If you’re like most B2B marketers, time is a commodity you just don’t have a lot of. You’re pulled in eighty-bajillion directions, you have a to-do list full of top priorities and more than a few fires to put out. You’re also under pressure to produce more, high-quality content that can speak to and attract your company’s target personas. And while you’ve had some serious trepidation about doing it, you’ve finally made the decision to outsource the writing of that content. But where do you start? How can you get the most from your outsourced content with the least amount of pain? To help you work thorough the process, here are 11 things every B2B marketer should keep in mind:
1. Good Instructions are Like Gold
While there may be a few out there somewhere, most content writers are not mind readers. So, if you want to receive the kind of outstanding content you expect to receive from your outsourced content provider, you’ll need to provide some outstanding instructions. Learning to craft such instructions, however, is a bit of an art. You’ll want to be comprehensive, but concise; prescriptive but not so prescriptive that you box the writer in. After all, nothing can zap a writer’s creative energy more than overly prescriptive instructions (other than having to drink decaf, that is).
Example: Please draft a 900-word blog post targeted toward manufacturing plant managers about why preventive maintenance (PM) on process control equipment is so crucial to proper operation. State the positives mentioned in the PM section of our website and from our recent case studies. Also include the financial implications; Dave Bodella in business development is ready to answer questions you may have about what those are.
2. Provide Background Information, But Be Realistic
Background information about a product, an industrial technology or a research topic is always useful and helpful for a writer. It can provide him or her with context for a topic, an understanding of how a piece of equipment functions, an overview of how a competitor is positioned, the type of style or tone you want to use, etc. But don’t expect your content writer to read through tons of product documents or research articles if it’s not absolutely necessary for what they are writing. A couple key articles or links to relevant sources is most likely good enough for writers to accomplish what they need to.
3. Show Your ID
At the outset of an outsourced content relationship, you need to provide the writer with a understanding of who the company is. In 2-3 short paragraphs, summarize how the company is positioned, its points of difference in the market, its history and what it stands for. In addition, include information on your company’s buyer personas: Who is your ideal buyer? What do they care about? What are their pain points? Including these details will help your writer create appropriately targeted content.
4. Document and Share Your Formatting Preferences
Do you want 1-inch page margins? Two spaces after a period? Comic Sans? Job number and date in the upper right-hand corner? Be sure to document what your company’s preferred formatting is and ask your writer to use it for whatever they provide back to you. Receiving your content the way you truly want it to be can save you a lot of time re-formatting and even in editing.
5. Be Realistic
We all know emergency projects happen and deadlines get moved up. That said, if you don’t have to ask for the impossible, be realistic about the amount of time it may take to draft the kind of project(s) you’re asking someone to write. Do a bit of peer research and/or ask your potential writers what’s a “normal” timeframe for a 900-word blog that requires some external research or for pulling together existing material into an eBook. You will then have a better sense for how to schedule your projects with realistic deadines and avoid undue stress and anxiety.
6. The First Draft is Just That: the First Draft
Creating content is a process, so allow time for back and forth. Remember that it’s rare for an initial piece of writing you receive back to be 100% perfect, so expect - and be okay with - some editing and revisions. Over time the amount of editing and revision will more than likely decrease as the content provider better understands your businesses’ style, your buyer personas and the subject matter.
7. Be Okay with Answering Questions, Tracking Down Answers
No matter how well you’ve prepared your background information, your outside writer will inevitably have questions. She needs to be able to count on you to answer them and/or point her toward the information needed to make what she's writing complete. You can choose how and when you prefer to take these questions (e.g, during the writing process, highlighted in a first draft, etc.), but you must be ready to pull some answers in order to not waste time and resources.
8. Provide Timely Comments and Vet Group Feedback
Sometimes delays are out of your control, but whenever possible provide comments back to the writer as soon as you can. This is particularly important with intricate topics, so that questions and knowledge are fresh in both your and the writer’s minds. Also, if a group review is required, it will ultimately save time if you evaluate the validity of the feedback provided and consolidate the comments so the writer receives clear next steps for the content.
9. Be Wary of Content Farms
There are a multitude of low-cost, fast-turn content providers out there and their pricing may make it tempting to send your projects their way. However, know that you’ll most likely have to invest a fair amount of energy in reviewing what’s produced for basic grammar, essential facts and even potential plagiarism. If you go this route, you may end up spending more time versus what you had intended to save by outsourcing the in first place.
10. Build the Relationship
Remember, you and your writer are in this content creation thing together. If the relationship is going to work long-term, you need to invest the time and effort in it. Share expectations and frustrations, but keep it professional and constructive. As your projects progress, let them know what you appreciate about how they write and how they work with you. Over time this will help build the relationship and improve the writing you receive.
11. Find Out What Else the Content Provider Can Do for You
It could be an extra time-saver if your content provider can suggest images to accompany the piece of writing, has technical knowledge to format blog posts and/or draft the related meta descriptions. It may cost you a bit more of your budget to have them do these things, but the time savings you achieve may be worth it.
With a little forethought and some time invested in up-front preparation, you’ll be can make outsourcing your content writing virtually pain-free. The whole process will be more efficient, more cost-effective and you’ll gain a (little) bit more time for you to get all your other work accomplished.
Posted by Tim Holdsworth Tim has vast experience executing B2B marketing plans in a number of industries, including manufacturing, health products, and business technologies. He manages the mechanics of our clients' inbound marketing programs, including marketing automation setup, email marketing, and digital content creation.