How Agencies Can Use Branded Content Marketing to Stand Out from the Crowd

As an agency, you spend much of your time thinking about how to spread awareness about your client’s brand — but how much time do you spend doing the same for your agency?

At first glance, your offerings may appear very similar to that of your competitors. So how can you stand out from the crowd of other agencies that seemingly offer the same services to the same market?

Main in crowded train station.
A branded content marketing approach lets your agency stand out from the crowd. Image via Unsplash.

Many agencies are seeing results by publishing their own branded content: content that blurs the lines between traditional advertising and content marketing.

Take Miami-based agency Fractl, for example. In 2013, the Fractl team published a study in the Harvard Business Review where they openly discussed what helps campaigns go viral. They used their own experience and client work as the backbone of this case study, which was picked up by many popular online publishers.

The result? In their own words, their branded content marketing:

“catapulted our brand’s authority, increased our brand awareness, and drove dozens of qualified leads.”

Or if you’re a numbers person, the branded content helped Fractl grow its referral traffic by 7000%, its overall site traffic by 4000% and its contact list by 1900%.

Graph showing increased referral traffic due to branded content case studies.
Notice the spike in referral traffic in October 2013 when Fractl’s research was published in Harvard Business Review.

In short, the Fractl team’s branded content helped deliver value to peers, clients and prospects, all while sharing their expertise with the world and painting themselves as thought leaders in the space.

So how can you do it for your own agency? We’ve broken down three different approaches to branded content strategy that agencies are using to lead the parade and step away from the crowd.

Turn case studies into prospects

When in doubt, start with what you already know.

For the team at Fractl, this meant creating and distributing a series of case studies: detailed reports of campaigns they had run (and the marketing insights they gleaned from them).

This approach allowed them to position themselves as the authority on the services they provide — topics they were intimately familiar with. And their razor-sharp focus on data made their branded content all that much more shareable. Ultimately, they were picked up by high-authority blogs and widely shared by leads.

And by partnering with marketing services like BuzzStream, Fractl was able to create even more research-driven case studies, to the tune of 10 data-driven pieces of content with a total of 45,000 social shares.

With the success of the off-site distribution of these case studies, Fractl decided to give them a permanent home on the agency website:

Screenshot of agency website with branded content case studies
The headline on this page clearly describes what’s in it for prospects.

This page serves as a hub for all of Fractl’s branded content. It demonstrates that Fractl is made up of thought leaders in their space, and leads are able to take advantage of all the valuable information and apply it to their marketing campaigns.

So how can you replicate some of these successes?

  • Use case studies to share your own data and experiences with prospects, along with the actionable insights you learned along the way.
  • Be as data-driven as possible to encourage social shares.
  • Partner with third parties for social proof and to show that your expertise extends into other verticals.
  • Create a hub on your agency website to give prospects a one-stop shop for all your branded content case studies.
  • Consider gating your case studies to capture and nurture qualified leads with landing pages.

Tap your experts to build brand awareness

While reporting on past campaigns is a start, other agencies are being even more generous by giving prospects access to their team of experts.

Social@Ogilvy is a global initiative that takes cross-disciplinary insights from the Ogilvy & Mather’s team of experts and shares them as webinars, case studies and podcasts. The agency uses the site as a platform to be as transparent as possible about their social media knowledge.

Screenshot of branded content on agency website
Ogilvy & Mather’s uses Social@Ogilvy to tap its existing network of professionals world-wide as well as other industry thought leaders to bring the most important branded content to its clients.

Its transparency on subjects which are everyday to Ogilvy & Mather’s experts serves to further cement its team’s position as thought leaders in the industry and build awareness about its brand.

Plus, sharing their knowledge and insights serves to empower social media marketers and demonstrate that the Ogilvy & Mather’s team are invested in the success of their prospects and clients.

Create branded tools to capture leads

Beyond sharing your experts and data with the world, there’s much more you can be doing to empower prospects. Sharing tactics and strategies helps paint you as useful, but what if you were creating tools that made you indispensable to your prospects’ success?

Some agencies are finding success in creating marketing tools that keep their brand’s name top-of-mind and help demonstrate that they’re invested in the success of their leads.

Creating branded tools allows an agency to provide value to future clients in a constructive way. Every time potential leads use your tools your brand is directly associated in the process. Using the tools results in them thinking of your name every time the the tool used or mentioned.

Take UK agency Rocket Mill for example.

It’s taken the branded content approach even further and created actual tools for CRO, SEO and social media management.

The lab section of Rocket Mill’s website boasts that their tools “have been adopted by over 60,000 businesses and agencies globally, including some of the world’s biggest brands” — and it breaks down what each of the tools does and which specific pain point is addressed:

Screenshot of branded content tools for agency.
Rocket Mill has created several tools that address the specific problems that its prospects face.

Their CRO Monitor, for example, lets you keep track of any changes your competitor is testing on its website:

Spefic screenshot of CRO tool.

And Social Crawlytics allows you to keep tabs on your competitor’s most-shared content:

Spefic screenshot of social tool

And while each of the tools is free, Rocket Mill doesn’t miss out on the chance to collect leads. Each tool on their site has a CTA that leads to a microsite with a signup form.

It’s a perfect way to deliver tangible value to leads while making handing over their email address a total no-brainer.

Dive into your archives

Gif of Madmen thinking about the future of advdertising.

Sharing your knowledge as an agency is one of the best ways to market your services.

Go the distance and go beyond an agency blog. Blogs may be the most common way to showcase your agency’s work, but they’re not the best way to stand out from the crowd.

Lucky for you, establishing a branded content strategy doesn’t mean starting from scratch!

You’ve likely got data-driven content sitting around: past campaigns that have succeeded (or even failed) are perfect fodder for content that can be packaged and distributed on-site or off.

Then put your agency’s name on it and use branded content to gain leads and generate some buzz.

default author image
About Helen Arceyut Frixione
Helen is a former Writer and Content Strategist at Unbounce. She’s worked in startup, agency and freelance environments. With a marketing background in social media strategy, community management and user acquisition, she loves using data to inform herself, but also enjoys the occasional animated cat gif. Find her on Twitter @haaf
» More blog posts by Helen Arceyut Frixione