Jack-of-all-trades content creation agencies are worthless. You need niche specialists
I know you are busy with your day or have better things to do than reading this article, so here is a tl;dr:
- Jack-of-all-trades content creation agencies produce crappy content;
- They are a pointless stumbling block that stands between you and the one who makes things work, while also charge you for this;
- The days of the agencies with the one-size-fits-all approach are numbered;
- Don’t let agencies shoehorn your brand in a framework that isn’t specifically designed for your business;
- As a client, you should outsource your content writing needs exclusively to niche specialists;
And you can stay for some real-life examples about the way these agencies have failed some of my clients.
Let me start by saying that, for me, as a part of the content marketing industry, it would have been easier to paint it as the Holy Grail. Although I believe it is a key cog in today’s digital world, working within the niche also puts me in a unique position to criticize and expose its deficiencies.
No matter under what form it comes, the value of content creation can’t be highlighted enough. Even the most conservative and stubborn business owners now realize their companies should be present in the digital world under some form.
And this benefits us, the content creators. The demand had never been higher, which, on the other hand, also creates room for exploiting the clients’ trust. In a bid to satisfy this demand, creative agencies from all around the world start offering services that they aren’t quite capable of delivering right. And that way, they screw you — the client.
Content creation nowadays
Over 90% of the content you will find on the web is crap. It doesn’t provide actual value or insights. It lacks bits of information that will stick into your brain or at least make you stop and think about what you have just read. There are tons of stats to back this up. The most indicative, however, is the median average reading time per article. According to some experts, it is only 15 seconds. The more optimistic estimates go up to 37 seconds. Either case — dreadful results, right?
Let’s be honest — to find the reason why we should look no further than the content’s authors. Don’t try to justify the numbers above by claiming people are in a hurry; prefer more digested information; fancy other formats to consume content like audio/video, etc. There are over 6 billion Google searches on average per day. The majority of the results are written content. It means people are intentionally looking to consume information in this particular format.
So, there are billions of searches for information, and yet people spend 37 seconds at most reading it. You see where we are going, right? The only reason for this is the content’s quality and delivery.
The truth is that content created by people who lack expertise or who fail to provide a unique angle that will retain the readers’ interest for more than 30 seconds, should not exist. Period.
Unfortunately, it does, though. And most of the time it is created by “jack-of-all-trades” agencies or “know-it-all” content creators. Put differently — by those who write guides on how to waterproof your basement, trade penny stocks, and transform your love life in 5 key steps.
If there is anything to take from this post, let it be this: all-around content creation service providers are worthless. Those serving clients from all types of industries like finance, pharmaceutical, tech, retail, etc. will most probably deliver mediocre results on each front.
Why? Because they are generalists and lack the required niche-specific expertise to understand what your business does, which features make your product stand out, and what benefits you bring your clients. No matter how many discovery sessions, briefs, or meetings you go through together, in the end, you should know that you can always get a better value for money elsewhere.
What happens when you approach an all-around content creation agency?
Let’s say you have a small business that produces hand-made jewelry. You run everything by yourself. You don’t have the time to deal with production, operations, financials, logistics, marketing, etc., altogether, which is why you decide to outsource.
You do your research and find that amazing “state-of-the-art”, “growth-hacking” agency that delivers “actionable insights” and “quantifiable results” to help “high-impact entrepreneurs” “disrupt” their niche and “make their mark”. They have a rich portfolio with “industry-leading” clients from tech, finance, retail, automotive, and other niches.
Next, in the best-case scenario, you will be asked to provide instructions, define buyer personas, help create a brief, etc.
Then the agency will proceed to hire a contractor to handle the work as it has no idea what value your business actually brings and how it stands out. The reason is that they lack industry knowledge, which prevents them from acknowledging how your brand builds and preserves authenticity.
Too harsh? Do you believe someone at the agency will deep-dive into the health- and ecological considerations that have driven your choice of raw materials? Or why you have decided to use exactly these particular finishes and what benefits they have over the alternatives? What about the hours of research you have invested in refining your creative process? Or your cost estimation and product pricing process?
This is not a business-size-related problem, though. The case is quite the same even if you are, let’s say, a big construction material producer. Do you imagine that hipster marketer working at the agency downtown describing the flexibility or tensile adhesive strength of your tile adhesives confidently? Or start learning about stuff like vapor permeability and crack bridging characteristics of waterproofing membranes? What about the thermal conductivity coefficients of your ETICS systems?
You need a niche specialist. Otherwise, you will end up relying on someone who will be learning about all those things from the crappy content on the web we talked about earlier. And this is how the circle goes.
Look, agencies aren’t at fault that they can’t get to the core of your business and understand niche-specific technical terms. It’s humanly — no one knows everything, and no one should know everything. Their fault, however, is that they make you believe they can.
What happens if you decide to rely on such service providers is that your marketing budget gets ripped off unnecessary for content creation services that don’t really reflect what you are paying for. The agency serves as an intermediary that connects your business with the one who is actually responsible for handling the job while it charges you an “agency premium”.
Real examples why you should avoid the “jack-of-all-trades” service providers
All the theoretical scenarios aside, let’s get more practical and dive into two cases, where I had to help my clients conclude projects after they had already struggled with content creation agencies.
