Developing your Agency Content Strategy: Key Insights from Upfront’s Workshop Series

Last week a group of agency leaders, strategists, marketing and business development directors discussed the importance of content to business development and explored some of the challenges they are experiencing in the face of so much competition.

Agencies are feeling more than ever how tough it is to win and retain clients and believe that using content to build relationships and engage with prospects and existing clients is key. However, we’re in an age where content is practically inescapable, so it needs to be compelling and useful to cut through the noise. Agencies are competing for share of voice and with clients so short on time and under pressure, they need to demonstrate that they think and deliver differently to competitors.

One of the biggest challenges agencies are facing today is time and resource. Without these two elements it’s hard to come up with quality content that’s really going to mean something. To find some useful solutions, the group shared their experiences and tips on how to develop and use compelling content for business development.

Understand your agency ambition, positioning and goals

Kerry O’Connor, Partner at Tonic Creative Business Partners, advised that before you even start your content strategy you must consider the three following factors:

1) Understand your business ambitions and commercial objectives.

2) Have a clear market positioning. There’s much confusion around positioning. It isn’t just a decorative explanation about what you do, it’s about your ambition and offer, created with specific clients in mind. An important element when exploring your positioning, which Andrew Ryan, Head of Brand & Partnership at The Big Kick explained, is realising that you may not be the right agency for everyone as well as understanding what makes a good client for you.

3) Always have the end game in sight and make sure everything you do has a goal attached to it.


Jack Williams from Atomic London explained how people don’t want to just be told about you anymore, you have to be one step ahead in knowing what your client’s issues, challenges and needs are. O’Connor agreed adding that content needs to be outward looking not inward (this is a big mistake that many agencies make) and it must link to the agency’s offer, skills and achievements to get traction.

Create fluid content plans quarterly and make sure your plans are targeted. Quality over quantity always. Start small and build up. Test formats and frequency.

Give yourself a reason to produce the content in the first place – perhaps through an event which forces discipline. O’Connor emphasised you should always multi use your content by spreading it over various platforms – tailor for different audiences/sectors/regions but also have themes which are relevant to all sectors.

Inspire your team

Bigger agencies have the luxury of having a wide range of skills within their team and designated strategists. If you’re a smaller agency however, you might have to be realistic about the skill set you have internally.

It can be a difficult task to get your employees to see content as a priority if it doesn’t fit in with their direct role and there isn’t a genuine interest. Make business development, and content as a result, part of the culture and overarching business goals so your employees don’t see it as an ‘add on’ to the job. Have a good angle and show people internally that they can do and write about what they love. For those who are nervous about writing, there are always ghost writers. Ideas come from everyone so don’t let lack of writing confidence deter getting involved.

Put a process in place and create guidelines to make it easier for everyone to contribute. With limited resource, ensure you have a clear focus. Reduce your objectives so they’re achievable – focus on the right things/be selective.

 General tips

– Although there was some debate around the value of sending mass mailers through tools such as Hubspot vs. having a very personalised targeted approach, it was the common consensus that whatever your approach is, always try to find a way to make it feel organic and natural.

– Content should be based on research (desk is fine) and insight, not salesy. It’s a door opener and the start of a conversation so you don’t have to say everything.

– Be provocative – don’t be afraid of giving your opinion of what you’d like to see changing.

– Consider video content over written and when you have longer copy pieces break up the words with signposting, visuals and infographics.

The danger of not creating content or getting it wrong is that you are wasting money on under performing activities and fundamentally, not getting enough new business!


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