What Is a Creative Agency? What to Know Before You Hire One

Building a brand doesn’t happen overnight. It takes a lot of work to forge strong relationships with people—and much of that work is done through marketing. Unless you have a powerhouse internal team to help you tell your story, it’s likely you’ll need a little support in crafting and executing your marketing strategy. But searching for someone to help you do that can be confusing. There are all sorts of agencies out there, so how do you know whether you should hire a creative agency, a digital agency, or an ad agency?

Here, we’ll break down everything you need to know about creative agencies, helping you understand what they are, why they’re different, and how to find one.

So, What Is a Creative Agency?

A creative agency is a term for an agency that offers a variety of services that fall under the umbrella of marketing and advertising. Basically, if you need any type of creative strategy, work, or promotion, they can help you get it done.

While some creative agencies specialize in one thing more than another, they usually provide:

Strategy Services

  • Advertising strategy
  • Brand Strategy
  • Content Strategy
  • Marketing Strategy
  • Social Media Strategy

Measurement and Analysis

Content Creation (AKA “Creative”)

  • Annual Reports
  • Case Studies
  • Blogs & Articles
  • Branding
  • Copywriting
  • Copyediting
  • Content Planning & Publishing
  • Data visualization
  • Ebooks
  • Explainer Videos
  • Graphic Design
  • Infographics
  • Interactives
  • Animated Video
  • Motion Graphics
  • Presentations
  • White Papers
  • Video
  • Motion Graphics (or Animated Video)
  • Microcontent
  • Photography
  • Web Design & Development

Communications Services

  • Media Buys
  • Paid Placement
  • Sponsored Content
  • Influencer Marketing
  • PR

In short, a creative agency is a creative partner that will help your brand tell its story.

What Does a Creative Team Look Like?

A creative agency is comprised of a variety of experts who can support your brand’s strategy. In general, that includes a mix of the following:

  • Art Director
  • Creative Director
  • Brand and Content Strategists
  • Account Directors/Managers
  • Producers
  • Writers & Editors
  • Videographers
  • Web Designers & Developers
  • Graphic Designers
  • Content Distribution Specialists

Depending on its structure, some creative agencies also work with expert partners, such as a video production house.

What’s the Difference Between a Creative Agency and Other Agencies?

This is a common question. While some agencies may provide services that overlap with a creative agency, many agencies focus on one particular service or category, such as:

  • Design agency: An agency that offers design services for a variety of visual mediums, including print and digital.
  • Digital agency: The moniker typically reserved for an agency focused on digital marketing strategy, often focused on SEO and lead generation.
  • Advertising agency: An agency focused specifically on advertising (digital, TV, radio, print, etc.). It may or may not provide marketing services.
  • PR agency: An agency that offers promotional and content distribution services to maximize brand awareness.
  • SEO agency: An agency focused on various on-site and search marketing strategies and tactics to increase traffic and lead gen.
  • Social media agency: Specializes in social strategies and, oftentimes, the management of social media accounts.

A creative agency usually encompasses one or more of these services.

How Can a Creative Agency Help You?

There are many services a creative agency provides. Whether you need them to fill in the gaps in your marketing team or take the reigns entirely, a creative agency can help…

  • Craft strategy. If you don’t know what you’re doing, not sure if you’re doing the right thing, or not sure where to start, a creative agency can provide the guidance you need to achieve your marketing goals.
  • Support your existing strategy. If you know what you want to do but need help executing your strategy, a creative agency can provide that support, whether it’s content creation, media placement, editorial planning, or social media advertising.
  • Provide expert knowledge and resources. A good creative agency has experience and insight to help improve your results. They know what works, what doesn’t, where trends are moving, etc. They also have a larger network of content creators who can help you (even if they themselves don’t provide the services you’re looking for).

You can also find full-service creative agencies that specialize in your particular industry or offering, such as B2B tech or entertainment.

How Do You Know If You Need One?

Not everyone needs a creative agency, particularly if you have a solid operation or an in-house team that is capable of executing your marketing strategy. However, you might consider using a creative agency if you…

  • Don’t have the resources. Some brands find it difficult to execute their strategy due to limited means, accessibility, or availability. A creative agency can help support your strategy with the infrastructure you need.
  • Don’t have the knowledge. A creative agency is staffed by expert creators who have the skills and expertise to create all types of content—and, most importantly, adhere to best practices.
  • Don’t have the bandwidth. Your team may be bogged down with other projects, meaning your marketing projects are delayed or backburnered indefinitely. A creative agency can help you create consistent, quality content at scale.
  • Are struggling to get results. If your current strategy isn’t delivering the results you want, a creative agency can advise you on how to tweak, improve, or revise your strategy.

