Marketing is a team effort. No matter how talented your crew is, they may not have the bandwidth or the manpower to adequately deal with high-volume content projects.
Finding a trusted content partner is a crucial part of unlocking a brilliantly successful future, but zeroing in on the right contractor is harder than it seems. You’re about to put your brand’s image and online communication in someone else’s hands. Do you know if you’re making the right decision?
Some 91 percent of B2B marketers use content in their strategies, and 85 percent of B2C marketers do the same. Of those few marketers not currently incorporating content, 54 percent have plans to launch soon. Content marketing is hot, and where there’s heat there are tons of agencies and platforms eager to get a cut of the profit.
The key to wading your way through the noise and finding a content partner you can trust is knowing what questions to ask and what answers will likely serve you best.
1. What is the Production Process?
There’s an old saying that advises “you don’t want to see how the sausage is made,” but this is one time that a behind-the-scenes peek does a body good. You need to know how your content is being produced and who is managing the project while it’s in progress. Is a 20-something recent grad with little to no practical experience in charge of your account? Or is it an expert editor with a flair for content strategy and an eye for detail?
Project managers who are familiar with both the writer and client side of things are better able to convey instructions, interpret feedback, facilitate an efficient and effective onboarding process, anticipate needs and make recommendations when appropriate.
2. Does the Prospective Content Partner Have Any References?
Looking for a content team with big-name experience? Everyone and their dog says they’ve worked with the biggest Fortune 500 companies, and sure, that seems impressive, but in what capacity did they serve? What kind of content did they produce? Is the relationship current? If not, why did the contract end? Did they mess it up?
You ask your in-house hires for references alongside their resume, so why wouldn’t you expect the same credential check and character testimonials from the company about to get custody of your content? Ask for the contact information of a couple current clients (some may subject to an NDA agreement, but not all of them), and you’ll find answers to all your burning questions.
- Listen to see if the reference offers enthusiastic feedback or canned phrasing.
- Ask what type of content they purchased and how they felt the deliverables measured up.
- Are they happy with their account manager?
- Has work ever been late? If so, why?
3. What’s Their Take on Scale v. Quality?
Content marketing isn’t a one-and-done deal. Even if you have a stellar strategy in place when you launch your business, your marketing efforts will need to evolve as your operations expand — in fact, one often drives the other. Scaling up your content efforts is both exciting and expensive, so finding a way to do it right truly matters.
Ask your potential content partner how they handle volume. If you suddenly surge from 20 articles a month to 200, what systems are in place to oversee the change? How will deliverables be structured? Are there enough writers, editors and admins to handle your new workload in stride?
4. How Will They Manage Your Writing Team?
Some smaller-scale projects only require a single writer, but when you’re ordering up a few thousand product descriptions or contracting weekly blog posts for each of your dozen franchise sites, you’ll more than likely have a team of content experts assigned to your account. There is a bevy of pros to that approach, including more access to fresh ideas and the ability to generate mass content in shorter periods of time, but some important new questions crop up as well:
- How will you ensure cohesion of your brand message and voice?
- What measures will be in place to prevent duplicate topics and boilerplating?
- How will quality be monitored and maintained so that it doesn’t tank a few months into the contract? Are there editor and quality control steps? Or does content go straight from the writer to the client?
5. What Experience Do the Writers Have?
A talented writer can do some research and generate an interesting take on almost any topic, but if your company is in a particularly nuanced niche or an industry with a ton of high-level lingo then you may need a writer or two who specializes in your field. Some companies — an online magazine with multiple columns, for instance — require a bank of writers to cover a variety of topics relevant to their expertise, and diversity becomes much more important.
The last thing you want to do is hop from platform to platform or agency to agency in search of the right writer for the right piece. Ask your potential content partner what their writer roster looks like, how writers are vetted and whether your account manager will play matchmaker when you’re ready to build your team.
6. What is Their Track Record in Terms of Time Management?
When deadlines loom large, you can be sure there’s a writer chugging coffee and furiously typing as the clock ticks down. That may be life as they know it in the crazy world of freelance writers, but your company has a schedule to stick to and blowing a deadline could force you to appear less than reliable to your own clients.
Ask your content agency or platform contact how they manage timelines and determine the pacing of a project. How long does turnaround typically take? For larger projects, will you get everything at once or will there be a series of milestones to keep everyone on track? What happens if something is submitted late, and how often does that happen?
You don’t have time to micromanage writers or proofread press releases, but spending a few hours investigating your list of content partners could prove to be exponentially beneficial. Content marketing costs less than paid search, generates more than triple the number of leads compared to outbound marketing and turns boring blogs into lead-generation factories. All you have to do is connect with a platform that knows how to turn words into wins.