According to the 2018 B2B Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends in North America, 53 percent of respondents said a small or one-person marketing team serves the whole organization. Often, that’s not enough and that’s why 56 percent of them outsource one or more content marketing activities.
Nowadays, at least one of several types of AI technology can produce some form of written content. Some media companies use them these days to reduce costs and time spent in producing content. In fact, Gartner predicted that by 2018, nearly 20 percent of content will be produced by machines.
But we’re not talking about outsourcing to machines in this post. We’re addressing the steps you can take to properly outsource your content marketing to humans like you and me. Here they are:
1. Determine which type of content you’ll outsource
When the term content marketing is used, most people readily think of written content. Maybe you’ll easily think of blog posts, articles, ebooks, email newsletters, and whitepapers.
But as I believe you know already, content involves much more than written words. Because videos, podcasts, software, infographics, memes, animation, cartoons, and webinars are also content. Of course, there are many other different types of content for either camp – written or non-written.
The point is while understanding that we have a variety of content types out there, this article is primarily talking about outsourcing written content. However, the principles here can help you, whether you’re outsourcing infographics, videos, or software.
Additionally, even if you’re outsourcing written content, you’ll still decide what types of written content you’ll outsource and what types of content an employee or employees in your organization will handle. For example, some companies outsource writing blog posts, while they handle content like case studies and email newsletters. Other companies outsource practically everything.
It’s your choice. Decide what types of content you’ll outsource.
2. Set your content targets and goals
Depending on how far off you are in the content marketing game, you can set goals and targets commensurate with your content marketing maturity level. To help you decide your organization’s level, you can use this benchmark from organizations who took part in the 2018 B2B Content Marketing Benchmark, Budgets, and Trends:
- First steps: Doing some aspects of content, but have not yet begun to make content marketing a process.
- Young: Growing pains, challenged with creating a cohesive strategy and measurement plan.
- Adolescent: Have developed a business case, seeing early success, becoming more sophisticated with measurement and scaling.
- Mature: Finding success, yet challenged with integration across the organization.
- Sophisticated: Providing accurate measurement to the business, scaling across the organization.
From the list above, the “sophisticated” organizations are at the most perfect level, followed by the mature ones. We can say that for both, setting content targets or goals is a breeze. Nevertheless, if your organization falls into one of the other three categories, you need different content targets, but you should still ask yourself these questions to help you determine how to deepen your relationship with your audience:
- Do we already have “share-worthy” content?
- Can we measure the impact?
- What kind of content should we develop that gives our audience value?
Those questions are best asked during a content audit. So perform one first, to enable you to decide appropriate and realistic content targets or goals.
For example, if you’re taking your “first steps” in content marketing, your first goals can be brand awareness, then creating and strictly following an editorial calendar. If you’re still “young,” your goal can be measuring what’s working and doubling down on it. And so on.
You can see from these that a content audit is important at whatever stage of content marketing your organization is. When you establish clear goals for content that will be outsourced, you’re one step closer to doing it right.
3. Decide how you’ll measure ROI
Some advice on the internet about content marketing ROI or measuring it can daze and confuse you. Let me give a quick example.
Some marketers think that “website traffic” is a vanity metric and one you should take with a grain of salt. However, the problem is that all the other metrics they say are more important are not relevant if you have no traffic. And what’s more, if you’re in the “young” or “first steps” stage of content marketing, you should absolutely pay more attention to your site’s traffic, and build it to say, at least 10,000 visitors a month before you can move on to other metrics.
Generally, you’ll judge your content marketing based on the following KPIs (Key Performance Indicators):
- Social shares
- Brand awareness
- Website traffic
- Onsite behavior
- Leads generated
- Quality of leads
- Conversion rate
These apply to every content marketing level in an organization. For example, an “adolescent” organization may use leads generated to track ROI of their content marketing efforts while a mature or sophisticated organization uses quality of leads in addition to leads generated.
But there are no hard and fast rules. No one is saying that a “sophisticated” organization should track only leads generated or that a “first steps” organization should use traffic as their only measure either. They’re subjective. What’s most important is realizing that at different levels, your priorities will change.
4. Decide whether you’ll go with a freelancer or an agency
This never-ending debate is one you’ll need to settle – in your head at least – before you outsource your content marketing.
None ensures perfection. You’ll need to evaluate carefully your reasons for choosing one over the other and whether you can live with the drawbacks of your choice.
One disadvantage of hiring a freelancer is that choosing a suitable freelancer can be a time-consuming process. Then there’s the need to hire several freelancers to fully power your content marketing machine since one may not be sufficiently skilled in all areas of content marketing where you need help.
Agencies, on the other hand, are often more pricey due to greater overhead costs. And as it often happens, your content marketing projects may be delegated and handled as an afterthought especially if you’re on the lowest rung of their budget tier or you’re not a big name.
I know some organizations who choose to work with several freelancers for different needs and others who work with both freelancers and an agency. That means this doesn’t have to be an “either-or” proposition but there’s room for a combination if it suits your needs.
5. Hire the freelancer or agency
If you choose to go with a freelancer, there are almost uncountable ways you can get one. These include but are not limited to:
- Ask for recommendations: Ask for referrals from friends, employees, or other companies in your industry who are not your direct competitors.
- Use job boards and freelance marketplaces: You can post your job ads on niche job boards like Problogger Job Board, or on general job sites like Indeed, Monster, LinkedIn et al. Alternatively, post it on sites like Upwork, People per Hour, or Guru and choose a suitable applicant from the flood of applications. According to this list of common job interview questions and answers, a question like “what’s your greatest accomplishment or project you’re most proud of completing” can help you decide if the freelancer is the most talented and suitable for the job.
- Scour sites in your industry: Visit sites that accept guest posts in your niche. Read some posts, and if there’s any you particularly like, just contact the writer and ask if they’d be willing to produce such content on your site.
For example, let’s say you stumble on this post on the hidden benefits of content marketing.
You can check the writer’s bio at the end of the article to see if there’s a way you can contact him or her to ask for their availability to work on your content project.
It’s not a definitive list of ways to find freelancers, but it will surely give you ideas.
If you want to hire an agency, find out their core focus areas and if they have worked with companies in your niche before. Just because they offer a suite of services doesn’t mean they’ll be the right fit for you.
Check for case studies to see they have done a great job for other companies in your niche in the past. You’ll be paying too much to skimp on this part. Tell them about your content marketing challenges, goals, and how you plan to measure ROI. Listen to how their response shows they consider your needs and you’re not just another customer.
Hire them if their goals and values align with yours.
Outsourcing content marketing doesn’t have to be stressful
The initial process of outsourcing content to an agency or freelancer may stress you. But when you find the right one, it will all be worth the stress. Take time to follow the steps in this article before you approach any freelancer or agency, and you’ll increase your chances of outsourcing your content the right way.
Guest author: Jyoti Agrawal is a business blogger who encourages young entrepreneurs to take risks and turn their dreams into realities. She writes about global entrepreneurial events for HuffingtonPost, Tech.co, and other publications.