As content establishes itself as a keystone in every marketing portfolio, marketers have begun acknowledging the quality, volume, and scale of content that must be produced and distributed to meet their business goals. Outsourcing content marketing to professional agencies can help marketers leverage the power of a well-managed network of writers, editors, visual designers and content strategy experts whose sole focus is on delivering great content that resonates with potential business prospects.
Let’s start from the beginning
Once upon a time, advertising was a unidimensional function. If a business had something to sell, they created the need for it through explicit storytelling and consistent exposure. A successful sale was mapped to the tenacity of persuasion behind it.
This was the story of digital advertising in the late 1990s.
The following decade saw a phenomenal shift from that model. Internet adoption rates increased and the populace began to consume content on the internet instead of just relying on it to find information. As digital real estate started populating our worlds, so did the ad banners and pop-ups telling us to buy everything from A to Z. Digital pages were now monetisable. This episode was short-lived, though. Publishers began to notice a decline in advertising revenues as viewers became increasingly “blind” to the advertisements.
On one hand, the digital medium was breaking geographical boundaries, and onboarding a ton of consumers. On the other hand, aggressive advertising tactics were showing a diminishing (if not negative) rate of return.
In 2005, HubSpot co-founder and CEO, Brian Halligan, first identified the magnitude of opportunity this presented. He coined the term “inbound marketing” — a strategic approach where instead of disrupting audience attention and forcing them to buy a product or service, one would seamlessly serve information about their product/service when consumers were looking for it.
Today, inbound marketing is the primary marketing approach for 74% of marketers globally. Content marketing ranks as the most effective inbound marketing tactic, and 77% of global marketers have admitted to using a documented content strategy to help them formalise this approach. While the demand for content continues to soar, audiences are still being bombarded with nearly 10,000 advertorial messages every single day.
How does a business position itself to be the first choice for their potential client? The answer is simple — clear and consistent positioning driven by a great content plan.
Jodi Harris, author and ex-director of editorial content at Content Marketing Institute, hits the nail on its head: “… no matter how competent the marketing strategy or how many marketing dollars are allocated to it, the success of a content marketing program today hinges on a single, critical component: having the talent available to execute your plans.”
The need for outsourcing
Many marketers are solely dependent on their in-house content teams. They believe that as brand custodians they are best equipped to create content that fits their business needs.
This rationale certainly has merit. Authentic content is deeply personal and relying on “an outsider” to tell your story does not seem right.
However, as businesses scale, so do their content marketing needs. In-house content teams may not have the resources, the bandwidth, or the depth of expertise required to meet ambitious content goals.
A 2020 study by the Content Marketing Institute revealed that nearly 84% of the B2B (business-to-business) marketers surveyed chose to outsource their content development. It is imperative to note that the larger the size of the company, the more likely they were to outsource their content marketing.
As businesses scale, it becomes essential to separate the idea (the positioning/story) from the service (content). Content partners can augment in-house marketing teams to level up their efforts in everything from link building to producing top-notch editorial content and managing social media marketing that distributes the content to relevant audiences in a strategic manner.
Finding the right content partner
A responsible content partner is a business’s strongest ally in achieving clear marketing goals. They take ownership of content deliverables, freeing up the marketing team’s precious time to focus on larger strategic decisions.
Here are some of the reasons why partnering with a great content marketing firm can turn the game around in a business’s favour.
1. An economically prudent choice
In-house marketing teams start small and seem to be an affordable avenue to fall back on in the nascent stages. However, as businesses grow to meet bigger and newer demands, they must build internal capacities to match up to their growing marketing needs. A full-time employee means that a business would have to factor in the incremental cost of their annual salary and other overhead expenses like allowances, bonuses, administrative expenses, hiring costs, retention costs, training, insurance and equipment. Being solely dependent on internal capabilities also means investing a lot in resources that may not be needed later.
As the content team grows (think researchers, writers, visual designers, strategists, project managers, advertising experts, growth hackers, technical assistants, SEO specialists, editors and proofreaders), there may be a need for more managers and coordinators to monitor, guide and lead these functions, absorbing larger portions of the budget. There may even be a greater demand for auxiliary teams (community managers, HR, finance) to be able to keep up with the workload. Again, this is a strain on the budget.
Partnering with a content marketing agency helps businesses avoid the trap of hidden costs by outlining the scope of work upfront and getting billed only for the work done for a specific marketing campaign or goal.
2. Accelerates professional growth as a marketer
Money may not be the only precious resource for a business. Creating and distributing content is a time-consuming activity. While AI bots promise to spruce up efficiency, they lack the depth and subject-matter expertise required to create content that fosters human connections. While I am happy that my fellow humans have won this round against the bots, the fact remains that consistently producing and distributing good quality content is a time-intensive activity.
Let us take blogging as an example. According to the 7th Annual Blogging Survey, in 2020, bloggers spent 63% more time on each post than they did six years before.
Similarly, the length of each blog post increased as well, requiring more hours of research and writing.
