There are signs you can look out for in a good content marketing agency.

What To Look For in a Content Marketing Agency

If you’re looking for a content marketing agency, the vast amount of companies and services that they provide can seem overwhelming, to say the least. Luckily, there are a few tell-tale signs of a good and reputable agency that you can be on the lookout for when considering which company to work with.

1. A Good Website & Social Media Presence

The first thing you may come across when looking for an agency is their website or social media accounts. If you know what to look for, these can tell you a lot about the agency itself. 

Is their website up-to-date? Are they active on social media, and is their brand recognizable and consistent? A good brand presence can tell you what the company’s all about. Their social media can also serve as a general idea of what the content services they would provide you would look like. 

Although this can be a way to assess any type of company, it’s especially important for content marketing. After all, if a content marketing company doesn’t put out quality content itself, would you trust them to make you good content?

A consistent social media presence can indicate a good content marketing agency.

2. Proven Results

Website testimonials or case studies are a great way to judge a company.

A good content marketing agency should have proven results, shown through past clients’ reviews and testimonials. Past clients can also tell you an agency’s core niches and whether they’ve worked with content similar to yours in the past. The presence of long-term clients can tell you that an agency is trustworthy and reliable.

It’s also important to go past website testimonials, though. To truly know if a company is trustworthy, you can scour the internet for any possible negative feedback or cautions. Use a website like Clutch to get totally honest reviews. 

If you’re seriously considering an agency that has a few bad reviews, don’t be too quick to judge.Try reaching out to the company to discuss any concerns you may have. If it’s a good company, they’ll be open to discuss how they’ve improved.

3. Modern and Effective Techniques

Content marketing in this day and age goes far beyond creating good content. Making sure the content reaches the right audiences is the second half of the battle. 

Marketing strategies and research like Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, should be part of an effective content marketing strategy. 

Ask about your potential agency’s SEO practices and make sure they’re doing the right keyword research, content analysis and optimization of meta descriptions.

4. A Diverse Staff

Diversity goes far beyond physical appearance. A diverse staff should include different niches, expertise, experience level and background. Consider things like age and expertise when looking at a company’s staff.

A diverse staff can bring the best of both worlds to your content. Your content will benefit from the knowledge that only comes with a long history in the industry paired with the innovation and creative ideas of someone newer to the field.

Does the content marketing agency have a staff with different backgrounds and expertise?

5. Solid Communication

One of the most important things when working with any kind of agency is a steady line of communication. Look beyond just basic communication, though. A lot of content agencies will be able to talk you up, but fall short on finished products. Make sure what they’re saying is in plain English instead of industry jargon and that what they’re saying aligns with your vision.

A good content marketing agency should reach out enough that you always know where your budget is going. They should keep you in the loop with where they’re at in the timeline for your project. Also, make sure that the agency puts you in direct contact with the employees that are working on your campaign. If not, you’ll risk your message getting lost in translation. 

Communication goes both ways, too. Do your work with an agency that leaves the line of communication open and encourages you to get in touch with a question or comment.

6. A Mission Statement that Aligns With Yours

Any company – from a content marketing agency to a local boutique – should have a clear and visible mission statement and vision for their company. 

If your values and beliefs line up with what the agency stands for, you can ensure it will be a good fit for your content. The beliefs that a company holds comes out in all they do, and that includes content. If your beliefs do not align with the agency’s you’re working with, it may come through in the content they create for you.

You should also make sure they put their efforts where their heart is – if one of their major values is contributing to the community, see what they are doing to turn that value into real results.

A shared and honest understanding of what their big picture is will help you in the long run.

7. A Local Agency

If you’re able, finding a local content marketing agency can be a huge help. Especially if your content is geared towards a certain location, finding an agency that’s local can give you valuable insights on your target audience. An established content marketing agency may even have connections within the community that can help you reach even further.

Find a content marketing agency that is connected to their community.

8. Transparency

Transparency relates to almost everything on this list. If they’re not honest about deadlines, avoiding certain questions or are not responsive to constructive criticism, it can be a huge red flag.

You should also always be in the know, from coming up with due dates to getting the final project. If there’s even a small problem or bump in the road, you should be kept in the loop and know what happened and what they’re doing to get back on track.

Transparency within content marketing is especially important. It can help you know what they’re doing to reach your target audience and expand your reach with content creation.

If these traits of an effective content marketing agency resonate with you, consider working with PivotPath. We can help you create Real, Recognizable and Relatable content to connect with clients and expand your businesses. Check out our content services here.

Alison Roller is a recent graduate of West Chester University of Pennsylvania where she earned a B.A. in English with a minor in journalism. When she’s not writing, she can be found wherever her cats are. Check out her LinkedIn profile here to connect.

