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Should You Outsource Your Content Or Produce It In-house?

First, the good news: content marketing works!

Now, the not-so-good news: effective content marketing is difficult.

Over the past decade, content has become the cornerstone of digital marketing. In CMI’s 2017 survey, over 85% of the B2B and B2C marketers surveyed leverage content to drive brand awareness, generate leads and close sales.

In a Curata survey, 75% of companies planned to ramp up their content production and budget. At this point, it’s clear that content marketing is no longer an optional tactic.

But while the value of content marketing may be clear, in a 2016 B2B trends survey, 57% of marketers admitted they struggle to create content consistently. It appears figuring out how to create enough of the right content is still unclear.

We say enough content, as you can’t create one blog post per month and expect any results. To attract high-paying customers and differentiate themselves from competitors, businesses must consistently publish top-notch, “cornerstone” content. In a study on blog frequency and inbound traffic, Hubspot found that increased content production leads to better ROI.

To hit many different touch-points across a customer’s decision making cycle, content must also be produced in multiple formats including blog posts, webinars, infographics, videos, ebooks, podcasts, editorial articles, etc.

Creating this type of content may sound like a tall order, but it can be done in several ways:

  1. Create content in-house,
  2. Outsource content to freelance writers and/or specialist boutiques,
  3. A hybrid of both options that involves input from both in-house experts and external freelance copywriters/boutiques.

Each approach here has its own unique challenges; so let’s go ahead and examine the pros and cons:

In-House Content Creation: Pros

The general trend is to bring content creation in-house as it appears to be an efficient plan. With in-house creation:

  1. You’ll be using staff that intuitively know the industry, understand your client base and their needs/motivations, etc.
  2. You’re already paying staff salaries, so you won’t have to think about allocating a separate budget for an outside firm.
  3. There should be a level of buy-in as the writer is a part of your company and should be invested in the work they produce.

In-House Content Creation: Cons

While these are all valid assumptions, businesses soon realize that the DIY approach to creating content has quite a few drawbacks. For starters, the initial cost savings are fleeting as can be seen by the comparison cost scenario below:

Comparison Cost Scenario: In-House vs. Outsourcing

According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), the average cost-per-hire (CPH) for hiring in-house writers is $4,129. Comparing salaries drawn from seven different employment sites for multiple writing job roles, it was found that the average base salary figure came to $49,982.

Adding benefits and payroll tax takes the annual cost of hiring an in-house writer to  $79,726. Holy moly!

Now add the cost of equipment and overheads like rent, utilities, subscriptions and you can expect around $2,800 in overheads.

For the cost of outsourced content creation, let’s assume a boutique content production firm charges a fixed rate of $250 per 500-word post.

To compare the cost of both options, let’s assume a small to midsize business that requires 08 subject-matter specific blog posts per month.

  • Using outsourced content creation, your business will pay $ (250 x 8) = $2,000 per month.
  • With the in-house recruiting option, including the one-time cost of equipment, you’ll be paying $ (4,165 + 2,479 + 344 + 233)* = $ 7,221 per month (and that’s just the cost for ONE full-time person)

* For the in-house writer, this figure includes salary, benefits and payroll taxes.

As you can see in this scenario, for firms that only plan to publish 08 pieces of content per month, hiring a single, in-house content creator doesn’t make financial sense.

Other disadvantages include:

  1. In-house content creation takes time and distracts your team from concentrating on tasks that will drive profitable growth i.e. closing sales and chasing leads.
  2. By creating sub-par content, you run the risk of losing readership and audience engagement, no matter how knowledgeable you are on the subject. Creating engaging content involves bringing fresh ideas to the table, knowing exactly who your audience is, and having a plan for reaching them. Factor in a periodic assessment of your strategy and you realize all this takes time and focus.
  3. Creating content that is interesting, engaging, and shareable isn’t all about documenting the latest company event. It’s one thing to know the industry and client base, but can your staff really craft customer-centric content that drives loyalty & thought leadership? It’s important to ask yourself these questions.

Outsourced Content: Pros

Outsourcing content allows you to tap into the expertise and experience of professional content marketers. At 14% of the cost of setting up a team of two in-house professionals (the absolute minimum, if you think about it), you can get experts to create content strategy, produce thought-leading content, improve lead generation, and increase sales.

