is to spend time really nailing the details of the brief. Our sales process is very consultative, so you should have a clear idea of what you’re working towards by the kick off stage. However, for the benefit of the entire account team, we find it’s best to get everything back out on the table and hear the brief again, in your own words.

Prepare to reiterate the following:

This kick off session is the time to be open, honest and vulnerable – ask the stupid questions and make no assumptions. We’ll do the same. We should each leave this briefing kick off session in full confidence that we all know what we’re doing and why we’re doing it.

If you can, try to invite colleagues who have been less involved in the sales process so that they also have an opportunity to contribute ideas and perspectives. The way your colleague sees the world or experiences a particular challenge could add real depth and extra layers of value to the content work we produce together.

We’ve witnessed real light-bulb moments between in-house teams when they take the time to reiterate their content agency brief together in one room.

Keep colleagues in the loop

A solid brief serves as a great foundation to any content project, but to maximise the potential of the assets we produce together, we’re going to need your help with internal comms and knowledge sharing.

It’s not just marketing teams who need to be onboard with our new content partnership. The most effective content strategies touch almost every function in a business – from PR and product teams to sales, customer services, directors, legal, even HR and finance teams. These functions may not be official members of the marketing team, but they hold the key to the company goals, pain points, product expertise and best of all, they have direct contact with your customers.

We’ll want to unlock their expertise to enrich our strategy and produce content that’s genuinely useful to them in customer-facing situations.  However, if these non-marketing functions not in the loop from the start, they may be confused and hesitant to get involved later down the line.

How we can help

We’re ready to roll up our sleeves and pitch in with additional team intro calls, content training workshops. We can even produce campaign-specific newsletters and dashboards for you to share internally.

Clear a path from strategy to execution

You’re about to invest in a specialist content strategy and expert production, but if together we can’t map out the path from strategy to production to real life implementation, then that investment is at serious risk.

Our decade of experience with financial services clients has shown that compliance sign off can be a real roadblock if not properly planned for from the start. Help us get our work as close to perfect first time by compiling simple things like no-go topic lists, official wording or example documentation.

How we can help

We’ll happily bend over backwards to make this phase work: we’ll work directly with you, your teams, adapt to your existing processes, train your teams and use your preferred project management tools.

Flexibility can only get us so far, so before we start, we need your help to weed out the following:

Process in action: One of our clients are in the healthcare sector requires content to have a medical review. Doctors are obviously busy people with little time to spend on marketing activities, but because we knew this from the off, we were able to build processes to fit their schedules and keep production running smoothly.Table depicting the Content approach to timings

Non-negotiables: What to expect from your content agency in the kick-off and immersion stage

Lots of thoughtful questions: no matter the size of the project or retainer, you and your content agency should be working in partnership. If you’re onboarding a content agency and they don’t ask you for the kind information above then I’d question their ability to do a good job.

A challenge: you’re hiring content specialists for a reason, from the start they should bring ideas and approaches which provoke discussion and debate.

Vulnerability: the only way for your agency to get to know you, your team, your business properly is for them to accept and admit what they don’t know and not let egos get in the way of asking for clarification when it’s needed.

Attention to detail: when you take the time to provide information, insights and data, the least your agency can do is pay close attention and absorb and unlock as much of your expertise as possible.

I hope you find this useful when preparing to kick off a new content project and look forward to meeting you in an insightful immersion session someday soon! Get in touch if you’d like to learn more. And thanks again to Joel Klettke for inspiring this article. I’d definitely recommend you give him a follow – he’s one smart cookie.

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