10 questions to ask yourself when hiring a copywriting agency

You’re thinking about hiring a copywriting agency. You probably already know that it takes time and effort to produce quality content that helps you grow your business. You may have had a go in-house already and struggled to keep up with creating valuable content regularly.  Or are you trying content marketing for the first time?

You’ll also know that everybody’s doing it – but not everybody’s doing it well. The web is awash with content.  You’ll find everything from the mundane to the magnificent.  Your target audience will be looking for the latter. They know the type of content they’ll find useful.  Your competitors are writing some of it.  Now you want the edge.

You might have also seen many stories in your social feeds about how you need to be good at SEO copywriting, which is all about creating valuable content that targets specific keywords to rank better.  Content that people also want to link to and share (which also improves your SEO).

Outsourcing your copywriting to an agency will give you access to the agency’s in-house team or team of freelancers, which means you can make use of an experienced, reliable pool of writers that know how to write copy that keeps your audience and Google happy (we get onto this later).

But what are the steps can you take to make sure you find the right fit?  Here are ten questions to think about to narrow your search and make finding the perfect match a whole lot easier.

 

  1. What are my objectives with this writing?

Purposeful content delivers purposeful results.  Project by project, brief by brief, a writer needs to know precisely what you want to achieve from your content and who it’s aimed at.

Your objectives could include:

  • Amplifying a campaign or product launch
  • Cultivating an influencer network and improving brand advocacy
  • Driving more traffic to your website
  • Increasing leads and conversions
  • Boosting engagement ratios
  • Reaching a new market
  • Improving brand awareness and sharing your story
  • Establishing brand authority
  1. Have I chosen the right agency for the job?

Okay, so now you’ve got a clear idea of what you want to achieve, the next step is to think about the type of agency that will help you deliver on this.

For example, you may need strategic advice on how to get started or how to change course.  We see a lot of businesses fail at content marketing because they don’t have a content plan. Or they’ve kind of got a plan but aren’t sure what to write about, so they write about what they think their audience will find interesting.

Sometimes they’re not even sure about the types of content that will resonate and convert.  A good agency should provide sound strategic advice on your plan and the expertise needed to deliver it.

Also, what type of copywriter do you need?

  • Web copywriters
  • SEO copywriters
  • Case study copywriters
  • Product copywriters
  • Email copywriters
  • Press release copywriters
  • Social media copywriters
  • Video scriptwriters
  • Brand storytellers

One additional point here – think about volume and frequency. If you need a large volume of content, can the agency handle this regularly or at short notice?

  1. Can the agency demonstrate experience in our sector?

When you are doing your research, case studies help show you how the agency provided a solution to their client’s content problem, how the relationship worked and the results that were achieved (or they should do). Testimonials are also powerful social proof. But it’s also worth asking for a short, free sample of work.

The agency might be the right fit at the right price but not have experience in your particular business. It’ll be worth checking their writing style.  With a clear brief, a good copywriter will quickly get what you want and adopt your brand voice and style of writing.   But if you are a specialist law firm, say, then hiring an agency that is used to working with more playful eCommerce brands that want to disrupt might not be the right fit.

  1. Does the agency have experience in SEO?

The content you publish online can improve your SEO.  Your agency should be able to advise you on this.  But wouldn’t hiring an SEO agency to do your writing be a better fit then?

Years of experience tells us that the answer is no. SEO agencies are brilliant at understanding the mind of Google.  But they don’t always understand the minds of customers and the types of content and topics that will cut through.  Professional copywriters will know how to structure copy and use target keywords to send the right SEO signals to make your content rank higher.  SEO experts are not always good writers, and understandably so.

  1. How will we work together – what’s the writing process?

Chemistry with the agency team is essential. So you’ll want to know if you get an account manager or be introduced to the copywriter and work with them directly.

And what about the writing, editing and publishing process?

  • will I get the same writer(s) throughout my project?
  • will I get an account manager?
  • who edits the content?
  • can the agency publish and share the content for us – can this be priced in, or are there additional costs?
  1. How does the agency handle feedback and amends?

Your agency will want to become an extension of your brand. They will be able to take a brief, even something as simple as “write me 1,000 words on property hotspots in Devon”, and write compelling copy that makes all the good stuff happen.  They bring insight, experience and an expert understanding of how good copy can make a difference to your business. The copywriting team will get better as they get to know your organisation and take on feedback.

You should expect your agency to deliver on time and to brief.  A second draft may be needed to fine-tune the copy and make small amends.  Some back and forth is expected.  But feedback and amends should not be open-ended. This can lead to laziness in the briefing process and places unreasonable demands on the agency.

  1. Are we able to manage the process internally?

Who is going to handle the relationship?  A single point of contact is always best.  Feedback from many different people can get confusing on both sides, and the project could move away from the original brief.

Be clear on your demands in terms of deadlines. What lead time does the agency need for a project, and can the team meet urgent deadlines and fast turnarounds?

If you want to take some of the writing in-house, be clear about your capacity to handle and publish new content.

  1. Have we prepared a good enough brief?

Your copywriting agency is producing customer-facing content that can either help grow your business through more conversions and word of mouth referrals or weaken your reputation as a brand that delivers solid content.

You will only achieve the best results if you provide a clear brief covering:

  • the context of the project and the objective
  • the type of content they are writing and who they are writing for
  • the length of the copy (this should be for guidance – you don’t want your writer to ramble on just to meet a word count)
  • language requirements
  • the topic they are writing about (what to include and what to leave out)
  • target keywords and messaging
  • what type of call to action to use

Don’t forget to:

  • provide detailed style guidelines (your agency can help you write these)
  • give writers an appropriate time to get to know you and  your company and research the content they are writing
  • allow time in the writing process for amendments
  1. Have we thought about tone of voice?

Your brand tone of voice needs to be consistent across every written communication, or it becomes weakened.  Your content should be instantly recognisable as yours, whether it’s online, in an inbox, in a social feed, on the side of a bus, on the doormat or a product on a supermarket shelf.  A good agency should be able to help you write your tone of voice guidelines (you will need this anyway for anybody that is writing your business communications).

  1. How will I measure success?

What does success look like? You’ll only really know when you start to see measurable results coming through.  Your content marketing objectives will guide you on the metrics that you will want to track and analyse.  These insights will help you rinse and repeat the types of content that are working well and guide you where you need to try something different.

The paperwork

Derryck Strachan is the CEO of Big Star Copywriting, a copywriting agency based in the UK with clients all over the world.

What’s next

Anything that I haven’t covered or do you have any specific questions for me?  Let me know in the Comments section below, and I’ll get right back.