Discover how to use inbound marketing to help your customers find you, engage them and convert them into paying customers to boost your revenue.
Rick Leach is the Director of Content Operations at Crowd Content, a platform that provides quality written content at scale to thousands of businesses ranging from small companies all the way up to enterprise. Jeremy Corman is the head of product marketing at INK; he’s joining us from Belgium.
Rick Leach: Today, we’re going to talk about inbound marketing — what it is, how it differs from content marketing and how you can scale your inbound marketing to increase revenue.
Jeremy Corman: How can we improve inbound marketing to increase revenue?
Let’s start with a question: what is inbound marketing? Inbound marketing is about sending the right message to the right person at the right time. It involves attracting people; they come to you when they’re ready.
That means it’s much easier to reach people at the right time. You already have permission — you’re not interrupting your target audience by sending messages as you are with outbound marketing.
Let’s look at the definition of inbound marketing. According to HubSpot:
“Inbound marketing is a business methodology that attracts customers by creating valuable content and experiences tailored to them. While outbound marketing interrupts your audience with content they don’t always want, inbound marketing forms connections they are looking for and solves problems they already have.”
There are many different ways to execute inbound marketing strategies; we’ll look at a few examples.
On the graph below, the horizontal aspect represents the mindset of the prospect. If you go to the left-hand side, you will see that the prospect is aware and active. If you go to the right-hand side, your prospect is unaware of the problem. On the vertical axis, you have two things: a complex product and a very simple product.
Let’s look at the different opportunities you have as a business owner, marketer or entrepreneur:
From the content perspective, you might look at this chart and decide that the prospect is aware and active. He’s aware of the problem and is proactively looking for a solution. In this situation, SEO marketing is a great option for you. It’s really straightforward because the person is going to look for your product or service in a search engine.
Now, what if your product is more complex? This can happen in situations when you need to use data analytics or scientific details to explain a product. In that case, you might want to do a podcast or share more insightful reports as lead magnets — in other words, customers can access the reports in return for an email address and a few additional details.
If your prospect is not really aware of his problem, you need to be more interactive. You might need to do more outbound marketing tactics, such as cold email or LinkedIn outreach.
When you go to the right-hand side of the graph, you’ll find more outbound marketing tactics; on the left-hand side, you’ll see more inbound marketing tactics. These are all the possibilities: you could answer questions on Quora, or if people are asking questions related to your expertise, you could do guest blogging as a type of content marketing. This webinar is a great example, too.
The trick? Don’t try to do everything at once, because you’ll be overwhelmed. Pick what you’re best at, and do that thing very well. Try to find the channel or type of content that works well for your subject matter. Another option is to find out where your ideal customers are spending time, pick a content type that matches that channel and go deep into it.
Why Is Inbound Marketing So Important, and How Does It Impact Revenue?
Inbound marketing is important because it provides value.
Say you’re the owner of a gold mine. The gold is the content you’re going to create for your inbound marketing strategy; it’s the value you produce. The shovels and buckets are your products. With that analogy in mind, let’s look at some examples of inbound marketing.
Example 1: Auctelia
In 2010, I was working as a marketing manager for a very small startup. I was the first employee for the two co-founders, who wanted to create an eBay-style marketplace for used professional equipment. I was selling used cranes, trucks, garbage trucks, cars and tools. It wasn’t sexy, but it was a lot of fun.
At that time, it was kind of a blue ocean in terms of inbound marketing. In fact, we weren’t even talking about “inbound marketing” — that wasn’t even a real term, because the concept had just barely gotten started.
What was valuable at the time? Great product descriptions. The audience was just looking for documentation about these machines. It helped us a lot because every time we had to sell a product, we just attached all the information that we had for that machine. We used it in PDF form, in the meta description and in different parts of the text so Google could index it. Just by including that information, we were already providing value — and that’s how we started ranking in search engines.
- Gold mine: Free technical documentation
- Shovels and buckets: Used products we had for sale
Ranking in Google was really easy at that time. As long as you were providing what people were asking for — the product description — you could rank.
Example 2: Digital Marketing Canvas
In 2016, I started my career as a freelancer. At this point, the Business Model Canvas poster had been out for four years. People were using it with Post-Its to start brainstorming about the new social network, business or whatever the new big thing was at the time.