If you’re still not sure if an agency can help you, here’s how to figure out if you need one.

How Do You Find One?

Not all creative agencies are right for your needs. We recommend interviewing several to ensure they’re the right fit for your brand. To help you narrow it down, check out these 12 things to look for in a creative agency.

How Do You Get the Best Work From an Agency?

A good creative agency is focused on building a long-term relationship with your brand, functioning as a true creative partner and not just a gun for hire. To get the most from your agency, follow these tips to build a strong relationship with your agency, try these tactics to work together more effectively, and determine how you’ll split the workload up front.

Written by Katy French for Business2Community and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.

Featured image provided by Business2Community

Brand Storytelling: 5 Ways to Create a Customer-Centric Narrative

Narratives compel us. They’re familiar. They’re memorable (22 times more memorable than facts, according to one psychologist). So it’s no wonder that in an era of constant digital sharing and connection, companies who master brand storytelling are achieving – and maintaining – a global following. Businesses can engage with potential customers and make lasting impressions if they tell compelling stories about who they are and what they represent. But too often, brands focus their stories on promoting their products/services. They feign caring about world problems without real action. And they share text-heavy descriptions, facts and statistics with their audiences instead of more engaging, visual posts. For brand storytelling success, customers must be at the center of the narrative.

This doesn’t mean you can’t ever mention your products/services, but they should come secondary to the real, human element at the heart of your message. The customer should be the main character of your narrative because consumers want to do business with honest, empathetic companies. A Sprout Social survey revealed that honesty ranked highest among a list of behaviors consumers want from brands. What’s more, the most empathetic companies are among the most profitable in the world. One of the best ways to shift your focus to consumers – and boost engagement – is to harness the power of customer-led storytelling. When you showcase the consumer perspective, your audience will see themselves reflected in your story and feel more a part of your brand. Read more to find out how to create customer-centric storytelling.

Brand Storytelling: First things first

To start, iron out the basics of your anchor story to show why your brand exists and matters: its history, challenges, successes and values. With clear conflict, challenge and resolution, establish the story you want to tell, keeping it simple and consistent. Then, adapt your brand voice to tell that story with the customer, not the business itself, in the spotlight. Once you do, you will see more traffic to your channels as well as an increase in customer trust and loyalty. Here are some ways to get you there:

Hone your hashtag game

Create a few signature hashtags for your brand, and make those hashtags extremely visible. Invite customers to share and tag images of themselves on social media using your products or services. Place these invites in your product packaging or digital purchase communications, and remind customers purchasing in person, if possible. Use your website and social media channels to promote your hashtag. Offer incentives, competitions or prizes for customers who use it. Increased customer sharing will expand brand awareness and bring new customers.

Give up the reins for a bit

As carefully as you plan every aspect of your digital presence, turning one of your channels over to your customers for a brief time can be a scary but worthwhile practice. Let consumers take the lead to tell your story by hosting a social media takeover. This allows customers to share their thoughts, photos and opinions on your platform to a much broader audience than they’re accustomed to. You could invite influential customers to participate in a customer-led Q&A session, document an event from their perspective or share a day-in-the-life through photos and videos. Another way is to invite customers to write posts on your blog. There a plenty of options, but the key is to use outreach strategies offering a range of digital mediums for customers to help tell your story by sharing their own on your channels, with monitoring of course.

Feature visual case studies

Share customer successes by telling those stories – visually and from the customer’s perspective. People are interested in people, and these case studies are an excellent way to intrigue audiences with real people’s problems. And showcasing your products as an effective solution to those problems is an added bonus. The important thing to remember about this style of brand storytelling is that it must be focused on the customers, not the products, to achieve an authentic feel. Also, people process images 60,000 times faster than text, so tell these stories through a visually stimulating medium. Reach out to satisfied customers, who will likely be excited to share their stories on your platform.

Tap into your community

Consider the town or city where your business is based. Tune into what’s going on in your community, and look for what might connect to your company’s mission or products. Use brand storytelling to share stories about people and events in your community that relate to your brand. Sure, it’s a great idea to actually get involved and document any philanthropic work you do. But you should also feature the great work and stories of others, which will expand your reach and reinforce the values at the center of your business.

