Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
In the age of content mills, AI content and freelancing, creating quality content in volume may seem like an impossible undertaking. And not many can say they have built a thriving content agency from the ground up.
That’s where our business got things right from the start — by establishing clear company values, organized operations and a results-driven team from the very beginning. In our nearly 14 years in operation, we’ve taken away many learnings — primarily that growth is often not linear, but sequential. Anyone looking to establish and grow a content empire should take this lesson to heart: adaptability and perseverance are the keys to success.
Related: How to Know If You’re Producing Quality Content
Here’s how to build a content empire that can break through a feast or famine cycle and come out on top.
Define your agency values
To build a content agency that has an unshakable presence, you need core values. These values give your company purpose, your team drive and a standard for the quality of service you provide to clients. In 2008, when our company was but a small team of three, we immediately saw the necessity to establish our company values. Without them, we would flounder, and more importantly, struggle to differentiate ourselves in the market.
These values fell into two themes:
- Define our value to the market
- Define our expectations for our team
The former made it clear what our product was: legal web content. We were able to honey in on a unique niche where the need for quality content was high. Our values became specialization and quality. The latter led to a process by which in-house writers and contractors should create content. We defined clear objectives for writers, editors and senior editors. Content production became sequential, dedicated to results and suited the legal industry’s strict ethical standards.
If you don’t know who you are, you won’t know how to sell. In building a content empire, you need clearly-defined values that hold your agency to a superior standard and set your agency apart in the marketplace.
Related: How Establishing Core Values Drives Success
Own your operations
In the beginning, we faced many of the same challenges, most content agencies face: a feast or famine acquisition cycle, a slow hiring process and scaling issues for creating content at volume. We faced a make it or break it point: take the time to build out our operations or flounder at each new stage of growth. It should be no surprise that we then decided to own our operations. This meant building out processes from start to finish and developing a system for serving our clients’ content needs at scale.
This started with our Content Production Blueprint, which established detailed editorial standards for our writers and editors to follow. Not only does the Blueprint outline the content production process, but includes the unique requirements as defined by our clients. To add grease to this operations machine, we developed growth and training protocols for our newly-dedicated Operations department. We set clear benchmarks for our content editors to QA content even at high volumes. The Blueprint led to a substantial increase in content production and our core team has grown as well.
To create a content empire, a streamlined blueprint is needed to map content research, production and QA, plus clear systems for each step. You can scale your content efforts while still achieving marketing results.
Hire the right talent
Hire for character fit. Skills can be developed — and the right training will help with that — but it’s far more difficult to teach drive, dedication and attention to detail. Not everyone can navigate and survive change. Once we began implementing new processes, we had to hire and hold onto those who were willing to get on board. The right people were excited to get started and play a pivotal role in our growth.
We’ve been fortunate to have great employees and contractors from the start. As we hire new talent, we look for the right personality to fit our culture and content standards. Further, all prospective writers and editors must pass our proprietary tests that screen for writing quality, web writing best practices, message relevancy and more. This helps us maintain the standard our clients have grown to expect from our company.
Related: How to Hire Top-Tier Freelance Writers for your Content Business
QA every step of the way
Where many content agencies fail is in scaling production while compromising on their content standards. This can lead to high client churn, poor reviews and major faults in your brand’s reputation. A dip in content standards can affect marketing results and send clients running to competitors. This is not an area where we are willing to compromise.
Here’s what our QA process looks like today:
- Thorough client intake, including building out a unique client profile of preferences, feedback and editorial guidelines.
- Team SOPs, training videos, content briefs and working documents for every stage of the content creation process.
- Senior editors working in close partnership with clients to meet their needs, ensure content is fully optimized and verify sources on legal content.
- Final QA on SEO content, references and citations and delivery of content.
For the legal industry, there are strict legal ethics and bar marketing rules lawyers must adhere to in their marketing. With this in mind, our company holds itself to an even higher standard as to not land our clients in hot water.
Build your acquisition engine
The start of the pandemic in 2020 hit us hard. We faced the reality that much of our marketing was reliant on in-person networking and speaking events. We needed to build an acquisition engine and a sales team in order to keep leads flowing through our door. Never wanting to depend on one source of leads, we’ve leaned heavily into inbound marketing. This means creating our own optimized content that draws in law firms and establishes our reputation in Google search.
Thought leadership is a huge piece of this as well. In the legal industry, it’s often who you know and what you know that gets your foot in the door. Nurturing partnerships in legal and SEO, and publishing informative content, has helped fill our pipeline.
This is the tie to diversifying your acquisition strategy. Whether it’s content, ads, social, email or all of the above, don’t be too reliant on a single source of leads. Rather, define your message and adopt a cross-channel strategy that has your audience coming to you on a continuous basis. As with your operations, your sales team should follow a clearly-outlined process: from A to B to C. Market at scale, sell at scale and you never have to worry about lead generation running dry.
Content agency success for the future
As agencies come into the remote environment, production has improved. Content agencies are able to reach more clients, produce more content and grow a team exponentially. But this growth is only sustainable with effective systems.
Building a content empire is hard, particularly in the hard-to-scale world of SEO. These are some of the biggest challenges content agencies face today. But productization, training and team development and ongoing client acquisition hold the key to creating a thriving content empire.
Thought point: What need can your content agency fill in the market? How can you productize a content offer that’s attractive, replicable and built to scale?