Even with these benefits, many SME’s (and large enterprises) still think that outsourcing is an unnecessary, high-risk expenditure. On the contrary, outsourcing content to a talented team of writers has numerous advantages including:

  • Leverage Industry Expertise for High-Quality Content – Outsourcing allows you tap into the pool of skills of an experienced boutique, and take advantage of the tools available to them. Boutiques tend to stay on the cutting edge of technology, with access to several resources. Data gathered from working across the board (sometimes, for your competitors) help an external writer create relevant, up-to-date content for your business. With outsourcing, you get access to this “think tank” without a significant time or financial investment on your part.
  • Two Brains are Always Better than One – Using the services of an ‘outside’ writer can provide a fresh perspective and a new way of thinking about your content marketing efforts. Hiring a boutique can also help provide new, creative ideas to drive rapid growth.
  • Produce Content Efficiently – With a lack of time blamed as the most common reason for inconsistent content publishing, it becomes a no-brainer to outsource content creation. With client satisfaction as their primary goal, professional copywriters/boutiques are stricter about deadlines and quality than in-house writers. Thus, outsourcing can help you create and distribute content consistently.
  • Clarity and Productivity – Producing clear communication, free from industry jargon, can be a problem for some companies. Professional copywriters and content boutiques are able to break down complex jargon into simple-to-understand phrases, in a manner that ensures the reader understands what is being said to them, without the fluff or hard sell.

It’s vital for the content produced to be disseminated to a wide but targeted audience. Content production boutiques can develop effective strategies designed to reach the company’s target demographic with punch, personality, and passion. As experts in their field, you could use their experience to advise on which marketing tactics and techniques are bound to work and those that will fail.

Outsourced Content: Cons

The two common issues that companies run into when outsourcing are:

  • The choice of using a number of independent freelancers to create content or finding a boutique firm that can handle your content production.
  • There is also the issue of bringing an external writer up to speed about your products, industry and client base. Failure to educate them can lead to a mismatch in the message passed on.

Should Company Size Matter?

Even with the benefits of outsourcing outlined, some businesses feel their company size should impact whether they outsource content creation or not. At BUZZVALVE, we don’t think it should be. Regardless of whether you are a startup, small, mid-sized family business or even a large enterprise with multiple teams, spreading your focus and resources thin, will only detract from your core competence.

Any time taken off to write content, create a presentation, dispatch a newsletter, or shoot a video, is time not spent on nurturing leads or closing deals. There will always be an opportunity cost to taking the DIY approach to content production. After all, time IS money!

Let’s look at the time cost of posting in-depth content. In-depth content is defined as well-researched, subject-matter specific content (aka. cornerstone content) that can increase search rankings, establish your credibility, and help convert readers to paying customers.

To get an idea of the time investment required to create posts, in 2016, Hubspot surveyed over 4,000 marketing experts on how long it took them to write a 500-word blog post. Replies ranged across the board, with over 56% saying it took them between 1 and 3 hours. If we average that and say it takes around 2 hours to write a 500-word post, therefore it should take 6 hours to write a thought-leading, keyword-rich 1,500-word post. Possibly more, if you factor in the time it takes to do some good research and due diligence.

Can you really afford to do that and other business tasks every week? Maybe you can. We don’t quite know.

Compare the 6 hours required to do this versus how many other tasks (that directly affect your bottom line) that you can do in the same timeframe. Where is your time better spent?

The question of whether to outsource or not to outsource is a no-brainer to us, quite frankly. Because outsourcing saves you time, your most precious resource.

And money too; according to a 2015 survey by Kapost, companies ‘waste’ around a BILLION dollars a year because of ineffective and cumbersome content marketing processes! Yes, you heard that right. That’s $1 Billion down the drain! Seriously, how messed up is that?

Conclusion

Content is an effective lead generator and sales driver, but getting it right requires time and focused effort. Not to mention, taking the right decisions at the right time with the right people! Attempting to juggle effective content alongside overseeing your daily business operations, will (most definitely) cause you to stretch yourself thin.

For a fraction of what an in-house writing team would cost, outsourcing allows you professionally written, well-optimized content that your target audience will enjoy reading & possibly engage with. Go forth!