There wasn’t a similar canvas for marketing, so I built my own. The Digital Marketing Canvas was just for my personal use at first, but then I shared it online, and it started to attract a lot of people from around the world. This poster is actually free — everyone can download it. It’s even been translated into many different languages by the community.
Over time, about 1%-2% of the visitors started contacting me for consulting services. In this case:
- Gold mine: Digital marketing canvas poster
- Shovel and buckets: My consulting services
Example 3: Café Numérique
Another type of inbound marketing is to build a community. In 2010, I co-founded Café Numérique; the name is the French way to say “digital coffee.” I started it in Brussels, Belgium. We organized events to talk about technology in universities, companies and co-working spaces.
Other cities started to organize their own Café Numérique events, and we built a global community. The French community is strong in many countries in Africa, so it started there, and then also in Asia, Kathmandu and India. We also had a chapter in New York. It was crazy; this community started with four or five people in a café meeting to talk about new technologies and stuff we were interested in.
- Gold mine: Free events, knowledge, human connection, fun
- Shovels and buckets: My consulting services
Example 4: INK
My most recent experience in inbound marketing is with INK. We offer more than 50 AI tools that everybody can use. It’s based on the objective you’re looking for.
You might need to write an engaging post for social media; you can refine it for Facebook, LinkedIn or YouTube. Or, you might be trying to write a new blog post or an outline. Maybe you’re trying to make sure that your sentence is right, or you could be trying to convince a prospect to buy your product or service. You can use all these tools for free, to a certain extent.
- Gold mine: Free tools
- Shovels and buckets: INK premium products
What Are the Best-Performing Inbound Marketing Tactics?
If you want to have an impact on your business, you need to think about three steps:
- How to get found
- How to engage
- How to convert
You need to do all three of these steps to get value from a tactic. For instance, I might want to get traffic. But if I don’t do anything with that traffic — if I don’t have the buckets and shovels — then I’m not going to convert. It’s not going to be a sustainable marketing tactic.
The simplest way to start is to brainstorm. Does your customer have problems that are related to your service or product? What problem does your product or service solve?
Then, combine it with something very simple: Google auto-complete. This isn’t a fancy tool, but it doesn’t need to be; you can do a lot with it. Auto-complete shows the most popular terms that people are searching for. (Keep in mind that the results are affected by your IP address, so they’re tailored to your location.)
Start with your company’s topic area — the thing your customers are looking for. Try to brainstorm around that; try different phrases, keywords and questions. List the questions people are entering into search engines when they want to find products or services like yours.
Then, your goal is to simply be there in the search results. Start small and explain your topic really simply. Answer the question, but make sure that you cover everything about that topic. This is where INK can help; it will highlight the keywords that you need to use. This can help you cover the topic fully.
Now, it’s time to start engaging the readers. This is probably the best way to illustrate why engagement is important:
On the left-hand side, there’s an AI-generated avatar made by Synthesia. With this service, you can just pick your avatar, upload your text and boom: you have a video. You can even do it at scale.
On the right-hand side, I spent a few hours recording a video where I tell a story.
Those two videos are about the same topic, but they’re delivered in totally different ways. If you look at the stats, the AI is beating me at explaining a topic; it’s simply relaying information in a simple way. It’s not fun, but it’s informative. Then, you have me trying to tell a story — it has emotions, and it’s more creative. It takes more time to create, but it’s also going to be more engaging.
I’m not saying one is better than the other. I’m just saying that the AI video provides a simple definition; my video provides a definition and a story.
You can see that people click more often on the AI video because it’s related to the topic. It provides a definition, and they’re trying to find information. However, my video has higher engagement — it’s better at keeping people’s attention because I’m telling a story.
If you look at the graph overlay, it drops quickly on the left-hand side. On the right-hand side, it’s steadier. If people stick around for the first few seconds, they tend to stay until the end. On the other side, that’s not the case.
I’m just pointing this out because it shows how leveraging emotion helps you engage with your audience. It keeps them on your article or page for longer, which is important to Google.
What are some angles that you can use to engage your audience?
