Tasked with launching your company’s next big B2B content marketing campaign, you — just like everyone on your team — already have a busy schedule and a plate filled with marketing responsibilities. How can you be expected to produce an abundance of remarkable content with limited internal resources?
To make matters worse, executives leading marketing efforts often struggle to imagine what it’s like to be unfamiliar with the details of their company, making them disconnected from outside perspectives and stuck in a less creative frame of mind.
An outside agency or team of freelancers can help scale your content creation process and offer fresh perspectives that don’t exist within your organization; they have the time, tools, and expertise to produce a steady flow of fresh, high-quality content.
But can your company outsource content creation while maintaining or gaining its rightful position as a thought leader? How do you delegate all the heavy lifting of content strategy, production, and distribution without sacrificing your brand’s unique voice?
Anxious to see this marketing campaign up and running, your first impulse might be to scour the web for a cheap and easy solution that will quickly yield results. Content marketing is a marathon, not a sprint. It requires a long-game strategy that you can’t immediately set on autopilot.
Generating organic traffic from earned, owned, and paid media takes sustained effort over months or even years, and there’s a learning curve inherent for anyone you outsource content creation to. Give your partner time to get to know you, and (while you’re at it) ask yourself whether your brand is due for an upgrade.
You may see your messaging as obvious because you live and breathe your company’s mission 24/7, but an outside perspective can help you see your brand as your audience does — and that can help you and your outside partner or freelancers create better content together.
Now, think about what it is you’re trying to accomplish with content. Industry influence? Lead generation? The partner you decide to outsource your content creation to will depend largely on what you’re looking to achieve, so start outlining those goals early.
While you may have a particular metric in mind, it’s helpful to start by asking, “What content does my audience already seek out?” Ultimately, your goal should be to create content your audience needs and loves. With the growing complexity of search engine algorithms and an abundance of content vying for your audience’s attention, you need to create something that stands out and offers real value; that’s how you’ll achieve the full spectrum of your goals.
Use internal data, customer surveys, and keyword research to identify your target market and develop creative personas. These characters should be the heroes at the center of every story you tell about your brand and mission. Determine age, occupation, pain points, interests, education, income range, and more; in doing this, you’ll begin to develop a deep sense of empathy and understanding for your audience members and what motivates them.
If you want concrete results in the future, you need to begin with existential big-picture thinking now about why your company exists in the first place. Before you start working to create content, you should examine the “why” behind your company’s existence.
Most organizations and leaders skip the “why” and focus their messaging on what they do and how they do it. When you lead with “what” and “how,” you deliver an incomplete message to your audience members, who are then left to decide why they should care. It fails to adequately drive behavior.
When considering your brand and messaging, focus first on how your brand connects emotionally with your audience. A practical way to achieve this is by applying a model called the Golden Circle to your content marketing efforts.
Developed by Simon Sinek, the Golden Circle demonstrates how the decision-making process begins with emotional triggers and then solidifies with rational and analytical reasoning. As Sinek says, “What it proves to us is that people don’t buy what you do; people buy why you do it.”
With your goals, audience, and messaging down, you’re ready to begin working productively with a team of outside content professionals. First, you’ll need to choose whether you’ll be outsourcing your content to an agency or to individual freelancers.
If you choose to hire freelancers, it’s best to find dedicated strategists, writers, and editors when possible. Developing ongoing relationships gives freelancers consistent work and an opportunity to get to know your brand, making them more invested in seeing a long-term content strategy succeed. (Unfortunately, many companies get outsourcing wrong because long-term relationships aren’t top of mind. Invest in the partners you hire, and they will invest in you.)
And if you choose to hire an agency, you’ll still want to look for dedicated, expert content marketing team members who will be able to work alongside you to execute a comprehensive strategy.
As you begin working together, remember to compile and share information about your goals, audience, and messaging strategy with your new team of content creators. Exchange information and files, such as brand guidelines, assets, competitors, emotional responses you’d like to trigger, unique selling propositions, and any associations you’d like to create or avoid.
When describing your goals, be as specific as you can about the kinds of deliverables you’ll need to meet those goals, like company blog posts, earned media, social media cards, infographics, and videos. What do you want to achieve, and what will it take to get you there? Share this information with your team of freelancers or agency partner.
Ensure your internal teams and those you outsource to touch base on each project. For the greatest level of effectiveness, you’ll want to stay as engaged and involved as possible, especially in the initial stages.
Determine ways to expedite time-consuming content approval processes to promptly publish content. The approval process can be even more complicated in highly regulated industries; your content may require approval from the legal department. Find ways to prevent approvals from disrupting the flow of content.
Your internal teams and those you outsource content creation to are waiting for a project they can really sink their teeth into. They want a reason to get out of bed and a sense of passion for what they do. Your brand and your overall approach are key to leading everyone to create content that matters. If the team you outsource content creation to doesn’t care, those who read your content won’t care, either.
Michael Brewer is a content strategist at ClearVoice and considers it a dream job. He loves the art of storytelling and has a background in journalism, theater tech, software development, graphic design, videography, and education. Learning to break dance is the next item on his bucket list.