Not all B2B content marketing agencies are cut from the same cloth.
So if you’re a B2B business looking to hire a content marketing agency, listen up: this list will save you time.
While at some level, good content is simply good content, there are many differences that really matter when it comes to B2B content.
In this post, I’ll outline the 5 criteria you should look for when hiring a B2B content marketing agency. This will also include questions to ask during your sales calls.
I’ll also pick 7 B2B content marketing agencies that I think make the cut when it comes to meeting these criteria, and eventually, getting your business the results you want from content marketing.
5 Criteria for Hiring a B2B Content Marketing Agency
First off, decide whether or not you need to hire an agency. You may suffice with a freelancer to start, or you may need to hire someone in-house. This is all context dependent.
But if you’ve already decided to hire a content marketing agency, here are the criteria I’d look at if you’re a B2B (business-to-business) brand.
Obviously, you need to factor in how much the agency costs.
There are different tiers to this, but generally agencies will fall on one of two sides of the spectrum: cheap or expensive.
Or as they’ll call it, “affordable” or “premium.”
Omniscient, for example, is premium pricing. You won’t find us taking deals to write hundreds of articles a month for a very low cost. If that’s your MO, you’re better off using a service like Express Writers or Verblio. Just know that you tend to get what you pay for, and you’ll have to fill in a ton of gaps in their work if you care about standout quality content.
When it comes to the premium tier, there will be slight deviations in pricing when you compare among top agencies, but generally speaking it will all be in a pretty similar range. The only difference is that many agencies will have pricing minimums. We, for example, rarely take clients below $8,000 per month. I know of others that actually start their pricing at $20k per month.
So if you don’t hit this bar, don’t waste your time or the agency’s – just go look for someone in your price range.
The experience of the team and the agency itself matters, though not as much as you might think.
It’s kind of like hiring someone that graduated from Harvard. You can assume with a high degree of certainty they won’t be too bad at the job, but you can’t predict anything about the upside of their performance.
So one thing that prospects always like about talking to us is that all of the co-founders worked at HubSpot. I’ll tell you this honestly: sometimes that is relevant, and sometimes it’s not.
Obviously, we learned a lot about content and growth while working at HubSpot. But in 90%+ of cases, the approach we’ll take to your content program won’t resemble what works at HubSpot.
Additionally, like stock investing, past performance doesn’t always predict future results.
We’ve got some great case studies, and I like to think that they show the behind-the-scenes at our process and mindset (which is what you should really hire us for). But just because we got AppSumo something like a 10X ROI doesn’t mean we’ll do the same for you. It might be worse, it might be better – but it will likely be different (because you’re a different company!).
All I’m saying is case studies and past experience can be useful heuristics, but I wouldn’t base your entire decision on this aspect.
Additionally, look at what services your agency offers.
Many a digital marketing agency will offer content marketing services, but it’s not their specialty. I’d avoid these agencies.
You don’t want someone who specializes in email marketing or PPC trying to figure out your SEO or social media marketing as well.
Hire experts (and no agency is an expert in all marketing channels and types of marketing campaigns).
Work Samples are actually a pretty solid way to guage the quality of your content marketing agency.
You likely have something specific in mind – long form thought leadership, quick answer SEO content, etc. Agencies can be a bit flexible (i.e. we can do thought leadership and SEO), but you’ll not want to stray too far from the agency’s speciality.
And if they’ve done it before and can show you the proof, this is a good indication of what kind of quality you can expect from your prospective agency.
Always ask for a few pieces they’ve published in the past from other clients.
Arguably the most important criteria you can pick your content agency on is the methodology and approach they take with content marketing.
Some will just take your list of keywords and write content.
Some have robust strategy frameworks like the Barbell Strategy, content economics, and decentralized content marketing, and use these approaches to fit specific marketing solutions to your context (*cough* Omniscient *cough*).
And if they can’t explain how they get results? Pass on ‘em.
