In a perfect world, you’d have unlimited access to talent, money and time to tackle every marketing initiative on your radar. But with a tight and unpredictable budget, this is far from reality. That means that you prioritize certain initiatives and push others to the “someday” list.
Because strategic content creation requires diverse skill sets, making the right choice for your company and its budget constraints can be difficult. When contemplating whether to hire a content marketing firm or go it alone, ask yourself the following questions:
Do I have all the in-house editorial support I need? You should never have the same person write and edit a piece of content because she will miss things. Determine whether you have the capacity to strategize, write and edit blog posts and articles. If not, partnering with a content firm can give you access to professional editors who might be too expensive to hire internally.
Am I focusing my time on the right tasks? Keeping everything internal might seem easier than vetting companies in the short term, but it doesn’t always represent a cheaper — or more practical — long-term approach.
When managing your marketing budget, consider your opportunity costs. Strategizing and crafting content yourself might not be the best use of your time. Strike a balance that allows you to focus on large-scale tasks, such as educating the sales team on how to incorporate content into the sales process. Determine what’s worth your time and what will provide the greatest marketing ROI.
Do we have distribution relationships? Too many marketers focus solely on content creation and forget to take advantage of the publications their audiences visit regularly. Forming relationships with publication editors will help you earn these placements, putting you front and center with your audience. If you don’t have these relationships or aren’t willing to invest in them, it might make sense to partner with a content firm that does to ensure you’re reaching the right people.
Choosing the Right Content Marketing Firm for Your Brand
Your content marketing strategy is an investment; you can’t trust just anyone to understand your business and help your message resonate with the right crowd. If you choose to hire a content marketing firm to handle your strategy and execution, make sure to ask these four questions:
What does the content creation process look like?
When entrusting another company with your brand’s voice, you want to make sure you’re comfortable with its content creation process. Some companies offer hands-off ghostwriting services, giving you little involvement and risking your brand’s authenticity. You want your voice, expertise and personality to leap off the page so you can genuinely engage with your audience.
Most importantly, make sure the firm gives you a hand in the content creation process while minimizing the amount of time you have to spend on it. If you don’t have enough say in the process — or, conversely, too much — your content could end up missing the mark.
What deliverables can I expect within what timeline?
You need to know what you’re getting into before signing on. A good company should be able to provide clear deliverables within a specific time frame. But don’t confuse deliverables with results. Deliverables are concrete items, such as the number of articles a company will produce for you in a certain time frame or a comprehensive strategy document that outlines the plan of attack. Results vary depending on your specific business and goals.
Who have you worked with in the past?
If you’re hiring a content firm to help you build brand awareness, ask which companies it’s worked with in the past so you can Google them and do some additional, in-depth research. Do you see any content the firm helped these clients create? Do you like the content? If the examples provided don’t wow you — or show up at all — you might want to consider a different firm.
How do you determine where my content will be published?
Just as no two companies are identical, no two content strategies should look the same. Ensure that the firm can customize your content to your unique goals — distribution tactics included. It should factor in your target audience and the publications they’re visiting and have a large pool of publication relationships to make these placements possible.
If a company simply promises to get you published in The New York Times — no questions asked — be skeptical. The firm should do intensive audience research to find the best publication fit for your audience and goals.
Lastly, make sure you understand the type of relationships the firm has. Are they with reporters or journalists? You want a content firm that has relationships with editors who can publish your guest content, not just journalists who might write a snippet about your company. That distinguishes PR from content marketing.
Finding a content marketing firm that can drive your overall marketing goals will help you uncover the value in content marketing and ease your budget woes. Don’t make this decision lightly. Do some due diligence to find a firm that will work with your company, not simply for it.