- Encourage their dreams: We all have dreams — we want different things. You can use that to your advantage to engage your audience. Try to play on different emotions. Say you’re an architect, and you’re trying to sell your services online. You have a website and a blog, so you could write an article like, “How To Build Your Dream House After a Tear Down,” or, “Four Ways You Can Afford an Architect.” You’re saying, “Hey, your dream is right here — go and grab it.”
- Justify their failures: For this strategy, you might write articles titled, “3 Secrets of Successful Home Additions That Everyone Misses,” or “4 Questions About Home Additions You’re Too Afraid To Ask.” This type of article tells people that it’s okay to fail; everyone makes mistakes. When you see something like that, it catches your attention and makes you want to see what the article says.
- Allay their fears: Articles for this strategy might include “Designing a Modern Home? Avoid These 5 Architectural Design Mistakes!” or, “Bathroom Remodeling: 6 Pitfalls That You Need To Avoid.” We all have fears, and you can play on that.
- Confirm their suspicions: This is a way to start building trust with your audience. Articles could include, “Mistakes To Avoid When Working With an Architect,” or, “You Wouldn’t Expect an Architect To Do That.”
- Defend them against their enemies: With an article called, “Permitting War Stories,” you’re playing on your audience’s fears, all while trying to defend them against their enemies. (In this case, the permit office.)
With software like INK, you can find ways to leverage emotion. We can tell you if your title is good or bad, and then you can improve it by playing on a certain emotion. These are not random emotions; they’re emotions that are related to your audience. INK knows that because you’ve mentioned a specific keyword.
If you look at the image below, you can see that there’s a title: “How To Build a Dream House.” Then, there are keywords and different emotions. It will tell you which words you can use to trigger greed or trust or curiosity. This helps you get more clicks and visits, and Google will understand that you’re attracting people.
Here’s a short video that shows what I’ve been talking about. You can see how the words change when you click on different emotions. Then, if you adapt your title with those words, you can see the effect on the emotional intelligence score.
My favorite PC game is Age of Empires. For those of you who don’t know this game, the goal is to develop a civilization from hunter-gatherers to an empire. Basically, you need to start collecting resources, develop a population and start exploring new land.
What’s the common point between Age of Empires and inbound marketing? Well, in both areas, it’s easy to spot the beginners — they’re the ones who have the tendency to do everything at once. They try to be everywhere on the map and conquer everything. More experienced players start protecting their plot before exploring.
It’s pretty the same with inbound marketing, especially when it comes to SEO. I’ll call it “Age of Clusters.” Unfortunately, most beginners in SEO try to do one article about one topic and then another article about a totally different topic. They’re pretty weak everywhere.
The thing is, Google actually sees the web as clusters connected to each other. And in each cluster, you will have subtopics, sub-subtopics and so forth. For each topic, Google will try to pick the best one. Then, it ranks the best ones in the search results.
So, you really have to try to make Google understand one topic. Then once you’ve covered that topic, you can move to the next one.
Let’s look at the Age of Clusters.
A better strategy is to say, “Okay, I’m going to pick one topic where there is low competition and high volume; ideally, it’s a topic I’m interested in. Then, I’m going to write the best content I can around that topic. I’m going to follow the basic SEO rules so I can start ranking for that niche topic. Then, I’m going to pick another topic that is closely related to that first topic and then another topic that is related to the second topic. Then, I’m going to try to conquer the overarching topic. Once I’ve done that successfully, I can start doing the same with other topics in that cluster until I’ve covered everything.”
Here’s a little teaser: INK is developing something we call the Content Planner. You can simply drop your keyword list into the interface, and INK will provide the list of clusters you should write about. So basically, it creates a content plan. It’s even going to give you a list where the keywords are ground into different clusters. Then, you can pick one and start to cover it in depth.
Adapting to Artificial Intelligence
This leads me to the technology part of this presentation. In this kind of webinar, I often end up with questions about the technologies we use at INK. One common question is, “Now that artificial intelligence is everywhere, how should we adapt to that?”
My answer is always the same. First, let’s ask ourselves: why were typewriters invented? The reason is the speed; it enabled a competent keyboard user to exceed 100 words per minute on a regular basis. That leads to increased production. It also increased your audience because typewriter fonts are readable — you have to remember that at that time, not everyone could write in a legible way. The different fonts increased recognition. The typewriter also improved authenticity because it was more difficult to erase or counterfeit.
