Never, Ever Outsource Your Content Marketing Strategy

Should you outsource your content marketing strategy? Don’t—unless you want your blogs, whitepapers, videos or webinars to blend in with those of your competitors. Good, effective content marketing cannot be outsourced. No matter how much you’re struggling to create a constant stream of content that effectively generates leads, keep it in house.

Should you outsource your content marketing strategy? Don’t—unless you want your blogs, whitepapers, videos or webinars to blend in with those of your competitors. Good, effective content marketing cannot be outsourced. No matter how much you’re struggling to create a constant stream of content that effectively generates leads, keep it in house.

Let’s be honest. All of us are racing to “produce quality content” and distribute it on blogs, Facebook, LinkedIn and other social platforms. But what does “quality content” really mean and why is so much of it failing to generate leads for B-to-B marketers? And what can you do to make sure your articles, videos, white papers and webinars (content) produce leads? Keep it inside.

Despite what “the experts” say, effective content marketing has less to do with frequency or how often you produce it. Blogging often (and getting that blog retweeted) earns the fleeting attention of prospects at best. Content that generate leads:

  • Solves problems and/or dramatizes the emotional end benefit
  • Is designed to induce behavior (sometimes addictive)
  • Translates customer need (analyzes and feeds it back into design)

Eschew the “Experts”
Relative to these key success principles, having a constant stream of content emanating from your business will not produce sales. Despite what “the experts” keep saying, the most effective content is not that which gets discovered in search engines and gets people to your website. Nor is effective content that which has “your voice” or “reflects your culture” or “is authentic.” These qualities do not define effective content because they never have.

Content marketing is about as new as custom publishing (it’s not new at all). The most effective content produces measurable outcomes—leads and sales. Period.

I can hear the social media gurus screaming. OK, OK. Are all those things I just mentioned important pieces of the puzzle? Yes. But over-focusing on them will cause you to put far too much faith in them.

For instance, take frequency. Making content marketing produce sales is not purely (or even mostly) a numbers game, nor a matter of how much attention you earn from search engines or blog visitors. Believing this to be true will only cause you to—that’s right—outsource it!

The Key to Success
If leads and sales are what you’re after with content marketing, then you’ve got to come to grips with the truth: Effective webinars, blogs, videos, etc., take your target market beyond the realm of useful information. Sure, providing information is essential but you’ve got to go the extra mile—you’ve got to provide new, previously unknown knowledge that tells customers how to avoid risk or exploit opportunity.

Think about it this way: It’s difficult enough to hire an employee that a) understands this concept; b) knows enough about your competitive environment to know how and where to find what your customers truly need to know; c) can actually execute the research needed to produce effective (behaviorally provocative) content—and produce it over time. Good luck finding someone on the outside who can do all of that well enough!

Want your content to look like your competitors? Just outsource it to people who repackage information your customers already know. They’ll take your money and in return pass off what they create as thought leadership or insightful information. And then you’ll pass that junk on to your customers.

The Honest Truth
Ninety-five percent of content marketing is generating worthless information that everyone already knows surrounded by buzzwords. Need proof? Search the Web for whitepapers and give them a scan.

“I’m a huge fan of earned attention,” says Edward Boches, chief innovation officer at Mullen. “And owning content. And being in the publishing business. But the one downside of everyone and anyone—and that includes brands and companies—being a content creator is that just like cable television, the good stuff becomes a smaller and smaller percentage of all that’s out there.”

Want your content to produce leads and sales? Hire people who know how to produce written or multimedia materials that make readers/viewers say, “Hmm, I never thought of it THAT way … that’s scary” or “I see the opportunity in that, I better get in touch with these people to take action!”

This is what good social media marketing and content marketing does—induces responses that you can nurture toward an eventual sale.