Share video reviews

Your customers have likely already published video reviews of your products/services. Find the most flattering ones and share them on your website and social media pages. If your business or products are new and reviews aren’t out there yet, create opportunities for user-generated reviews by encouraging your customers to upload honest feedback via video. Give them a platform for submitting or posting their reviews, and share the ones that best highlight your brand.

When you find ways to regularly publish user-generated stories, your brand storytelling strategy establishes an authentic, relevant voice among consumers. It would be foolish not to tap into such an accessible resource to demonstrate the value of your business. Your customers live the lifestyle your brand represents, and they trust their peers’ voices. Let them help you tell your story!

Written by Bonnie Harris for Business2Community and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.

Featured image provided by Oliver Dumoulin

Why These 5 Brands Succeed with Minimal Marketing

The marketing game has shifted a ton over the last century—and it’s undergone yet another dramatic revolution in just the last decade. With the rise of online platforms, shifting consumer values, and an increasingly cluttered media landscape, traditional methods of promotion have become less effective.

Most companies that want to make a name for themselves are shifting their approach, pursuing content marketing and engagement marketing to build relationships with people, yet some successful brands have forsaken these forms of marketing altogether.

This isn’t something most of us can get away with, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t something to be learned from these bold brands.

From cars to condiments, these impressive brands have created such a strong brand identity that fans naturally flock to them. No matter your industry, they may inspire you to rethink how you put your brand front and center.

1) Supreme

Fashion brand Supreme has firmly anchored itself as the ultimate tastemaker in the industry, cultivating an air of cool that has celebs and collectors lusting after their products. While the skatewear brand once advertised in its early days, it has evolved into a powerhouse that deals exclusively in street cred.

Their creative collaborations with high-profile brands (including Nike and Louis Vuitton) have made headlines, as have their novelties (including a Supreme-branded brick that now resells for $1,000). But it’s their restraint and exclusivity that has made them so popular. Everything from their products to their website is an expression of minimalism (FYI, their site doesn’t even have a metadescription), so it’s no surprise their marketing is practically non-existent, save for art film-esque clips and short announcements.

One of the “random” videos on their site, this short film shows the production of a Supreme-branded edition of the New York Post_._

Why They Succeed: Supreme thrives on buzz and an established relationship with their rabid fanbase. Their exclusivity and effortlessness is the hallmark of the brand, making people feel that any bit of new information or sneak peek of a collection is a huge gift.

2) Trader Joe’s

In marketing land, Trader Joe’s seems like a total anomaly. Their only marketing is their Fearless Flyer a simple, low-budget newsletter produced eight times a year, and they don’t have a social media presence.

What they do have is a strong brand experience, consistent throughout the store. Sampling is their largest “marketing” expense, the artwork and signage in their stores is handmade by artists, and their team members are friendly, cheerful, and personable. They don’t need to market who they are because they show you the minute you step into the store.

Fearless Flyler brand marketing magazine
. Business2Community

The February 2019 Fearless Flyer features product roundups and more.

Why They Succeed: They know exactly who their people are: well-educated shoppers who are intentional about their purchases and less likely to be swayed by traditional advertising. Thus, they focus on delivering on their brand promise: high-quality goods at affordable prices. As marketing costs money, it’s counterintuitive to jack up their prices to cover the costs.

3) Common Projects

Similar to Supreme, shoe brand Common Projects has built a cult following and major caché by approaching marketing the way they approach product creation: adopting a minimalist philosophy.

The brand was launched to serve a sneaker need: shoes that bridge the gap between athletic sneakers and dress shoes. Thus, they focus on clean lines, high quality, and a minimal aesthetic, which translates to their marketing as well. Their social presence is rarely updated, their business boasts just 5 employees, and they have no official HQ.

Common projects brands marketing
. Business2Community

The Common Projects website is pure minimalism.

Why They Succeed: They apply their philosophy to every aspect of their brand. Minimalism is not just their aesthetic; it’s a way of life. This understated, reserved approach to branding is one way they demonstrate their brand values, which highly resonates with their buyers—people with a penchant for style, quality, and efficiency.

4) Tesla

Most automobile companies are huge players in the ad game, but Tesla has taken a comparatively reserved approach. (In 2014 they spent $48.9 million on marketing, whereas General Motors spent $5.2 billion.)

For example, when they released a kids’ version of the electric Model S, they garnered buzz simply by retweeting customers’ home videos.

