The rumours you’ve heard are true. The content marketing monster is a hungry beast. No sooner have you fed it a chunky slab of lead-generating meat than it reaches for a side of supporting blog and a sky-scraper chaser.
And yet, galant, proud and dutiful, your content monster is as discerning as it is ravenous. It has a strong sense of obligation to attract and nourish its target audience, which it does with Nigella-like foodpairing, Jamie-like flavour encapsulation and multisensory experiences even Heston would be proud of.
However, every so often, especially during busy times, the temptation is to feed the content monster bottom-shelf bargains, hiring cheap freelance content producers who are even less experienced in your industry than they are in professional writing.
This temptation is perilous and can end up costing you money, time and results. No sooner will you damage your brand than you’ll kill off your audience, and potentially cost yourself a lot more in the long run. Here’s why.
Content without purpose, is content without value
Behind every content monster is a clever content marketer who knows how to capture the audience’s hearts and minds. These marketers know how to engage the audience with specialist knowledge that keeps them returning for more.
Sure, a cheap writer could easily spot a content topic that is prevalent in an industry. But, unlike experienced content marketers, they’re unlikely to have the data insight or skills to understand the content’s goal: why a topic will trend, which channel it should be published through, how it should be SEO optimised, or how that content theme fits into the overall content strategy.
How could these writers possibly nourish a monster when they don’t know what it needs?
Which audience is your low-cost writer writing for, really?
Writing for a specific b2b buying persona is one of the trickiest forms of commercial writing there is. It takes marketing understanding, deep knowledge of your industry, and real-life experience with the kinds of personas you’re dealing with. Only then could a writer get the tone, structure and style right for that buyer.
Think now, honestly. Will your $30/post writer really have a deep, intrinsic understanding of your C-level persona, their knowledge levels, communications preferences, motivations and business requirements? Will they be able to write at a level that your persona will appreciate?
Doubtful. Chances are your writing will end up in the personal style of the writer, leaving your content monster backing away from your C-level reader apologetically, with its tail between its legs.
Cheap, cost-per-piece writers have no skin in the game
Content marketers are researchers at heart. They choose the right terms to rank for, reviewing analytics tools to estimate a keyword’s impact, all-the-while in the context of the buying persona. But the planning doesn’t stop there. Content marketers are judged by metrics such as visitors, leads, marketing-qualified leads and conversions or revenue. So they continually monitor and tweak your pieces and editorial calendar to reap the best result.
SEO is just one of the tactics that leads to these metrics: traffic or website visits. The race to get to the top of the Google Search Results Page is tough, and content marketers understand this only too well. If you use your target keyword too little, your chance of a front page SERP listing is nil. If you use your target keyword too much, Google punishes you for keyword stuffing. If you use a highly competitive keyword, you won’t get a look in. And if you use one with too little search traffic, or worse - an irrelevant keyword, you’ll get irrelevant results.
So how could a $30 writer with no previous experience of your business, no access to analytics tools and no deep understanding of your target market possibly achieve the same result?
Newsflash: they can’t. In fact, it can be quite the opposite. The wrong keywords ultimately lead to inappropriate traffic and subsequently wasted sales hours spent weeding out the tyre-kickers. And careless use of external links can also damage your SEO efforts.
What is the cost of losing internal buy-in?
It is so easy to demonstrate results with content marketing. This is what attracts senior stakeholders to it in the first place. It is cumulative, you’re investing in your own assets instead of ad spend that has a momentary shelf-life. Plus, high-quality content enables you to showcase the true thought leadership of your organisation.
Yet, when budgets are tight, bulk blogging deals seem like a reasonable option. Don’t be fooled. Inexperienced writers will instinctively go for topics that have already been done, and done, and done some more, because there is no thinking or deep market understanding required to regurgitate. Plenty of material to be paraphrased on the web. Winner, winner, chicken dinner.
They will, additionally, have little if any understanding of your business context or the technical details your audience eats for breakfast. If you’re really lucky, they will whitewash dishwater dullness all over your pieces until you’ve become a member of the absolutely worthless content club. Your stakeholders are going to love it.
If you want to kill stakeholder support in one fell swoop, hire a cheap content writer.
Content marketing works in concert
While cheap content might seem appealing, when a company is focused on churning out words, there can often be a lack of distribution focus. With more and more content being published every day, innovation in content distribution is becoming essential. Content marketers offer strategic advice to get the most out of each piece and will show you how to get the most bang for your buck.
Cheap writers will deliver the words only.
What’s a buyer’s journey anyway?
The content marketing monster is a strategic one. It eats what it needs to give the audience proper nourishment in their own context - and the buyer’s journey is the backbone of contextual marketing.
Without a content writer having a solid understanding of where content pieces fit in the buyer’s journey, the content piece cannot be working effectively toward a strategic goal. Content at each stage of the buyer’s journey commands different language, depth of content, type of content and a relevant call to action. How can a cheap-as-chips content writer possibly get all aspects of your buyer’s context and write accordingly?
A matter of trust
One business found that of the cheap writers they outsourced to, 25% didn’t follow through on the agreed contract. Enough said.
Who has the time?
We have completely given up looking for cheaper writers. We now know that you get what you pay for. Our experience has been that the time we spend briefing, managing and editing a cheap writer’s work is greater than the time it takes us to write a strong b2b post ourselves.
Do you really have time and money to waste on this?
OK! OK! Make it stop. If hiring a cheap writer is out, what ARE my options?
Glad you asked. The answer is choosing quality over quantity when budgets are tight. Here are a few ways you can do this:
1.) Focus only on your most strategic, impactful goal. Create content that speaks to that goal only, and defer the rest until budgets are back.
2.) Leverage everything that you already have. Ebooks can be split into several blog posts, or blog posts can be collated to form a deeper all-in-one piece. Non industry-specific posts can be rewritten in a jiffy to make them more industry-specific.
3.) Interview an internal expert and publish the interview with little editing. Repost an oldie but a goodie with a foreword on why it is relevant to some industry situation today.
4.) Reduce the amount of content you’re writing to a bare minimum, and brief this to a professional content marketer, agency, or write it yourself. Make sure you spend some time reading your data and deciding on a topic that is unique and provokes discussion. This way you’ll get more return on your time spent.
5.) Move your focus to distribution of what you already have. See what you can get posted in your online industry publications, or what you can get your industry influencers interested in.
6.) Check your budgets and consolidate where you can: is your PR agency delivering to your business goals or propping up senior stakeholder egos? What about your SEO team - are they delivering relevant traffic? Do you have a creative agency on a retainer that really doesn’t need to be? Are you spending $5000 a month or more on Google Adwords that are not being tracked in conversions? Consider consolidating your marketing budgets and giving them to one strategic agency that understands your goals, metrics, strategy, content needs, SEO, online PR and online advertising. Simple for you, results-focused for your business.
Trying to achieve content scale by outsourcing to cheap writers is the marketing equivalent of junk food. It clogs your fine monster’s arteries with industry jargon. It confuses your monster’s message with paragraphs that are ill-structured and difficult to digest. It is filled with ingredients of questionable origin, including tangents, random points and unnecessary verbiage.
It can have a disastrous impact on your brand and reputation. Taking good care of your monster is about quality nourishment and consideration. This way she’ll stay healthy enough to protect you through your budget ups and downs.