PivotPath Tips Recession Proof Your Business

3 Ways to Recession Proof Your Small Business

In today’s economic environment, taking necessary steps to ensure your business survives a possible economic downturn is a vital part of forecasting. Doing so puts your start up at an advantage and better positioning for deft and adaptation in case of a recession.

While financial planning can help your business survive the tough times, it’s also good practice to recession proof your business starting now. Here are some ways to start being smart about your business.  

Focus on your Finances  

Recession proof your business

No matter what size your business is, it is wise to revolve your business decisions and strategies around your financial health, or your bottom line. Being financially-centered is a mark of business stability- and it all starts by setting up a financial dashboard. 

This allows you to run numbers and show significant key performance indicators to show current or historical financial health. By having this quick macro view of your financial performance, you are able to make sound and timely business decisions along the way, without so much digging into tons of files or paperwork. 

Another way to recession-proof your finances, is to track your cash flow. Of course, many business owners would say they do – but it’s important to look beyond the normal tracking cycle and put due diligence to work. 

Setting up a cash flow planner is one way of being able to track cash flow to show projected income and expenses for the quarter. This allows you to pinpoint the critical stages. This also allows you to plan your expenses carefully, and create other products and/or services to increase the cash-flow over time. 

If you are seeing a healthy influx of income vs expenses though, don’t get too excited and splurge. As a startup, running a tight ship on expenses should be the practice, and unplanned expenses or investments should be justified. As always, saving for a rainy day will help you weather the storm just in case. 

Maximize Your Marketing  

Marketing Strategy in Business

Let’s imagine you are nearing the end of the second quarter, and you already have reached your client quota for the year. Or you manage to land a big business with a client much earlier than forecasted. Sounds like you have all your financial goals achieved in such a short time so you feel you are all set. 

While that sounds like an ideal scenario, having achieved your targets at an early stage of the cycle means that you get to have more opportunities to uncover. Now is not the time to rest on your laurels; instead, continue to do capture sales and launch marketing campaigns –  as you can never tell what lies ahead with your existing client list.  

A consistent and strategic marketing plan in place will surely fill your sales pipeline with prospects to convert to qualified sales. Optimizing your marketing campaigns will also help capturing projected sales – so always keep it going and growing.  

In addition, continuing to increase your customer base by networking and actively engaging with your audience, offering promotions and deals on slow moving products and services, and expanding to unexplored markets are just other strategies to maximize your marketing budget. Remember, every dollar counts.

Innovate and Inspire 

Innovation in business

Startup businesses flourish when producing a premium product or service with value pricing. Think of edgy ways to market your niche, and help you stand apart from the competition. 

Whether it’s innovating a new product line, re-branding a product or a service to a potential market segment, or perform A/B testing on marketing campaigns, innovative measures can definitely help you uncover missed or potential opportunities.

Be in the know of the latest trends in your industry, attend webinars, keep a close watch on your competitors and always connect with the significant people in your network. Being inspired does not always mean coming up with the best and brightest ideas; it also means knowing where you stand in your industry, so that you can always stay one step ahead. 

Be bold, yet exercise prudence when necessary to prepare for those unforeseen seasons like a recession in entrepreneurship. No matter what the state of the economy is at any point, being financially-centered should always be the goal. 

Branding: The Basics

Your brand is the face of your company. The first image a customer sees: your logo, font, colors, etc. are all a part of your brand. If you’re not sure how or where to start with your brand, we are here to help.

Before you jump right into creating a logo and coming up with a slogan, pause and make a plan. A branding strategy will be the backbone of your branding process. There are a few parts in the planning stages of your brand development.

Determine and Research Your Target Audience

Your brand should not be about you or your products and services, but should revolve around your audience. Because branding is about how your audience views your business, you have to specify your target audience so you do not waste time trying to market your services to everyone.

Remember: the narrower the focus, the higher the conversion.

A few demographics to note when identifying your ideal audience are age, gender, income, education level, and location. You also have to know the interests and pain points of the suspected audience that will have higher interest in your business’ products or services.

For example, if your business appeals primarily to college students who study abroad, then you have to understand their goals, their influencers, their psychology, the types of sites they frequent, and their brand affinities (the types of brands they tend to stick with).

Understanding your target audience will help you focus your marketing efforts and ensure that the right people are viewing your ads and reading your content.

Establish Your Brand Mission

You might be familiar with Nike’s slogan, “Just Do It”, but do you know their mission? It reads, “To bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete* in the world (*If you have a body, you are an athlete).”

This idea relies on the first step: defining your audience. For Nike, the target audience is everyone with a physical body and their goal is to bring inspiration to their audience. You can see the mission in their ads where they feature all kinds of people who use Nike products to be physically healthy and fit. Their slogan also follows the same theme of inspiration as their mission statement. This consistency is important in branding.

