Is it better to create content using in-house resources than to use an agency? This is a question that many businesses evaluating content or inbound marketing strategies ask themselves.
The short answer is often 'yes, if you can'.
Benefits of creating content in-house
It's well known that effective content marketing relies on great content that is educational, insightful and honest.
Creating this kind of content should be easy if you're a subject matter expert with years of experience, or a marketer with access to them.
When it comes to writing about the problems and solutions specific to your industry, your in-house colleagues are always going to have the edge compared to any outsiders, thanks to their accumulated knowledge acquired from working in it day-to-day.
And if your organisation fully commits to creating content this way, and follows through on that commitment, you may be able to achieve greater results faster than if bringing outside resources up to speed on your world. That is if the people creating the content take an interest in learning what content performs best and where results originate so as to optimise future content production.
Challenges to creating content in-house
While using internal resources to produce content has its advantages, there are some common pitfalls and challenges.
Lack of resource
For some organisations, relying on internal experts to produce content simply isn’t a viable approach.
While in some cases this lack of support can stem from a lack of belief in the strategy, there are other operational causes that are common, particularly in medium and large sized firms.
Functional responsibilities, organisational structures, geographic locations, cost centres, team size and more can all prevent internal resources from lending their support.
Producing the wrong type of content
Something we hear quite often hear is 'we're too complicated for your team to write about'. Plenty of businesses think that what they do is so complex that only in-house people could create content that would appeal to their buyers or, more importantly, no make them look stupid.
The truth is that highly specific and deeply technical content doesn't always produce the desired outcomes. The content that an in-house expert may find very easy to produce quite often drives a lot of traffic (a good thing, of course) but that traffic quite often doesn't go on to convert. Content like this tends to appeal to end-users and other experts, but it doesn't always appeal to the actual decision makers and influencers.
This may sound like an easy problem to fix, but very often it isn't. It can be very hard to get busy in-house subject matter experts, who may see their content creation as something of a favour to marketing, to alter their approach and change the way they write.
Content is just the start
Even if organisational constraints have been overcome and internal resources have been coached to produce the perfect content, marketers quickly realise that there is more to success.
Content needs to be search engine optimised (along with the rest of your website) if it is to drive relevant traffic to your website.
And, if your offering is complex, purchase price high or sales cycle long, you need to do much more than just drive traffic. You need to optimise the customer journey for every stage of the buying process.
Generating demand, not just traffic and leads, calls for an integrated spectrum of tactics and initiatives, along with continual data analysis and testing. The broad range of skills required, not to mention the time, may go beyond what can be reasonable provided by in-house resources, regardless of willing.
How to use an agency effectively
While an external agency may never be able to equal the subject matter expertise of your in-house people, an experienced one can help you overcome the challenges and avoid the pitfalls outlined here, and create content that achieves the primary objective of increasing demand.
To work with an agency effectively you need two things; an agreed strategy and a good relationship.
Strategy in content marketing is essential, and you should never work with an agency that doesn't insist on creating a strategy first. Without a sound strategy to guide you both over the long period of time that content marketing results can take to develop the likelihood of failure is dramatically increased.
Sticking to the strategy is just as important as creating it. Deviating from the agreed plan with increasing levels of unrelated tactical work, without a corresponding increase in budget, will only erode the results you ultimately see from your content marketing.
Having a good relationship works both ways and improves things for both you and your agency.
As a client, you can enhance the relationship by showing that you value the skills your agency team has while helping them to overcome their knowledge gaps. It also pays to understand the fundamental business model that agencies have to work to, and recognise the impact that last minute briefs, round after round of amends, or corner cutting can have on the quality and timeliness of work.
Remembering these principles will help your agency to consistently produce high quality work, and the results that follow, for your business.