Case 1: The struggle of a financial software development company
The business of my client is focused on the development of whitelabel solutions to serve the needs of the world’s leading investment banks, brokerage companies, and exchanges. The niche the company operates in is small and competitive, and the deals struck there are usually worth millions.
The client approached me to create marketing materials in the form of short-form brochures that summarize the core characteristics of their trades execution software. In this case, we were talking about a very complex and niche-specific solution.
The company has offices in the USA, Switzerland, France, and the UK. This means it has access and resources to hire top-tier content creation agencies. Before reaching out to me, however, they had already gone that road and failed. A couple of times. The reason? Most agencies usually lack niche-specific expertise. Do you think a broad-knowledge content creator can:
- Tell the difference between order processing of 15 μs and 1 ms, and what financial implications can it have for the client?
- Explain how such software eases the clients’ trading needs when it comes to sophisticated algorithm matching logics like AON, IOC, TOM, GTC, GTD, GTT, Iceberg, Dark, BOCO/OOCO/OCO, Peg, etc.
- Nail-down the pros and cons of different protocols for order entry, market data, and configuration of real-time market management built-in the software solution;
- Communicate the importance of having access to scalable capacity for order throughput and how this affects the client’s business;
All this aside, to succeed in this task, the content creator should also be able to tackle the pain points of the service provider’s key target markets and appeal to the needs of interdealer brokers, banks, and exchanges. This requires being familiar with the current state of their respective niches, their competitors, what they aim to achieve, the expected short- and middle-term industry trends, the external systemic risks, and so on.
Needless to say, all this shows why the content marketing agencies my client had tried failed to deliver. To market a product in this case, you need someone who knows the industry inside-out and is familiar with the inefficiencies of existing solutions.
Otherwise, you will fail to capitalize on your product’s potential and have it marketed the same way a pair of shoes or organic soaps are. And, trust me, this is the last thing you want when you are targeting big-money clients.
Case 2: The final letter of a crypto exchange
A few months back, the co-founder of a crypto exchange got in touch with me with quite a specific task — creating a final letter to the investors in their ICO and the existing clients. The exchange was closing shops.
“Paint me surprised — a failed ICO”, you might say. And in most cases, you will be right. Here, however, the co-founders were let down by one of their years-long partners and couldn’t overcome the consequences. This is not to say they gave up without a fight, though. They did their best to save the business, including cutting costs to a minimum, reaching out to large-scale investors, introducing a buy-back framework to get their clients their funds, attracting top talent, and even investing over $2 million of their own money. However, in the end, some of the obstacles were outside their control, and they couldn’t steady the ship.
The material had to touch some very painful points and not spare even a single detail. In an industry covered in controversy where over $2.7 million are being stolen from crypto exchanges daily, my client wanted to send an honest and transparent message.
Before contacting me, they struggled with several agencies. The reason, once again, was their lack of inside knowledge. They weren’t familiar with the state of the crypto industry, the nature of the scam schemes taking place there, in what way this case was different, how untypical the actions of the co-founders were, and things like this.
Crisis PR — sure, plenty of agencies can do it. Niche-specific crisis PR? You should be careful, especially when you don’t want to sweep everything under the carpet and plan to build your way up again, like in the case with my client.
In an industry where the majority of entrepreneurs launch ventures with no real goal to reach the ICO stage, put Ryan Gosling in charge of their design team, or fancy a single-word communication with their investors, you simply can’t use a one-size-fits-all approach.
What you need is field specialists
The idea of all this is not to paint the situation too grim. Just the opposite — it is that wake-up call that you can do things differently and start looking for the best bang for your buck.
What you need is someone who is a good story-teller with practical experience in the field you operate in. Although this might sound like you are in search of the Bigfoot, don’t forget you are paying for personalized, company-specific marketing materials. You don’t want to pay for some general stuff where the agency tries to shoehorn your brand in a framework that works for others and isn’t explicitly designed and tailored to your needs. Never compromise on that.
Bear in mind that even the agency’s top wordsmith or the best content creator putting the highest-effort won’t get you the same results as a field specialist. That is why you should seek either content creators with niche-specific expertise or agencies specialized in serving the needs of your particular industry. Not generalists.
Although the leading content creation agencies try to attract field specialists to help them on particular projects, the thing is this still isn’t a guarantee for satisfying results. In the end, the agency’s only role is to serve as a bridge between you, the client, and the content creator hired as a contractor. Instead of helping the process, the presence of an intermediary may further complicate it. You never get in direct contact with the one doing the real work for you. This means the agency is a pointless stumbling block that just makes you overspend.
Why? Because, in the end, the supervision will still come from your team. In many cases, those on the agency side have no idea what you and the contractor are talking about and lack anyone on their side capable of checking the contractor’s work quality. All they do is try to summarize your needs in a brief for the contractor, and then get his message back to you by losing as less crucial information as possible. And after that, they will ensure you get a plagiarism-free piece with correct grammar and a “brand-specific” style. Not much different than what Grammarly or ProWritingAid can do for you, is it?
Do your best to find those who make things stick and put in the real work, not those who pass it around.
In the end — you are the client, and this is your budget. Do whatever you like. Just keep in the back of your mind that marketing an electric drill is quite different from marketing trading infrastructure.