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Which Forms of Content Should I Outsource?

Outsourcing Blog - Blog ImageThere’s an old saying in business: to be a great leader, you must learn to delegate well. The positive impact that successful delegation has on business productivity has even been examined in academic studies and business journals. The fact of the matter is, when business leaders delegate responsibilities (as opposed to tasks – an important distinction), they are able to focus their efforts on their remaining core responsibilities. This is a more effective use of their time and improves the overall productivity of their team and department.

The same principle is true at the organizational level. A company is more effective at achieving its core goal or function when it can focus solely on whatever that might be. Outsourcing, as it is referred to at the organizational level, is widespread and has been an increasingly popular strategic option for companies since about the 1980s.

Outsourcing’s effectiveness is obvious when we look at something like the automotive industry: long ago, auto manufacturers realized they could increase their competitive edge by outsourcing the manufacturing of individual components to smaller companies halfway around the world. These smaller manufacturers specialized in the production of certain components, which allowed them to reduce costs; meanwhile the automotive giants retained their core business (design, assembly, etc.), becoming more specialized and competitive in those core functions.

Outsourcing allows a company to simultaneously become better at their core function, while improving the quality and/or reducing the costs associated with their more peripheral corporate functions.

Outsourcing Pieces of Your Marketing

Many of the same principles apply to a company’s marketing. The time and budgetary costs of tackling all aspects of your marketing strategy using only your internal team can be exorbitant. Oftentimes it makes financial and strategic business sense to outsource portions of your company’s marketing activity to a specialized firm that already has the expertise, so you can focus instead on the core areas that require your team’s specialized knowledge and skill.

If you’re reading this article, I presume you’re at least tangentially connected to the engineering profession or some kind of technical industry. Your company’s core business functions are likely related to design, manufacturing, construction, etc. You likely know your target audience and have a knack for marketing strategy. But do you or your team have enough resources to produce quality marketing content on a regular basis, and for all stages of the buyer's journey? Are high value engineers dedicating their time to marketing tasks instead of their core billable function?

If questions above describe aspects of your team, then outsourcing portions of your marketing may be the right answer for you.

The Benefits of Outsourcing

I’ve already provided examples of how outsourcing has benefited manufacturers over the last few decades, but let’s quickly examine the benefits of outsourcing your company’s marketing specifically:

  1. Free Up Time and Resources
    The first and most obvious benefit of outsourcing portions of your marketing is that it will help free up time and resources for you to focus on other activities. Very seldom do I meet a marketer who isn’t struggling with a full plate of work. I recall one marketing leader sharing his calendar with me, where he was triple booked in meetings throughout the day! Many of these tasks are things that distract from marketing planning and strategy, or development of bottom-of-funnel assets which require more internal company knowledge and focus. Almost every marketer we engage with is already struggling with time and resources, and this trend doesn’t look to be getting any easier; marketing is becoming more complex every day, and marketers are being held more directly accountable for business results.

  2. Marketing Expertise Now
    An outsourced partner should already have the expertise, resources, and technology to carry out any marketing project you have in mind. For example, when working with publishers you get access to 3rd party, independent content creators who typically have a trusted following and a consistent process for generating unbiased, engaging assets.

  3. Value and ROI
    When you outsource portions of your marketing, you are adding an additional expense to your business – or are you? Marketing isn’t so much an expense, as it is an investment. Whatever costs are associated with the outsourcing should be made up in ROI from the marketing activities your partner will engage in.

  4. Access to an Outsider's Perspective
    It’s essential that your business maintain its competitive edge, and sometimes an outsider’s perspective can help identify ways to do this. Marketing is a constantly evolving profession, with new tools and methods emerging all the time. Just because your company has been marketing a certain way for as long as you can remember, does not necessarily mean it’s the most effective way anymore. Having access to marketers with an outsider’s perspective on your company and industry can help guide you to new ways of marketing you hadn’t considered.

Forms of Content You Should Outsource and Why

It’s possible to go entirely hands-off and outsource everything from high-level strategy all the way down to social media posting, but you’re going to lose much of the firsthand knowledge and expertise that only your internal team has access to. Instead, we recommend looking to your top and mid-funnel marketing activities for outsourcing opportunities.