Author: Jeff Molander

Jeff Molander is the authority on making social media sell. He co-founded what became the Google Affiliate Network and Performics Inc., where he built the sales team. Today, he is the authority on effective prospecting communications techniques as founder of Communications Edge Inc. (formerly Molander & Associates Inc.) He's been in sales for over 2 decades. He is author of the first social selling book, Off the Hook Marketing: How to Make Social Media Sell for You.Jeff is a sales communications coach and creator of the Spark Selling technique—a means to spark more conversations with customers "from cold," speeding them toward qualification.

9 thoughts on “Never, Ever Outsource Your Content Marketing Strategy”

  1. Hi Jeff. I agree with 90% of your post (I just wrote a rant on the fixation in social media with activity volume over value), but I’m not sure the issue is whether the talent is in-house or out–I’ve seen a lot of good and bad examples on both sides of the fence. There are a few great content strategists who understand how to balance the tactical game of social media tactics, SEO and metrics with truly engaging content that drives interest, and there are a whole lot of hacks who will happily syndicate some schlock to move the needle and collect a check. You can find them both on the client and agency side. I think the real issue is whether the executive sponsor writing the check understands the difference, has the patience to aim before firing, and is willing to budget for quality. I think most are too busy and too pressed for quick results, which in part explains the huge proliferation of cheap chatter. Great post for debate!

  2. Hi Jeff…I see the point you are trying to make (you and I have had discussions about this before), but there is no silver bullet and one "correct" way to do things.

    Research tells us that the majority of companies outsource some portion of the content marketing process. Even the best examples of content marketing in the world, like American Express or P&G or Hubspot that are hitting home runs with their content strategies outsource some portion of the strategy and execution.

    Chris (below) is dead on…bad content marketing can come from anywhere, inside or outside. I’ve seen great companies hire journalists and content strategists inside the company, only to flop, then firing those people and outsourcing, and flourishing. I’ve also seen the other way work.

    I think what you are saying is don’t outsource your content to hacks that use shady practices, duplicate content and don’t help you tell original stories. That I agree with. I work with over 100 content agencies out there and they all do some amazing things that get real results for their clients. They help their clients tell better stories, driving real business for them…with an authentic voice. Hey, if that’s wrong, I don’t want to be right.

  3. Hi Jeff

    I totally agree with Chris and Joe on the points they made. I think the services of a ‘genuine’ content marketing agency can add significant value to a business. By genuine I mean one which has qualified journalists who are skilled at writing articles that tell stories as opposed to agencies who are just jumping on the content marketing bandwagon and creating low value content which just adds to the noise.

    Succcessful content marketing is all about telling stories, stories that inspire people, stories that people want to share and that thrive in social media environments. It is a highly developed skill and one that many businesses generally do not have in-house.

    I’m not saying that employees don’t have a huge role to play as, of course, the engagement element of content marketing should always sit firmly with them but in our experience, the two parties working together is usually the perfect mix and can get some awesome results.

    Thanks for posting – as Chris says, good debate fodder 🙂

    Michelle
    Red Rocket Media

  4. While leads and sales are the ultimate goal, there’s awareness, share of voice, etc. that will come first. Although we already have seen huge (400%!) increases in the amount of leads entering our sales funnel through our content (webinars, white papers, etc.), we’re paying equal attention to referral traffic to our site (non-search engines) as well as our social media reach. Not talking about # of followers, but the total reach of those who RT and mention our content (infographics, blog posts, and more).

  5. I understand where you’re coming from Jeff, but have to disagree, perhaps a bit more than Chris and Joe whose points are excellent.

    Outsource your original content creation? HECK NO! Outsource a strategy for content development and dissemination? ABSOLUTELY!

    Fine if you do not wish to outsource content development or first-hand knowledge-based content creation that you as the business owner are an authority on. BUT ABSOLUTELY outsource the packaging, refinement and crafting of professionally research-based message-to-market match content in whatever medium (blog copy-editing, white paper, audio, video, etc.) and channel (e-mail, facebook, youtube, etc.) your audience likes best. By not outsourcing to a marketing professional who knows what to develop, how to say it and where to distribute it for greater ROI, your opportunities for success (more/better leads and future sales) are reduced and you will be wasting time away from your core business activities.

