Blog post contributed by: Kathryn Hawkins, Principal, Eucalypt
As most B2B marketers know, landing a new customer is rarely a quick win. Three-quarters of B2B sales to new customers take a minimum of four months—with half taking seven months or longer, according to CSO Insights data.
Beyond that, there’s often more than one influencer in the decision-making process: Ascend2 has found that 59% of B2B marketers are dealing with a complex sales process that involves multiple stakeholders who must all be convinced of a solution’s merits. And simply ramping up your sales team may not help you here: CEB found that the typical B2B buyer is 57% of the way through her buyer’s journey before ever engaging with a company’s sales department.
In order to close the deal, then, a strong content marketing strategy is critical for building influence during the early stages before your prospect actively reaches out, and keeping your solution top of mind throughout that long sales cycle.
To maintain engagement, focus on creating a pipeline of targeted content designed to get to the right person at the right time—content that’s genuinely useful to them, and ultimately demonstrates that you understand their problem and can offer the right solution.
Strong B2B content marketing strategies can generate new search traffic, drive leads, and build a company’s reputation. But in order to do this, it’s important to produce a lot of high-quality content, including the likes of blog content, ebooks, white papers, solution briefs, case studies, and video content—and your own marketing team may simply not have the bandwidth to produce it all.
Ascend2 found that only 18% of firms produced all of their marketing content in-house, while 24% fully outsourced their content and 58% used a hybrid method.
So how do you determine what content to produce internally and what to outsource to a content marketing agency or freelancer, and how do you formalize a strong process together?
Here are a few ideas to consider:
Build a strong roadmap from the beginning.
The most successful agency collaborations come about when you build a detailed roadmap, and stick to it. If your team lacks strong marketing resources, it might make sense to give the agency ownership for building out the strategy, so long as you have an opportunity to provide feedback and ensure that it’s in line with your vision. But for more established companies, it often works better to build out your marketing strategy in-house, and then share it with any vendors you choose to collaborate with.
That said, don’t assume that strategy plan should be set in stone. “We are firm believers in transparent feedback, and our favorite strategy is to ask the agency or freelancers to challenge the creative brief we give them,” says Trevor Wolfe, CEO of BigTeam, a tool for gathering feedback on digital products. “As much time as we put into a comprehensive brief, we want our partners to look for holes and opportunities to improve on our strategy before they execute.”
Focus only on developing the content that truly requires in-house resources, and outsource the rest.
Your in-house marketing team may have the kind of in-depth product knowledge that means it would be a waste of time to ask another firm to take control of your FAQ or product pages. But when it comes to creating video content or developing industry-focused blog content, an outside partner may be better equipped to take your strategy and run with it, helping you build out the strong cadence you need without any bottlenecks.
“I find that product-specific content that’s targeted toward the bottom of the funnel is better produced in-house where you can more easily consult internal subject matter experts,” says Alyssa Jarrett, director of marketing at the growth marketing platform Iterable. “However, at a scrappy startup, you’re unlikely to have an in-house team dedicated to video, motion graphics or animations, so those types of content—while more expensive than your average blog post—are better off outsourced. Allocate your content marketing budget accordingly.”
“Any content which requires specialist knowledge of technical subjects is best completed in-house,” adds Clare Watson, operations director at Zolv, a software development solution for travel companies. “However, content which is focused on more generic, easily researchable subjects is ideal to send to agencies, as agencies will be able to complete this work much quicker, taking a great weight off your workload.”
Look for opportunities to repurpose your existing assets.
While you can’t expect an agency partner to create a marketing strategy from scratch without significant input from your team, you can provide them with resources that will enable them to generate new assets from existing material. Think of your research reports, internal presentations, webinars, conference speeches, and even internal email threads that discuss your business philosophy and goals. A creative partner should be able to take these elements and devise new formats to showcase them to your target audience, via blog content, social media, infographics, and other forms of media. Ascend2 shared 18 ideas for repurposing research content here, which may provide valuable inspiration.
Understand what you’re each responsible for, and keep each other accountable.
When my agency, Eucalypt Media, works with clients, we generally make it clear at the proposal stage what role we intend to play: in some cases, we focus solely on content creation, while in others, we will collaborate with the client on a strategy intended to boost site traffic, rank for specific search terms, generate new leads, or any number of other metrics. Make sure that you’re clear on not only what services an agency is providing for you, but also what results you should expect, and how you intend to track against them—whether via a monthly report, or a regular check-in call.
It’s also important to hold your internal team responsible for its role in the content marketing process. Make sure that your internal SMEs are making themselves available for interviews to gather information, and that any stakeholders involved are providing timely and helpful feedback on the content that’s been produced. “When you provide feedback, make sure that it is constructive,” says Watson. “Nothing is more frustrating for a partner than seeing a long list of edits and not knowing why they’ve been made. If you don’t explain why you’re making a change, then the partner will likely make the same mistake again, which means you will have to spend more time correcting their errors.”
In order to be successful with content marketing, find the right partner for your needs, build a plan, and follow it. Understand that there’s a learning curve as you get to know each other, but before long, you’ll be able to build a strong process that will ensure that your agency will be able to produce a stream of best-in-class content with minimal need for support. Use that content to fuel your marketing campaigns, and you’ll be able to attract, engage, and convert more B2B leads more quickly.