With a small business, you want to start small. Focus on your primary audience, state your mission, and then go from there. When your business expands and your brand loyalty increases, you can then increase your market audience and re-brand to fit your expansion.

Research Brands Within Your Industry

Put simply: learn from other’s mistakes. Find other businesses that do what you do, and study their brands. What is their brand loyalty (how many people like and trust the brand)? Why do people like the brand? What are the pros and cons of their brand strategy? In what aspects did their brand fail and in what aspects did it succeed?

As the saying goes, there is nothing new under the sun. It is most likely that someone somewhere has had the same business idea you have and has implemented it. Find those businesses and study them. If you can’t find anyone doing the same thing you’re doing, find someone doing something similar.

Do not research only businesses doing the exact thing as your business. Branding strategies take into consideration the location of the business and the demographics in that location. Research businesses based in your area of business, those that have the same target audience as your business, and those that have the same mission as your business.

Combining all this research will provide a sturdy foundation, not only for your branding process, but also for your business’ growth.

What Do You Have That The Others Don’t?

Consumers want to know why. Why should I listen to you? Why should I use your services? You have to highlight something that is beneficial to your audience and that they can’t get anywhere else.

Take Starbucks for example, they sell coffee (so does almost every restaurant in America). If Starbucks went with the slogan, “We sell coffee. Come try it.”, they’d probably be just another local coffee shop in Seattle.

Starbucks’ mission is “To inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time.” One of their values is “Creating a culture of warmth and belonging, where everyone is welcome.” You can see the mission statement and values reflected in their stores. The ambient lighting, comfortable seating ranging from two-seater tables to tables for large groups, and the variety of music that plays from their overhead speakers. Of course, there’s also free WiFi. Nothing brings people together nowadays like free WiFi.

All the extra benefits that Starbucks offers has made Starbucks a place where you can meet up with friends, work on a group project with classmates, or just chill by yourself. It’s truly a second home.

Like Starbucks, highlight what makes your business a step above the others. It may be customer service, a great quality product at a cheaper price, or an easy-to-use service. Let these benefits show in your marketing and in the way you interact with consumers. Consumers can get coffee anywhere. Make sure they want to come to you for the same thing someone else provides.

Have you started your branding journey? What have you learned along the way? Share with us in the comments below.

Lois Olowoyo is a telecommunication-production major at the University of Florida and an avid storyteller. When she’s not writing a story of her own or acting one out, she can be found listening to, watching, or reading someone else’s story. You can learn more about her and view her work at loisolowoyo.wordpress.com. Check out her LinkedIn profile here.

Branding 101: Typography

Have you ever looked at a piece of text and just felt like there was something wrong? The words may have been constructed appropriately but something visually seemed odd? Many times people use typeface on a whim.

pivotpath typography

Without considering how typography affects the message they are trying to pass across, they end up with graphics that may make for a good laugh but do not make for good business. Understanding the significance of text in your brand is important to your brand identity.

It is important to note that there are professionals who can help you work out the technicalities of typography (PivotPath plug!) . All you need to do is share your vision for your brand with them. For busy business owners, delegating the job is a great way to save time but the fees can add up. If you prefer to do work it out yourself, I have some tips that will help. First, let’s define some technical terms.

Type: printed characters or letters.

Typography: the style or appearance of type.

Typeface: a particular design of type (e.g Times New Roman, Arial).

Font: a particular style, weight, and size of typeface.

Font family: a group of fonts with similar design characteristics (For example, the Times Roman font family will include Times Roman Bold, Times Roman Italic, Times Roman Bold Italic, etc. These fonts are all of the same ‘family’ but are slightly different).

Medium: a means by which something is communicated or expressed. (In this case, digital or print such as websites, flyers, etc.)

Weight: the thickness of a type in relation to its height.

Tip 1 – Don’t Go Overboard

When you start your research, it is easy to get a little distracted. You may find a thousand fonts that would make your company name stand out visually, but you’ll have to narrow it down to about 5-10 fonts. Of those, 2-3 will be used to establish your visual hierarchy, or main/most important fonts where you want a readers’ eye to catch most.

However, try not to use more than 3 when combining fonts as readers will become very distracted (see?). These are the fonts that can be used across different platforms like your website, product packaging, flyers, etc. If you keep this in mind, you won’t waste time on what you don’t need.

