Editor's note: Although this article specifically addresses agencies' efforts at content creation for clients, much of the guidance it provides can apply to client-side marketers as well.
Marketers far and wide, including those on the agency side, know the value of content marketing—as its own service offering and as the foundation for integrated campaigns.
Agencies confront clear operational challenges, however, in delivering a high volume of quality content that is also profitable and efficient for the business and serves the full range of clients' niche business areas.
Agencies therefore need to ask themselves:
- Do we have the ability to hire professional copywriters in-house?
- Should we task our account team members with producing content on behalf of their clients?
- How do we price content to be reasonable and within client budgets and also profitable for the agency?
Often, to address these issues, agencies turn to freelance networks and specialized writing partners to either supplement internal resources or serve as a fully functioning content team.
Results begin and end with relationships
As a writer, and having seen content marketing from all corners of the business, I've learned that results start with solid relationships behind the content.
When outsourcing, you can employ the best technologies, platforms, and channels, but as an agency leader you need to approach content as a true team effort, engaging your account leaders, clients, and partner writers.
If you don't focus on your people management skills as well as spend the time needed to guide the process and provide strategic and editorial direction, disconnects will arise between the delivered work and the desired end goals, including traffic, lead conversions, thought leadership, and community building,.
Look at the process as a convergence of business, freelancers, and clients, making your writers an extension of your business and building long-term partnerships that can scale with your needs.
That sort of fusion won't happen overnight, but if you're willing to put in the time to build the systems that work for your agency, you'll build long-term success that brings future opportunities in content marketing.
1. Set up your agency for success
If your current editorial management process is built around a spreadsheet, you need to move toward more collaborative and efficient systems.
A dedicated project management software platform can serve as the key communication hub to manage your writers, projects, and publishing calendar. Take the time needed to identify the tools and maximize all of the features. Also, make sure you can add your own in-house writers and manage outside talent within a writer marketplace, all from the same system.
Don't be afraid to spend more time up front evaluating systems, training yourself and your account teams, and building an infrastructure to support the volume of content your agency will be managing.
The more confidence you have behind your people and processes, the more comfortable your clients will be with the idea of outsourcing their writing. By being transparent, you demonstrate that you have your clients' best interests in mind and the ability to change your outside writing partners as needs change—all while keeping your client-satisfaction levels high.
Using whatever management system works for you, work closely with your client to deliver content projects in the way that works with their schedules and budgets.
2. Connect with the right talent for your clients
Take the opportunity to sample writers you think could be the right fit for your agency and for individual clients' style and industry. Get to know writers on a personal level, review and compare rates, and check out writing samples.
Also, understand the cost sensitivities from both sides: the clients looking to maximize their content budgets and the writers building their writing business and earning income. Refuse to compromise on delivering original, quality content that makes an impact in the quantity and pricing that keeps you competitive. You can find balance if you do your homework up front.
Typically, higher rates will yield a higher quality of writing, but if you create a more efficient process that saves time and efforts, you might be surprised at the quality of content you can receive at lower price points.
Always keep in mind that successful content begets more content opportunities. By outsourcing, you can scale your deliverables without dramatically increasing your overhead.
3. Take responsibility for results
Accountability is the key to successful collaboration. Responsibility falls to your agency to achieve end results and to make all the time and efforts worthwhile.
To forge the best writing partnerships for your agency and clients, look at early works from writers as "works in progress." When working with smaller client budgets, plan for agency time for strategic direction, content review and editing, and revision rounds with your client.
If you like a writer's style or niche focus but you are not fully satisfied with early posts, use the opportunity to create a partnership via open communication, and refine the content by adding insight, client knowledge, and marketing savvy.
Your agency bridges the gap between written copy and results-driven marketing by setting goals and building the mechanisms to measure the success of your content. Content that drives business results is a win-win-win for clients, writers, and your agency.
The fate of the game is in your hands.
How do you manage outsourced content?