Digital marketers today have more to juggle than ever before. It's not longer about simply managing digital marketing efforts; digital has grown to require channel and campaign-specific expertise.
One of the specific growth strategies I've been forced to improve upon is content marketing. When done right, content marketing can deliver a steady stream of qualified visits and drive sustainable growth. For this reason, content marketing should be a focus of every digital marketing strategy.
The problem is that it takes time to learn the tricks of the trade, and even more so, it takes time to design campaigns and manage them. Plus, if your campaigns are doing well, other areas will soon require more of your attention (and more of your time), forcing you to delegate and outsource your content production.
While most CMOs realize they should be investing in content marketing, many don't know where to start or how to execute a comprehensive strategy with an internal team. Outsourcing content creation through freelancers and influencers can create a winning two-pronged strategy, and produce high-quality content for potential customers.
Create a Comprehensive Content Strategy
Poor planning won't lead to positive results. Brainstorm potential topics and then research customer interest in these topics. For each potential topic, decide to pursue it or remove it from the plan based on potential opportunity.
You can research search volumes for related keywords in Google AdWords planner (or on another keyword planning tool) or search Quora for questions related to your topic. Focus on those with multiple answers and high view counts.
You can also run a Google search and look at the first few results pages, which are great for content strategy decision making. For less competitive results (links to articles, lower quality domains returned, and ads displayed are great signals), consider creating a content map leveraging internal assets. For competitive results (homepages and product pages, high ad density) consider working with an influencer for creation and publishing.
Find Content Creators Based on Their Digital Footprint
Think of your potential creators in two buckets: influencers and ghostwriters.
When done right, working with influencers gives you instant access to your target audience. The best way to find influencers who can connect you to the right audience is from the content level up (beware of influencer agencies and marketplaces for this reason). To do this, run a Google (or YouTube or Instagram) search for your topics and look for content that returns high in results and/or has a large amount of social engagement.
You now have a list of people with instant access to an audience for a topic as well as a proven content creator, leading to maximum ROI for your influencer campaign. Since you are leveraging influencers for their audience, this content should be thought of as an external asset hosted by the influencer.
Ghostwriters can help you build your internal brand content. Marketplaces are a fine starting place for those us who are low on time and plan to add value to the draft before publishing.
Many authors of the content you find from a Google search for your topic are willing to flush out your content plan as a ghostwriter. This content doesn't have a built-in audience, so it requires promotional effort to get it in front of your customers (paid ads, sending to email list, etc.). You will figure this out during your influencer outreach.
Another helpful (and free) tool I've been using is Lumanu, which automatically pulls content engagement and influencer insights.
Build Relationships and Reach Out to Content Creators
Working with an influencer starts with building a digital relationship. Understand who they are, what they write about, and connect with them on social media before reaching out. Once you are ready to email, you can find contact information through blog posts, via the Email Hunter Chrome extension on LinkedIn, or often on personal websites. These people receive countless pitches, so be sure to send a thoughtful draft.
Freelancer/ghostwriter outreach has the potential to be more transactional, and can be streamlined by sending along as much upfront research as possible with your ask. Including a clear topic, keywords, word count, images, and scope of research will streamline the process and result in far less back-and-forth.
This is a critical step that we often see fall flat. Make sure your results tracking is in line with your campaign goals (email list sign ups, purchases, etc.) and you have mechanisms in place to track. Do you need a special coupon code for the influencer article? Should you specify custom URL parameters for any links? Does your company have an external social tracking tool (for mentions/shares/comments) in place as needed?
Pour creative energy into your research process and design a solid strategy. Use the process outlined above to identify the digital footprints of content producers in your niche (or who are at least capable of writing for your audience). Get to work building relationships. Track your progress. Iterate as needed and try to stick to your strategy before creating benchmarks to gauge your impact.
Nick Eubanks is a Partner at TrafficSafetyStore.com, America's #1 e-commerce website for traffic safety products, and the Founder of I'm From The Future, a marketing technology consulting agency based in Philadelphia, PA.