Tip 2 – Narrowing It Down

Now, you know you will need only a maximum of 10 fonts, but how do you choose only 10 from the 100 you like? There a few questions you can ask yourself:

  • Is it flexible? Step back for a minute and look at the big picture. You may need typefaces for your website, packaging, posters, signs, etc. Rather than picking a typeface for each medium you might use, having one that can run easily on multiple platforms is better. Try the typeface you are considering out on your website, then print it out and see what it looks like on paper. Is it legible when the font is small? Does it look odd when you increase its size?
  • Is it expansive? Your business is bound to grow over time. Can the font you choose grow with it? Does it support multiple characters? Can it support other languages in the situation that you expand abroad? Is it available in various sizes and weights?
  • Is it legible? Are the character’s distinctive? Using a cursive typeface for a large body of text will not end well. Do some of the characters link together in odd ways (like f & i) or are some of the characters spaced together oddly (like e and r)? You do not want to end up with a sign like this one:
Doesn’t sound very relaxing…

Lettering artist Jessica Hische invented the “Il1” test. Type a capital I, a lowercase L, and a number 1 next to each other.

If you cannot tell the difference between the characters you might have trouble with them later on.

Tip 3 – Know Your Medium

On digital media, serifs don’t always do well. That is because the display resolution on a digital device is much less than that of a printed book. In a book, serifs look clear and defined but on a digital device, serifs tend to look blurry and are harder to read, especially in large bodies of text.

The serifs on the characters blur and make the text look like one big blob.

So while serifs might do well in a printed work, on the other hand, the minimal clean-cut sans-serif does well on digital devices but becomes harder to read in large quantities on a print medium.

Note: This can change depending on the type of serif or sans-serif you use. In the end, the choices you make concerning your typography come down to your perception. If you are in doubt, ask someone else what they think. Others may be able to make a clearer decision.

Tip 4 – What’s Your Personality Type?

Your brand has an image and that image is what you are trying to show your audience.  It might be modern, simple, shy, friendly, vintage, tough, etc. Besides actual graphics, typography can also help convey your company’s personality. Serifs are considered vintage, more formal, and classical. So you may see a serif font on the cover of a book about the civil war.

Sans-serifs are simpler and modern so you may find them in the logos of technology companies who want to convey a simple and trendy image like Apple and Microsoft

Display fonts (those with a lot of personality, also called script fonts) should be used sparingly and only for heading or accents. They may be fun but they’re not always very legible. Keep your company’s image in mind as you choose your typefaces.

pivotpath personality image typography tip
Typography Mistake: It says Harley-Davidson but I’m getting a girl scouts vibe.

Tip 5 – Use Your Fonts Wisely

Do not use more than two typefaces in one piece. If you really need to, stick to a maximum of three. Having up to four or five different fonts on one flyer or poster is distracting for the audience and makes your work, whether it’s an ad or a website, seem disconcerting.

The fonts you use together should complement each other. If you are pressed for time and you just need some fonts, you can pair a serif and a sans-serif from your shortlist. The contrasting fonts usually pair well.

A great source to find font pairs is FontPair. On the website, you can edit font pairs and see how well they fit the text you want to use them for. You can also find examples of pieces where the pairs have been used before.

Consistency is another thing you should consider when using your fonts.

The fonts you use on one page of your website shouldn’t differ from the ones you use on another page. Because the font is part of your brand identity, a consistent font choice will tie your brand together across platforms and cement your brand identity in the minds of your consumers.

Tip 6 – Hierarchy

Imagine this article filled with fonts of the same size, weight, and color. It would look like one large, endless blob of text and you wouldn’t really want to read it, right? Hierarchy helps determine what is important for the viewer in text. With proper hierarchy, a reader will be able to skim through a text and pick out the main points easily. 

A header should be the largest thing on the page. It should be in thick large font because its job is to grab the attention of the viewer.

A subtitle should be clearly smaller than the header text. You could italicize it to make it stand out more.

The body text should be the smallest text on the page. It should be easy to read (consider the medium to be used) and it shouldn’t have too many font styles vying for attention i.e. there shouldn’t be words in bold or underlined words all over the body text. It is okay to underline some words within the body text or put some of the words in bold but if you overdo it, your text will end up looking uncoordinated.

Although these tips are a great starting point, there is so much more to know about typography especially if you are a beginner. Choosing the right typography for your brand is a long process.

My advice is that you don’t do it alone.

Share the workload with someone. That way you will be able to exchange ideas and you won’t be alone through the journey.

As time-consuming as the process is, it is certainly very rewarding to see your hard work fall in place as your brand comes to life. Share your typography hits and misses with me in the comments below.

Lois Olowoyo is a telecommunication-production major at the university of Florida and an avid story lover. When she’s not writing a story of her own or acting one out, she can be found listening to, watching, or reading someone else’s story. You can learn more about her and view her work at loisolowoyo.wordpress.com. Check out her LinkedIn profile here.