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Content marketing agencies strive to produce quality content for their clients. It’s the reason the relationship exists in the first place. Businesses need great content. Content marketing agencies provide it. The same goes with freelancers and their clients. You’re not going to get repeat business if you do a bad job.
But what leads up to a bad job? How do parameters get overlooked and metrics get completely missed? More often than not, it has to do with insufficient communication. This can easily go both ways, but we’re going to take a look at the reasons client feedback is crucial to a content job well done.
Image via Flickr by Cea.
If you want your content quickly, the feedback has to be thorough and clear, and it has to be quick itself. Naturally, many businesses have editorial calendars. They want to post specific articles on specific days. Sometimes it’s not sticking to an editorial calendar, but producing content related to an upcoming holiday or event.
Whatever the case may be, clients expect a final product on a specified day. This is a good thing. It gives the client and the agency a goal and an expectation.
However, things take a turn when the first draft is passed onto a client and takes a while to come back to the agency or freelancer. This pushes the internal calendars for the agency behind, while the client may still be expecting the initial due date. It may seem obvious to the agency that the longer something takes to get back and edit, the further out the final delivery date will be. It may seem obvious to the client that the edits are simple to make and therefore shouldn’t take any significant amount of time.
To clear this hurdle successfully, both sides need to set timeline expectations initially. The final delivery date may come with an asterisk, wherein after so many days of review, the date gets pushed back.
Not only can the length of time a client review takes impact the delivery date, so can the length of edits required. If complicated or unclear feedback is returned to the agency, this can tack on extra time as the project managers, writers, and editors interpret the feedback and ask questions. Clients should attempt to provide clear, thorough, objective feedback. Nothing can make things confusing faster than subjective feedback.
Speaking of subjective feedback, we can segue naturally into consistency. For projects with more than one piece, and especially for projects that scale, objective client feedback on the initial test pieces is imperative. When you give an agency or a freelancer subjective feedback too late in the game, it can throw the approved style guide into question. If it’s not something that’s addressed in the style guide or if it goes against the rules listed in the style guide, different people can interpret it differently.
If a writer sees your feedback and applies it one way to one piece, but another writer sees it and applies it differently to a different piece, the project is going to lose its cohesion. You will end up with scattered work that doesn’t have a unifying voice.
Going over all style, formatting, grammar, and brand-specific rules up front sets the campaign up for success. That being said, it’s completely natural to not be able to know something’s wrong or know what you want until you do or don’t see it. When a test piece or two comes through and you think, “Wow, I do not like the way that looks,” say it.
Don’t just say it, point to the exact thing you do not like and do your best to explain what you don’t like about it. Using vague phrases like “rework this paragraph” or “add better language,” doesn’t give the agency or freelancer a clear understanding of what you don’t like. If this happens, we can’t ensure all your work is going to have the things you want or remove the things you don’t want. All an agency wants is to provide you with what you want. Help them help you.
As a client’s business surely does, agencies have processes. There is a chain of command. A whole team of people works on your project. If the project is large, it’s a large group of people dedicated to it. Agencies have client managers, project managers, writers, editors, and a QA team. That’s a lot of people who need to be completely in sync with the wants and needs of a client.
By providing the agency with clear feedback as soon as possible, you’re keeping the cogs in the wheel working in harmony. The information gets disseminated through the proper channels and adjustments are made before the project goes into full production. The style guide is updated before the freelancers on the project even start writing.
When feedback doesn’t come until the entire project is in production and the agency is moving full steam ahead, they then have to revise the style guide and reach out to all the hands on the project to share the information, figure out if edits need to be made to work that’s already been submitted, where the feedback applies to what’s currently being written, and answer questions that arise from all sides. The answers to those questions need to be shared everywhere so, you guessed it, everyone is on the same page.
Reaching out to everyone isn’t difficult. The tricky part can be when 20 writers and editors understand the feedback differently, and each question and example needs to be looked at closely. This circles back to our first point, where the timeline gets affected.
All agencies (and freelancers) want to do is provide their clients with the best content possible. That’s their job. It’s their passion. Providing quality feedback is the easiest way to help agencies get you the product you deserve. Take your time to do this and you’ll be happier with your end result.