#MondayMotivation Idris Lay, a patient on our Rose Ward, has been taking a spin around the Royal Brompton Hospital after @TeslaOwnersUK surprised our paediatrics ward with a mini Tesla model. Read more Idris’ speedy ride around here https://t.co/fnPlyq28XG pic.twitter.com/Cbm1ymJefk

— RB&H Charity (@RBHCharity) February 11, 2019

Word of mouth and the ongoing antics of founder Elon Musk have created a brand full of intrigue and interest, leaving fans waiting to see what they’ll come up with next.

Why They Succeed: Tesla is largely focused on disrupting through innovation. Thus, they’re simply focused on creating the best product out there. Musk has said he’d rather put ad money into building a better product, and it shows, as their products speak for themselves.

5) Sriracha

How did this popular brand become one of the most popular condiments without ever spending on advertising? With a great recipe. Founder David Tran started off selling his homemade recipe in recycled baby bottle jars, networking with local markets and restaurants to get his product into the world.

Some 30 years later, the sauce has become a staple in the U.S. and around the world, thanks to word of mouth. Sriracha has never advertised and still has no social presence.

Why They Succeed: The brand has always let the product speak for itself. Even when Sriracha was sued by the city of Irwindale in 2013 after residents complained about the factory’s chili odors, Tran decided to invite the community into the factory to let them see the manufacturing process themselves.

After creating a filtration system for the odors, Sriracha began public tours, attracting 3,000 people a weekend. Most importantly, each person leaves with a small sample—always keeping the product in people’s hands.

Watch Master Sushi Chef Hiroyuki Terada’s tour of the factory.

How to Build Your Brand Through Marketing (Because You Have To)

We can’t all ditch our marketing efforts, but there are plenty of ways to build a strong community and connect with people to build a lasting brand—even using some of the tactics of these anomaly brands.

  1. Craft your brand strategy. Knowing who you are, what you’re trying to achieve, and how you’re going to do it is crucial to your brand success, whether or not your pursue traditional marketing channels. If you’ve never done one before, use our guide to craft a brand strategy.
  2. Know your voice. Whether it’s your website copy or Twitter feed, learn how to find and hone your brand voice in all communication.
  3. Share your brand story. Whether you’re telling the story of how your company was founded or offering a glimpse into your manufacturing process, there are plenty of ways to bring people into your brand story.
  4. Uncover the stories in your data. Proprietary data is one of the best sources of original content.
  5. Turn your culture into compelling content. Culture marketing is a fantastic way to peel back the curtain and showcase the people behind your brand.
  6. Lead with your beliefs. People want to support brands that share their same values.
  7. Build a strong brand identity. Your visual presence tells your brand story as much as your words do.

Written by Katy French for Business2Community and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.

Featured image provided by Erik Mclean

Content Promotion Strategies: How to Supercharge Your Content

There’s no doubt that content marketing is a powerful strategy. But what happens when the content you create doesn’t get the attention you want? That’s where content promotion strategies can help.

Content promotion is the use of additional strategies, both paid and unpaid, that get your content more exposure.

Think of it this way. Your content is like a flame. On its own, it will remain the same size or dwindle. But if you want to ignite that flame into a blazing fire, you need to feed and nurture it. So too with you content. Without promotion, your content may ignite but then quickly die out.

Why Your Brand Needs to Promote Content

Google any topic within your industry and see how many results appear. I’d bet that you’re confronted with a slew of content from nearly every brand in the industry.

That is what we call content shock — so much content has flooded the annals of the internet, that it’s often overwhelming.

Content Promotion
. Business2Community

How can your content breakthrough?

Enter content promotion. With a combination of free and paid promotion options, you can put the spotlight on your content, making it easier for your audience to find you and engage.

In one study, it was found that 47% of buyers engage with 3-5 pieces of content before engaging with a sales rep. So having content that your audience can find and engage with can be crucial to your overall B2B marketing strategy.

Promoting your content ensures that it reaches the right audience and moves them towards purchasing.

What strategies and tactics should you use to promote your content? Let’s examine the best ways — both paid and unpaid — to accomplish this.

1. Research Topics with Quora

Quora is an online platform where people post questions. Many times these questions ask about industry subjects. As an expert in your industry, you can use your knowledge to answer questions, while also exposing people to your brand.

Quora is also an excellent tool for content ideas.

People often ask questions there because they’ve failed to find answers elsewhere on the internet. This leaves a space that your brand can fill. Research what questions people ask on Quora and then create a blog post or other content that provides a satisfying answer. You can then link to your content in your Quora answer.

2. Leverage Newsjacking

Content Promotion (1)
. Business2Community

What is newsjacking? The practice of using a popular news story to amplify your B2B marketing and content strategy.