Every successful agency founder creates an agency because they feel like they’ve got an edge that others don’t. They’ve typically learned how to get repeatable results and have built their business on this framework or mindset.
If they don’t have this or don’t have it articulated, it doesn’t necessarily mean they won’t give you quality content and articles, but I don’t think they’re going to be a great long term partner.
How does your B2B content marketing agency make themselves accountable?
There are very few pay-for-performance agencies (I’d also be careful with this model for many reasons, too many for this article). Most of the time, you’ll get accountability on a deliverable basis: we’ll produce X articles for Y cost.
That’s fine if you want a production engine. But if you want a strategic partner, they should spend the vast majority of their discovery and sales calls talking about you and your goals.
Many content programs are based on illusory success metrics that don’t translate to business results. Ideally, the agency you work with maps backwards from the business metrics and comes up with a content plan that faciliates that goal (whether it’s leads, freemium signups, demos, or email signups for you).
The 7 Best B2B Content Marketing Agencies in 2023
- Omniscient Digital
- Grow and Convert
- Siege Media
- The Content Studio
1. Omniscient Digital
Hi, I’m Alex and I co-founded Omniscient Digital. You’re looking at a biased article. Oh well – I’ve got the stage, so hear my pitch.
Why we’re different?
Strategy. Other agencies specialize in a type of *production* – high scale SEO articles, contrarian thought leadership, even technical content.
My background, and that of my two co-founders, is in business and marketing strategy.
We use tools like SWOT analyses, competitive intelligence, customer research, and growth modeling to build you a content roadmap that actually hits the goals you care about (and does so in a way that is defensible).
So instead of getting a bunch of generic traffic or pageviews, we’ll build our content growth model based on stuff like qualified leads from content (aiming at your target audience, not just the highest search volume junk keywords).
Obviously, we index heavily on content quality, too. Our co-founder Allie is a perfectionist and forever word nerd, so even if we wanted to skimp on quality to pad our margins, she couldn’t physically let herself do it. We produce top tier shit (both ethically and because it works better).
We do product led content, SEO, and thought leadership / brand awareness content.
When it comes to content promotion, we’ve got a full toolkit and team for link building, social media promotion kits (to make you into the LinkedIn thought leader you deserve to be), and content optimization (where we increase the conversion rate of readers to qualified leads)..
If you skip the marketing strategy step, you might still execute well, but you could be executing in a direction that isn’t helpful for your business. That’s why our content marketing services index on smart marketing strategy first.
Why shouldn’t you hire us?
If you’re on a tight budget, we’re probably not your partner. If you just want us to write a list of keywords, we’re also probably not for you. We’re not amazing at super high scale content production (our upper limit is probably 24-30 articles a month – anything beyond that, you might want to look into someone else).
The other thing people like about working with us is we’re basically a part of your marketing team.
Meaning things are fluid and effortless, but you’ll also enjoy working with us. I’ve become great friends with many of our clients (have even taken international coworking trips with them).
2. Grow and Convert
The guys at Grow and Convert are friends and I look up to the content that they’ve put out that has moved the industry forward.
I constantly use some of their coined terms, such as “pain point SEO.” Back to my criteria for hiring an agency (methodology), they’ve got good mental models for producing content that converts.
They index heavily on bottom funnel content – like us, often billing themselves as an agency that produces business results, not just vanity metrics or content creation for content’s sake. Rather, they focus on lead generation rather than just generic content creation and vanity marketing efforts.
I know they also have some unique practices with regards to content promotion – namely, they index quite heavily on getting initial traction for articles, often using paid advertising to give it an initial boost.
They’ve also done some killer webinars with Clearscope, which I loved.
Foundation is a full service content marketing agency, but they’ve really made a name for themselves when it comes to content distribution and promotion.
Led by Ross Simmonds, a huge figure and influencer in the content marketing space, they have a great reputation for high integrity and high quality content production and promotion.
