content marketing

Content services in 2021: finding the right partners

From experience hiring and being hired for content production, we break down everything you should look for in a content service.

The good news first: more and more businesses are taking content seriously. Assigning someone on the team without great writing skills to churn out some blog posts doesn’t cut it anymore. For most businesses, being honest about their own abilities means turning to outside content services.

In theory, hiring out a content service is a time-saver. Your own employees can focus on what they do best and you can get better performing content. The problems come when the content service can’t understand your product or service, can’t develop an effective strategy, and ends up being an expensive waste of time and resources.

Avoiding these traps comes down to choosing the right content service. Here, we’re drawing on our experience being both the content service and the people hiring to break down everything you need to know to find the right partner.

Content Production vs Content Repurposing

Too many companies begin by considering what they will need from a content provider, but the first step should be better understanding your strategy. Begin with a rarely-asked question, are you looking for basic content production or a more advanced content repurposing strategy. Let’s break down the differences.

You already know what content production is, but content repurposing is about more of a layered strategy designed to extract more ROI from what’s produced. Instead of the content cycle centering around production followed by distribution followed by production, etc. it utilizes a longer cycle built around larger initial pieces of content.

Here’s a basic breakdown to help you make the choice between production and repurposing:

  • If longer 30-60+ minute videos simply don’t work for your niche, basic content production is the way to go.
  • If your audience is very narrow and you aren’t interested in experimenting with other audiences on a variety of social media platforms, basic content production is the way to go.
  • On the other hand, if you’re interested in producing longer video content and would like to experiment to learn more about your audience (and to grow it) content repurposing is your best bet.

Whether you’re looking for content production or repurposing, let’s examine what you should look for in a partner.

What to look for in a content production partner

Experience in your niche

Training an external content creator in your specialization can be a time-consuming task. Beyond understanding the basics, the writer should understand deeper elements like the culture, language, unspoken assumptions, etc. It’s a bit like the difference between learning a language from a book and speaking it as a native speaker (and understanding the accompanying culture).

This is why the best case scenario is hiring a partner who’s already experienced and well-versed in your niche and who has the content production experience you need.

Cost and compensation

Obviously you’ll be considering the cost of any content production partner, but looking at how these costs are calculated will reveal much about the thinking behind the content. For example, do they simply charge per word or is the compensation results based? Often you might see a hybrid system with a base per-word rate and bonuses based on performance.

Then, look at the payment terms. This is critical for businesses with potential cash flow issues. If you plan on dedicating a substantial portion of your marketing budget to content production, the difference between 15, 30, 60, or 90 payment terms will have a substantial impact on your company’s cash flow.

What to look for in a content repurposing partner

If you’re interested in finding a partner for content repurposing, you should begin with the same foundational questions listed in the section above. However, there are a few additional considerations to look at.

Experience with content repurposing

The basic consideration here is just whether this content service provider has experience with the content repurposing process. But beyond that, there are a few other considerations. For example, what is their content repurposing process? How many rounds of content adjustments and releases do they typical utilize? What experimental methodology do they use to draw lessons from the microcontent they put out? Do they have experience with just videos or podcasts, images, charts, articles, etc? Which social media networks do they use?

Clearly there’s a lot to consider, but on the whole, you’re looking for a partner who takes content repurposing seriously and has put considerable effort into developing an effective and efficient process for it. The last thing we’ll mention here is to think about episodic content and the creative process. Content repurposing is only as good as the content that feeds it. One of the biggest challenges is coming up with episodic content that encourages subscriptions and can grow your audience over time.

How to evaluate the ROI of your content work

Even once you’ve chosen a content service, you need to be consistently evaluating the ROI of their work. Here are a few elements you should consider.

Time invested

One of the ways in which a content service can do terrible damage to your overall marketing ROI is by becoming a huge time-sink. Be upfront and ask prospective content partners about the initial and ongoing time investments they expect from you. You might also ask to speak with current partners to get the client’s perspective.

Impressions, clicks, subscriptions, purchases, etc.

This is the more obvious place to measure ROI. Consider which of these metrics matter to you and be very clear from the beginning where you want to focus. You need to hire a content service which can focus on the metrics that matter to you and not simply throw everything at the wall and draw your attention to whatever sticks.

Also think about how you can quantify the value of your core metrics. Doing this with precision may seem impossible, but even a back of the envelope estimate is more valuable than nothing because it gives you a starting point.

Lastly, don’t ignore the value of the information a content service might be able to provide. If they’re running regular experiments as part of a content repurposing campaign, they should be providing you with a regular stream of valuable customer insights.

Asking them about ROI

Always ask prospective partners to give you their thinking about how to evaluate the ROI of their activities before you explain how you calculate ROI. This will provide you with great insights into how they think about the value their work provides. For example, are they more focused on content output, experimental results, or final views, subscriptions, etc.?

Overall, you may also want to read a more detailed breakdown of general marketing ROI calculations before making a decision.

The first content service you might want to consider

Hopefully it’s clear that we think a lot about how to build a successful partnership between a content service and client. We’ve put a lot of work into building custom content repurposing tools and helping companies figure out how to successfully use content repurposing. So feel free to get in touch, we’re happy to share our expertise.

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