If you have already hired a digital marketing agency to produce your online content (and in particular blog posts) then please take heed. What is the number one way to create a blog that actually gets read? Good, insightful content, right? Then why is it that so many companies are simply churning out ghost written posts that don’t adhere to their own marketing standards?
The answer is simple: time and money. They assume perhaps then when writing B2C (business to customer) that the customer will read practically anything and that’s all that matters. Companies want their presence felt quickly and to take as little effort and as few resources as possible.
I work as a freelance content marketing writer for a number of different clients and have encountered various levels of quality when it comes to the effort that clients put into their blog writing. Simply put: don’t assume your writing team has any greater knowledge of your niche industry than you. In fact, assume the exact opposite. Content marketing only functions when the two sides work together: sales / marketing, and advertisers / writers.
In other words, please don’t expect me to sell your products or services when you haven’t sold ME yet. Ghost blogging is cheap and efficient, but in the end, it’s not what you would have written, given the chance.
Treat content marketing writers like they’re customers
When you walk into someone’s office to sell them your product, do you assume they already know all there is to know about your product? Do you assume they already know the benefits and so there’s no point in going into that sales pitch? Do you assume that this lead has no questions or needs clarification? And if they ask, do you dismiss them away because you’re too busy to tend to their needs?
Guess what? A blog that doesn’t answer a customer’s question is ignoring their needs. Work with your content marketing writers like they’re your customers. You need to sell them first before they can sell for you.
How many clients have simply hoped that content suddenly appears that perfectly fits your products and your sales pitch? Practically all them I’m betting. But you can’t expect that content to magically appear. It needs to be co-created by you and your bloggers.
I shouldn’t have to tell you how to sell your product. Here’s a list of things that every decent content marketing professional is going to need in order to give you what you want. Keeping in mind that some of these questions may not apply to your product. But be aware of the many key questions that your customers are asking and you’ll be fine.
- What is your product and how does it work? Yes this may seem a bit pedantic, but honestly, just because you’ve been in business for 60 years doesn’t mean that your content marketing team has intimate knowledge of your product. Your customers may not know this either. Let’s say you sell car brakes. Few customers actually understand how they work but they all need them. So tell customers (and your writers) how they work and what makes a good set of brakes. Tell me all about your product line and how each addresses a particular need in the consumer.
- For what is the product best used? Don’t assume that anyone knows how to use your product. If you sell topsoil, what are the advantages of it over potting soil? You sell both, but each has a different application. Tell me all about it.
- What are the benefits of using the product? Does it save time and money? Does it last for a long period of time, i.e. is it durable? How quickly can the positive effects of your product be experienced? What happens if an inferior product is used instead of yours?
- What are the benefits for buying YOUR product over the competition? Is it about price points? Is it about the added value of the service you provide? Why should I shop with you rather than your competition?
- Give me advice on using your product. A customer may be looking for advice surrounding your product. For example, you sell wood stain and someone may want to know how to install a new deck. The two topics aren’t the same but they are related. I want to write a blog about deck installation (with an eye towards proper wood protection.) Tell me the issues I should be considering before I put in a new deck. If I write a blog culled from my personal research, I may not be aware that your deck stain works best under certain conditions. I’m not a contractor, either. Give me advice on this project, please.
A simple answer to each of these questions can be fleshed out and turned into insightful blog posts. Put the time into creating these topics and your writers will produce more meaningful content. If you allow them to invent their own topics (unless they’re already experts in your field) they’re going to photocopy ideas from other online resources. These are the areas of concern that are addressed by a full-service agency. If they’re not telling you to provide insight, research, sales materials, detailed information about your company and main topics for blog posts, they’re not doing their job.
Work with content marketing, not against it
If you get a blog post for your review, try to understand that the writer involved has most likely little prior connection to your niche market. You’ll likely notice some novice errors. Instead of responding, “what do you mean” or “where did you get this info?” this is of no help to your writer. Keep in mind that cheap agencies hire out freelancers to write this posts for between $15-$30 per post. You can be fairly sure they’re taking only 30 minutes or so to learn about your entire niche market and the history of your company. That’s not enough, you say? You’re right.
But you can still work with these freelancers, as long as you know what you need from them.
If you discover that they’ve made a factual error or something that contradicts your product’s ability, inform them about it. Then send them a link or some sales material that can provide more details. Never assume that the writer was simply lazy and needs to be sent back to the Internet for more research. Writers are out there 24/7 poring through online documents / chat forums / your competitor’s website / social media outlets / talking to friends / reading news articles, all for your benefit. If they’ve made an error when it comes to interpreting the research, teach them, don’t scold them. They won’t be able to provide you anything better, regardless of how hard you chastise them for being wrong.
I am one such freelancer and am always happy (relieved, actually) when a client gives me material to read or information for me to learn from. Even if I only spend an hour with the research, I learn far more than if I were to look online. Then I can produce content more quickly and have a better perspective on my subject matter. As well, I learn the insider language, the specific words and tone that your industry uses. This is invaluable for writers: to know your company’s and industry’s voice.
This your content marketing material, not theirs
It may be tempting to blame the agency for problems. For example, you may notice that certain blogs simply don’t get read / forwarded / liked / lingered on. Your content marketing personnel has done their job, though. All your keywords are there; your SEO is in place. So what’s going on?
The problem is most likely that you haven’t provided insightful topics to your readers (and therefore writers.) Talk to your digital marketing team to ask them for advice. But then take a hard look at your product or service and figure out what key features / benefits you need to disclose to your customers.
If you find the topics being generated by your writers aren’t the right kind for your customers, then fix this now. Create a list of topics for discussion. Add in any insightful information or links to it on the web.
In a perfect world, you or your sales team should be writing blog posts. If you’re hiring an agency or freelance writer, then you need to get them up to speed as quickly as possible. These posts are written with your name on it. Such posts create your brand voice, and as such, it is your responsibility to produce this content. A writer’s job is simply to put into words (with SEO and content marketing in mind) exactly what you want to say to your potential customers.
Please feel free to comment, but I’m more interested in hearing your experiences when dealing with your writing staff. As a freelance writer, myself, I’m always eager to discover success stories or cautionary tales.