The PC came in, and the same thing happened. The speed, audience, recognition and authenticity increased. The internet came in, and it was the same: a boost in speed, audience, recognition and authenticity. There’s more recognition because you can use more templates and tools to make sure that your brand is uniform, which differentiates you from the competition. You have more authenticity because of everything you share on the internet.
Now, we have artificial intelligence that produces content, and the benefits are still there: it increases speed, audience, recognition and authenticity.
Natural Language Optimization
So where are we today? We’re talking about artificial intelligence, but in the inbound marketing industry, I would say that we have shifted to a different movement: natural language optimization (NLO). Basically, NLO leverages artificial intelligence, but in a way that makes you even faster. It plays on your content, so you increase the audience, recognition and authenticity even more.
NLO technology takes your ideas and combines them with your audience intent, communication channels and the content from your competitors. Then, it tries to understand all of these factors and come up with the best content for your brand, content, audience and communication channels. It also tries to differentiate you from the competition.
To recap this very quickly:
- Your strategy is to get found, engage and convert
- Think about the problems your product solves, and use auto-complete to find a topic
- Start small and explain your topic simply, but cover the whole topic; it’s really important for your authority
- Leverage emotions; we looked at a few different ways to do that
- Play Age of Clusters to start thinking strategically
- When it comes to technology, nothing has changed, but everything is different
Rick Leach: One of the things Jeremy mentioned is to stick with what you do well. I’m going to relate this to written content because that’s what we do well at Crowd Content.
What’s the Difference Between Inbound Marketing and Content Marketing?
First, let’s talk about the difference between inbound marketing and content marketing. What’s inbound marketing? What’s content marketing? How do they differ? A lot of people think they’re synonymous, but they’re really two different things.
Inbound marketing is a higher-level plan — it’s getting the right content in front of the right people when they want it.
That can be confusing, because you might ask: the right time for who? Is it the right time for me? The right time for my business? Or, is it the right time for my customer?
The answer is that inbound marketing is getting the right content to the person when they want it.
Inbound marketing is a big-picture blueprint, whereas content marketing focuses just on the “right content” part. It supports your inbound marketing plan. It’s the creation of the different types of content that will satisfy your audience’s needs.
Content Marketing Supports Inbound Marketing
Here’s an illustration that simplifies an inbound marketing plan:
Inbound marketing is a high-level plan to provide content that satisfies the intent of your audience. All those little dashes — the different paths — make up your content marketing plan. You’re creating trails of breadcrumbs that lead readers where they want to go.
This process involves developing the content that gets apples to people who want apples, oranges to people who want oranges, and steaks to those who want steaks. This is different from forcing upon them what you want — you might want them to buy the steaks right now, but they might not be here for that.
Combined, inbound and content marketing are a non-intrusive strategy that focuses on what your audience wants.
The Evolution of SEO
Let’s talk about the evolution of SEO. I’ll start at the beginning, which was roughly 25 years ago. There’s a story about how SEO started (I don’t vouch for how true it is).
Do you remember the band Jefferson Starship from the 1970s and 1980s? They had a comeback tour in the nineties, and they hired a company to build them an official band website. They were out on tour, and their manager went to show a promoter this fancy, beautiful site. He used the search engine to look it up, and it wasn’t on page one or two — he had to go to page four before he could show the promoter this website.
Given the money he spent to have the site created, he wasn’t very happy about this. So he called the company and asked, “What’s going on? Why are all these fan sites and awful-looking sites on page one, and I’m on page four?”
What they realized is that these other sites used the phrase “Jefferson Starship” more than the official site did. So they went in and typed “Jefferson Starship” on every page, over and over. You might remember this strategy: they colored the type so that it matched the background of the page, and you couldn’t see the words. Instantly, they shot up to page one — and that’s how that keyword stuffing really began.
I remember going to websites in the early days on AOL, and if you dragged your mouse across the bottom of the screen, you could see all these hidden words that were the same color as the background.
That’s how SEO got started, or so the story goes. I’ll actually make the argument that it’s a little bit older.
