If you're debating hiring an entry-level content marketing manager, focus your budget on a content marketing consultant instead.
If you need help with marketing materials, you might consider hiring a content marketing manager or in-house writer to focus on these initiatives. But is that the best use of your operating budget?
Whether you’re a brand new company focused on building a marketing strategy, or an established business that’s looking to ramp up its visibility or launch a new product line, you might discover that you don’t have the time to develop all of your marketing collateral on your own—especially if you’re planning to launch a large-scale content marketing initiative.
It’s time to bring on help. So do you hire a new employee to focus on digital marketing initiatives like content strategy, copywriting, social media and SEO, or are you better off working with a content marketing agency?
True, it can be nice to have someone in the office to talk to. But the fact is, many organizations would get better value for money by using content marketing consultants to perform these tasks.
You may get a bit of sticker shock when you hear about a content marketing consultant’s hourly rate—but for most project-based work, you’ll save money in the long run by using a digital marketing consultant instead of a full-time employee. With employees, you’re responsible for providing equipment and office space, and paying payroll taxes, insurance costs, and other benefits. None of these “extras” come into play when working with a consultant: The hourly or project fee is all that you’ll ever need to pay. (Still wavering about the price? Check out my post over at Intuit for more insight into what goes into a contractor’s hourly fee.)
Plus, if you’re working with a highly experienced content marketing consultant, she’s not likely to need any ramp-up time and can often complete a project that might take a full-time hire a full day to work on in just a couple of hours, so all things considered, you’ll pay less and get the work done faster—saving more of your own valuable time in the process.
Alternatively, if you choose a retainer-based payment model, there is no need to worry about whether your chosen hire or consultant is meeting expected productivity levels: Retainer agreements are typically based on a specific set of monthly deliverables. (Check out this blog post for more benefits of choosing a content marketing retainer.)
When you hire a new employee, it often takes weeks or even months to train the person in the tasks you need help with. If you select an agency with experienced writers and content marketers, you’ll have access to people who already have specific expertise in the industries you’re looking for, and can hit the ground running with little to no advance training. Better yet, many agencies can put together customized teams of freelancers on demand with industry experience in your particular field, and they may be able to provide you with valuable connections to SMEs and influencers in your industry. Hiring high-quality content marketing consultants can provide the valuable outside lens you need, as they may have worked with others in your industry and can share actionable feedback to help you grow your digital marketing presence.
When you hire a full-time employee, you need to pay that employee for 40 hours of work each week, whether or not you have 40 hours worth of actual work to assign her. By shifting to an agency-based model, you can contract with a content marketing consultant only when you have a project you need help with, saving the extra money you would have spent in salary. What’s more, instead of having one person’s services at your disposal, you have access to the agency’s entire team, which may include numerous writers, editors, designers, and social media marketers. If you’ve switched from a physical server to a cloud-based host, consider this the staffing equivalent.
If you’re hiring a good content marketing consultant or agency, this isn’t their first rodeo. They’ve likely worked with hundreds of clients across a wide range of industries, and have first-hand knowledge of how to build an in-house or freelance content marketing team. A good agency or consultant can provide you with templates for content marketing editorial calendars, social media strategies, SEO research, and even help you with an actionable plan for growing and training an in-house marketing team when you’re ready. If they’re responsible for producing deliverables such as blogging, infographics, and other forms of content creation, they should be able to provide you with detailed task lists and timelines so you know exactly what’s happening, and when.
They’re also accountable for their work: Agencies like ours typically check in with our clients monthly to report on relevant metrics that reflect our clients’ online presence, such as site traffic, social shares, backlinks, and SEO traffic rankings, offering the chance to review and optimize results as we go.
Employees may be good at taking direction—but many of them don’t know the first thing about actually running a business. Content marketing consultants are business owners themselves. As such, they have a good understanding of all of the concerns you might have about marketing your business, dealing with vendors, managing cash flow and employees, and other business issues. Instead of working as your subordinates, you can consider them colleagues who have valuable advice to share, both around content marketing strategy and other areas of entrepreneurship. True, it can be an adjustment if you’re used to having people work “under” you, but if you’re open to it, you and your consultant can build a positive relationship based on trust and mutual admiration.
When you’re growing your online marketing presence, one of the worst things you can do is commit an entire salary to a junior-level content marketing manager and hope he’ll figure it out as he goes. Although you may be able to buy more hours for a lower cost than you could hiring an experienced content marketing consultant, your new employee will spend months learning on the job and may end up making errors in your marketing programs that can cost you growth and real profits.
While it definitely makes sense to bring on full-time support for lower-level marketing tasks, consider engaging with a content marketing strategist first, who can lay the groundwork of your content strategy and build a solid plan to help your employee achieve success from day one. Even better, once you’ve hired that employee, continue retaining your consultant or agency, so that they can train your employee in their methodology and provide valuable feedback to help your content marketing manager gain skills quickly in a collaborative role. If you don’t have the budget to hire a high-level director of content marketing, pairing a newer employee with a veteran marketing consultant is an ideal way to get the on-tap experience you need to grow your company’s online presence.
Kathryn Hawkins is principal and chief content strategist of Eucalypt Media. She has worked as a freelance journalist for media publications and managed inbound marketing and content strategy for corporate and nonprofit clients for more than 16 years.
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