My last two roles have been with startups who thought it was time to outsource their content marketing initiatives. In both companies, the relationships fell through.
The first had already brought on an agency prior to my arrival and let them go shortly thereafter. The second was in talks to work with an agency but decided not to move forward with them.
Why am I saying all this? It’s because when companies try to outsource their content marketing, it can easily go south quickly. There are many reasons, from my experience at least, why this is the case:
- The communication between the content agency and the company is lacking
- The agency doesn’t understand the needs and objectives of the company, leading to bad creative decisions
- The company is uninvolved and disinterested until something goes wrong, and then they’re over-involved
- There’s no clear direction for where the company wants to go, leaving the agency to do a lot of guesswork
Worst case scenario, outsourcing costs you more time and money than you’re bringing in. So you want to make sure that you’re prepared to make it work. Here are six signs that it’s time to outsource your content marketing.
1. You’re already directing internal resources to content marketing
If you aren’t already devoting time and resources to content marketing, it’s not time to outsource yet. One major reason is commitment. If you haven’t committed creating and publishing content on your blog, website, social media, podcast, or YouTube, why should you expect someone else to do it?
You know your company better than anyone else. Even if you can’t produce at the same level an agency can, you start to get an idea of what your audience responds to and what you actually want to accomplish.
Plus, if you start creating content yourself before bringing an agency on board, you’ll have a sample to present to them of the kinds of content that fits with your brand. You don’t want your agency to have to start from scratch.
2. You have too many topics to address
Once you start directing your marketing team to create and post content, the wheels are going to start spinning. You’re going to come up with ideas. Your team’s going to start coming up with ideas. Your salespeople will come up with ideas based on conversations with customers. Your product team will come up with ideas based on what they think buyers need to know to get the most out of the product.
Best case scenario, you’re going to have so many topics that you need to address, and not enough time to create that content. That’s not a sign that you’re failing or struggling, but actually moving in the direction of growth.
If you have a list of topics that you feel like you’ll never catch up on no matter how much your team is able to work on them, that’s a sign that you need someone to come in and help.
3. You don’t have the space to create any more content
There are so many channels to publish content. You have a website and blog. And then there’s Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram. You could try Snapchat to see if it works for your business, or start a YouTube channel to experiment with video.
Not only are there so many potential topics that you could address, but there are so many channels and mediums that you probably won’t be able to take advantage of all of them with a small team.
Before you bring someone onboard to help, see if this something you can address internally. There are plenty of ways to streamline content production:
- Repurpose your content. Take some of the content you’ve already created and convert it into another medium. You can take a few blog posts and pull them together into an eBook or webinar deck, or a video or podcast script.
- Focus on specificity, not length. You don’t have to create super-long content in order to be effective. If you create something that’s highly specific and substantive, you can save yourself the time of creating something that’s thousands of words or hours long.
- Develop a repeatable production process. This doesn’t have to be anything fancy. But if you can come up with a process by which you and your team consistently generate topics and content across various channels, you’ll be able to increase your workload.
Still, you’re eventually going to hit a ceiling. That’s when you know it’s time to bring in help.
4. You lack one or more of the skills necessary to create high-quality content
When you’re starting out, you produce the content you’re able to produce. It’s not going to be the best in business, but that’s okay. What’s important is that it’s the best and most helpful resource to educate your buyers along their path to a purchase.
So don’t let perfect be the enemy of good.
But as you grow and build your audience–and start bringing in revenue–there will be an expectation that the quality of your brand and content will grow as well.
There’s a lot in terms of creative work that virtually anyone can do if they scrap it together. You can write blogs, create some basic graphics, record short, low production value videos and podcasts. But if you want to step up the value, you need to bring in people who are experts in these areas.
Generally, there are five areas of content production expertise:
- Writing. The “words” person, who creates the foundation for what your brand says on a regular basis.
- Video. The “movie” person, who determines how to film and edit your video content.
- Audio. The “sounds” person, who takes everything and makes it sound pristine.
- Design. The “looks” person, who builds and implements a consistent visual identity across all channels.
- Analytics. The “numbers” person, who examines the behind-the-scenes data to see what your audience is actually responding to, and how to respond accordingly.
There’s no need to be all-or-nothing here. If you aren’t ready for a full-service agency, just pick one of these areas where you feel you’re coming up short, and go ahead and invest in it.
5. You can’t be responsive to key industry events
One of the great tools you have at your disposal as a marketer is to be responsive to key industry events.
It could be a news article that starts a brand new conversation among you, your customers, your competitors, and you want to make sure you chime in. There could be a major conference that either you’re attending or watching from afar, and you want to get in on the online action. Or there could be a Twitter chat that’s a great chance to communicate with an already engaged audience.
But if you don’t have the ability to engage in these kinds of activities, then you’re going to miss out on some pretty incredible opportunity. That’s why if you find yourself unable to take the time to respond to industry news, it’s time to outsource.
You could either bring in someone who can be the agile, responsive force in your business. Or you could bring in someone to consistently crank out incredibly evergreen content while you and your team handle the more agile stuff.
Either way, outsourcing can help you be more responsive if you implement it the right way.
6. You have the budget to invest in a skilled content marketer or agency
You get what you pay for. And if you really want to outsource content marketing without regretting it six months down the line, you have to have the budget to invest in it.
There are companies that charge pennies per word and claim they’ll provide consistent content for a low cost. Or you could find a cheap copywriter on a freelancing site for much the same experience.
But the value you’re going to get will be severely diminished than if you waited to pay for someone who can do much more.There are many ways to outsource, each with their own price tag. Take the time to figure out how much you’re really willing to spend based on the value you think you’ll get.
Then when you’re ready, get started, and take your content marketing to the next level.
If you’re ready to bring on someone to help with developing written content, talk to us about how we can help.