How to Choose and Collaborate with a Content Partner

September 2017


Your marketing objectives list is long: acquire new customers; increase brand relevance; establish your brand as a thought leader; create new leads and nurture them with stage- or interest-specific content; and so on. To further complicate matters, you’re short on time and in-house talent.

Using words and imagery, you’re tasked with building a lead-generating system that nurtures leads from early-stage shoppers to late-stage buyers … and don’t forget the ongoing retention and loyalty-building content requirements. Content creation has taken on a mammoth-sized role as self-educating purchasers prefer to walk themselves through most of the buying cycle. Your job demands that you fill every stage of your sales pipeline with engaging content worth reading—the kind that provides real value to your target audience.

Realizing your in-house team is overburdened and unable to fulfill the overwhelming demand for content, you’ve raised the surrender flag and allocated money to partner with a content creation service provider.

Content providers can fulfill short- or long-term gaps, and range in size from the lone freelancer to super-sized agencies. Freelancers may be an inexpensive resource, but they work in silos and can lack the crucial synergy that happens when writing and design teams collaborate—an essential element in the age of visual communication. Freelancers may also fall short on a proven process workflow that assures high quality work, and, typically, lack the business insurance against errors and omissions that companies producing content should maintain.

Large agencies and publishers require projects to pass through many layers of bureaucracy and often outsource their work to boutique-sized content providers … like Twirling Tiger Media. Super-sized agencies have a wide range of services—some that you may not need—but their overhead may be reflected in their pricing, and content creation is not their specialty (think writing mills … they’re out there).

From a project’s concept to deliverable, a content provider can offer a range of services that may include:

  • Buyer personas
  • Brand identity design (brand name, logos, style and visuals)
  • Competitive analyses
  • Consultative services
  • Content metrics
  • Content optimization
  • Content promotion
  • Content strategy
  • Copy editing
  • Editorial content
  • Graphic design and art direction
  • Market research
  • Organic search
  • Photography and illustration
  • SEO consulting
  • Strategic planning
  • Web design
  • Writing
  • And more (there’s always more!)

Turning your data into content that delivers value to prospective or returning customers is an art as much as a science. A content marketing partner can help you create an effective content strategy and program that includes any, or all, of these four core elements:

  • Objective. Decide how you’ll use content to grow your business.
  • Buyer personas. To whom are you marketing and selling? Your content should sound as if you’re writing to one person—your ideal customer.
  • Useful content. Compelling and cohesive content creates structure and develops trust. Based on your objectives and buyer personas, the content you offer might include articles, blog posts, case studies, e-books, infographics, leadership guides, newsletters, podcasts, PowerPoint presentations, social media, sponsored content, success stories, tutorials, videos, webinars, white papers and more.
  • Content distribution. Brands typically need to distribute content across a mix of platforms to grow their influence. Based on personas, determine the channels that will appeal to your audience. Consider owned, shared and paid media channels.

Carefully select the team of experts you want behind your projects as the depth of knowledge, tone and style that’s conveyed will shine through the content—whether good or bad. If done right, you’ll forge ahead with your content partner and meet your marketing goals with all of the refreshed creativity that collaborative efforts bring. Consider the following suggestions when choosing and onboarding a content partner.

Evaluating content providers:

  • What are their core capabilities, and do they align with your specific needs?
  • Do they have a proven and reliable workflow for projects?
  • What makes them unique from competitors?
  • What industries have they served?
  • Do they have the agility to present technically complex information to a range of audiences—from the tech fluent to the novice?
  • Can they execute on creating a unified brand identity through language and image style?
  • Can they easily work within your organization’s culture?

Best practices when collaborating with content providers:

  • Share your company’s style guide.
  • Share all of your content and indicate your likes and dislikes for the work that’s been done.
  • Share your competitors’ work and indicate your likes and dislikes for the work they’ve done.
  • Start with a few uncomplicated projects, such as blog posts.
  • Establish a project schedule with deadlines.
  • Follow a streamlined approval chain.
  • Provide concise instructions and expectations.
  • Offer detailed feedback when first drafts are submitted.
  • Invest in building long-term relationships.

A partnership with the right content provider can serve as an integral business collaboration that allows you to effectively meet your marketing goals.

—Maureen Joyce