When it comes to marketing an agency or digital shop, most firms are looking for ways to differentiate themselves. Many agency leaders pride themselves on creating a culture that inspires creativity, allows the best ideas to rise to the top, and attracts top talent. They want to create a rewarding environment.
If you’ve realized this vision, it’s only natural that you would want to shout it from the rooftops. While it is advantageous to create a unique culture, it is a misstep to make it the crux of your thought leadership and content marketing efforts.
Following are the key ways that writing about your culture hinders your marketing progress despite your best intentions.
Your Agency Culture is Not as Original as You Think It Is
Agency culture has evolved from the glory days of Madison Avenue to borrowing workplace trends from Silicon Valley. Whether you’ve unknowingly modeled your firm after Don Draper or Mark Zuckerberg, your firm’s culture may not be as novel as you think it is. These days there is a laundry list of culture drivers that agencies have embraced as a means of inspiring a creative vibe and attracting top talent.
If any of the following practices sound familiar, then your environment isn’t as original as you had hoped. Did you have a flexible work-from-home or dog-at-work policy even before we all went into quarantine? Do you have a ping pong table in your office? Do you have beer, cold brew, and/or kombucha on draft at your office? Have you sponsored a regular happy hour to inspire team building? Do you have a really cool office space that was designed specifically for really innovative creative work? There are a lot of firms out there that boast all of these amenities and more.
That all sounds like a lot of fun, and I’m sure the benefits do indeed pay off by way of happier employees. The problem is not with these benefits themselves. This issue is when these workplace perks start creeping into the space that should be occupied by the thought leadership articles and industry insights in your content marketing plan.
The Pitfalls of Differentiating & Marketing Your Firm Based on Values
You might be thinking, “Wait just one minute… Our culture is much more than just perks. It’s all about our company values and the people who work here.” While these are indeed valuable to your internal team, basing your marketing strategy on your core values may not be as differentiating as you may think. These are just a sampling of the core values that countless firms have claimed as their own:
- Design first.
- Think outside the box.
- Help others.
- Do the right thing.
- Work hard/play hard.
- We partner with our clients.
- Top talent all under one roof.
- Diverse talent distributed across the globe.
- Do more with less.
Don’t get me wrong, having a collection of core values to rally your team around can be incredibly beneficial to building an effective and fulfilled team. The trouble lies in centering your content marketing efforts on your values at the expense of your true expertise. Touting these as key differentiating assets may make your firm blend into a sea of sameness among many other firms of your ilk.
Focusing your marketing efforts on these topics will detract from the messages your prospects need to be hearing. Your expertise must come through loud and clear so that your prospects can evaluate your ability to deliver results for them.
When you talk about your culture being the driving force behind your creative output, you make it sound like one can’t exist without the other. Will your prospects need to subsidize your culture and perks in order to get quality work from your firm? Propping up your employee benefits, values, or culture as vital to your work may make your prospects wonder where your true expertise lies.
Your Marketing Content Sounds Promotional Instead of Prospect-Centric
If you are regularly writing about your culture and your list of accomplishments, then you are spending a lot of time talking about yourself. By starting the conversation with awards, the bios of your brilliant team of creatives, or name dropping your client list, you are blasting a promotional preamble to your newly acquainted prospects.
When you are developing your thought leadership content housed within your website’s insights section, you should aim to build a repository of prospect-centric, educational content. The content that you publish should target your most relevant audiences when they are in the researcher and evaluator stages of the buying cycle. This is your opportunity to show your prospects that you see them, you understand them, and you have the expertise to produce results for their brand. The most effective way to do this is to speak directly to your prospects and provide them with valuable insight into their world.
Posting blog articles that focus on your firm, your culture, your talent, your office, your awards, and your events will likely alienate early-stage prospects. They are seeking to understand the pain points that occupy their day-to-day work and you are distracting them from this goal.
Sharing your expertise without talking about yourself can be a tall order. You love your job, the people you work with, and the fun you have along the way, but you have to trust that your passion will shine through without having to directly sell these attributes. It takes discipline to keep the focus on educating your potential clients. But, in the long run, you will end up with more qualified buyers who value your expertise, let you lead the engagement, and will pay you top dollar to do so.
Promotional Content Clogs Your Marketing Funnel with Distractions
Publishing content to your blog that is self-promotional in nature can create distractions for your prospects along their buying journey. Particularly in the earlier stages of the buying cycle, your prospects are focused on solving a problem that is holding them back from being successful at work. There are several ways they may have stumbled upon your website, whether through organic search, a marketing email, or a paid ad placement. No matter how they end up on your doorstep, they are looking for answers. The first article they read may begin to answer their query, but it hopefully won’t be the end of their journey on your website.
Your wide portfolio of content should provide a multitude of information that develops their understanding of the challenges they are up against. They will begin to see your firm as a catalyst to take their efforts to the next level. This means you need to create a variety of content that targets your most relevant audiences.
After digesting your thought leadership content, the hope is that your site visitors become interested in your case studies, examples of work, and services. As they navigate your site they will begin to understand how they can engage with your business through these core positioning pages.
Successful Content Marketing Demands Long-Term, Consistent Effort
The buying journey described above is an ideal scenario if all goes according to plan. In reality, the buying journey may not follow this straightforward, linear trajectory. It may be riddled with nuance and complexities. The path from unaware prospect to loyal client may require many touchpoints across several visits to your website. Factoring in that this relationship may blossom over a longer sales cycle means you have to continually and consistently publish and promote thought leadership content on your website. Side note: This happens to also be the best approach for attracting new leads to your website through organic search.
Because content marketing is a long and winding road, you need to be cautious about the insights you promote. Consider carefully the valuable real estate in your content plan and steer away from promoting your firm’s culture at the expense of your industry insight. Even when sharing the inner workings of your proprietary methodology, you should aim to frame your approach within the context of the prospect challenges you are addressing.
Your audience is busy and easily distracted. So, you must endeavor to avoid diverting their attention from the primary mission of your thought leadership and content marketing efforts—educating your prospects and nurturing them along their buying journey.