Content is what inspires, educates and compels your users. It inspires them to try new things, educates them to take action and encourages them to come back for more.
The challenge is that now your users are expecting more and more from the content you produce. More data, more insight, more expertise.
In this article, we look at some of the challenges facing businesses and marketing agencies and how a new content production model is changing the content marketing game.
Are you producing content in the best way right now?
There are problems that most content marketers are facing right now:
● Good content is expensive and takes too long to produce
● Content that’s quick and inexpensive to make is usually rubbish
In both cases, the cause of the problem is usually the ‘who’ in the content production process. In other words, the wrong people are creating content.
The two most common ways to produce content used today
Broadly, there are two ways most businesses create content.
1) In-house teams producing content
The first way a business can produce content is by using internal teams.
Pros: Expert level subject matter knowledge, understanding of the industry.
The main advantages are that no one else knows your industry or products/services better. To produce content that’s going to be genuinely useful for your users/customers, you need to be able to talk in a language they understand and offer insights and ideas that only come from experience.
Cons: Time-poor and busy doing other jobs.
The main disadvantage is the people who have the required subject matter knowledge are busy doing other jobs. For example, your sales team will have valuable know-how, but they’ll be too busy to commit to producing content for you.
2) Outsource to content agency
The other option for creating content is to use an external content agency.
Pros: Fast, creative.
The main advantage here is speed. Having a content marketing agency on retainer means you’ve got time to produce lots and lots of work. Their experience of the creative process and experience from other industries and clients can also help to make your content stand out from the competition.
Cons: Can lack expert level subject matter knowledge, can be expensive.
The main disadvantage is an external agency may not have the level of know-how required to produce content that’s detailed or insightful enough. To plug the know-how gap, an external agency usually has to rely on input from one of your business’ subject matter experts - Which affects the speed and ease of handing over to an external team.
There is also a cost consideration. Any delays you cause (e.g. waiting for approvals or input from subject matter experts) when you are paying an agency a retained/monthly fee are going to be expensive.
3) A Third Way
Of course, you’ll spot there is a third way of getting content produced: Combining in-house expertise with an external agency. What seems like an ideal solution is actually far from perfect. It’s often slow (and therefore expensive) as you have to balance a fast moving agency with the time-poor in-house subject matter experts.
And in a lot of cases, you’ll end up with a scenario where both internal and agency teams are contributing completely different pieces of content to the same calendar. This, of course, becomes disjointed and potentially confusing for the business’ users.
The added complication for content agencies
Content marketing might seem like a complicated process for a business to manage effectively, but the content marketing agencies don’t have it any easier.
An added complication for content marketing agencies is balancing a quality/competent service, with remaining profitable.
In order to create content relevant (and valuable) to a specific industry on behalf of a client, the agency will usually need to hire writers specifically for that client’s account.
Neither scalable or profitable
This strategy of hiring client-dependent creative staff is not scalable, nor is it profitable.
As the agency adds new clients requiring different industry knowledge, they also add the need to hire staff with specific industry knowledge.
The typical recruitment cost of hiring full-time staff is such that most content marketing agencies will struggle to pass it on in their clients’ fees. This means the recruitment cost becomes an overhead of winning new business, and that puts the pressure on already tight profit margins.
Hiring creative staff closely linked to a specific client also adds an element of risk for the agency and the staff member - should the client stop spending, the staff member becomes redundant. Making staff redundant is an unwanted cost for any agency, but there is also the hidden cost to the morale of the remaining staff.
A better way to produce content: The freelance model
A new content production model is rapidly gaining traction with some forward thinking businesses (and agencies alike).
This new model focuses on the use of remote freelancers as content producers.
Through freelance marketplaces it is now easier than ever to get on-demand access to writers and journalists with very specific industry or sector experience.
Using freelance writers with industry experience combines most of the benefits above: Expert level subject matter knowledge, understanding of the industry, fast, access to creativity and on-demand.
Engaging remote freelancers offers you the ability to hire industry-specific knowledge when you need it. It is significantly faster than traditional recruitment/resourcing methods and you also get the added benefit of reaching the ‘hidden workforce’ -- professionals who are not actively looking for a full-time role but are available for freelance contracts. For example, a writer who has a full-time job, but contracts in the evening and at weekends.
How content marketing agencies fit into this model
The introduction of expert freelance content producers into this model could suggest businesses no longer need content marketing agencies.
However, this is not the case.
To understand where content marketing agencies fit into the model, you need to start with some of the softer (under-appreciated) benefits of using a content marketing agency.
In most cases, content marketing agencies are better at content strategy than you, have better connections with press and the media, have better research tools than you, and are better at reporting your content’s impact on your revenue.
Adding another role into the content production model might seem to be adding another layer of cost.
In reality, you’ll likely pay less overall as the freelancer will (because of subject matter knowledge and writing experience) be able to produce content more cost-effectively than an agency.
By Gary Elliott, marketing director at weliketowork.com
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