Two studies provide some insight into how B2B companies are approaching their marketing efforts. This report from MarketingProfs and Junta 22 found that 55 percent of respondents outsourced their content marketing. Research from Marketing Sherpa indicated that 45 percent of B2B companies have or are planning to outsource search engine optimization (SEO), 31 percent paid search engine marketing (SEM or pay per click), and 20 percent e-mail design and content.
These findings support an ongoing trend among B2B companies to outsource certain marketing functions. In my experience, there are three main reasons to pursue this strategy:
Tap experts for better results. Content creation, particularly for more technical industries, is a specialized skill, and translating firsthand experience into an effective marketing that can speak directly to the target audience can be difficult. Similarly, SEO isn’t a part-time pursuit: the landscape is constantly changing, and most companies don’t have the time to keep up to date.
Support a comprehensive online strategy. Except for the largest organizations, most B2B companies don’t have a full in-house marketing function. By augmenting existing staff with online marketing specialists, a company can mount a more effective campaign. Organizations should be prepared for the transactional cost of managing multiple parties—content creator, SEO expert, Web programmer, social media writer.
Reduce operating costs. A lot of businesses don’t have a full-time need for content and online marketing expertise. Rather, they need dedicated team members throughout the year to support campaigns. Since salaries and benefits make up the majority of operating expenses at B2B companies, executives are looking for more cost-effective options that allow them to direct scarce resources to core business functions.
Once businesses have made the decision to outsource their online marketing efforts, it’s critical to find external vendors with the right mix of skills and knowledge. B2B companies should ensure that candidates possess the following features:
Knowledge of business fundamentals. The world is filled with many creative, skilled writers. A far smaller subset of this group has strong business knowledge. If someone is writing about a topic he doesn’t really understand, it’s generally quite obvious and can reflect badly on your company. By contrast, a writer that brings a strong understanding of business functions and industry terminology can write much more authoritatively.
Access to a network of experienced resources. By selecting the right external partner, your company can get direct access to top-quality resources. The best writers and editors have also worked with established Web programmers, SEO experts, and graphic designers. When evaluating writers, be sure to ask if they can recommend people to handle related tasks.
Experience across a range of channels. Writing for different formats—white papers, blogs, landing pages, banner ads, print ads, social media—takes different knowledge and skills, and strong content creators understand what each channel requires. Since you can save a lot of time by creating content once and then tailoring it to different channels, be sure to confirm that writing candidates are well versed in many formats.
Once you find external resources that meet these criteria, you’ll be able to pursue a more direct path to benefit from outsourcing.