Let’s look at each of these in more detail:

The Beginning of the Buyer's Journey

Consistent content creation is one of the areas marketers struggle with the most, and it’s also one of the more easily outsourced activities when you section off particular forms of content – namely top of funnel content.

The top of the funnel is the awareness and discovery phase of any potential customer’s buying journey. Content that is designed to target an audience in this stage is generally focused on providing useful information, answering common search queries and questions, generating brand awareness, and educating potential customers. The idea behind top of funnel content is to cast a wide net to capture interest via some topic related to your brand that they are actively searching out information for, or a broad general interest area. In an ideal scenario, this will then lead to them engaging with your brand again in the future because they remember your company and its positioning around the topic.

For example, if you are a software and services provider in the simulation realm, creating a piece of thought leadership content to raise awareness about the importance of convergence between design and simulation is an excellent top of funnel play. A piece like this is designed to capture both the attention of professionals who are already aware and interested in the convergence between these two fields but also those with a broader interest in either the field of simulation or design. The piece speaks directly to someone who is already actively thinking about potential efficiency improvements for their design teams, but it also catches the attention of someone who works in the field but hasn’t had this thought strike them quite yet. In either case, your brand’s seed of influence has been planted.

But I left out the best part about this kind of content – it’s perfect for outsourcing!

This type of content can be tackled by a 3rd party expert entirely, and if the decision is made to include someone from your team, the time and focus required by you and your resources is lowered by a 3rd party’s assistance. Working with an outsourced partner on blog articles and videos is a good start, but our team has also found research reports to be a hot item that has broad appeal to an audience in the awareness stage. What’s more, the research datasets that come out of these projects can also support the creation of additional forms of content like e-books and articles that dig deeper into specific aspects of the report.

Certain Types of Middle Funnel Content

The next phase of the buyer’s journey is where things become a bit trickier. The right outsourced partner can certainly help you here, but at the consideration stage prospects aren’t searching general or high-level questions anymore – instead they are looking for information on specific products or services that address specific problems they are having, or outcomes they desire. Because of this, your team will likely need to be more engaged with the creation of this type of content.

Leveraging and sharing what you have internally (presentations, fact sheets, statistics, videos, case studies, etc.) related to the topic will speed the process along and help an outsourced partner understand the positioning of your brand’s products and services in more detail. In this way, your expertise, insight, and hard work is being harnessed by a 3rd party to help save you time and resources. Leverage the expertise of an outsourced partner by handing off the creation of either new forms of content or just the fine-tuning of these existing assets into new middle funnel content. Essentially, your time and energy is utilized in the most efficient way possible; you are involved for the parts of the process that absolutely require your involvement, but then you hand off the actual creation of the piece.

Webinars, videos and comparison pieces are forms of content we tend to execute for clients looking to address the consideration stage. But I would encourage you to explore what other publishers or agencies offer, paying close attention to their expertise and focus. There are a few in our world I would be happy to recommend!

To Outsource, or Not to Outsource

We’ve outlined why top and mid-funnel content is ideal for outsourcing, and by omission you can probably guess we think you should try to keep your bottom-funnel content in-house. The reason for this is because of how specialized your knowledge must be to create content in an engineering or technical field at this stage of the funnel. You could still engage an outsourced partner, for example, to design the look and feel of a detailed technical e-book or white paper your organization is publishing, but the actual substance of the piece should come from your team.

Outsourcing is a powerful method for achieving greater productivity and maintaining your competitive edge. Utilize your team’s time and resources more effectively by working with a partner who can take the heavy lifting for top and mid-funnel content off your hands. The right partner will also bring credibility and independence to the piece, and some will even offer a platform for distribution that adds additional value.

As more companies invest in content marketing, and marketers are held more accountable for business results, marketing teams are going to have a full plate – if they don’t already. Finding areas in your content creation process where you can rely on outsourcing can add direct value to your business and give you a competitive advantage.

If you have anything you’d like to add to the content of this blog, like sharing your experience with outsourcing, please feel free to leave a comment below!

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