When I say “content marketing,” what comes to mind?
If you’re like the vast majority of marketing leaders, it’s probably one of the following:
“It’s something we should do, but it keeps getting put off.”
“I wish we could be better about creating content.”
“We need to find a good writer for our team.”
While over 92% of marketers believe that content is a top priority for their marketing organizations, 60% struggle to produce content consistently.
To solve this problem, you may consider hiring a content marketing expert.
But then you have to choose: marketing agency vs. in-house. Which option is best for your organization?
This article will help you figure that out.
Why You Need a Dedicated Content Manager
86% of highly effective organizations have a dedicated person in charge of content strategy, whether that person is insourced or outsourced.
Ultimately, there are three reasons why you need someone to “own” your content:
Let’s walk through each of these in detail.
Consistent content generation.
As I mentioned earlier, most marketing teams struggle to generate consistent content.
This shouldn’t be a shocker. Especially in SMBs, it’s easy to get pulled in a bunch of directions and lose your focus. And content marketing requires a certain level of focus to be successful.
Plus, creating content is time-consuming. Unless you have someone with experience managing the production process, you’ll probably underestimate how long it takes to get done. This will result in delays and bottlenecks, impairing your ability to be consistent.
High quality content.
If you want your content to generate business results, it needs to be substantive enough to excite & engage your audience.
There are several reasons why businesses fail to generate high quality content:
- They focus just on selling their products and services, not on providing value to the audience
- They get too “in the weeds” about the technical aspects of their products
- They don’t understand the problems their buyers are trying to solve during their customer journey
- They make faulty assumptions about what “good” content looks like (e.g. they assume “shorter is better,” when long-form content performs better on Google)
Most of these mistakes come down to one simple fact: your team isn’t an expert in content generation.
As a result, you should seriously consider partnering with someone who can take your unique expertise and turn it into high quality content.
That way, you get the best of both worlds!
When you half-ass your content marketing, it’s easy to fall into a vicious cycle:
Your team isn’t consistent, and the content isn’t all that great.
As a result, you (not surprisingly) don’t see any measurable results from your efforts.
Then, you decide not to invest in content marketing further because “it’s not working.”
So if you want to see measurable results from your content, you need someone who knows what they’re doing. They’ll be able to generate results for your business.
In-House Content Marketing: Pros and Cons
Once you’ve decided to bring on a dedicated content manager, the next step is to figure out whether you should insource or outsource.
Here are some of the pros and cons of in-house content marketing.
Pro: Brand familiarity
Your internal marketing team is naturally more familiar with your brand, business, and products. This is mostly because they deal with them day in and day out. While a content marketing agency will definitely work to get to know your business, that process still takes time.
Pro: Quick and easy access
Even in today’s remote-first environment, an in-house marketing team is just a quick email or Slack message away. Because agencies are juggling multiple clients, it may take a little longer to get them on the line.
Pro: Focus on your business
Because in-house marketing teams are only responsible for one client — YOU — they’re naturally going to be more focused on your strategy & goals.
Con: Talent recruitment
The average time to hire for a marketing position is around 50 days. And that’s when there isn’t a talent shortage, like the one we’re living in right now. A marketing agency, however, takes much less time to onboard and get started.
Con: Employee costs
Let’s face it: employees are expensive. For content & digital marketing roles, they average around a $52,000 annual salary, not to mention benefits, taxes, and equipment. To maintain an in-house marketing team could cost upward of $250,000 per year, which is far more than the average agency would charge.
Con: Content strategy & production capabilities
Agencies have teams of both employees and contractors who can produce quality content quickly and efficiently. While there are plenty of talented in-house marketers out there, it’s hard for one person (or a small team of people) to compete with an agency’s capabilities.
Con: Long-term scalability
Because marketing agencies have a bench of experienced team members at their disposal, they can scale and expand your content offerings quickly. With an in-house team, you have to go and hire out those skill sets.
Con: Employee turnover
Employee turnover is an inevitable reality of doing business. So when the time comes and you lose a marketing team member, that’s going to slow down your efforts considerably. An agency simply doesn’t have this problem.
Marketing Agency: Pros & Cons
While there are some significant benefits that come with hiring a marketing agency, 64% of B2B marketers outsource their content writing to a third party.
So let’s walk through the pros and cons of hiring a marketing agency.
