Content creation is time-consuming. And marketing that content requires constant attention.
Whether you’re a new business, intermediate, or established, content is integral to your growth.
If you’re a small business owner wearing too many hats, there’s no way you’ll spend 3-6 hours writing a blog. Intermediate businesses hire a content specialist who might quickly get overwhelmed, especially if they intend to run an omnichannel marketing campaign and look to grow. Established businesses have a full marketing team, but people quit, staff goes on leave, and scaling up and down can turn into a quagmire.
But don’t fret! No matter your business size or the stage in your content marketing journey, everything you’ll need is ahead.
Why Outsource My Content Marketing?
There are many reasons both for and against outsourcing your content creation and content marketing campaigns. It’s different based on your industry, business model, and history with content and strategy, but briefly.
- Concerns about confidentiality
- Contractors can charge more by the hour than employees
- Not developing in-house talent
- Learning curve or lack of expertise of the outsourcing partner
- Motivated to achieve better results
- Ease of scaling
- The directness of B2B relationships
- Offers fresh perspectives
Each of these drawbacks can be addressed during the initial stages of finding a content marketing firm–for instance, any firm worth their salt will have methods of keeping your company information private, and if you have any kind of proprietary information, have them sign an NDA.
If you already know you want to outsource, scroll down for “How Do You Find the Best Content Marketing Partnership.”.
When Should You Outsource Content Marketing?
This is going to change all the time–outsourcing your content marketing may only be a seasonal effort, a one-off, it could be a long-term plan and integral to your business strategy.
First, it’s really about knowing if your website, blog, social channels, and supportive channels (email, guest placements, etc.) are regularly active and optimized. The other big tell is if your in-house team is overwhelmed and either can’t produce high-quality content or they can’t produce enough.
If one of these scenarios describes you, it’s worth considering an outsourcing partner:
- Have no idea where to start
- Don’t have time to do it yourself
- Not a writer
- Don’t know SEO
- Running out of ideas
- On a budget
- In-house team needs support
- Have unpredictable scaling needs (up or down)
- Require a content generator for your marketing campaign
- Venturing into new types of content marketing strategy
In a recent global report released by Semrush, which surveyed 1700 marketers and business owners, the number one method of increasing your content ranking is through creating more content and posting more often–followed closely by improving quality.
So, regardless of where you’re at in your marketing journey, are you doing enough?
What Do You Need to Know Before Outsourcing?
The most important first step is determining whether you want to work with a freelancer or an agency. Next, you’ll want to have a checklist to make sure you not only find the best situation but come to it with all the resources you need to succeed.
Use this helpful list to prepare yourself:
- Freelancer or Agency?
- Do you have: Branding Guidelines, Style Guide, Mission Statement?
- If you answer “no” all these, you might want to hire someone to create them.
- What is your marketing budget?
- Who is your target audience? B2B, B2C, etc.
- Is this a short-term or long-term engagement?
- Do you want to be educated during the process?
- Do you know how to gauge a successful campaign?
- What level of package and service are you looking for?
- Package examples
- Blogs + Social Media + Guest Posts
- SEO audit + full content (blogs, socials, GPs, email, case studies, etc.) + marketing strategy
- Service levels
- (White glove)
Once you get a sense of what you want, it’ll be much easier to determine if a company has what it takes to satisfy your needs, expectations, and goals. There may be some negotiating when it comes to what you want vs. what your budget is–best not to end up in a situation where you want more but can’t afford it and are never happy with the outcomes.
How to Know Your Content Marketing Needs
But how do you know if a freelancer or an agency is best? Or what size of package works for you?
If you’re an enterprise business with a marketing team looking for content support, it’ll probably be pretty cut and dry–and you’ll just be prowling for content marketing firms that provide the right kind of content for cents per word rate that fits your budget.
But for a small business or medium-sized business with one content specialist, it might not be as clear–especially if you’ve never outsourced your content writing or marketing before.
Let’s tackle some of these prep questions a little more thoroughly.
Freelancer or Agency
- Costs: When it comes to costs, freelancers can be cheaper because there isn’t as much overhead as with an agency. That being said, Agencies come with more resources and connections and potentially more capacity for content creation.
- Relationship: Freelancers are individuals, while Agencies mean that you’ll likely be dealing with a team, which means freelancers are closer to dealing with an employee/contractor, while interactions with Agencies are more like B2B.
- Scalability: Freelancers may have content limitations because they are just one person, while Agencies can likely expand your project exponentially.
- Attention: Freelancers will likely be more personally concerned with your content, whereas Agencies might have diverted attention based on the number of clients they have.