I’d venture to guess that no matter where you’re from, if you look at it at a local directory of businesses in your area, you’re going to find AAA Auto Repair, AAA Electrician, AAA Dentists and any number of businesses that start with that triple A. They aren’t describing their Better Business Bureau ranking. There’s a reason they chose that company name — it was so they would end up at the top of the list in the Yellow Pages.
I think that’s the first use of SEO tactics to get better rankings in a search directory, back when it was just a big, thick book. After all, that’s what we all turned to when we needed to hire a plumber, electrician or auto shop.
Patterns in Google Algorithm Updates
If you look at SEO at a very high level, you’re going to see some trends. You’re going to see that almost every update Google has ever made goes toward three things: it’s about trust, it’s about accuracy and it’s about closing loopholes that previous updates created.
So with that in mind, should you really go after low-hanging fruit when new updates come in or when some provider tells you, “Hey, we’ve got this new way to get you to rank well”? No, because chances are, a future update is going to close that loophole.
It’s really about trust and accuracy. It’s about providing your audience with what they want, when they want it. It’s about creating content that addresses a problem and solves that problem and then putting it where it belongs. That way, when your client, customer or potential customer needs it, it’s there waiting for them.
Using Google Algorithm Trends to Your Advantage
I would avoid the short-term gains you get from playing SEO games. Instead, figure out Google’s algorithm, and see how you can beat it. Focus on what Google is focusing on — what they’ve been focusing on since the beginning — making their results trustworthy and accurate.
They are focused on intent right now, so you should be too. What is your audience looking for? How can you give it to them?
Now, I’m not saying that SEO and keywords are dead; I’m not saying you shouldn’t use SEO. However, you’ve got to look at keywords differently.
Jeremy showed us a part of his INK tool where you put a primary keyword in, and it scrapes the search engines, finds the best ranking articles for that keyword and gives you a list. Other content optimizers give you this long list of keywords, and if you stuff them into the article, you’re going to rank well.
INK doesn’t do that, which is why they don’t even call it a keyword list — it’s a topical sidebar. It looks like a list of keywords, but there’s context tied to it. If you click on any of those words, it’s going to show you how your competition is using that term. The goal is to get you to discuss what they’re discussing and then hopefully do it better. If you’re not talking about what they’re talking about, you’re not going to rank well.
After all, Google is feeding these results to their searchers because they feel it satisfies their intent. So if you’re not talking at least about the same topics as your competitors, you can forget about ranking for that keyword.
So you can build the topic and context into your article and also go look for more. What aren’t they talking about? Get that in there, too. Do it just as well or better.
So that’s where keywords are coming into play now — it’s more contextual. It’s not about stuffing the keyword in and checking off a box. Google can read the other words, which is something they weren’t able to do in years past. They can understand more holistically what your article is about, and if you’re not using the right words in the right context, they’re not going to work well for you.
How To Write Great Content That Gets Shared Organically
So how do you get content that people will share? It starts with understanding your audience. What does your audience want? What works for one company isn’t going to be the same for the next company.
To describe it at a very high level, you have time, money and happiness. If you save people time, you save people money or you give them some form of happiness, it leads to shareable content. It provides value.
Education pieces? Not quite so shareable. Entertainment falls under the happiness category, which is hard to pull off.
The best way for most people to get those organic shares is to save people time and save them money. You need to recognize that your audience is selfish — the reason they want to share your content is because it reflects well on them.
My wife and I like to watch TV series before we go to sleep. Each night, we’ll watch a couple episodes, so I’m always looking for something good. More than once, we have found a series on a streaming network and started watching. It’s really good, so we get invested in the characters and the storyline.
But then, we come to the end of a season, and there’s a major cliffhanger — and when I go to get the next episode, it’s not there. Maybe the new season isn’t out yet. Or, I look it up and find out that the show was canceled without resolution, and I’m left hanging.
When you’re left on a cliffhanger, would you recommend that show to your friends and family? Absolutely not, because there’s no payoff.
Your audience wants to share things that reflect well on them. They found something that you shared that saved them time. That saved them money. That provided them happiness. They want to share it with their people.
