This past year, I’ve discussed content marketing with top marketers. Today’s post focuses on 2 marketing leaders in the SaaS industry. Each took on a different strategy when it came to producing content. Both at one point had to make a critical decision; “Do I outsource or insource content production?”
This article explores the decision and answers the question; “Did it work?” At the end, I’ll provide the Insource vs. Outsource Content Marketing Evaluation tool.
The marketing leaders’ content goals were the same. They wanted content that met their persona’s informational needs. The kind of content that gets prospects interested in buying from them. Valuable content was required to drive prospects through the buying stages. So, let’s discuss each of their decisions below and determine if it worked.
Meet Robert – CMO of $130M business software company.
Robert’s team is strapped for time. There is a giant list of things they want to do. They jump from campaign to campaign focusing on the projects with the biggest impact. They were faced with the insource/outsource question. Like most marketers, they were challenged with producing quality content. The thought of outsourcing was appealing to them. After all, outsourcing SEO and Social had worked for them.
There are content agencies/writers that create relatively good content. The kind of agencies who know you are screening them for content that will get penalized by Google. When receiving proposals back from content firms, Robert’s team found one they liked. It answered all their RFP questions perfectly and demonstrated the right knowledge. The decision was easy for them to ink the deal.
The content marketing campaign kicked off and things appeared great. Blog posts were going from once a month to several times a week. They were filling the social channels with content. Cool infographics were appearing. Webinars were taking place. Videos were surfacing, etc…
3 months go by and Robert is getting concerned. The expected increase in top of the funnel leads was not hitting the quarterly expectations. His team was spending an incredible amount of precious time with the content writers. Not many prospects were engaging on social channels or subscribing to the blog. All signs indicated that the content marketing strategy was not working.
Robert was perplexed because the content seemed good. Maybe content marketing wasn’t the answer. To confirm, Robert decided to ask his team to research the quality of the content with customers. He wanted to see if the content was meeting their informational needs. The common response was: “I read a few when the title caught my eye. It was good but nothing that was a new insight. It didn’t build on what I already knew. The content is vanilla and didn’t inspire new thinking.” The final straw came when customers interviewed reported that they didn’t share the content.
The conclusion of the research was that the content was not the right content. It was focused on the company and the services, not on the customer. This is why it was not contributing to the lead generation goals.
Meet Kathy – CMO of a $100M high-tech company
In a similar situation as Robert, she was faced with the insource or outsource question. Her team, also strapped for time, was leaning towards outsourcing. They liked many of the RFP responses. They too felt good that the content agencies knew how to produce content.
However, as part of her team’s research they asked their network for referrals. During that process, a Marketing Operations friend (Alex) strongly recommended they talk to SBI. He was in the same position a year ago and engaged in SBI’s Internal Content program. Very happy with the results, he strongly suggested Kathy explore this option.
Kathy, with high respect for Alex, followed through and met with SBI. The solution presented was similar to Alex’s. It sounded great.
The primary drive was producing content sought throughout the prospect’s buying journey. Doing this pulls prospects through the buyer’s journey faster. Your internal team writes content infused with subject matter expertise. Outsource writers always feel a few degrees shy of valuable insight. This is where the quality content your buyer seeks comes from. The difference being content that drives the behavior you want from prospects.
To do this, SBI would help them develop an internal writing team which includes:
- A Budget, Org Chart, Roles, Responsibilities and Process
- A Content Audit and Map
- Editorial Calendar
- Production Schedule
- Audience Identification
- Buyer Persona and Buying Process Maps
- Media Selection and Promotion Plans
Kathy knows this might not be a popular decision with the internal team. It means more work for them on top of everything. To get support and approval, she loops the CEO in on her recommendation. The CEO loves the plan, sees the competitive advantage and backs it.
3 months after the internal content program launch, Kathy is seeing a burst in blog subscriptions. Social shares have tripled. The top of the funnel is starting to fill with inquiries. 6 months later, blog authors are being recognized as authorities in the space. It was clear the internal content marketing program was working.
Robert and Kathy took different approaches to build a Content Marketing capability. Robert’s outsourcing route turned out to not be so easy. It didn’t provide the desired results. The harder unpopular route proved to be the right decision. Kathy’s team is now contributing 25% of the leads to her Sales Force. Qualified leads have a higher velocity and are closing at a greater rate.
If you are you deciding between Insourcing vs. Outsourcing Content Marketing, download this tool. The Insource vs. Outsource Content Marketing Evaluation tool will give you clarity into your decision.