Let’s take a page from Market Watch’s book. Back in 2014, at the height of the fame of the hit TV series The Walking Dead, Market Watch published a post entitled 7 management lessons from “The Walking Dead”. This took a normally dry subject and infused life into it by relating it to a popular subject of everyday conversation.

Newsjacking can take many forms. As you create content, take the time to look at major events happening in the news. For example, this could include holidays, national events, or international news.

A word of caution is in order: When the story you newsjack is of a sobering nature (such as a natural disaster), treat it with the levity and delicacy it deserves. Otherwise, this strategy could backfire in a major way. If you have any reservations, don’t newsjack.

3. Create Content with an Influencer

Influencers are noted individuals who have become authorities within an industry — and who have a social following that matches. Is it effective? Very — as evidenced by the 94% of marketers who have used influencer marketing and believe it works.

Working together to create content gives each of you the opportunity to add your individual insights and benefit from sharing the content.

This kind of partnership gives you access to an influencer’s audience’s base and them to yours. Be aware that when you work with influencers, it has to be beneficial for both sides. This could mean monetary compensation for the partnership or some other arrangement. You’ll need to work out those details with each influencer.

4. Engage on Social Media

Social media has become an essential part of any B2B marketing strategy. Social media promotion can be done one of two ways — organically and through paid ads. At the moment, let’s focus on organically promoting your content on social media — and address paid promotion later in this post.

Promoting your content on social media is not without its challenges. Between complex network algorithms and human nature, it can be difficult to reach and capture the interest of your audience. But it’s not hopeless.

First, pay attention to the quality of your content. Don’t create content for content’s sake — take your time and make sure that your audience will find it valuable. Studies show that long-form content performs the best on social media, so put in extra work to make it as comprehensive as possible.

Another aspect of social media success is your profile. It’s no sense having amazing content if your profile doesn’t support it. An ideal social media profile includes high-quality images, all your information in the right place, and a company bio that showcases your company culture.

5. Plan an Event

Nothing excites audiences like an industry event. Whether it’s a conference, trade show, or an online event like a webinar, such an event gives you the chance to connect with your audience and amplify your content.

Your presence and participation at such an event leaves a major impression on your audience. It brings your brand to the top of attendees’ minds. Use this to your advantage by referencing key pieces of content throughout the event.

There are a number of avenues at such events where you would be in a position to promote your content. For example, you could…

  • Volunteer for a public speaking engagement
  • Incorporate event-related hashtags in your social posts
  • Participate in a podcast interview
  • Create and publish event-related content
  • Publish key takeaways from the event

6. Repurpose Your Content

Content Promotion (3)
. Business2Community

Think of repurposing content like doing a home renovation. It involves taking what you love and making it even better.

Take a piece of content that you and your audience savor — perhaps it’s a blog post that people have devoured or an infographic that has gotten a lot of shares on social media. Then take steps to improve on it.

Improving your content could be as simple as adding more information and changing the title to reach new audiences. You could also transform it completely into another asset, such as a checklist or a video.

Such repurposing bolsters your content marketing strategy and helps that content to pique the interest of new audiences.

7. Pay to Promote on Social

While organic social media is a valuable strategy — especially if you have the audience to back it up — paying to promote your content can give it the extra boost it needs to reach new audiences.

Content Promotion (4)
. Business2Community

Social ads aren’t just for gated content campaigns, such as an ebook you’re promoting. It can also be used to promote your blog posts, infographics, and videos. Learn all you can about your audience and use that data to target audiences likely to be the most interested in your content.

Social media promotion isn’t an exact science. A lot will depend on your specific industry and target audience. You may need to go back to the drawing board a few times before you get the right combination that resonates with your audience. But it’s definitely worth the effort.

As an added bonus, research shows that paid promotion on social networks like Facebook also boosts your content’s search engine ranking.

8. Use Search Engine Marketing

Who of us doesn’t use search engines like Google to find what we need? Our audiences do the exact same thing. While there are SEO strategies to help you land on Google organically, paid ads on Google Adwords can also give you an advantage.

Do your research to find out which keywords would be the most helpful for your brand. Choose a keyword that gets large search volume but also has fairly low competition. Those two factors will ensure that it’s the most effective but also won’t strain your wallet.

_ In review… _

8 Content Promotion Strategies You Need to Know
. Business2Community

Competition for content is fierce — but content promotion strategies like these can help your great content really hit the mark with your audience.

Written by Wendy Marx for Business2Community and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.

Featured image provided by Vinayak Sharma