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Topic: Strategy

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Hire Content Manager Or Hire 3rd Party Agency?

Posted by mevanko on 500 Points

My name is Mike! I am a VP of Marketing for an electrical distributor that covers the eastern half of Pennsylvania. I am currently working with the executive team to lead the company through a digital transformation. One of the big gaps we have is in the realm of content. We don't have anyone dedicated to creating a content strategy, creating the actual content, etc. In addition to things like emails, white papers, case studies, videos, etc., I have a huge website/e-commerce project looming that will require a lot of content input.

I'm curious to get some feedback on the value of keeping content development in-house by hiring someone full-time versus hiring a third party content marketing agency that is not based onsite every day. Looking for best practices, people who are currently successful with one approach or the other. My big fear is that if I outsource the work there will be a huge learning curve for an agency that I'll be paying them to walk through. Of course hiring has more fixed costs associated with it.

Really appreciate anyone's help and would be glad to take a conversation offline onto the phone. I have to make a presentation to the executive team on direction within two weeks.



  • Posted by dubois on Member
    Your concerns about agency ramp-up are valid. Hiring an FTE takes longer. The fastest way to fill your content gaps is to skill-up an existing staff person to do it. You can find a good coached B2B content marketing course online. That brings someone up to speed in 6 weeks who already has the advantage of knowing your business. Your staffer will need to prioritize content in their workload, so you might think about back-filling tasks (perhaps lower level) with a new hire so the existing staffer can focus on content marketing.
  • Posted by Frank Hurtte on Member
    I am a consultant who works in the electrical and automation space. I do not provide content or design websites, but I think I might help steer you int e right direction.

    My email is [deleted by moderator; see his profile page] shoot me an email and we can exchange information. I am certain I can help.
  • Posted by Mark on Member
    Hello Mike, I can help with your content and complete it in the short amount of time you have available.

    MarketingProfs emailed me your details so they obviously think I can help but first could you let me know your deadline?

    [NOTE FROM MODERATOR: MarketingProfs does NOT "email your details" as claimed here. Ever. This participant will be suspended if he continues to make false statements such as this.]
  • Posted by Gary Bloomer on Member
    Keep things in-house.

    You don't need masses of material to kick things off, you simply need enough to cover the basics.

    The secret with content isn't so much its creation, it's its distribution. Twenty well-written, well-edited, well-distributed and circulated pieces of content will kick the ass of 100 so-so written—and, more importantly—poorly distributed pieces of content.

    Who will this content be for, how are they used to receiving and interpreting content, and how long are those pieces? How will you circulate this content and where will you circulate it? What questions, tips, pointers, and advice will your content contain?

    What current in-house expertise do you have? I'll bet you dollars to doughnuts there is at least one person on staff who can write like a champ and who will knock the socks of this project—IF they're given the leeway and the autonomy to take things on.

    The only way to know is to ask and to see what people can do to move the needle.

  • Posted by Jay Hamilton-Roth on Member
    If content creation is a long-term full-time effort, hire someone in-house.
    If this is a short-term effort, outsource it.
    In either case, you'll spend time to find the right person/team and train them.
  • Posted by Peter (henna gaijin) on Member
    Do you have the need for a person all year, or just for this project? If the former, hiring someone likely makes more sense.

    There are trade offs both ways.

    Content production often benefits from someone who knows the products/markets intimately, which is more likely to be achieved by someone who is an employee.

    Using an agency gives you more flexibility than hiring someone. Easier to ramp up when you need more assets, and easier to pull back when the project is done or if money gets tight.
  • Posted by mgoodman on Moderator
    You have some excellent input above.

    I would add that it may be easier to teach a good copywriter about your business than taking someone from within the company and teaching them about copywriting and content marketing. Either way there's a learning curve, but we've found it surprisingly easy to learn about new (to us) industries, while good copywriting skills don't seem so easy to teach.

    How about some of each, for starters? Someone who knows the business who can team with an agency ... and let that evolve.


    Willing to discuss by phone. Contact me via email (in my profile) and we can arrange details.
  • Posted by telemoxie on Member
    If this were my project, I would explore hiring an outside editor and proofreader, who is familiar with search engine optimization and content creation and so forth. This way, you can get information from those who are knowledgeable within your company, without having to have them spend time learning to be a writer or spellchecking or editing. Another thing you could outsource is a search for "compelling events" which might stimulate some comments or perspective from your experts. you could retain a relatively inexpensive person who would set up Google alerts on topics related to your company and could monitor some online discussion groups relevant to your company.

    You could then have a casual conversation with your technical people about some of these newsworthy events, and tape-record their comments. Forward these to your editor. Maybe have an outside agency send press releases, so that hopefully writers will call your company for comments and perspectives on emerging technology.

    This way, you are positioning your key people as technical experts and opinion leaders, but making it very easy on them, since they are not required to produce a final polished product (although they should certainly review articles before publication.) This way, you are increasing the capabilities within your business, rather than educating an outside agency on your dime.

    Thanks for the question. It's a great question. Whatever you end up doing, we would really appreciate it if you would come back in a few months and let us know what you did, how it works for you, and what you learned from it. Take care.
  • Posted by dubois on Accepted
    telemoxie brings up an important point that you can outsource certain tasks and keep others in-house; outsource tasks to be transitioned in-house; get advice on strategy and keep production in-house; outsource specialty tasks and do the core work in-house; whatever works for you.

    Once you create a content marketing plan it will become clear that content marketing should be a year-round core competency in marketing. I haven't consulted with you about this so I don't know much about your company. Assuming you generate hundreds of millions in revenue from multiple customer segments and specialties, it's probably in your long-term best interest to develop that competency rather than relying on a third party.

    In the short term that might require some training and consulting, which is not uncommon.
  • Posted by chiron34 on Member
    Mike, the advice from the KHE professionals set out above is very practical. I am coming to your project from a different perspective. As an electrical distributor, what is the range of products in your repertoire? What is the nature of the relationship you have with the product source companies? Could they contribute content material in a way that is acceptable to you, even if you have to tweak it a bit? It seems to me that if you are going to spend money promoting products and how they can be effectively used in industry, then perhaps the product source companies can be asked for a contribution in kind. After all, they have a stake in your success.

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