What sets your agency apart from the rest of the crowd?
There's no shortage of content mills online, churning out page after page of material. Some agencies are slowly turning towards AI solutions to meet the demands of their clients.
If you want to stand out against them, you need to produce unique, high-quality content. It isn't enough for your information to be error-free: you need to personalize it to meet your client's precise needs. Of course, you'll need their input to help shape your final product to do this.
I've owned my own agency for fifteen years, and I know how hard it can be to get clients to weigh in. After all, they hire agencies to do the writing for them. They're already busy with their businesses and don't want to spend more time than they have to get you the information you need.
Since shifting my focus to content production, I've developed my own methods for getting clients to give me their input. The results: better content that ranks high in search results and converts readers. Check out my tips below and try applying them to your next assignment.
Stress the Importance of Input
Clients are already busy with their own work, and it can be challenging to convince them to give you even more of their time for additional input. They may already have expectations that you can write top-tier content independently.
But you aren't the expert - they are. That's why you need to explain why their input is so important.
One way to illustrate this is to show them your writing process. Yes, you can research a subject with Google, but you're trusting that the information you find is accurate. Without oversight, there's room for embarrassing errors.
Your client should provide someone to act as a liaison between you and them. Together, you can ensure that your content reflects their opinions and tone better while still striving for factual accuracy.
Simplify Things with a Brief
Clients don't want to spend time answering questions so you can better craft content, and they already have a lot on their plate and don't want to work even more into their schedule. As an agency, the trick is to get the information you need all at once in a simple way.
The best way to do this is with a content brief. A short questionnaire can still be comprehensive without being overwhelming for the client. If you choose your questions carefully, you may not need a follow-up.
You can see the brief we use with our clients here. Feel free to use it to inspire your own brief and take note of the types of questions we ask. Ultimately, the answers you get should form a framework for your entire piece.
I always recommend asking about the intended audience and what steps they should take after reading the piece. Even if you've worked with a particular client before, exploring these areas further can open up new avenues for future content.
Make A Recording
A common problem agencies experience is scheduling a time to talk with clients once the writing process has begun. It's much easier for them to send the requested info on their own time. One solution is to send them an SME interview workbook, like the one we have here.
In my experience, however, you can get much better results by having your client record their answers in a video. It fits just as easily into their schedule but allows them to answer questions faster and more naturally. In addition, you may find that they're willing to explain things in greater detail through this method than with writing.
I personally use Loom for this sort of input. Loom eliminates the confusion of uploading and sharing videos by uploading each video automatically and generating a link to them. Then, all a client has to do is send you that link when they've finished recording.
When All Else Fails, Set Up An Interview
As convenient as a brief or recording a video may be, it can still be difficult for clients to agree to them. They may not be able to carve out time for them in their schedule, or in the case of Loom, they may struggle with recording themselves. When this happens, you may need to fall back on a traditional interview.
When conducting an interview, you can simply ask the questions you would have used in your brief. Then, guide them through the questions and record their answers, asking follow-up questions as needed. Please encourage them to talk as much as they want to -- you can always pick and choose the relevant parts when you're writing.
An essential aspect of interviewing clients is maximizing your minutes. You're asking for a specific amount of their time -- maybe thirty minutes, perhaps an entire hour. Plan on using every minute by preparing comprehensive questions beforehand.
One way I maximize my minutes with interviews is to ask questions that can cover multiple pieces of content. This is especially valuable with clients I already have a working relationship with. In addition, I can use the time to explore other subjects that I can turn into content later.
At the end of the day, you're offering a service to your clients. You require their input to write the content they need to boost their business, but don't forget that ultimately, you're working for them, not the other way around. So even when you're waiting on their input to complete a piece, you need to accommodate them.
Instead of insisting on any one method, ask your client what works for them. Letting them take control of the when and how can make clients more willing to spend more time giving you their input and expertise. Make them comfortable with the process, and you'll have everything you need to produce the content they want.
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