- Scope: Agencies can cover all types of content and marketing campaigns, plus draw in other employee expertise from multiple areas. Freelancers will have a more limited scope of your needs they can service.
Bottom Line: The initial meeting is key to figuring out if you get along and can trust your content partner. Sometimes Agencies will be cheaper than a freelancer, sometimes freelancers will be able to scale with your needs better than an Agency. Truth is, you’re going to have to try it before you know–plenty of people have good or bad experiences with either. There’s no silver bullet.
- General: If you have branding guidelines but no style guide, that’s okay. If you also have no company resources at all, that’s okay. But you’ll need to temper your expectations since expecting an Agency or Freelancer to understand your business, if you provide them with nothing, is going to end in disaster.
- Branding Guidelines: These are key for providing a content partner with key language, specific aesthetics, or concepts about your company that you want to be woven into your content.
- Style Guide: This determines more of the nuts and bolts of the content: voice, punctuation, how headings are used, etc. Most Agencies will come with an in-house style guide, but if you already know exactly how you want your content to look, feel, and read, that’s great!
- Mission Statement: This gives your content partner an overview and philosophy behind your company, which can be useful for considering the way content is framed and even how a certain campaign or strategy is employed.
Bottom Line: It’s always best to come to the initial meeting with some company resources. If you have time and patience, allowing an Agency or freelancer to learn about your business from meetings and initial deliverables can be just as successful of a partnership when outsourcing your content.
Level of Package and Service
Types of Content Packages
- Blogs: One of the best foundational types of content that supports a website’s domain rating, organic traffic, industry relevance, and can be repurposed for newsletters, social media, guest posts, and almost every type of content channel.
- Social Media: This content can function on its own but works best with support content unless your social channels are already incredibly strong and lucrative.
- Guest Posts: These articles don’t work best in isolation. A decent website must exist, and ideally, a blog, so that the backlinking nature of getting the articles placed on top-tier trade publications gets the most engagement and function.
- Full Content Package: Creating a content and SEO ecosystem means every piece of content is working towards multiple ends. Strategically, this requires many layers of optimization and a consistent return to the campaigns and see how each type of content is performing in isolation and how they work together to create organic and referral traffic and conversions.
Image: from Taggbox “Types of Content”
Types of Services Levels
- Basic: If you’re just looking for someone to write your content, deliver it, and make revisions if needed, then your search is probably going t be relatively easy. But don’t expect great customer service if you go with a content farm–as pricing often reflects how much additional attention can be given to a client.
- Quality: A good mix of solid customer service, good content, and strategic analysis and collaboration is usually an ideal fit for most businesses looking to expand on an existing content marketing strategy or start one from scratch.
- White Glove: If you want to outsource what is ostensibly a whole in-house marketing team, this is the best option. You’ll only need to review what is brought to your attention, but most firms offering a white glove service will want to perform in such a way that you will trust them to know what’s best for you and your business. But they’ll also check in regularly with KPIs and strategy to make sure you know what’s planned.
Bottom Line: Expectations are everything when starting a content marketing partnership. If you’re paying $500 for a couple of blogs and the company promises the world, be wary. If you’re paying 10k for a full package and white glove service and you’re not seeing any results in the KPIs in the first three months, the partner should have a really good reason for why.
How Do You Find the Best Content Marketing Partnership?
Content outsourcing can be stressful.
Finding that perfect content partner requires initial research and potentially meeting several candidates before signing a contract. Initial meetings are key for determining some core competencies that you’ll need to be able to trust your partner.
First, there are some useful platforms that can get you started:
- Semrush Marketplace – matches you up with writers and can provide further SEO services.
- Upwork – post jobs that writers find and apply for.
- Fiverr – access freelancer services for various content types.
- Scripted – gives you a range of options from freelancers to operational support for an in-house team.
- Search for Yearly Reviews – you can read a little bit about the company, check their website, and see if you like their brand and the way they market themselves.
- Finding a referral from a personal source – this one is self-explanatory.
Once you start collecting some names and profiles, checking some websites, and getting an idea of who might work as a collaborator, the next step is having those initial conversations.
Tips for Initial Meetings with a Content Marketing Firm or Freelancer
The most important part of a content partnership is trust.
Trusting they will provide high-quality content. Trusting they will deliver on time and revise content promptly. You want to trust that they will provide you with an honest analysis of how your campaigns are working and how to change them if they aren’t. You want to know that you’re being heard and understood and that you can trust your brand and company to them.
But how do you do that quickly and effectively?
Here are some tips to make your content outsourcing journey 1000 times easier:
- Does the content agency or freelancer ask you for anything before the meeting–such as company information, or provide a questionnaire to help them learn you faster?
