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Million-Dollar Content Marketing QuestionNo product was ever more content marketed than content marketing itself. And it worked. Marketers are diving in.

But the ideas that spawned the discipline that created the movement also generated a pile-up of content marketing suppliers, and it’s still growing like topsy.

With supply evolving so rapidly, how are marketers to choose a content marketing partner?

That’s the million-dollar content marketing question.

First a little back-of-the-napkin math:

Econsultancy & Outbrain report that 90% of marketers believe content marketing will become more important this year. That equates to 24,555,812 marketers*.

Most will outsource work to a partner. Now, number out of the air, let’s say an average yearly spend is $50,000. That adds up to, approximately, a gazillion dollars of content marketing work. No wonder the content space is going bananas.

Just last year:

2013’s likely to be just as lively on this front. The purists who debate whether outsourcing content marketing at all is advisable are becoming fewer and fewer; everyone else is headed to market for help with content marketing strategy, execution, analytics and management.

They’re wise to. Content marketing is very effective, but the talents are acquired, and absent from many organizations. And like sister discipline social media marketing, it’s labour-intensive. Great on-strategy eBooks, infographics and blog posts don’t make themselves.

And the content marketing supply side

Fortunately a whole ecosystem of suppliers is rising to the challenge. Today nary an agency, publisher or freelancer can be found without a service called content or inbound on its website.

I suspect marketers are of two minds in how to approach this market:

  1. “Hey, my existing agency/partner now does content marketing too. Let’s do this thing!”
  2. “This content marketing thing requires a rethink. What are my options?”

As everyone on the supply side of content marketing services scrambles for that gazillion dollars, they’re determined to influence how marketers make their choices.

The video production companies are writing thought leadership articles about the value of video in content marketing. Infographics specialists, on infographics. Bloggers, on great blog posts. You know the drill.

Some of this content from content marketing specialists is really to the benefit of the companies and marketing managers who want to do content marketing, and do it right. But it’s still just content. There’s a significant distance between learning some principles and techniques, and applying them well.

Great execution of content marketing (from strategy soup to tone of voice nuts) is something that just about every organization is going to grope towards, learning one lesson after another, with varying degrees of pain.

Some truly critical skills will only come from experience. For example, no thought leader can answer these questions for you out of a box:

  • How do the different flavors of content marketing strategy, from one partner to the next, taste different?
  • What partner’s going to give me the most bang for my buck in a given range of executions (video, eBook, white paper, podcast, etc.)?
  • What does good look like for our company? Is our content marketing success of the minor, or major, kind?

Would that they could.

There is no IBM of content marketing partners (so safe that you can’t be fired for choosing them). There is no Google with 90% market share.

There is only a vast and growing field of practitioners each with a mixed bag of tricks and talents, a unique take on how content marketing works best and lots of experience or little. LUMAscape, eat your heart out.

Working the Content Marketing Spectrum

It’s with humility at the scale of the task that we tried to create an infographic that helps marketers approach the content market.

As one of the hues in the spectrum of content marketing partners, we feel we’re best served when clients make good decisions, decisions that fit their circumstances and when their expectations are most likely to be fulfilled.

The price ranges are rough estimates, the lists the most comprehensive available and the archetypes drawn from experience. It’s a tool. Use it, and hopefully, you’ll profit by it, and by content marketing (sooner rather than later).

Content Marketing Spectrum

We’re eager to provide as accurate a “spectrum” as we can over time. If you want to provide structured feedback (to price, or experience), use our little Google Form. If you want to provide unstructured feedback, then comment.

* So that’s a total BS number, but it’s probably just as good a guess as yours.

Ryan Skinner

Published 18 January, 2013 by Ryan Skinner

Ryan Skinner is AD at B2B marketing agency Velocity and a contributor to Econsultancy. You can follow Ryan on Twitter or Google+

4 more posts from this author

Comments (5)


Paul Keers

Can I suggest a glance at my piece for the Content Marketing Association on Coca-Cola's awful attempt at content marketing, which reinforces your argument about shoddy execution?


almost 4 years ago


Tom Albrighton, Digital and SEO copywriter at ABC Copywriting

Disclosure: I am a freelance copywriter.

The section of your infographic on freelancers says:

'Like a no-named diner on the side of the highway – can be great, can be otherwise. Take it or leave it. Always full of surprises.
Found: Elance, Odesk’

Last point first: no-one on this site should need to use an intermediary like Elance. Go on the web and use your search skills to find a freelancer directly. Cut out the middleman and benefit.

These days, there’s no reason why using a freelancer should be like pulling into a ‘no-named diner’ – unless the average diner usually has a website with a client list, testimonials and writing samples plus a LinkedIn profile featuring third-party endorsements.

‘Can be great, can be otherwise’ applies to any provider at any level and is subjective in any case.

‘Always full of surprises’ – no, not at all. There may be teething troubles in the early stages, but that applies to any buyer–supplier relationship. Over time, freelancers build a strong, empathic relationship with their clients built on mutual trust and understanding, in which there are very few surprises. Choose an agency and you may never speak to your writer (who may be a freelancer in any case), plus your contact can change at any time.

The throwaway phrase ‘take it or leave it’ implies risk for the buyer and is unfairly dismissive.

The key limitations of freelancers are capacity and breadth of capability, not quality or consistency. Saying so would have helped the credibility of your infographic. Instead, your content unfairly reinforces prejudices about freelancers being flaky and unreliable.

As elsewhere in the infographic, you use humour to try and disarm the criticism that the material is self-promotional, which it transparently is. It would have been nice if you could promote your services without whaling on the little guy.

almost 4 years ago

Ryan Skinner

Ryan Skinner, AD at Velocity

Paul: Good points. I wonder who Coca-Cola worked with on Journey, and whether their partner dared to ask them some critical questions that might have prevented the Coca-Cola salad dressing.

Tom: Your points are taken. I love freelancers and have hired and worked with over a hundred. And still I'm usually surprised by them in so many ways - both for good and for bad. I think that's a common buyer's perspective. But when you find a great one (which I'm sure you are) then you pull them to you as tight as you can. And, though you can Google just about anything, I wanted to provide users with a more focused list of content freelancers. If you know of a better one than Elance or Odesk, please share.

almost 4 years ago

Nathan Levi

Nathan Levi, Head of Performance Marketing at TotallyMoney.comSmall Business Multi-user

I really like this article. I think another very important question is 'how can we effective measure success' in this space. I recently wrote on this very topic in The Make Good http://the-makegood.com/2013/01/17/content-marketing-and-the-measurement-conundrum/

almost 4 years ago


Nick Stamoulis

"There’s a significant distance between learning some principles and techniques, and applying them well."

That's why I feel like companies should look for partners that practice what they preach. Does your content marketing provider actually DO content marketing for themselves and do it well?

almost 4 years ago

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