This article was originally published on MarketingProfs
First off, yes, product marketing content can be outsourced effectively. From whitepapers to sales enablement, there are freelance contractors (like me) that are capable of understanding your highly complex product and creating that key content to help drive revenue.
1) It’s cheaper and 2) It produces more content. The fact is that most product marketers get pulled into so many meetings and deliverables with engineering and product management that writing always seems to fall to the wayside. That leaves demand generation and sales teams frustrated waiting for content.
A good product marketing contractor can focus on your content needs without the interruptions of in-house product marketers and create spectacular content. You just need to manage them effectively. Read on to get my advice on how to work with contractors like myself for a mutually beneficial engagement.
How to find a great marketing contractor
Most companies tend to need product marketing writing expertise in one or more of three areas:
- Expertise on their products (like cybersecurity or supply chain management)
- Expertise on an industry (like healthcare or manufacturing)
- Expertise on a buying persona (like IT/CIO or Marketing/CMO)
Consider which of these are a must have versus nice to have, then start reaching out to your network. LinkedIn is a great tool to search for someone with the appropriate experience, but it may be more effective to ask your network in a post. Let them know what you are looking for and you’d be surprised at the options that will surface. You can also reach out to investors. Most investors in startups have a good network of experts for hire that have helped them in the past.
Notice I haven’t mentioned anything about freelance sites or placement agencies. You can certainly try these avenues, but in my experience the writers with a higher level of expertise don’t list themselves on these sites or with these agencies.
Give contract product marketers what they need to be successful
Before any work is done, the contract product marketer needs to understand your brand, your process and who they will be working with. Be sure to give them:
- Access to brand guidelines – be sure to point out any issues that will be rejected by higher ups. Some companies are really sensitive about fonts or contractions or the use of serial (Oxford) commas.
- Brand templates – A good writer will put design first and will write copy that fits your templates. This will save loads of time in layout and review cycles.
- Samples of what is good (or bad) – Share your best and worst, but also explain why it is good or bad. This will help a writer avoid repeating mistakes that have already been made internally.
- Introductions to designers and editors – make sure you introduce them to internal resources they will be working with and allow them to have a level setting conversation. The designer may prefer design notes to be in a comment or highlighted in a particular color. Help them discuss these finer points for more successful interactions.
- Chat access – things will go more smoothly (and quickly) if the writer is invited to your team chat instance for quick discussion and changes.
As each asset or project is assigned to the writer, make sure that you’ve given them the context they need to write it successfully. This includes:
- Identify target audience – make sure they know the persona(s) that they are writing the piece for and that they understand the pains those personas are feeling.
- Define purpose and promotion – let them know how the asset will be used, where it will live and how it will be promoted so that they understand the longevity and purpose of the piece.
- Access to Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) – if needed, ensure that the writer has a direct line to the appropriate SMEs and their buy-in to be interviewed. Bonus – SMEs tend to respond more quickly and keep scheduled meetings with contractors better than with internal employees.
- Supply outline and reference content – your in-house SMEs follow all the right social channels, blogs and pubs to see the latest and greatest industry content. If there are references that should be used to develop the content or to be referred to in the piece, or if they can help to outline a piece, you need to supply this info to the writer. It will save immense time and improve the outcome.
- Provide clear expectations – be sure to convey your expectations for the piece and the process. Do you want to review an outline first? How long do you want it to be? Do you expect the writer to come up with graphic ideas? All of this should be clear and conveyed to the writer before the writing begins.
Invest in a long term partnership
Historically, product marketing work has been contracted out on a project basis for things like a single whitepaper or a product launch. This is not very effective as each project requires ramp up time. Plan for a long term relationship where the contract product marketing writer becomes a valuable extension of your team.
To start off the relationship well, consider doing the following:
- Give them a product demo
- Present your go-to-market strategy
- Explain running campaigns and any content hierarchy
- Let them talk with salespeople and SMEs
Fundamentally, you should train them like you would a new employee. But you also need to spend the time to help them improve. This means giving them feedback to help them learn your style and preferences. Lastly, if you can give them consistent work, do so. It will help to keep them happy and ensure they are always available to meet your needs versus busy with other clients.
Tip – A great early project for a new product marketing writer is case studies. You get the benefit of customers being more willing to speak the truth when talking with a 3rd party and they get the benefit of hearing first hand the value of your product.
Create a simple way to manage deliverables
Not many people love to manage contractors, but with a few simple tools it can be incredibly easy. The first tool is a basic spreadsheet. The spreadsheet should include the task, the target audience, due date, status (including reviews/edits), document links and comments. Ensure that this is kept current and shared so that both sides can always see where things are at.
Set clear deadlines and expectations, then ask the contractor to check-in with either a 5 min weekly call or a weekly email. The contractor should report on what they worked on that week, how many hours they spent and what they plan to work on next week. Super simple, but very effective!
Protect their time
The main reason that product marketing contractors are so much more effective than in-house product marketers is meetings. That is, the lack of meetings. Having uninterrupted time to write is the key to getting great results from your product marketing writer. Certainly, you will need to have meetings to convey information that your writer needs, but they do not need to be involved in internal team meetings.
Additionally, you are the expert in your company operations. Take on the responsibility of making sure content reviews are done, interviews are set up and approvals are complete. Making a contractor try to wade through internal dynamics is a recipe for failure.
Ask for their input
Lastly, remember that you are not perfect. Chances are your contractor has worked with many marketing departments and has seen the good, bad and ugly of marketing. Don’t miss out on this great opportunity to get an outsider’s viewpoint on how you are doing, your process, your output, your website, etc. You may be surprised to find a lot of simple opportunities to make improvements.