Content marketing is a widely recognized driver for effective, inbound sales lead generation programs. While largely heralded as a way to drive inbound leads there is another, even more powerful reason that ad agencies should develop a consistent content marketing program.
The Traditional Benefit of Content Marketing
Content drives all digital marketing lead generation programs. Whether in the form of an email, white paper, blog post, or a podcast content is the fuel of any inbound marketing program. Common thinking suggests creating lots of helpful content grows your agency’s website traffic as potential clients are self educating. If done well, the content entices these invisible client prospects to identify themselves by downloading something from your website or subscribing to receive a newsletter or your agency’s blog posts by email.
And there is nothing wrong with that traditional value equation of content marketing as digital lead generation tool. But there is another, possibly more important role for content marketing to play in your agency’s new business program.
Referrals as a Lead Generation Source
While it is true, and I argue is much in my book The Invisible Sale, today’s self educating prospects are increasingly turning to the digital world to research agency hiring decisions prior to talking to any agencies. However, it is also true that those same prospects continue to ask their friends and colleagues for advice and input as they research their agency options.
These referrals continue to play an important role in every ad agency business development program. And honestly, that will never change. The word of a trusted friend or colleague serves to enhance your agency’s reputation amongst prospective clients that don’t know you. So the question becomes, how can you make it easier for people to recommend your agency?
Content Marketing as Reputation Enhancement
As your ad agency publishes content on your website and speaks at relevant events and conferences you are effectively establishing a reputation. A reputation that will precede you.
As this reputation translates into invitations to write for well-known digital and maybe traditional media outlets, be interviewed on podcasts, radio or TV, or the pinnacle — keynoting relevant and important industry conferences, your agency is creating social proof of your firm’s expertise, which should be part of your core social media strategy. It is this social proof, that others can reference to support their opinion of your expertise. And that is where the true value of content marketing program lies.
The Role of Social Proof in Referral Marketing
One of the biggest benefits of establishing third-party, social proof of your expertise is that it gives your closest friends permission to recommend your agency be hired. Some of your strongest allies, the people that probably most respect you, are likely former colleagues and close friends. As these colleagues and friends move on to companies for which your agency can do work, they have the opportunity to refer you and your firm for relevant new business opportunities. However with that referral comes risk. Because in the absence of third-party social proof, it could be assumed internally by your friend’s co-workers, that your friend is only recommending you out of respect for your friendship and past working relationship.
If your friend’s motivation is called into question it effectively tarnishes and possibly sabotages the referral. Think about it for a second. The underlying motivation behind a referral is the heart and power of referral marketing. If you believe someone refers a partner based on ability, the referral makes you more open to the idea of hiring the referred agency. But, should you doubt the authenticity of the referral, you actually penalize the prospective agency (in your mind). And this is where social proof helps your best friend sell your agency internally.
Reputation as a Social Selling Tool
By establishing a reputation validated through your publishing and speaking efforts you effectively give that friend or former colleague permission to recommend your agency. Because now they are not recommending your agency because you are their friend or because you used to work together. No, instead, they are recommending you as an expert with whom they just so happen to have a relationship. Internally that recommendation is not seen as “oh he’s a friend of Bob’s,” but instead it is seen as “Bob is friends with a known expert (or agency) in the field and because of that friendship can arrange a meeting between that agency and our company.”
Can you see how this gives Bob the permission he needs to strongly recommend you and your agency as a resource for his company or his organization? Can you see how your reputation and social proof grease the wheels? And best of all, do you see how this social proof actually makes your agency more seductive?
Giving your friends, former colleagues and even current clients permission to recommend your agency is the biggest secret weapon of a strategically focused content marketing program.
So if you’re agency isn’t actively building out your social proof — I’ve got just one last question for you…. why not?