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Takeaways Part 2: The State of the Content Marketing Industry

BY: Robin Riddle
PUBLISHED: 08/11/2023

When should you outsource content marketing—and how to pick a new agency partner?

Research shows that in-housing for content marketing remains popular, but that's not the full story.

The recent research we conducted with Digiday regarding the State of Content Marketing produced some really interesting and some surprising insights into the way marketers deploy content. For example, respondents ranked the main format they are spending time— and more importantly, budget —on is social. Perhaps that is somewhat obvious because of the publishing cadence those channels can handle but, in an age when organic reach continues to be throttled, does that make total sense? Would fewer, higher-quality posts that have paid budget behind them make more sense?

Another interesting data point was the popularity of in-house content teams. Perhaps this is a reflection of the rise of the “center of excellence” (COE) team format within larger enterprise type businesses. However, we’ve also noticed an increase in our business working with those teams to support their efforts.

Often, we find those internal teams have a keen understanding of the business needs and challenges of their internal customers, and then work with us to figure out exactly where content can help. Separately, the ANA conducted some research “The Continued Rise of the In-House Agency,” suggesting in their study that while 82% of respondents had an internal agency (or center of excellence), 92% of those (who have an in-house resource), still outsource work to external partners.

The reason for this seemingly contradictory research point? There are times when it just makes sense to outsource. While not an exhaustive list, some of the reasons we’re been brought on for projects by COEs, boils down to these things:

So, the question is, how do I go about choosing the right partner? Well in our opinion, there’s no definitive answer because each use case/need will be different. However, some things you should consider are:

Above all, make sure the agencies under consideration have deep expertise doing the type of work you need. For example, if you are in the agricultural business and need video work, make sure they have people who have both extensive video expertise but also have experience doing it in a faming setting. Sounds obvious but make sure you ask for case studies and references and check them out (you’d be surprised the number of times we supply them, but clients don’t follow up). If industry expertise and capabilities are two spokes, the third is experience in answering your business needs. For example, are they familiar with the challenges of cross-selling or awareness or loyalty initiatives.

Make sure you fully understand their business model and how they would approach pricing for your project. Is it retainer based, or piece by piece? How does it work if you go past the allotted schedule/reviews? What do those fees look like? Some agencies (not us!) can price low in RFPS and then drop unexpected fees in the form of change orders for small alterations that seem insignificant. You want to ensure there’s transparency going into the project, and you fully understand what’s included in the pricing and what is not.

Finally, for most of us working in content marketing, we cannot forget that we want to have some fun while we’re doing it. Make sure there’s a cultural fit and the people are good to work with. As Peter Drucker said, “culture eats strategy for breakfast.”

If any of these points resonated with you, and you’d like to chat about your needs. Feel free to hit me up. I’d love to talk.   

To read the first part of our takeaways please see the article here.

Robin Riddle is the Chief Strategy Officer at Foundry 360 where he leads content marketing strategy development. He works across B2B as well as B2C and specializes in financial services, insurance and health care. Prior to his time here, he led content marketing businesses at both The Economist and The Wall Street Journal.

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