Even the largest companies have a limit to their content marketing budgets. Part of the role of the marketing professional is to know when to create content in-house, or outsource content. By starting with your business goals and metrics, this decision can be easy to sort out.
Replace “vs.” with “and”
It’s easy to find yourself caught in the fight over lead gen vs. brand, and sales enablement vs. thought leadership. The answer to “which”? Yes.
Marketing needs to support lead generation and branding, sales enablement and thought leadership. However, that still leaves you room to prioritize. For skeptical markets, product literature and other sales enablement tools are just as easily ignored if they are produced in-house as outside your company. If you can do it more effectively and economically in-house (and you probably can), use your inside team to create this content.
Meanwhile, take the part of your budget that you are burning on thought leadership and market education blogs your customers don’t read (and if they do, they don’t believe them), and invest in influencer practitioner content instead. This allows your company to stand for something with credibility, without removing resources from sales and lead gen. Because a subject matter expert outside your company has more credibility, you will get more bang for your buck.
Who should I hire?
There are many types of freelance writers available, but for markets that require subject matter expertise, your best bet is to find an influencer who is a practitioner, not just a big name. Someone who can write with authority about real problems your customers face. Someone who can highlight solution gaps and possible solution hacks. Someone who, by virtue of their reputation and their expertise, can help your company stand out by taking a stand on a subject matter issue. And preferably, look for more than one someone. This means finding a few practitioner influencers who can write for your blog, create white papers, case studies, position papers, etc., working independently from your sales enablement team.
Ideally, for this kind of investment to pay off in skeptical, technical markets, these are people outside your organization. Their credibility is that they are more like your customers than your company. And they don’t talk about your company or its products. They write about approaches, issues, solutions, and gaps that are technically specific, but generally experienced.
How do I find influencer practitioners?
There are tools for finding influencers. they can help you find bloggers and journalists. Sometimes, this is enough, though at other times, their expertise may not be deep enough. For that, you may have to recruit on your own, or find a ready-made network of experts.
What do I do once I have built my influencer practitioner network?
Recruiting your influencer practitioners is just the first step. It is important that you have processes in place to take them from joining your team to wanting to take on new projects.
- On-boarding. Make sure you put tools and processes in place to cover everything from setting expectations, communicating to content workflow and getting paid.
- Managing Content. Ensure that that content workflow is in place, and set clear roles and responsibilities.
- Retaining. You will need to put practices in place to keep your freelance influencer practitioners engaged so they are eager to take on your new projects.
What should influencer practitioners write about?
Generally speaking, anything that is of interest to them and the industry. At Fixate, we use peer review to determine if a topic is of interest and if the content hits the quality mark. In addition, we have an editor that oversees topic generation and content quality.
Creating good content and topic strategies can be really difficult. We recommend determining which conversations your company needs to be a part of, then calculating your share of conversations for them. From this, topics are generated by determining what topics are included in these conversations. This leaves your contributors some room to narrow down the topic to an interesting post or asset.
Distributing your content
Sales enablement content should go wherever and in whatever format your sales force needs and requests. Your sales team is close to the customer, and hopefully, busy. So they can form the strategy that ultimately affects them in consultation with you and your marketing team.
However, for influencer-generated content, you can set the content distribution strategy that helps you build your brand. The payoff is longer-term than a sales cycle. Consider distribution platforms such as your blog, and sites like Medium, LinkedIn personal and company pages, Twitter, and other communities. You can also put white papers and case studies on your blog and have them promoted and distributed via your industry’s media sites.
Developing your content distribution strategy for your practitioner influencer content is important, and a separate activity from sales enablement. It can easily run parallel to near-term lead gen and sales-closing activities. With a little planning, a content distribution strategy created for influencer practitioner-generated content will build your brand, drive traffic to your site, and help you grow share of voice while you still deliver on your sales enablement and lead gen responsibilities.
Your product-focused, sales enablement pieces are undoubtedly linked to metrics like lead gen, sales closed, etc. Your brand awareness goals can be measured by repeating the share of conversation calculation after each content campaign. Additionally, if you are hosting material on your website, you can assess how much traffic is coming for each piece of content.
Creating false dichotomies between sales enablement and brand content marketing activities can only lead to confusion and failure. Allocate resources to both. Then, keep an eye on maximizing these investments by turning internal resources to where they are most needed, and employing practitioner influencers to persuade your audience by increasing your share of conversations.