The pace of change for today’s marketers is breathtaking. Every day, it seems there are new tools and technologies to help us reach a more demanding — and more distracted — audience. One thing is certain, however: content marketing is here to stay. In fact, it has become a key component of most companies’ marketing strategies, with 84% of US companies (87% for B2B) embracing it.
As more and more brands become publishers, the amount of content on the web has exploded. According to WorldWideWebSize.com, the indexed web contains 6.08 billion pages as of this writing, up by over a billion pages from just a year ago. And, it shows no signs of stopping. Recent estimates project that content marketing will grow at a CAGR of 16%, becoming a $412 billion industry by 2021.
To keep up with demand and stand out from the crowd, companies need to invest in improving the quality of their content, becoming better storytellers in order to connect with their audiences on a much deeper emotional level than ever before. One of the ways they can do that is by having a professional writer (or writers) on staff.
For smaller marketing teams that don’t have headcount for a writer, or even for big teams with specialized content needs, having a writer on retainer — someone who is highly skilled, trusted, knows your business and is always on call — is an excellent option. Here’s why:
1. Demand for content is increasing.
We are living in the age of personalization and hyper-targeting, and that has put marketers under pressure to tailor their content for multiple audiences based on factors such as:
- browsing behavior
- purchase history
- geographic location
According to a report by Salesforce, “The State of the Connected Customer,” 79% of customers are willing to share relevant information about themselves in exchange for personalized interactions tailored to their needs. This same study indicates that 72% of B2B buyers expect vendors to personalize content to their needs. What this means is that your organization needs to offer multiple variations of content for different customer segments to build trust and relationships.
Also driving this trend: the rise of Account Based Marketing. According to Lead Generation Consultant Maz Jasmasbi, “One of the goals of ABM is to reach decision-makers and C-Level executives with personalized content. They have to show that they really know their industry, as well as the various players in the market. And, they have to be ready to educate multiple stakeholders about each company’s products and services, in a way that speaks to the pain points of each stakeholder.”
That means creating content that can speak to more personas, segments and lines of business within a target account, and make that all important emotional connection. Multiply that across all the channels and platforms where you need to reach customers — your blog, your website, email, and social media, and it’s easy to see why marketing teams are having a hard time keeping up.
2. Your content needs to be better.
The goal of content marketing is to educate and inform potential buyers in a way that aligns with your products and services. That can help boost your credibility and establish you as a trusted advisor with prospective customers — but only if your content is good. It must be thoroughly researched, factual, clear, and grammatically correct. It needs to tell a story, follow a logical narrative and have a distinctive voice. Generic, muddy, error-ridden content without a compelling narrative can easily have the opposite effect.
And, even though it seems like your peoples’ attention spans are getting shorter, your content probably needs to be more in-depth, and yes, longer — both for humans and for search engines.
“From an SEO perspective, well-written, in-depth articles dominate search results — and have for many years now,” says Growth Marketing Consultant Daniel Gehant. “There are some key correlations between longer articles and top rankings, inbound links, and more social shares. But more importantly, for content to perform well in the long run, it needs to be thoughtful and well-written.”
This is why many marketing departments are turning to journalists and other professionally trained writers for help. That’s raising the bar for everyone. If you want to compete, it’s no longer good enough to outsource writing projects piecemeal to unknown writers. This is hardly ideal, for the company or the writer; you won’t get the kind of quality or reliability you need.
3. They’re expert communicators.
You may feel that because you know your business better than anyone, you should develop your own content. But the truth is that most people aren’t effective communicators — even about what they know.
And, there is a big difference between business writing, which most marketers are able to do, and being a good copywriter or storyteller. Most marketers haven’t spent years honing the craft by writing every day and getting feedback — like writers have.
"One big challenge for companies — especially those that sell highly technical products or services — is knowing how to translate their deep expertise into engaging, digestible content,” says writer Garner Gollatz. “A skilled writer can take complex ideas and distill them into a clear, compelling narrative without undue complexity or jargon."
A professional writer may also bring a much needed “outside the bubble” perspective, helping you discover story angles you may not have thought of. They can help you develop content that stands out in a crowded landscape, and they’ll do it better than someone whose main job is something other than writing.
4. They’ll get it done — on deadline.
Today’s marketing teams are maxed out. “We knew we needed to develop a content marketing program, but we just didn’t have the bandwidth,” says Travis Culwell, who has leveraged writers on retainer in his role in product marketing for a startup incubator. “We had ambitious goals to feed our social channels and align that with our SEO strategy, but we had a skeleton crew of marketers. So we looked to an outside source to help us achieve our goals.”
Even if you have writers on staff, they can get caught up in day-to-day demands, not to mention the content crunch that happens around big events, product launches or campaigns. With a writer on retainer, you don’t have to spend time searching for extra hands and bringing them up to speed on your programs. They can jump right in and help you meet your deadlines.
“One big benefit of working with a writer is that they have that one deliverable and it’s not dependent on any competing priorities,” says Culwell. “We know for certain that the scope of work will be completed. They’re immune from competing urgencies within the organization.”
“Retainer relationships with writers force you to get content created,” says writer Ed Sweet. “Whether you’re contracting a writer for 10 hours a month to generate social media posts, one day a week to do ad hoc projects as they come up, or 20 hours a week to meet a significant portion of your content needs, you’ll know that work is getting done consistently for a predictable price.”
5. They’ll develop deep product expertise.
To be compelling, content needs to paint a vivid and specific picture, so you need a writer that knows the nitty-gritty details of your products and services so they don’t have to resort to vague generalities or fall back on copywriting cliches. “You’ve tried the rest. Now try the best!” could be any brand.
“Creating an ongoing narrative becomes much easier when the writer has an ongoing relationship with your business and can build up a strong understanding of your specific audience,” says Gollatz.
As Culwell puts it, “Over time, the writer develops experience with your audience, their pain points, and the competitive environment. The more experience they have, the deeper that expertise.”
This is particularly important for campaigns that are personalized for different audience segments. A deep understanding of the differences between those segments — and the product features that speak to their needs — is a tremendous asset in creating engaging content.
6. They’ll help establish a consistent voice.
A unified brand voice is key for today’s marketers — and professional writers are skilled in establishing consistency in voice, content, and style, or adhering to style guidelines you’ve already established. It’s hard to get that when you hire writers on a project by project basis, or even when you have several different internal people doing the writing.
Someone has to be the guardian of the brand voice, and a writer on retainer can pitch in and help with proofreading and editing — things that make a big difference but often go undone in the rush to push content out the door. Having a flexible writing resource at your disposal allows you to put the finishing touches on new content, update or refresh old content or just provide editorial feedback on other writers’ work. All of those things can improve your content and help you get more out of your content investment.
The Key to Content Marketing Success
With the rise of content marketing, brands must become publishers, and to stand out, they have to professionalize their publishing operations. It’s no longer good enough to have the intern write a keyword-stuffed 250 word blog post.
Look at the masthead of any publishing organization and you’ll see that in addition to staffers, there are contributors. These are people who are not on staff but regularly work with that outlet. They are intimately acquainted with the interests of the publication’s audience and subject matter, and well versed in its style. They have strong working relationships with the internal team, and can be counted on to turn in clean copy that hits the mark, on deadline.
The last thing editors want when the stakes are high and the deadlines are tight is to be scrambling around searching for talent, and working with an unknown contributor. The same could be said of marketing organizations. That’s why having a writer on retainer is one of the keys to success in today’s demanding content marketing environment.