First of all, product marketing content can be effectively outsourced. Many freelance contractors are able to understand your complex product and create critical content – from white papers to promotional collateral – to help drive sales.
Wait, you say, why not just hire another product marketer?
Two reasons: Outsourcing is cheaper and can produce more content. Most product marketers get drawn into so many meetings and outcomes with engineering and product management that writing falls by the wayside. This frustrates demand generation and the sales teams waiting for content.
A good product marketing contractor can focus on your content needs and create spectacular content without the disruptions that plague in-house product marketers. You just have to manage them effectively.
Read on for advice on how to work with contractors for mutually beneficial engagement.
Find a Great Marketing Contractor
Most businesses require product marketing writing experience in at least one of three areas:
- Expertise about their products (e.g. cybersecurity or supply chain management)
- Expertise in an industry (e.g. healthcare or manufacturing)
- Expertise in relation to a buying person (e.g. IT / CIO or Marketing / CMO)
Think about which of these are must and which are not, and contact your network. LinkedIn is a great tool for finding someone with the relevant experience. However, it can be more effective to make a detailed post and ask your network for an answer. Let them know what you're looking for and you'll be amazed at the options that pop up. You can also turn to investors. Most start-up investors have a good network of experts who have helped them in the past.
Note that I didn't mention any freelance websites or recruitment agencies. You can certainly try them out, but in my experience, more knowledgeable writers don't list themselves on these websites or with these agencies.
Give contract product marketers what they need to be successful
Before any job gets done, contract product marketers need to understand your brand and process, as well as who they will be working with.
What you will need:
- Brand guidelines. Point out problems that are rejected by higher authorities. Some companies are very sensitive to fonts or contractions or the use of serial commas (Oxford).
- Trademark templates. Good writers put the design first and write a copy that goes with your template. This saves a lot of time on layout and review cycles.
- Examples of what is good (or bad). Share your best and the worst and explain what makes them good and bad. This helps authors avoid mistakes that have already been made in-house.
- Introductions to designers and editors. Introduce your writers to the internal resources they will be working with and allow them to have a conversation about setting levels. Help them discuss the intricacies for more successful interactions. For example, a designer may prefer design notes that are included in a comment or highlighted in a specific color.
- Chat access. Things will run smoother (and faster) when writers are invited to your team chat for quick discussions and changes.
When assigning each asset or project, give authors the context they need to write successfully:
- Target group. Writers need to know which personas they are writing their piece for, and they should also understand the pain those personas feel.
- Purpose and promotion. Let the writers know how their assets are being used, where they live, and how they are being nurtured so that they understand the duration and purpose of their play.
- Access to subject matter experts (SMEs). If SMBs are needed, make sure the writers have a direct line to the appropriate and that you have their buy-in to be interviewed. SMEs tend to react more quickly to scheduled meetings with contractors and keep them more often than with internal employees.
- Outline and reference content. Your in-house SMBs should follow the right social channels, blogs, and publications to see the latest and greatest industry content. If there are references that should be used to develop the content, or should be referenced in a piece, or if they can help sketch a piece, you need to provide that information to the writer. This saves time and improves the result.
- Clear expectations. Communicate your expectations for each piece and process. Would you like to check an outline first? How long should the piece be? Do you expect ideas for graphics from the authors? All of this should be clearly conveyed to the writer before writing begins.
Invest in a long-term partnership
In the past, product marketing work has been outsourced on a project basis – such as a single white paper or a product launch – which is not very effective as each project requires a start-up time.
Plan a long-term relationship in which the Contract Product Marketing writer will be a valuable addition to your team. To start the relationship well, you can do the following:
- Give them a product demo.
- Present your go-to-market strategy.
- Explain how to run campaigns and explain the content hierarchy.
- Let the author speak to sellers and SMEs.
You should train contract writers like new hires, which means you will also need to invest time to help them improve and give them feedback so they can learn about your style and preferences. If you can do them a consistent job, do it to keep them happy and make sure they are more readily available to serve your needs rather than being busy with other customers.
A great project for a new product marketing writer is a case study. You benefit from customers being more willing to tell the truth when talking to third parties, and the writer benefits from hearing the value of your product firsthand.
Create a simple way to manage results
Not many people love managing contractors, but with a few simple tools, the task can be incredibly simple.
The first tool is a simple spreadsheet. It should include task, audience, due date, status (including reviews / changes), document links, and comments. Make sure it's up to date and that it's a shared document so you and your authors can always see where things are.
Set clear deadlines and expectations, and ask your contractors to check in with either a five-minute weekly phone call or a weekly email. Contractors should report on what they have been working on this week, how many hours they have spent, and what their plans are for the following week.
Protect your time
Product marketing contractors are more productive than internal product marketers because of meetings – or rather, because of the lack thereof. Giving your product marketing writers non-stop writing time is the key to great results. Of course, you need to hold some meetings to convey information your writers need, but they don't need to be in internal team meetings.
You are also the expert in your company's operations and must ensure that content reviews are conducted, interviews set up, and approvals completed. Getting contractors to wade through internal dynamics is a recipe for failure.
Ask for your input
You are not perfect Your contractors may have worked with many marketing departments and realized the good, bad, and ugly aspects of marketing. Don't miss out on this great opportunity to get an outside look at the way you work – your process, your output, your website, etc. You may find many opportunities to make improvements.