I’ve learned a ton from Ross – seeing him speak at conferences and following him on Twitter – about leveraging niche communities, maximizing social media listening and engagement, identifying and working with influencer marketing, and building distribution into your content plan before you even create it.
I don’t believe they specialize in B2B, but they work with a ton of B2B companies. If you’re looking for networks and leverage to build greater distribution into your content engine, this is the firm to look into.
4. Siege Media
Siege Media, led by Ross Hudgens, is one of the largest content marketing agencies out there.
Siege is one of my favorite content marketing agencies, other than my own. Why? They index themselves differently than every other agency I know.
First off, they’re search engine optimization experts. They’re probably the most SEO-focused on this list, but they’re not just a keyword generating machine.
How they do SEO content is different. They’ve got a whole team of designers and heavily index on design as a competitive advantage. This is true of their own content and website, and they also use this to invoke trust and authority for the content they produce for clients.
For example, when it comes to link building, website design matters a lot. More so, you can pick up a ton of manual and passive backlinks by using tactics like infographics, which they do well.
While they primarily serve B2C clients, their approach also works well for B2B companies.
Check out this interview I did with Ross Hudgens. He walks through his approach to content marketing and SEO in great depth here, including why he prioritized web design to fuel their organic traffic marketing plan so early on:
Ross is also a great follow on Twitter and social media.
Optimist is kind of an “anti-agency.” Or rather, they’re a different sort of model.
They’s a collective of sorts, gathering expert content marketers to operate under the Optimist brand and centralized approach. Pretty neat way to organize a business. Learn more in my interview with founder Tyler Hakes (also look at that mustache):
Methodology-wise, we have very similar approaches. Namely, the idea that “content should sell.” We also both take fluid approaches to the content marketing strategy for individual clients, taking into account their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and competition.
There’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all approach to content marketing, and I like that Optimist takes that approach with clients, and they’ve also done something creative with the structure of their own business.
6. The Content Studio
Tommy Walker runs The Content Studio and I love his approach.
Tommy is a mensch and an amigo. He’s been a guest on the podcast and he’s also done Kitchen Side episodes with us:
Tommy’s background is in film and acting, and his approach to content reflects that. It is built upon a sequential narrative, topics that build upon each other to tell a story.
You often hear about “storytelling” in content marketing, but like many terms in this space, it’s mostly bullshit fluff that sounds good.
Not with Tommy. He knows how to tell a story. He’s done it for tons of brands and you can actually watch him take the same media production approach with his own marketing, particularly in his newsletter and his web series, The Cutting Room.
Tommy is also an automation expert, running cohort-based courses to teach content marketers the basics of automation.
Finally, Codeless. Codeless has built a sort of conglomerate, owning this agency, userp.io, and Wordable.
Codeless is probably your best bet if you have need for high output and high scale content production for your inbound marketinge engine, particularly to drive traffic of the SEO flavor. Because they have multiple companies and resources, efficiency seems to be their strong point.
Their founder Brad told me on an unreleased podcast that they have a few companies producing dozens if not hundreds of articles per month.
They also take a unique approach to link building, intertwining digital PR to create a bigger splash with each placement.
Solid agency and solid founders.
Here’s an interview I did with the co-founder of adjacent agency, Userp.io, Jeremy Moser:
There are a million content agencies, but only a few of them are of excellent caliber. I’m sure I missed a few on this list (if so, ping me), but there are my favorite seven content agencies focused on B2B clients.
Obviously, I think you should hire Omniscient Digital. We set out to build the smartest content agency in the world, one that wins not by brute force and reliance on old playbooks, but one that wins by the competitive edge of creative thinking, innovation, and a smarter work ethic.
We’ve built massively successful content programs for our B2B and SaaS clients – AppSumo, Jasper, Wunderkind, HotJar, Madison Logic, and many more.
You should reach out to us before your competitor does 😉