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4 min read

When Does It Make Sense to Outsource Content Marketing?

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How long does it typically take you to write a 500-word blog post for your company? If your answer is less than an hour, congratulations! You're in the top 13% of marketers, according to HubSpot's annual State of Inbound survey, and if those blogs are driving great results you can probably skip the rest of this article. Everybody else is caught in the classic content marketing quandary, balancing time and content creation: 33% take 1-2 hours to write a blog, 23% take 2-3, and 16% need more than 4 hours. That may be acceptable for a blog post or two, but if you're trying to publish a full content calendar with 5 or more posts per month, those hours really start to add up. Throw in video, social media, landing pages, and all the other elements of a full-blown content marketing strategy, and you can see why so many companies struggle to do it all in-house. 
 

When does it make sense to outsource content marketing?

It's complicated, because content marketing comes in many shapes and sizes, just like the companies that use it. Still, the decision-making process isn't all that different from home remodeling, where different people and projects have different needs, and the choices include doing it yourself, hiring individual specialists on a project by project basis, or hiring a general contractor to handle just about everything. 
After all, some projects are easier than others, some pros may be more reliable than others, and it always looks easier from afar (just check out any home improvement show if you want proof). It's also easy to see how much money you can save by doing it yourself — if you're able to do it yourself.  For example, I work with some folks who have the tools and talent to do most of their own home improvement projects. They enjoy the work, save a lot of money, and get a certain pride from their accomplishments. But they're rare. Most people are more like me. I have to balance my budget with my skills, tools, and available time to make each decision. But if I don't have the right tools and know-how, I can end up wasting a whole weekend going back-and-forth to the hardware store, and risk being unhappy with the final results.
You can use the same questions to help decide whether to outsource content marketing.

Time

Do you have the time to do the work yourself? That's where we started this conversation, but it's crucial. If not, compare the time you'd save with the time it would take to hire and train a contractor or new employee? On the other hand, how much time would you save by turning it over to an outsider (keeping in mind that it will still take time to coordinate with them)? Or what new projects could you be working on if someone was handling your content marketing?

Skill and Tools

Do you know enough to do the job properly? Even if you have the time to create the content, is it the right content? Creating a content marketing strategy and identifying the right opportunities are special skills that require special tools — the same way laying tile requires special spacers and tile cutters and a little more know-how than most run-of-the-mill DIY projects. Whether we're talking about HubSpot or Hootsuite, WordPress or Wistia, each tool has specialists who will almost always bring something extra to the table. Assessing your own ability and limitations is crucial. 

Budget

This one may be more complicated than it sounds. For starters, an outside agency may cost more than adding a contractor or new hire, but you'll be gaining the know-how of many. What's that worth? And how about the additional HR costs if you choose to add to your staff instead? 

What Else Matters?

When I asked Natalie Wires, a corporate communications manager who has been on both sides of this equation, she added balancing the complexity of the topic to your decision-making process. "Is it something that could be easily outsourced, or more more nuanced, so it needs someone with a deep level of expertise?" Even then, she notes that outsourcing may be the wiser long-term solution. "The ideal is to build relationships with outsourced content creators so they can build knowledge of the business and be a true extension of the team." 
Everybody's needs are different, she says, but in general, the more specialized the skill, the more likely you'll need to outsource it. Natalie notes that video production is a common example, since "that requires a specific skill set that is not often found on internal teams."

Which brings us to one more comparison with DIY remodeling. When you do it right, hiring pros will save you time, and possibly money, but it's not the same as waving a magic wand. You'll still spend time communicating and coordinating with your outsourced talent (just like a homeowner would with a general contractor) and you'll still have to give directions on brand and voice (like a homeowner picking out tiles and paint colors), but you won't need as much overall effort. 

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