- Have they looked at your website, blog, or social platforms, and do they have any offhand insights? If they don’t offer, ask.
- Find out what can be expected as far as workflow and communication and the stages of execution.
- Ask about quality control measures.
- Ask about KPIs and how often they report on a marketing campaign.
- Find out what they do if a campaign isn’t working.
- Have they worked with similar clients in the past?
- Is the potential writer familiar with the industry?
- Check the ratings or testimonials for potential content partners.
- Always ask for samples, ideally of every type of content they will provide.
If, for some reason, the communication feels awkward, or they misunderstand you in follow-up emails, or the samples are poorly written, move on to the next option. Because it’s really important to find the right partner for content outsourcing since they will build your business alongside you.
What to Do After Finding One or More Suitable Content Marketers
If you’ve done your due diligence and searched for at least six different marketing companies or freelancers, you might find more than one fit. This is potentially better than having only one option.
Having multiple companies, freelancers, or a mix, means that you can ask for a trial order to get a sense of what one month of working with this firm or freelancer would be like.
If the company or freelancer isn’t willing to do a trial order, this might be a red flag. Some companies have a minimum project size or won’t consider a certain price if it’s not a monthly subscription. Find out the details and figure out who or how you can get a trial month to test the waters.
If one of the companies impressed you throughout the initial meetings, their samples are incredible, their website clearly shows they know how to do their own content marketing, and they’ve answered all your questions, and followed up with clear and concise emails, maybe you’ve already found the ideal situation.
Regardless, the first few months are the next testing ground, and it’s an important stage while setting up the parameters of trust and consistent, effective, high-quality content.
What Are the Key Markers of a Quality Content Partner?
High-quality content creation takes time and effort.
Even when you’re outsourcing your content marketing efforts, you’ll want to regularly review deliveries until you’re satisfied with the ability of the content firm or freelancer to understand your market position, argue interesting and insightful positions on relevant themes, and present it in an easy-to-read SEO-optimized format.
Here are some items to consider during the first months of your content collaboration.
- Do they communicate in a way that shows you they understand what you want? Do you feel like they answer all your questions, or do you have more questions? Do they use a content brief? Whether it’s in the meeting or through email, your partner should be able to provide clear and organized explanations of everything they are doing for you every step of the way. Make sure!
Image: from Contentkapow “The Importance of Content Brief”
- Whether it’s files and folders, using bullet points in their emails, or providing content calendars, your partner should show you their organizational capacity, especially if you are doing high volumes of content. Even the delivery method should be easy to access and understand at a glance, from an email subject line to a shared folder.
- Meeting deadlines is a sine qua non for the most basic service, but watch for situations where your partner might regularly promise something earlier and deliver afterward. Everyone gets busy, but do they communicate transparently, organize themselves to achieve timeliness on your project, and if a deadline is missed, does it happen again? Watch for the patterns around proposed times, and make sure they are not regularly being pushed.
- Ideally, you have little to no revisions, but during the first months, alignment on your project, expectations, and the resulting content usually require the most attention. How quickly does your content partner pick up your tone or understand your company’s unique position? Do the blogs and social posts seem appropriate for your audience? If you can tell that the content gets better each month, great! If it stays the same or even gets worse, time to look elsewhere.
Tips for a Long-term Content Partnership
Once you’ve established trust and ease after those initial months, you can sit back and relax.
At least for a few minutes!
Make sure you have regular strategy check-ins if you want the highest level of engagement with your content. If your content marketing agency doesn’t check in or provide updates on KPI or look to evolve your strategy throughout the year, then what they’re providing will probably get stale.
For the best results, quarterly meetings are ideal, with monthly touchpoints regarding any pivots to new themes/topics that are trending. Strategy calls every month or two are not a bad decision, and it’s better to have them scheduled and cancel than let the situation turn apathetic.
The Many Advantages of Outsourcing Content Marketing
So you’re a startup looking for that big boost during your initial rollout to get press, create resources for interested clients, and fill up your social channels with exciting daily news–outsourcing your content will work wonders.
If you’re a marketing manager without a team planning on pursuing high-level whitepapers, case studies, and blogs to target a new market angle and clientele, focus on the strategy while bringing on board content creation that you can leverage.
For enterprises with large in-house marketing teams, make sure you have the option to support your scaling needs, and for your team to access swathes of content creation if you need to do a massive burn to build out a whole new part of your business or a massive media campaign.
Regardless of your business size or situation, there’s a reason to have a content marketing agency as an outsourcing partner.
Turn it on or off as you need it and make your business grow!