The number of search queries for the term 'content marketing' has more than doubled in the past two years, reflecting an obvious fact: despite the fact that content marketing isn't new, it's of increasing interest to a growing number of companies.

Just how much interest is there? According to research by the Custom Content Council and ContentWise, marketers are increasing how much of their budgets they devote to content marketing and all told, 79% of marketers report moving into branded content "at a moderate or aggressive pace."

They're not doing it alone, however. To scale their content marketing efforts, companies are increasingly finding ways to outsource associated tasks.

Time is money

According to the Custom Content Council and ContentWise, "Record high outsourcing dollars are being spent on external agencies such as custom publishers, PR/social media firms, design firms, ad agencies, and interactive agencies which are handling aspects of branded content." For companies that outsource, nearly $1m of the $1.72m being spent on average on content marketing is going to external vendors.

Which isn't surprising given that, for digital content marketing, over half (57%) of spending is tied to personnel costs. Time is money, and it's clear that many companies would rather spend money than internal staff time.

But just how wise is this?

Maximizing the content marketing opportunity

There is no doubt opportunity to outsource certain tasks associated with content marketing. But companies should think twice before going too far.

Outsourcing the development of content, for instance, is a tough proposition. After all, external vendors are far less likely to understand a client's business, and they're far less likely to have broad access to the knowledge that exists within the organization. That knowledge is absolutely crucial to maximizing the content marketing opportunity, as it will not only serve as the foundation for the type of high-quality content that produces results, it will inform what content is actually worth developing in the first place.

Even on the distribution side, companies should be cautious about how much they outsource. Although the Custom Content Council and ContentWise found that "66% -74% of content created for print, electronic and other marketing ends up being used in social media efforts," and many companies have agencies working on their behalf in the social realm, businesses might want to consider that who is delivering content can often matter just as much as what the content is. Employees with a social presence and 'thought leader' status can be powerful distribution assets for content marketing.

Move fast, but don't rush

At the end of the day, companies with an ROI case for content marketing should seek to move as fast as they can to take advantage of content marketing opportunities. But they don't want to rush. As with all marketing efforts, the name of the game is to move the needle, not to simply scale the marketing machine.

When outsourcing is employed to achieve the latter and not the former, it's time to take a step back.

Patricio Robles

Published 26 November, 2012 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

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Comments (11)

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James Carson

James Carson, Founder at Made From TwoSmall Business Multi-user

Great points... have thought about the pitfalls of outsourcing due to brand guidelines etc.

I guess content marketing agencies can contribute to content planning and strategy. Sure many will do the execution too, but there'll be many resources to tap inhouse.

over 5 years ago


Noah Lampert

Brands and businesses should only outsource content marketing if the companies or people they outsource to truly understand the brand or business.

There aren't any hard and fast rules for content marketing (outside of maybe making sure you aren't highlighting crappy content) so it really ends up coming down to whether content marketers "get" the brand their representing.

Content Marketing is now turning into a buzz word but there is a real strategy behind it. It (almost) goes without saying if analytics and measuring results aren't part of that strategy all content marketing efforts are for naught.

Nice post, I dig the site.

over 5 years ago


Ron Rodney

All good point and it's also worth pointing out a business should make sure the outsourcing firm give you credit for the articles by setting you up with a Google Authorship profile.

over 5 years ago


Tarun Satwani

As Google says,Content is the king & its really essential to market your content in a way which pushes your ROI upwards.Social Media Marketing sits at the center of any content marketing strategy.It all comes down to how you leverage SMM in your content strategy.

And so its really important that your outsourcing partner must be well versed with social platforms & its analytics & measurement.

Thanks Patricio for a real nice post.

over 5 years ago

Emma North

Emma North, Digital Marketing Executive at Koozai

Very valid points here. Agencies or other sources for content marketing should be considered a marketing partner, with a good working knowledge of the business and industry, something which can only be developed over time spent working with each other.

over 5 years ago

Ben Potter

Ben Potter, Director at Ben Potter - business development mentor

Good article.

I think the point you make about 'outsourcing content development being a tough proposition' is spot on. However, it not impossible. Fundamentally, it is about taking a slightly different view to the outsource vs in-house option. For me, there is a big middle ground where responsibilities are shared between agency and client in a highly collaborative way. For example, an agency may be able to bring to the table expertise, processes and templates for developing a content strategy/plan. However, the actual creation of content may be best delivered by the brand for the very reasons that you highlight with the agency providing support as required or brining in other partners where relevant.

In my view, nothing in digital marketing can be fully outsourced in the traditional sense. It is always a partnership between agency and client with shared responsibility from strategy through to execution.

The most forward thinking brands will therefore not be looking to outsource in full but instead lean on agencies to fill gaps in knowledge and resource.

over 5 years ago

Trisha Brandon

Trisha Brandon, Head of Content & Community at BLOOM Worldwide

Nice conversation starter with some good key points. For our clients, there is no one size fits all. But similar to Noah's point, I think content marketing efforts are most fruitful (and more broadly beneficial to cross-channel goals) the stronger the strategic foundation.

The client may have a solid strategy in place that an agency helps them scale. That can work fine, and often does. But where the agency is a strategic partner, filling gaps and bringing insights, learnings and best practices to the table, that's where an agency can give the most benefit to a brand.

over 5 years ago

Emily Hill

Emily Hill, CEO at Write My Site

Brands should certainly give some thought to their content strategies before they start looking for agency partners: at the very least they need to know who they're trying to reach and what they want to say. At that point, a content agency can be approached to help the brand decide on the best method(s) of communicating those messages. Depending on the brand in question, it might be best to outsource the entire process to an agency partner, or it might be possible for the agency and the in-house team to collaborate.

A close working relationship between a brand and its content partner is important, but we should also remember that the reason why the brand is considering outsourcing in the first place is to save time - so as far as possible the content partner should look to be thorough in gathering the initial brief, so that the client doesn't need to devote large amounts of time to the content strategy going forward.

over 5 years ago


Daisy Bono

Very meaty points. The massive majority of content marketing advice is all about the message and rightly so. However, people often overlook the importance of making your content as readable as possible. Ultimately, your content marketing needs to be read, in order for it to work and that’s what this post is all about!

over 5 years ago


Hector Hurtado

While all the points you make are perfectly valid in an ideal world, let us not overestimate the quality or expertise of in-house maketing. I jave consulted for clients who are leaders in their industry, but have no clue on how or why to structure a claim for the web. In such scenario, I am pretty sure outside help will provide a better service for your time, your reputation, and eventually your audience.

over 5 years ago


Lauren Valbert

I think the point made about "companies understanding their customers better than agencies can" is fallacious, in some cases. I have worked for plenty of companies where they struggle to understand their customers, and agencies or consultants can help them think from an outside point of view. Far too many companies sell from the inside out, and their content is focused on features, rather than what the customer actually cares about. Not all subject matter will live natively with the outside content creator, but they can take it the important next step, which is to make it relevant to target audiences.

over 5 years ago

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