Being involved with tasks and reviews at a microscopic level can rob a content marketer of precious time that can be better invested by focusing on the larger picture — the marketing strategy, identifying key gaps that could impede business goals, or drumming up new ways to use content to accelerate growth. Delegating operational tasks to a content ally allows marketers to focus on their core skills, study their industry, upskill and achieve greater success at work.
3. Allows flexibility of scale and experimentation
Content agencies bring a competent team of content writers, curators, visualisers and strategists to the table. These teams are built to cater to multiple clients and are already primed to take on more work as the business scales up. Content agencies are able to scale up or down as per immediate business needs, without incurring any variations in either costs or time.
In addition to being able to handle a large quantum of work, content agencies also allow for swift experimentation with different content formats. A business can leverage their expertise across projects to create experimental formats or run test campaigns.
Take time to find a content partner since a good fit will reap exemplary dividends. Find one who understands the marketing vision, is easy to talk to and is not afraid of the rigour required to be put in for the objective to be accomplished.
According to 99Firms, 58% of marketers today use A/B testing tactics to boost conversions. Interestingly, Dan Siroker, the Director of Analytics for the Obama 2008 campaign, used A/B testing techniques to optimise content for Barack Obama’s presidential campaign. Treating every visitor as an opportunity, the experiment involved designing a simple splash page that contained two parts — an image/video component and a call to action (CTA) button. With six visual components and four CTA buttons, there were 24 (6x4) possible combinations for the splash page. A full factorial multivariate test determined the winning combination, which showed an improvement of 40.6% over the original banner. With an average donation of $21 during the length of the campaign, the increase in signups earned the presidential campaign an additional $60 million in donations! The A/B testing challenges chart (above) shows how partnering with an able content agency can help ameliorate these challenges to a significant extent, and lead to higher profitability.
4. Balancing quality, quantity and frequency
Content output is a function of the number of people creating it, the number of hours they are working, and their efficiency ratio.
Putting together high quality content takes time — to research, create, refine and publicise. A well-researched, comprehensive blog post (2,000+ words) can block a full-time writer’s content calendar for almost a week.
HubSpot looked at the blogging data from over 13,500 companies to understand how the frequency of blogging impacts its effectiveness. The results were astonishing. Businesses that published 16 blog posts or more every month received 3.5 times the traffic compared to companies that blogged less than four times a month.
The sweet spot was in the range of 11 posts per month for up to 3.5x traffic.
It is becoming increasingly evident how frequency is a key factor in determining the efficacy of outcomes.
Partnering with a content agency gives an in-house team access to interesting content formats, extensive industry expertise, and an understanding of current trends because content partners are solely focused on making content work for the business.
5. Cultural capital leading to apposite content
Employees who are closely connected to their businesses may develop a myopic view of their product or service — a prime example being the use of jargon that is so specific to the internal operations of the industry that it alienates customers and clients. Partnering with a content agency that serves a particular industry can help break down complex terminologies and jargon into engaging, relevant and simple language that strikes a chord with readers and enables them to take swift action.
Boutique agencies excel at hiring content marketers for all industries and most geographies, so a business will be able to leverage a diverse pool of storytellers or multilingual communication specialists who can translate the value proposition to prospective customers in a way that resonates with them. An external content team brings in fresh ideas, perspectives and learnings from previous projects which may make them clinical and scientific in their quest for optimal outputs. A content ally is especially useful when a business is communicating with global audiences or expanding into markets and cultures that are different.
Interestingly, research by Harvard Business Review states that when a business shares cultural capital with that of their prospective client (for example, develops an understanding of their client’s ethnicity/diversity and the implications of that on their business), it is 152% more likely to close a deal than a business that shares no such ethos.
6. A fixed point of reference and consistency in storytelling
Content marketing is a comprehensive field that includes content strategy, research, content writing, graphic design, editing, proofreading, distribution and optimisation. These skill sets have to come together when a business needs websites, brochures, social media posts, advertisements, podcasts, emails, videos, infographics, journal papers, press releases, and more served to the world. Choose a content partner who can offer an all-encompassing package that is customised specifically to business needs. Specific tasks can be delegated to a trusted partner who will be in a better position to identify and allocate the right resources for them.
Let us look at the top content requirements for a typical B2B business.
Let us imagine an educational institution that would like to run a lead generation campaign for its virtual courses. Building capacity in-house or hiring individual freelancers can be a time-consuming and cost-intensive activity. A trusted content partner is better placed to not only source highly specific content (for example, an interview with a leading psychologist that addresses the challenges of virtual education), but also adapt it into different content formats (webinars, podcasts, blogs, FAQs, etc.) in a short time frame, because all decisions are being made under one roof. Outsourcing also cuts the chaos of managing multiple vendors and any miscommunication over set expectations. Furthermore, a content partner who has visibility into a business’s overarching goals will be able to advise and support their in-house team with creative experiments and intuitively optimise any ongoing projects.