So, you’ve got to provide real value in your content — not just a hook. You’ve got to provide the payoff. If the content you’re trying to share requires an action on their part to get to that payoff, you’re going to fail. It’s not going to get shared as much.
You want to give it away. Tell them what they need. How can I save money? How can I save time? Make me happy! Make me laugh!
The payoff needs to be in the content itself.
You may be wondering how you can stay in business if you’re giving everything away. I would argue that unless you’re protecting Colonel Sanders’ chicken recipe or the formula for Coke, you can give away what your services are. They’re going to find it anyway; you can look online and find out how to do anything. The reason your customers come to you is because you do it better. You do it faster, or you do it cheaper, and they just don’t have time to do it themselves.
If you want content that gets shared organically, you’ve got to be prepared to give up that value. Provide the hook, the line and the sinker — the whole kit and caboodle. Save them time. Save them money. Make them happy. Put it out there and require nothing in return. That’s how you get content they’re willing to share.
What Type of Content Performs Best Today?
There’s no one content format that performs best. Blog posts, thought leadership, category pages, service pages, local SEO pages and product pages all play their own role in your overarching inbound marketing strategy. Each one is a cog in that inbound marketing machine. Instead, let’s consider four other types of content.
1. Content That Aligns With Your Inbound Strategy
Make sure that all of your content aligns with your inbound marketing strategy — that’s the best kind of content right now. That’s what performs well today: having that really strong inbound marketing strategy and then creating the content that aligns perfectly with it.
2. Content That Satisfies the User’s Intent
That content should be designed to satisfy your audience’s needs, not yours. Of course, if you do it right, it will ultimately satisfy your needs, but you should craft it in a way that satisfies theirs.
3. Content That’s As Good as or Better Than Existing Content
I encourage you to go and see what’s ranking well for whatever you’re targeting. See what they’re doing, and even better, what they aren’t doing. How can you make something that’s just as good? Then, push that needle a little bit farther so that it provides more value to the reader.
4. Content That’s Optimized and Follows Industry Best Practices
I will give a shameless plug to Jeremy’s product. I’ve used it personally, my content managers have all used it, and a significant portion of our writers at Crowd Content have used it. I know it’s a good product, because when I tell them that we’re going to use INK on this project, they roll their eyes a little bit because it’s so thorough.
With other tools, it’s easier to get through the steps, but INK adds in the emotional intelligence, the grammar and the structure. It also covers best practices — it tells you the number of words that should be between each sub-header, for example. It brings up all the topical suggestions and gives context.
Regardless of the tool you use, it’s important to optimize your content.
Of course, you should also follow industry best practices for high-quality writing. Use digestible bits, break things up with H2 headers and bullets and provide the hook-line-sinker section. Use your primary keywords correctly; is it in your title tag? Is it in your URL slug? Is it in your alt text? Is it in your opening paragraph?
How Can You Scale Your Content Production?
Let’s say you’re sold. You love inbound marketing, and you’ve worked out a content strategy. Now, you need to scale up. That may mean producing 10 pieces per month, or it could mean 100 or 1,000.
For the most part, you have three choices.
One option is to go in-house and have your writer and editor right there with you. This approach gives you total control over content production. You can literally stand over employees’ shoulders as they’re working and guide them toward what it is you want them to do. You can give them face-to-face feedback.
There are some big cons to hiring in-house writers, too. It’s the most expensive option. If you’ve got in-house writers and editors, you’re paying them all the time, whether you have work for them or not.
You also have a very limited recruiting pool. I can tell you from personal experience, it is super hard to find high-quality writers. We have a full-time person at Crowd Content whose sole purpose is to recruit good writers and develop existing writers from good to great. It’s really hard; we accept less than 5% of applicants. Of that 5%, maybe 10% at best become our top-tier writers. They’re few and far between.
It’s very difficult to scale at high volumes with in-house writers. It’s a major drain on your time. It’s also the least flexible option; just because you have a writer who is good at creating blog posts doesn’t mean that they can write a category page. All writers have their specialty. Some are generalists who are good at informational copy, but they can’t write marketing copy. Others are good at marketing copy, but they can’t write a blog post.
So, if you’re hiring in-house, you may find yourself stuck with a writer who’s got a very narrow skill set. Then, you have to find another writer or two to handle the other pieces you need.
