In the world of B2B marketing, content is the indisputable king. We’re reminded of it every time we Google something and are flooded with relevant content related to our search query.
So how, exactly, do most B2B companies tackle their content marketing?
Some rely on an in-house team to handle their content marketing tasks. Others choose to outsource. In fact, about 60% of B2B brands get some form of help with their marketing from external sources.
Yet with the majority of businesses choosing to outsource, does that mean it's the right move for your business? Don't jump in without considering the pros and cons. We'll cover those here, along with some content marketing basics.
To define content marketing, a helpful starting point is discussing what is NOT content marketing. Publishing a few blog posts doesn't really mean you are doing content marketing. Rather than thinking in terms of specific pieces of content, zoom out for the bigger picture.
Content marketing describes a strategic, long-term approach encompassing various forms of content that, over time, collectively influence customer behavior and drive a specific action. (More on that here from our friends at the Content Marketing Institute.)
We get this question a lot. But it's a bit of a trick question -- because as defined above, content marketing is a blanket term for an approach that encompasses many different content types or content pieces. Each of those pieces, some of which are listed below, helps toward your overarching content strategy.
Considering everything that goes into a content marketing plan, it's no surprise that most businesses don't have the in-house resources to do it all. Here are some benefits of outsourcing to an agency.
PRO: Scale content quickly
For companies with little SEO traction but big content needs, it takes more than a few blogs to get a foot in the door. For both start-ups or established firms, it's not unusual for marketing to be kept on the back burner while the business is experiencing periods of growth. With that, though, often comes a sudden realization: our business needs lots of great content, and FAST.
In-house teams are typically unable to support these large surges when it comes to content creation, management and measurement. Outsourcing, on the other hand, gives you the ability to scale up as quickly as needed, with your content goals being limited only by budget.
PRO: Benefit from a full-service skillset
There are a lot of skills and specializations required for a sound content marketing strategy. Blogs, for example, require far more than a skilled writer. In reality, there is quite a bit of foundational work (like keyword research) required for your blogs well before the writing should even begin! On top of that, you'll need resources to help publish, schedule, design and promote and optimize your content, and ideally, track, optimize and report on success.
From the get-go, it's important to recognize the full scope of skillsets needed for a sound content marketing plan. And unless you have a robust in-house marketing team that checks all of these boxes, outsourcing enables you to tackle it all from soup to nuts.
PRO: Get a fresh take: new partnership, new perspectives
For businesses who have been managing their marketing internally, it’s easy to embrace an “inside-out” approach to content. But are you so used to creating content around what you want to say that you're forgetting about the things that your customers truly want to hear?
For this reason, an in-house approach can often lead to a messaging disconnect between your brand and your customer persona. An outsourced approach invites a fresh, more customer-centric perspective; one that explores new content opportunities that you may not have considered.
PRO: You're not restricted by your in-house tech stack
If marketing is not your core business, you may not know about (or be invested in) the tools and technologies that are needed to maximize your marketing efforts. There's an overwhelming number of content marketing tools these days, from your CRM/email platform (we are partial to HubSpot), to reporting/analytics tools, to keyword research and tracking tools, and so on. Some of these tools are foundational, while others are highly sophisticated and can take your marketing to the next level. So which ones are the best investment for you?
An agency partner should be able to make recommendations based on your specific business needs -- and a good partner may even take the time to research new tools on your behalf. An outsourced team may also hold subscriptions to paid tools that your business wouldn't want to invest in otherwise -- but you will ultimately benefit from!
Not all content marketing services are a slam-dunk. Here are some cons to consider as you weigh your options.
CON: Don't expect ROI to happen overnight
Companies who outsource understandably want to keep an eye on ROI. Some marketing efforts yield quick revenue wins -- for example, promoting and optimizing an existing landing page for higher conversion rates. Other methods take longer.
Much of it depends on your content baseline. Don’t expect to publish your very first blog and be flooded with leads within a few days. Even with an aggressive content plan, you may want to think about tying success to non-revenue indicators at first: spikes in traffic, increased blog sign-ups, rising site authority, and so on. A comprehensive content strategy WILL pay off over time -- but could lead to frustration if your goals are to see revenue recovery right out of the gate.
CON: Know that foundational work can slow down your content goals
Some businesses engage with outsourced marketing services with an already-solid marketing foundation in place: a strong website, a CRM (such as HubSpot), a healthy database and so on. If this is your situation, then congratulations! Your content partner can probably hit the ground running, divvying up your marketing budget on tasks that lead to noticeable traction.
But oftentimes, B2B companies put the cart before the horse. We suggest giving your digital presence a quick reality check: are you truly ready to drive more traffic to your website? Once that happens, are there conversion opportunities for your visitors? Does your idea for an email campaign rely on a segmented database that you don't have?
The reality is, foundational needs often become the top priority -- and when this happens, content traction may take longer. It can feel like a costly, but necessary, step for B2B companies with ambitious content marketing goals. However, a good content marketing agency will offer a customized approach and a free assessment to help you shape a marketing plan that works with both your budget or your goals.
CON: You'll still need to be actively involved in marketing
For business owners who are busy juggling a multitude of competing priorities, outsourcing certainly seems like an attractive option. But here’s the thing: effective marketing is never done in a silo. Ideally, your marketing goals will be well-aligned with your overall business goals.
Don’t expect a clean head-off to a content marketing agency; one that requires little or no involvement from you. Your content should reflect the nuances of your brand, the intricacies of your product or services, and the quirks of your customers. Your content marketing goals should align with both sales goals and overarching business goals. And there WILL be a bit of legwork, especially upfront. Even the most skilled content team may require more from your business during the “getting to know each other” phase.
Know that over time, this time commitment will lessen. The client-agency relationship requires a heavier lift in the beginning, but together you can establish a dynamic where your outsourced partner feels like an extension of your internal team.
CON: Taking the first step is difficult
Every business decision comes with some degree of risk. Choosing the right content marketing services is no different. What if it's difficult to establish processes? What if personalities clash? What if you don't agree with certain recommendations?
Exploring the unfamiliar will always feel like a con. But there are certainly ways to improve your chances of success. More on that here -- but for starters, we recommend you look for agencies who provide testimonials or references. Some agencies will also provide free services or small upfront projects, so you can sample their expertise before committing. And finally, keeping in mind some of the points provided in this blog, be realistic about your goals, your timeline, and determine ahead of time your definition of success!
Are you ready to take the first step now? We would be happy to start a conversation. Please feel free to contact us at any time. Not quite ready for a conversation? Check out our helpful resource below for more to consider.
Allison Woodbury has been a Content Marketer for PMG since 2016. She’s a content marketing, writing, social media and branding guru who spends her writing time alternating between getting in the shoes of her readers and scrutinizing super-niche industries. She loves to see what her readers like – so tell her what you want, what you really, really want (to read more of)!