    You are much better off using an online marketing expert who can help you leverage your original content into as many channels as appropriate in an attractive package (professionally done video, etc) more efficiently. A professional marketer can help you with a content creation and syndication plan that is authentically yours while maintaining the polish and professional appeal that a successful business should provide.

    Another reason not to discount quantity marketing vs. quality marketing of content is that quality matters not when nobody knows about it. Utilizing a big dog in PR or SEO will be to a business owner’s benefit in the short and long term when done correctly.

  6. I haven’t heard anybody say this before and it’s about time. Molander is debunking the content marketing frenzy that has filled search engines, websites, and eBooks with repetitive, thoughtless, rehashed stuff. One thought: perhaps the solution is less about "outsourcing" than as it is about insisting that content be delivered with an original, thoughtful, informed voice. I love this post!

  7. Jeff, B2B media companies are perfectly suited to produce action inciting, share building "content" *that includes* social media for their advertisers/marketing partners. And, you are dead wrong stating that "95% of content marketing is generating worthless information". I encourage you to broaden your knowledge on what Content Marketing revenue generating programs that are being created by the members of the Joe’s gang over at the CMI. There is amazing work being done – including programs that we at WATT have done in the animal agriculture and petfood manufacturing niches.

  8. Nice. I got one thumbs down. I wear it like a badge of honor! 🙂

    Thanks for all the great comments and I’m open to the idea that outsiders can do remarkable things 🙂 so please educate me!

    @wattjeffmiller I look forward to learning more. But let’s not fixate on my real life hyperbole. I say real life because that’s my experience. If you live in a world where 95% of all content marketing is based on new knowledge (which is what I went on to say… which is the real point) then that’s fine. I just see most content marketing as being irrelevant because it’s based on knowledge the world already has. That’s my experience. I wish I had yours but I don’t. But I’m open to what you say.

    @Ryan… I do not believe in anything but, "content development or first-hand knowledge-based content creation that you as the business owner are an authority on." Everything else is probably not very in touch w/ customer need. I’m not sure if you understand me. I’m saying "a marketing professional who knows what to develop, how to say it" is should not be outsourced and giving specific reasons why. I am specifically arguing for what you argue for when you say, "opportunities for success (more/better leads and future sales) are reduced and you will be wasting time away from your core business activities." Your quantity vs. quality point is well stated. But again I’m simply arguing that the industry focuses far too much on the quantity aspect IMHO.

    @Redrocketmedia You say, "Succcessful content marketing is all about telling stories, stories that inspire people, stories that people want to share and that thrive in social media environments." I simply disagree. I define it as stories that serve a purpose beyond inspiration and sharing. It’s defined as having a purpose: to sell something (too).

    @juntajoe I’d like to think that what I’ve offered is more than how you described it but you’re entitled to your interpretation. But I’ll say again: I’m not promoting "one way" or the highway. I’m giving specific reasons why outsourcing your strategy is not wise. Interestingly, everyone seems to want to disagree with me but not on that actual point. Respectfully, do we need research to tell us that some people outsource?! Wholly Toledo :). Of course they do. But what have your examples of successful content marketers done to earn that stature? Personally, I can report that forces inside Amex view their content marketers as being far too coy about acquiring customers via OPENForum. Those forces view content marketing as I do: As a means to sell not simply be a good corporate citizen.

    I am most certainly not saying "don’t outsource your content to hacks that use shady practices, duplicate content and don’t help you tell original stories." If I were to say that people would certainly not read my words. Because we already know that! 🙂 I am saying what I said: Outsourcing the strategy that goes into effective content marketing (that sells) cannot be wisely outsourced. **and I’ve given some specific reasons why** I have this opinion.

    @Chris Kenton I was unaware of your rant. I’m happy to know of it and quote you, sir! Thanks for your thoughts. We seem to agree.

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