How to Develop a Content Marketing Partnership That Works Long Term

Jeff Stehlin headshot

Over the past few weeks we’ve explored B2B marketers’ plans and goals for content in 2019 as part of the launch of our inaugural Future of B2B Content report. We dove into top content trends for B2B marketers and unpacked the new role of snack-size content — like videos, gifs and social — in organizations’ larger content marketing programs.

It’s clear B2B marketers have emerging content capabilities on their radars and content’s evolution is changing how B2B organizations build relationships with customers.

But one important question remains unanswered — who makes that change happen?

We found that across the board, B2B marketers welcome support for their content endeavors. Ninety-five percent of B2B marketers say working with external agencies for content strategy/production is a priority in the next 12 months, and over a third (40 percent) say it’s a high priority for their organizations.

If you’re like the majority of B2B companies, a content partnership is in your future. However, as you consider potential content marketing resources, keep in mind that not all agencies are cut from the same cloth. To leverage content for business improvement, you’ll need to identify the partner that’s the right fit for your B2B organization.

Some factors come naturally to external content partners

When you work with an external content partner, you can almost always count on expertise across a more diverse range of content types and faster speed of production. B2B organizations that outsource some or all of their content are more likely to be very satisfied with these aspects than businesses that handle all content internally.

Bar chart showing % of B2B marketers who are satisfied with various aspects of their content marketing.

With teams dedicated solely to content production — and specifically to expanding and accelerating content-related service offerings — you can expect a caliber of performance from external agencies that’s hard to replicate with internal employees who may be spread thin across other responsibilities.

Just because external partners often excel in areas like production speed doesn’t mean you can take those factors for granted, however. Inquire about a potential partner’s content team and processes to ensure you’re getting the most mileage out of your investment.

The right external content partner knows your business

Of course, there are also areas where B2B marketers feel their in-house teams achieve better results than external agencies. These areas include subject matter expertise and the relevance of content to target audiences. Organizations that handle all content internally are more likely to be very satisfied with these aspects than businesses that outsource some or all of their content.

Neither of these areas is a huge surprise. B2B organizations are the experts of their domains and should feel confident they can produce content that directly engages their customers. That said, the right agency can also master these factors and achieve the same degree of connection brands desire with audiences.

You just need to apply a more critical eye in these areas when weighing different partner options. If your products and services are more specialized, there’s an even greater need to find an external agency that has proven experience in your industry — and hopefully already knows your brand and what resonates with your customers. The best agencies not only understand and communicate your company’s message, but also offer their own insights to enhance your internal thought leadership and content projects.

The right external content partner knows your future business, too

It’s great when you’re on the same page as your external agency about your organization’s existing content needs. But it’s even better when your partner has the vision and resources to evolve your program over time.

Research an agency’s ability to take your current content strategies to the next level and boost your competitive edge. For example, even if you’re not yet ready for multimedia content or a robust social presence, explore an agency’s offerings in these areas during the partner evaluation stage. This awareness means comprehensive content marketing capabilities will be available to you as needed without having to bring on supplementary support.

Additionally, consider working with a partner that can easily integrate content with other services (again, even if you’re not ready to use them). The ability to blend content with PR, demand generation and other services both amplifies the value of your content investments and enables improved content ROI tracking.

Ensure all stakeholders are on the same page about outsourcing

If you’re ready to take the next step with an external content partnership, be aware that your team may not be as up-to-speed on the value of outsourcing as you are.

Always read the room — as a stakeholder, you’ll probably feel more excited about and open to external support than your peers. Decision makers at the VP level and above are more likely to see external partnerships as the solution to content struggles than employees at the director level and below. This was true for every area of content we surveyed.

Data visualization of B2B marketers who plan to use external partnerships to improve content

As a high-level staffer, it’s your responsibility to educate every employee on how outsourcing will impact — and ideally improve — the day-to-day at work. Don’t let your own enthusiasm for partnerships bulldoze the ideas and concerns of your coworkers, especially your subordinates.

During conversations about external support, seek out as much feedback as possible. Make sure employees representing all job titles are in the room when you explore content partnerships, as this helps earn buy-in from top to bottom. Encourage lower-ranking employees to proactively express their opinions around outsourcing, and use those insights to help shape partnerships before implementation. Likewise, seek out external partners that are comfortable working with all levels of employees and have experience accommodating diverse requests and perspectives.

Want to learn more about what inspires successful external partnerships and how other B2B organizations outsource content? Download Walker Sands’ The Future of B2B Content 2019 report.


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