Did you know that 45% of manufacturing businesses feel that they don’t have the skills or resources to produce the marketing content they need? It’s no surprise that more of them than ever are choosing to outsource their content. Similar experiences are found in areas like healthcare/medical devices.
Particularly since the pandemic restrictions, content marketing has become an increasingly popular strategy for in-house marketers, and it's easy to see why. Like a tradeshow, great content shows off your product’s strengths, builds relationships with prospects, and highlights the expertise of your business.
Outsourcing some of this content can be an excellent idea, particularly if your marketing expertise lies elsewhere, or you simply don’t have the time in-house. Just some of the benefits of delegating content outside the business include:
- A fresh perspective on your product
- It’s a lower cost option than hiring a new employee
- You can benefit from the skills and quality control of a professional writer
- They’ll work on a set timescale that suits you
- They’re more likely to understand the position of an uninformed customer
- Many will also be proficient in optimising for SEO
- It saves you time so you can focus on what you’re best at
However, bringing in external contractors always comes with a risk. Some businesses end up with poor-quality work that doesn’t fit the voice of their brand. Others are even worse off – with their website authority being dragged through the mud after receiving plagiarised content, or blogs with images grabbed from google.
While you can never remove all risk entirely, there are considerations you can make that will give you a much better chance of finding an outsourcing solution that will make your content soar.
1. Specialist or a generalist?
An early decision you will need to make is what kind of writer you require.
Is it important that whoever is writing your content is an expert on your product or the manufacturing process? This might be the case if your content is aimed at experts in the field, or if the pieces you want are on a complex subject.
If the content you need is aimed at non-experts, your contractor’s qualities as a writer, storyteller, and/or SEO expert are likely to be more important. If you decide to look for a generalist writer, you will probably have more options in terms of where you can search for your writer and the kind of business arrangement you can have with them.
2. Decide beforehand how involved you want to be in the writing process
There are a variety of ways to outsource content. Often, the more you can do in-house, the more control you have over the final product and the less you will be charged. However, this comes at the price of some of your precious time, and some outsourcers will thrive with more room for creativity.
With this in mind, make a choice about how you will want to work with your freelancer or agency. Some questions to consider might include:
- What information from your own expertise can you provide straight away?
- Do you have existing brand guidelines for content creation?
- Will you provide the topics and keywords for each piece, or rely on the contractor to do this themselves?
- Who will devise the overall content strategy?
- Will you provide an outline for each piece of content?
- Will you provide a rough draft of the content you want?
- How involved do you expect to be in checking and editing drafts of the work?
3. Come up with a content strategy that suits your business goals
You might ask your contractor to carry out some competitor or keyword research to assess what the most effective content plan will be for your business.
However, it’s wise to come in with some ideas about the types of content you want created and how often. This might vary depending on your business goals and the time scale you have to complete them.
For example, if a long-term priority is to draw more organic traffic to your website, you should concentrate on forming content around what will get you the best SEO results. This content could be built up over several months. If you have an immediate goal to keep prospects on your website for longer sessions, you might prioritise creating and adding engaging video content to your pages as quickly as possible.
4. Devise a fair budget and stick to it
You might be able to get better deals on content production by offering longer term projects, or by providing your own outlines or rough drafts. However, as a general rule, you pay for quality and experience.
If you go for the cheapest option you can find, you are unlikely to receive content that will generate good results for your business. Instead, think about what you want, the input you’re prepared to have, and research how much that service will cost you on average.
If the average price you can find online is more than your budget, consider whether there’s any room for compromise. For example, if you have an SEO expert within your team, you could consider commissioning someone without that experience to do the bulk of the work and then optimise their content in-house.
You can also consider how you plan to pay your new hire – will it be per word? Per hour? Per project?
5. Search in the right places
There are tons of options to look into when finding content creators. These include:
- Job/Gig Boards for freelance writers
- Content Writing services
- Recruitment agencies
- Directly contacting freelancers
- Contacting marketing agencies
- Asking your network for recommendations
All of these have different pros and cons, so think about what might suit your needs and time restrictions best.
If you already work with a marketing agency in some capacity, they could be a useful first port of call. Many have in-house content creators and will already be familiar with your business and brand.
6. Ask your candidates the right questions
Some of the options above will give you the chance to speak to the writer you’re hoping to work with before you engage them on a project. This may be through email, messaging, or even a formal interview. It’s important to not waste this chance to get a real idea of their experience and how they might be to work with.
Ask open questions about their writing process, work ethic, and comparable tasks they’ve completed. If you require specialist knowledge or SEO expertise, you can ask about this too. Try to avoid questions they could immediately answer through a google search.
Types of questions to ask include: “What type of writing are you most comfortable with?”
“Please explain your process for optimising your work’s SEO potential”
“If I asked you to write about a current issue in _______ , what would be your first choice and why?”
You might not have the ability to question individual writers if you’re outsourcing content creation through a content writing service or marketing business. In this case, make sure you’re familiar with exactly what’s being promised. You can also ask to see some examples of work produced by their writers previously, and question how the work fared in terms of SEO traffic, bounce rates, or conversions.
7. Set Clear Expectations
This is especially important if you’re taking on a freelancer or copywriting retainer.
Establish upfront whether your writer’s name will appear anywhere or if they will be a ghost-writer. Set out who will have rights to the content (it should be you) and make sure you prepare the paperwork to confirm this.
You should also give your writer as much information as possible, not only about your business (we’ll come to that in a moment) but how you expect to work with them.
Determine a workflow for how they will submit drafts, how you will give feedback and who’s expected to publish the content.
This will ensure that everyone involved in the content is on the same page, and can head off later confusion or conflicts.
8. Educate your writer
It’s sensible not to give an outside entity all of your sensitive company information, but make sure they have enough context and information to be able to create quality content.
If your writer is expected to produce a blog post including a detailed product description, for example, a spec sheet might help them to do that. Giving out this information can also help to avoid any mistakes that might come from them having to guess how a product works.
You should also be open with any company guidelines around the voice of your brand. You can give examples of WAGOLL (What a good one looks like) from previous content you’ve created, but also be clear about how formally they should write, what voice to capture, what audience they are writing for, and what person to write in.
9. Set a test
If possible, set your writer a short piece before committing to a longer project or contract. This will allow both you and the contractor a chance to find out whether you are a good fit professionally.
Test pieces are usually paid, but may be at a lower rate than regular pieces of content. If you don’t wish to give out company information at this point in negotiations, you could set them a piece of content which you wouldn’t actually use, but is of a similar tone, format, and voice to what you might require.
Once you’ve received the test piece, you should evaluate:
- The quality of writing and grammar
- How well it scores in terms of SEO (There are several tools online that can give you an idea)
- The quality of communication during the writing process
- If the tone of voice was what you asked for
- Whether the piece was completed on time
- Whether the piece is original or if sections have been plagiarised (again, there are online tools to help you find this out)
A good content writer (or writing service) can be invaluable to your business. They can do everything from bringing in more organic traffic, to making your product seem an indispensable purchase, to delighting your current customers.
Once you’re happy with the content being produced, make sure you’re making the most of the time and money spent finding a worthwhile service. Ensure that you’re familiar with the best way to promote newly created content such as blogs to achieve the most valuable reach.
You can also tweak and repurpose any content you own the rights to – for example, as a video or an infographic – to attract different demographics. This is a great way to get the best possible value out of your investment.
If you have any questions about content writing or promotion, our expert team would love to chat. We also offer a one-off content creation service to get businesses off the ground with putting together inspiring content.