Pro: Marketing expertise
Successful marketing agencies became that way because of their expertise. They have processes and personnel that are built to produce quality content at scale. Because of this expertise, you’ll definitely get a better bang for your buck.
Pro: Diverse capabilities
The world of content marketing consists of many tangential skill sets, including content writing, content strategy, SEO, brand messaging, social media, email marketing, video, podcasting, website building, and more. It’s hard to build an in-house team with all of these skills, but an agency will likely provide most (if not all) of them.
When you need to scale up your efforts, it’s typically quicker and easier to do so with a marketing agency vs. in-house marketing team. This is typically because they have more personnel at their disposal.
Pro: Lower cost
We mentioned earlier that building an in-house team could cost upward of $250,000, which is about $20,000 per month. Most quality agencies will charge much less than that amount, yet provide all of the additional benefits we just walked through.
Sometimes, an in-house marketing team can get tunnel vision because of over-familiarity with your brand and business. There’s an advantage to working with an agency who can come in and help you work around your blind spots.
Con: Locations & time zones
This generally applies when you have an agency that’s halfway across the country or world from your business, but it can be tricky to manage different time zones. However, as more in-house marketing teams become globally dispersed, this is becoming less of a differentiator.
Con: Multiple clients
Because agencies work with multiple clients, their time is going to be naturally split. However, a good agency will take the time they’ve set aside for you and make sure they’re laser-focused during that time. However, if you feel pushed off by an agency, that’s a sign that they’re neither professional nor a good fit.
If You Choose to Hire a Marketing Agency, Here’s How
Once you decide to hire a marketing agency to help scale up your efforts, the next step is picking a good one.
Unfortunately, there are a lot of agencies who overpromise, underdeliver, and overcharge to boot. So here are some tips for sifting through the options and choosing the right agency for your business.
1. Look at their clients.
When it comes to content marketing, the proof is in the pudding.
A quality marketing agency is proud of who they work with and the work they do. That’s why they’ll display these partnerships for everyone to see.
So if you go to an agency’s website and you don’t see any clients there, that’s a bad sign.
You don’t necessarily have to know who the clients are, especially if they’re in a different industry than you. But the fact that the agency has clients and is happy to talk about them shows that they’re legit.
And if the agency is able to provide case studies or examples of previous work, that’s a bonus!
2. Look at their team.
At the risk of stating the obvious, it’s important that your agency has people with content marketing skills and experience on the team.
So while you’re on their website, click to their “About” or “Team” page to see who works there. You can then look those people up on LinkedIn to see the extent of their experience.
Now keep in mind that most agencies will contract out certain types of work to contractors or freelancers, so you shouldn’t view this as the extent of their capabilities.
But if you find that their core team has the experience necessary to fulfill their promises, it’s a good bet that the freelancers and contractors they work with can do the same.
3. Look at their website.
A company’s website projects who they are to the market. From their website, you should get a good feel for who they are and the value they can offer you.
If you’re having a hard time figuring that out because their website is outdated or poorly designed, you probably want to move on.
Experienced agencies know that a solid website is key to an effective content marketing campaign. If they’re not building that for themselves, what makes you think they’ll do it for you?
4. Listen to their promises.
One of the biggest mistakes that marketers make when trying to hire an agency is falling for unreasonable promises.
For example, some will say, “we can get you X number of leads per month.”
But are they good leads? What if you work in a niche market? How do they know if they haven’t tested against your customers?
Or let’s say they promise that they can get you to rank #1 on Google. That’s a clear indicator that they don’t know SEO.
Instead of falling for outlandish claims, focus on the companies that can promise reasonable results.
The best rule of thumb is the one that your grandma taught you: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
5. See how responsive they are.
Any content agency that’s serious about keeping your business will be highly responsive to your communications.
They’ll make it easy to get in touch with them, and will always respond in a reasonable amount of time.
If you’re having trouble contacting them before you’ve signed the check, imagine how they’ll treat you after winning your business.
Final Thoughts on Hiring a Marketing Agency vs. In-House
If you’re wondering whether you should hire a dedicated content manager, now is the time.
The question is: will you go in-house or with a marketing agency?
If you want to save money, work with a highly experienced team, and give yourself room to scale quickly, then a marketing agency will be your best bet.