Content Marketing – Some Home Truths

Tips for onboarding the right team to build those winning campaigns

Hello there, modern-day marketer! Do you feel like you’re drowning in a babble of content? Are you confused about what sort of team you should build to ensure your product or service is heard of? You’ve landed at the right blog then.

Here’s an insight highlighting the vital importance of well-planned and implemented consistent content marketing today:

Indeed, content marketing when done right yields manifold benefits. What does this mean exactly? And how can you, the intrepid marketer, do this?

Let’s start with the basics first. What is content marketing? At its very core, it is a set of well-planned campaigns (increasingly mostly online) supported by the creation and publishing a bunch of digital content (blogs, videos, emails, social media, e-books, infographics, guides) to evoke interest in a person, product or service. Notice the phrase in italics there. The whole purpose of content marketing is to evoke interest, not to explicitly sell. Since we’re talking about the digital world, we can measure this interest in a variety of ways (likes and shares on social media, how long a person stays on a web page etc.). Of course, the measurement can be manipulated in a variety of ways, but that is a discussion for another day.

Now that we’re on the page as to what content marketing is, let’s talk about how to get it done. If you’re a marketer of a fast-growing company, you’ve realised by now that you need a set of all the collateral I listed above – you need the stories about your brand to be told online, whether on your site, or the communities where your buyers live or on social media. Who is to do this?

You essentially have three choices –

Option #1: Build a team in-house

Building a team in-house is often an excellent choice, especially for companies that have entire product lines in the market. In such orgs, marketing is a well-recognised and funded activity, with a roadmap and capabilities to tie the ROI back to content published. The effort will be well-defined from the get-go. The team can work cheek-by-jowl with your engineering and product folks, getting ramped up very well on your product and brand. Content delivery and publishing can be aligned closely with product releases and roadmap events.

Recruiting and managing the team is the overhead that must be accounted for. It’s not trivial – a decent content marketing team must have the following roles – a content writer, social media analyst, graphic designer, video developer and an analytics person to track the efficacy of content published and report it to you. Notice that I said roles, not people. You may find a single person who can perform two or more of these roles.

The biggest challenge for you as the marketing head will be nurturing the team. Who is to guide this team? Will it be you? Or a content marketing manager who knows his or her chops? Who is to mentor the video developer when it comes to the latest developments in 2D video animations? If the rest of your company comprises of teams of engineers and managers, getting the right mentoring and career development going for your content team can be a huge challenge. This will inevitably lead to attrition, bringing you back to the drawing board within months, if not a couple of years.

In essence, build a team in-house if you:

  1. Want long-term alignment with your brand
  2. Have the bandwidth and skills to manage and nurture the team (or, you have someone in the org who does).


Option #2:  Put together a team of freelancers and manage the work yourself

Of the three options I’m presenting to you, this is probably the most economical one – happy news for frugal budgets – yet the highest in terms of risk.

With a plethora of freelancing sites and marketplaces, it is deceptively easy to find experienced freelancers for almost any skill nowadays. Content writers, graphic designers and SEO analysts abound on and other similar sites. So, building a team of freelancers and doling out work to them is easy.

The disadvantage to a marketer running a sustained campaign, however, is the availability and scalability of the team. Freelancers are usually always remote – the best ones, in my experience, prefer to work from home and take on multiple projects simultaneously. The world is literally their oyster and it’s not uncommon for skilled and experienced freelancers to earn high amounts from the comfort of their home office. They may however not be able to stretch if your requirements increase suddenly – and, adding a new team member to a freelance team is not a trivial exercise.

Reliability is another issue. If you’ve found that experienced, skilled, ‘always-online’ freelancer who works day-in, night-out on your project and delivers, you’re all set. This has happened to me several times – in fact, I’ve worked productively for years with some freelancers without even meeting them ‘in real life’. But sadly, this tribe is rare. Excuses for non-delivery I’ve had range from a sick child and sudden guests to mystery illnesses and AWOL occurrences. The biggest shocker was on a project where a previously-reliable freelancer just disappeared for three weeks – with a major deadline on the horizon.

The amount of your time that will get sucked up can be huge too, as you may have surmised by now. So factor all these in before you jump onto the freelance bandwagon – indeed, what seems quite frugal initially may prove to be very costly in the long run.


Option #3: Outsource the work to a content marketing agency

First off, this will be the most expensive option for most marketers. Engaging an external agency implies paying for their overheads and profits that will be built-in to the cost. It also doesn’t make sense to do a one-off short-term project with an external team – by the time they ramp up on your brand requirements, time may run out on your one-time effort.

Then why do it at all? To put it simply, to get rid of the headache. Let’s say you head marketing for a new product that’s blazing a new path in the marketplace. You’re busy pumping the hands of potential new clients and investors. You’re fielding media enquiries. You’re running around fine-tuning the product launch activities and prepping your CEO on the messaging. Wouldn’t you want a professional agency by your side who can churn out all the marketing collateral consistently? An agency that has the in-house staff to take care of your website, social media, press releases, event branding and thought leadership campaigns seamlessly? After all, it’s not your job #1 to build and recruit a heterogeneous content/creative team and nurture them out of their inadequacies. Your job #1 is to focus on marketing your product and ensuring your campaigns and collateral hit the spot every time.

Surely, this is money well spent. We recommend this option fast-growing marketing teams that want to focus on their customers and stakeholders and leave the nitty-gritty of building collateral and campaigns to a team of professionals. To be sure, there is coordination and oversight required to ensure the brand expectations are being met. Insights must still be analysed, collateral drafts must still be reviewed and campaigns still tested and tweaked. But the benefits far outweigh these requirements provided it’s the right fit.

Some agencies may be open to building a dedicated team and transferring them to your org for a fee – a Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) agreement. This may work for you if you have a 2+ year horizon.

Here’s a table summing up these options:


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