Content marketing works.
Especially for businesses that have the luxury of sizable marketing teams. Nothing says content-marketing success like an army of cross-specialty writers marching in lockstep to the cadence of an editorial calendar.
But it’s not the case for most marketers.
Even among the largest enterprises, the majority of marketers are part of small business units that receive limited funding each quarter and must make magic happen on a shoestring. A lot of that magic is focused on content creation. (According to a new Curata study, “created content” is 65% of the desired content-marketing mix. Curated and syndicated content make up the balance.)
Here’s a typical scene:
You’re tasked with creating a content marketing strategy that includes defined pipelines of regularly generated, customer-centric content. Maybe even a lot of it. Since your budgets and headcount are likely limited, most of the content needs to be written by you … or by internal resources who already are busy as hell.
And … action!
Quality writing takes time
And often you don’t have enough of it. Consider these numbers:
- A business blog post or feature article of 1000-1500 words can take 8 to 24 hours
- A press release of 500 words takes 4 to 6 hours
- A white paper or eBook of 2500+ words takes one or more weeks
(For a list of handy references on the subject, type estimating writing projects into a search engine.)
There’s an old adage: “Good. Fast. Cheap. Pick any two.” You definitely want good. Remember the GIGO (also Google) principle: garbage in, garbage out. If you write rubbish, your inbound marketing results will equally be in the dumpster. And it’s much, much harder to win people back than impress them the first time … so you really can’t go there.
“Fast” commonly isn’t an option for two reasons: it’s the enemy of “good” and it also costs money because you likely must outsource to an agency or freelancer, both of which require budget. Which brings us to that money thing – “cheap” – which you can do IF you can get help by sourcing content creators and contributors from within your organization. (Note that internal resources aren’t cheap, but since most are salaried, at least there’s no additional budget needed.)
There are advantages and disadvantages of sourcing content internally, as Bret Smith of New York-based HiP agency shows in this chart:
But wait … the cons outnumber the pros.
Yes they do. But that doesn’t mean insourcing doesn’t have a valid place in your plan.
In fact, since the majority of marketers have to make due with lean budgets and heavy expectations, insourcing is quite common. As long as you understand the risks, you can put processes in place to sidestep them.
Three tips for insourcing your content marketing needs
1. Mine the minds of your experts
Your company is filled with subject matter experts (SMEs) and brand ambassadors who are uniquely qualified in various areas of the business. From executives and product managers to sales people and call center reps, these individuals can be wellsprings of valuable content that your prospects and customers would be interested in.
Start by mapping out your organization by role and then adding names to each. From there, identify the ones who are both passionate and knowledgeable about a topic or topics. Bonus points for those who already create content (maybe they freelance for websites, write their own blogs, burn the midnight oil as playwrights or novelists, etc.). Ask them to commit some time to helping the content-creation cause. You might be pleasantly surprised at how many will step up.
Note that you may need to get their manager’s buy-in. But since you already have the executive green light (as our initial scenario established), it’s unlikely you’ll get pushback if your request is reasonable.
2. Uncover what already exists
As an extension of #1, be sure to suss out what might already be available, whether in “final” form or a diamond in the rough. Internal teams create content all the time and much of it never gets seen by the public. Some of it should.
I’ll bet a dollar that they’d be thrilled to get it published, particularly if it aligns with their business objectives.
3. Create incentives and rewards for contributors
Doing something once is easy, relatively speaking. Doing it consistently is not. Even if upper management gives a green light to the regular resource commitment that content creation demands, and even if several employees raise an enthusiastic hand to blog or Tweet or deliver webinars, the time will come when the novelty wears off. And when that happens, your “committed” resources will cease to deliver the goods on time … or at all.
Because of this reality, it’s essential to reward contributors and (hopefully) motivate them to continue. Methods for doing this will be based on things like company culture and size (even geography – a reward in Iceland may be quite different than one in Arizona). Nonetheless, here are a few tips that can go a long way in keeping the content engine humming:
- Ask for ideas and input. Regularly solicit your contributors to be the company’s eyes and ears for content ideas. By doing so, you empower them to be part of the process, which often evokes a sense of responsibility and pride.
- Interview your SMEs. Not everyone is a writer. However, your SMEs can be a valuable source of content via a Q&A format that you produce as a blog post or video.
- Extend the visibility of internal contributor content. Whenever possible and applicable, hyperlink web pages and blog posts to the content your contributors produce. This not only is effective for keeping eyes on your website, it also gives more exposure to contributor content, which is good for everyone.
- Publicly recognize your contributors. Whether it’s via internal newsletters or during meetings, make it a point to say “thank you” and recognize contributions.
- Develop contests for content ideas. Offer cool enough prizes and the brainstorming floodgates will crack wide open.
- Share the data. Sharing analytics with your contributors (e.g., the views, clicks, and leads their content generated) empirically demonstrates the impact they’re making to the company, and it justifies their continued contribution to the process.
Leveraging internal resources to boost content marketing success is a viable solution when budgets are tight and marketers (and writers) are in limited supply. With the right foresight and incentives, insourcing can provide a sustainable pipeline of content that offers value to prospective customers and to revenue streams.
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