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From the Trenches

Insourcing Your Content Marketing: Should You Take on the Challenge?

Mike Sweeney | March 5, 2013

According to the 2013 B2B Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends annual report, the majority of companies say that they will increase their content marketing spending in the next 12 months. Additionally, only 44% of companies outsource their content creation, down from 58% in 2011. Companies are not only seeing the value of content marketing, but they are trying to find ways to execute content marketing programs in-house.

Having worked with both types of companies—the 44% that outsource and the 56% that insource—I’ve seen good, bad, and ugly in both approaches. When I am asked in which direction a company should go (I certainly have a built-in bias, but remember, we work with both types), my answer is, of course…it depends.

We’re going to cover both outsourcing and insourcing of content marketing programs in a two-part blog series. For part one, let’s talk about insourcing: There are some distinct challenges associated with insourcing not just your content creation, but your entire content marketing program.

Companies bring content marketing programs in-house for a variety of reasons:

  • They believe they can save money in the long run with in-house staff.
  • They assume that more content can be created with company employees than with outsourced staff.
  • Companies feel they will have better control over the whole content marketing program if it is executed in-house.

While these things may be true, they are usually true only for the largest companies, whose budgets can fund a full content program, including a complement of trained content professionals.

If you do elect to go the in-house route, prepare for the following challenges.

It requires real buy-in, not just a casual yes, from the top

The decision to insource your content marketing requires an investment in people, process, and likely, software. If you’re doing it right, the numbers will not be insignificant.

Before you present your budget, do your homework, especially on the people side. Do you have the right person to lead this program? Who might shift roles internally? Who do you need to hire? Spreading new content marketing duties among existing marketing staff can be disastrous.

A good program requires initial and continued buy-in from your internal content creators

“It’s not my job.”

Unless you are extremely charming, likeable and work for an organization where people have lots of time on their hands, get used to hearing that phrase, or some variation of it if you plan to use existing staff to generate your content.

Most people, even in marketing, are afraid to write, don’t enjoy writing, or are too time-strapped to write. Proving your case to the top may seem easy after your first few attempts to prove your case to your new content creators.

So, that means you’re going to need a dedicated writer(s) and editor(s)

Unless your content creation goals are very basic, you will not be able to rely only on internal employees whose jobs are not normally tied to content marketing. No matter how you slice it, your progress will be slow if you’re relying on folks who list content creation as the 18th bullet in their job description.

If you’re insourcing, you will need a dedicated writer. You may need a dedicated editor, unless that role falls to you – Mr. or Mrs. Content Marketing leader. Choose your writer and/or editor wisely if you are hiring. Not all journalists are created equal. Just because someone can write doesn’t mean they also understand marketing. You need people who understand content marketing.

Alignment between marketing, sales, IT and other departments must be strong

You heard in our last post that a lack of sales, marketing and IT alignment will spell doom for your marketing automation investment. While IT alignment may not be as critical for the content creation process, you better have sales management on board for content marketing. After all, this “stuff” is supposed to ultimately impact revenue generation at some point, right?

Make the plan and work the plan

Every content marketing endeavor—insourced or outsourced—needs a plan. Make sure you have one and stick to it. Don’t be afraid to tweak it if necessary, but make sure you have an editorial calendar and details for all aspects of content, from social media to larger anchor content. If you don’t know where you started, it’s hard to understand how far you went.

The path to ROI is long and winding

You may not be able to prove ROI in 3 months, 6 months, or even 12 months. Things like the length of sales cycles and challenges with integrating software and systems for tracking purposes can create a lag between initial content creation and the ability to show a return.

If you know this ahead of time, you can make sure stakeholders understand this, and instead focus on leading indicators – categories like traffic, readership, engagement and lead generation.

A goal is a dream with a deadline

Speaking of ROI, all of the aforementioned stakeholders will want to understand the objectives of the content marketing program, how they will be measured, and when you expect to know whether the plan and execution has been successful. (And if it hasn’t been, how you intend to adjust it.)

In most organizations, patience is at an all-time low. Be aggressive, but not unreasonable, with your success timeframe. Good leaders can see right through an overpromise.

Any good content marketing insourcing or outsourcing stories? Feel free to share in the comments section.

Need to convince someone that content marketing is a smart investment? Get easy-to-digest tips and more detailed content marketing approaches from Right Source and other industry experts in our free content marketing eBook: How to Grow Your Business with Content Marketing.

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About Mike Sweeney:

As Right Source’s co-founder and CEO, Mike Sweeney creates, plans, and implements our vision, mission, culture, and strategic direction as well as serving as an advisor to our clients. Mike received a bachelor’s degree in business administration with a major in marketing from the University of Notre Dame and has more than 20 years of experience in B2B marketing strategy, including digital, content, and marketing technology. You can find Mike on LinkedIn.