Your second option is to work with freelancers. It is more affordable, for the most part, than having in-house writers. You also get more flexibility because you can pick some people to do your marketing copy and pick others for general copy. You’re only paying for what they produce, so you have the flexibility to pivot to different content types. Plus, you now have a global recruiting pool instead of your local hiring area. It’s also a more scalable solution; if you need to produce more content, just hire more freelancers.
Let’s look at the cons. First, it’s very difficult to manage freelancers. I can personally attest to that. They’re all over the place. They have different work schedules — some work at night, some work in the day and some work on weekends. They’re spread across the globe, and they have different methods of working. Unless you have your own writing platform, you’re sending and receiving documents with all sorts of different editors to writers.
Getting revisions done is a real challenge. It’s hard to get feedback out there to the whole team. The vetting process is also challenging; unless you personally know how to write or vet a good writer, it’s difficult to do. Most of us can tell the difference between bad copy and good copy, but can you tell the difference between decent copy, good copy, very good copy and excellent copy? Do you know what’s good marketing copy versus what’s good general copy? If you do, great — you’re well-equipped to go out there and vet them. However, it’s still a time-consuming process.
Unless you want to dedicate a significant part of your time toward managing and vetting freelancers, you’re going to be in trouble.
So what’s the third option? Content providers — companies like Crowd Content. In terms of pros, this approach is affordable. At Crowd Content, we have different programs to fit different budgets. We’re flexible; we’ve got thousands of writers who can write in different tones and different styles. We do all the vetting, and only writers and editors who have been vetted are allowed to work on projects.
We also have proven processes that vary depending on your project. A piece could go from a writer to an editor to quality assurance. Or, it might start with the writer, go to a subject-matter expert, move to an editor and then to quality assurance before finishing up with a virtual assistant who does the publishing. We’ve helped tons of companies scale up and put workflows in place that work for them.
One of the most underrated benefits of working with a content provider is that you get a single point of contact. You get one person to speak with, and you get a content manager who speaks your language. They know content, they know SEO, they know writing and editing. When you give feedback, they understand what you’re saying, and they can disseminate that feedback through their team. They’re the one who’s responsible for getting the word out there and making sure it gets done.
The amount of time saved on your end — the amount of frustration — that’s value right there.
This is, of course, the most scalable option. Most content providers can scale to whatever it is you need. If you’re doing 100 pieces a month and you want to go up to 500, no problem. We can do that.
The cons: you’re going to end up with too much time on your hands (that one’s a joke).
More seriously, if you’re considering going with a content provider to execute on your plan, it’s important to realize that input equals output. Some of our clients literally just hand us a title or a list of articles. They’re basically giving the writer creative license to take these in whatever direction they want. They’re not providing us with the audience or the purpose of the content.
Working With Content Providers: Content Creation Tips
If you decide to work with a content provider, it’s important to work with your content manager to talk about the purpose of your content. What are you trying to accomplish? What’s your voice? How do you want to go about doing this? Have a strategy and give directions.
Any good content manager will ask you for it. They want to know this information so that they can give it to the writers and editors and achieve alignment across all the pieces.
Have you ever gotten content back from different freelancers who aren’t connected in any way? They’re all blog posts, but you’re going to get different voices, different styles and no consistency whatsoever.
That’s what a working session with a content manager accomplishes: consistency.
Use order briefs. Use your working sessions. Put in the effort to ensure that what you’re getting back aligns with your strategy.
When you’re working at scale and it’s time to give feedback, you’ve got to give the right feedback. Avoid things like, “Use this adverb rather than the other one.” By all means, make that change. However, it’s not useful feedback for your content production team.
The feedback your team needs is applicable at a high level across all of your orders.
An example is when you see something that doesn’t work for your brand. The writer might use a scare tactic, but you prefer to put a positive spin on the topic. This is feedback that applies at a high level across all the orders; that’s the important stuff. Another example might be that the calls to action are too strong, and you want to dial it back a little. Or you may not be happy with the internal linking strategy; you might want to link to service pages rather than blogs.
That’s the kind of feedback you want to give. If you’re focusing your feedback on more granular stylistic stuff, it’s not helpful.
And finally, optimize your content. It truly works.