Who should write your marketing content?
This is the age-old question, “should I use in-house resources or outsource my projects?” I have worked with hundreds of companies throughout my career in technology. This question always comes up. My evaluation process is always the same. List the pro’s and con’s or advantage’s and disadvantage’s of in-house resources verses outsourcing, weigh the benefits, savings, talent pool, and the quality of the deliverables. If it makes good business sense, do what is right for the business.
Many would argue that in-house is the only direction to go. No one knows your product better than the product manager. They can list numerous use cases, write case studies, and white papers. But, there is also the argument that an outside agency can provide a different perspective, have an unbiased opinion, and their judgement would not be clouded. Furthermore, an outsider who specializes on a topic, might have industry recognition and/or be an influencer. A wonderful tool at your disposal.
In this blog, I will provide pro’s and con’s of using in-house talent for content creation or outsource the project.
Using In-House Content Marketing
No one knows your product better than your marketing department. Marketing works with product development hand-in-hand. They are the pro’s for creating demand, increasing user engagement, and communicating with social media. And great content gets more shares, provides actionable information, has a longer shelf life to be reused, looked upon as an expert in the industry, and creates trust and credibility in the market.
Pros: marketing knows your business; they create a uniform message across the company; they manage all publication dates and coordinate content workflow; face-to-face communication; intellectual property (IP) becomes less of a concern when the employee signs a non-compete. Offers an employee a full-time position with benefits.
Cons: if a team member if absent, who takes on the responsibility of finalizing the marketing content; some content creation requires multiple team members’ participation. If a team member does not complete their work on time, they can cause a bottleneck in delivery. Budgeting — many companies underestimate the costs – operational, content creation, and deliverables.
Utilizing a Freelancer
The word freelancer allows the individual to select projects based upon their skill set, scope of work, length of project, anticipated cost, work flexibility, and desire to work or not.
I can think of many reason for hiring a freelancer. If you are seeking assistance in content writing, design, data entry or simple transcription services. The pool of freelance services on the internet are limitless. Check out these freelance jobsites: Upwork, Guru, and Fiverr. The talent pool is endless. Depending on the scope of your project and budget you have in mind, I’m pretty sure you can find the right person for the right job. The only requirements required to hire a freelancer is a complete description of the project, style guide lines, checklist, etc…
Pros: Having the ability to select a person based upon their experience and portfolio or select them based upon the specific skill — editor, designer, video production, or social media exposure. Typically, using a freelancer keeps operational costs lower. There are no employee benefits to pay or vacation time. And finally, flexibility. Hiring a freelancer allows for the ability to hire on a as need basis — project or time based.
Cons: Researching the various sites can take time and waste precious resources. In order to hire the most qualified freelancer, it will require you to do extensive research evaluating their portfolio, checking referencing, and reading “feedback”.
Furthermore, hiring a freelancer, whom you have no control over, can disappear then reappear when it is convenient for them, or miss a deadline entirely. Freelancers have the tendency to juggle many projects with different topics. Keep in mind, there are great freelancers that have a great reputation, provide daily and weekly updates on their progress, and then there are those you want to avoid like the plague. Here is where “feedback” plays a detrimental role is selecting a freelance curator.
Freelancers are all over the world. So, getting a freelancer to communicate with you in your own time zone can become very frustrating. Have you ever offshored a project to someone in India or Poland? If you have, you will recall that New Delhi India is 111/2 hours ahead of Chicago and Warsaw Poland is 7 hours. Have you ever considered the language barrier?
Let’s say you have a pretty big project and you are required to hire multiple freelancers, now you must take on the role of a project manager to make sure everyone is aligned.
Freelancers come and go. Finding a “good” one can be challenging. Finding a freelancer that “can do” and “willing to do” can be exhausting. The “good” ones are typically specialized in their field while others claim to be specialized. Becoming too dependent upon one freelancer, can leave you in the hot seat if they opt-in to join forces with an agency.
Hiring an Agency
An agency is a collection of resources under one roof who’s mission is to create content, digital and non-digital. They work in conjunction with your existing marketing department. Businesses of all sizes, in one way or another, part with agency’s because they lack specific in-house skills or they don’t have the knowledge of executing a full-blown campaign. They can be specialized, industry specific or have broad knowledge.
Pros: Agencies have the capacity to scale staff based upon the scope of the project. They can bring a different perspective to your company – brand evaluation. They have the exposure of working with your competition and can bring insightful information. Agencies stay up to speed on the latest trends. They spend a considerable amount of time understanding your business drivers, pain points, evaluating past marketing strategies – what worked and what has not worked? If you evaluate the operational costs of employing an in-house team, you would have to consider salary, overhead, and systems. What happens if you have a “bad” hire? Utilizing an agency, it’s easy to remove that team member. When hiring an agency, you don’t hire one person, you hire a team of experts.
Cons: Well that all depends. If you hire a small agency, you are limited to their schedule, staff, and the number of clients. As a client, you want to be considered a priority and your project a top priority, but that is not always the case. You might consider the risk of inadvertent marketing leaks prior to launch date – Apple is a good example. Ramp-up time — getting the agency on the same page, understanding your product vision, unclear expectations of the deliverable, or possibly, the agencies product team is not being enthusiastic about your product and assigns a low priority to the project.
As you go through the evaluation process of deciding whether to hire a freelancer or agency, consider the advantages and disadvantages as listed above. Some people would argue that some of the pro’s are con’s and visa versa. You decide. Just keep in mind, when you are evaluating a freelancer or agency, look for the best skillset for the project. How much content needs to written and the frequency. Can I get the resources within my budget? Make sure you have a plan in place that outlines expectations.
There is no one size fits all when it comes to selecting a freelancer or agency, Matter-of-fact, many marketing strategies employ a dual-prong approach. During my mobility engagements, many of our clients use in-house, freelancers, and agency’s. It can become challenging, but it is doable, but I don’t recommend it.
Whatever direction you take, endure the lines of communication are open and on-going.