How to Scale Content Creation with the Team You Have Now
Can you keep up with the growing demand you are seeing for content creation? Whether you are a marketing firm working with external clients or a company that has internal content tasks, the fact that your work is growing is almost always a good thing. The only downside is that if you don’t have a plan in place to meet that growing demand, your business will likely suffer in the struggle to keep up and get the work done effectively.
While there may be numerous ways to achieve your goals, the overriding theme is efficiency. How are you going to get more work done in the same amount of time you spend working each week? Hire more people? That’s an obvious choice, but not always in the cards if you’re not financially ready to take on a new employee. Whether or not you can bring on more manpower, you will need to have specific processes in place to make sure you are utilizing your time, and the time of everyone involved, to maximum effect.
Will You Ride the Coming Wave of Content, or Will It Eat You Up?
Remove Avoidable Roadblocks
Since we’re looking to complete our work in an efficient manner, we want to make sure everyone involved in completing a project is on the same page.
In our case, we’re hired by other companies to help market their business. That presents some unique challenges not found in scenarios where you are part of a marketing department fulfilling internal projects. For starters, every new client we bring on has the potential to present:
- A new industry we aren’t familiar with
- Owners or employees who have their own personality traits we need to adjust to
- Owners or other decision makers who have their own set of expectations
And so on…
When you work in an internal marketing setting, as long as you don’t have high employee turnover, you should be able to familiarize yourself with your colleagues’ work style, personalities, strengths and weaknesses and at least have a comfort zone of knowing who and what you’re dealing with to achieve the goals you are tasked to do.
In our world, every new client is like starting all over again. Sure, it may present some difficulties, but if you have the right processes in place, those difficulties can either be minimized or avoided altogether.
When it comes to creating content for your client, whether it’s standard web pages (About Us, Contact Us, etc.) or ongoing blogs, you don’t want to end up rewriting content simply because you and the client were not on the same page.
Clients rejecting your work or requiring heavy edits isn’t just bad because it requires more time to fulfill the work. You’re also facing the possibility of an unhappy client, which has larger implications for your overall business.
So, it’s best to develop ideas in advance and then run these by your client for their input and approval. But before you even get to that point, consider developing a content questionnaire for clients to complete. Keep it short and sweet, since most business owners would rather be spending time on their business, not your paperwork.
The goal is to paint a picture that gives you a clear idea of what your client needs. Make sure you understand not only all of the services or products they offer, but which of these need to be focused on.
Additional questions you can include on your content questionnaire may be:
1. What sets them apart from the competition?
2. What tone do you prefer? Casual, formal, a little of both? (Give them examples, so they understand what you mean.)
3. For blog content, what topics do you prefer? (Some clients are easy going and will be happy to let you run with it (within reason, of course), while others will have very strong ideas of the kind of content they want on their website.
4. Are there subjects that are off limits? (Services they don’t offer, or just prefer to avoid covering.)
5. What questions or feedback do you get from customers? (There’s no more valuable insight than from the target audience!)
6. What website can we reference that are authorities in your field. (Sure, you could research this yourself, but your client may prefer specific websites. This will help educate you on the industry and get an idea of what your client deems important.)
There may be room for a few more questions, but this will give you a good idea of how your client will want you to approach their content.
Cut Down on Brainstorming Time
Once you get direct input from your client that gives you a better understanding of what to write about and how to do it, it’s time to dive in and get started. Unless it’s an industry you are intimately familiar with, you will likely have to spend some time brainstorming ideas.
It’s easy to fall into the habit of coming up with content ideas on the fly. The problem with that is you have to build “mental momentum” every time you create content. However, if you come up with a list of content ideas in advance, you’re not constantly behind the eight ball.
You’re not just saving yourself time in the creative process, when you have content ideas approved by the client in advance, you can rest a little easier knowing they are on board for some time. If you have a six month contract with your client, map out all your content in advance. It’s better this way, because you’re approaching it with a big picture content strategy rather than week-to-week, plus knowing you have the ideas approved and out of the way will certainly lower the stress levels and make for smoother sailing.
You don’t have to go it alone. If you have a team directly involved in coming up with topics, that will certainly be a bonus. Regardless, there are tools at your disposal that will not only make the topic generating process easier, you will be coming up with ideas knowing they are tailored to your target audience.
- Reference your clients’ Google Analytics to see what past blogs have performed well. Chances are if their past content struck a chord with their audience, related topics have a good chance of sparking their interest as well. Discover those related topics with free web-based tools like Ubersuggest.org and Google’s Keyword Tool.
- Social sharing is the ultimate evidence for the public’s approval for content. You can discover what people love to share in your specific niche with social sharing data from sites like Social Crawlytics and Buzz Sumo. Both can help you identify topics that are interesting to your target audience, by showing you the number of shares a specific piece of content has gotten across the major social media sites. That’s just the tip of the iceberg of why these tools are amazing.
Get Expert Content from the Client
Again, you shouldn’t think you’re in this on your own. Your client is the expert and you should be tapping into that expertise when needed by having them contribute content. This can be a delicate balance, because some clients just don’t have the time or even want to be involved. Get a feel for how open they are to contributing content and utilize their time accordingly.
The value goes beyond making sure you are doing the content right. In most cases, when you’re creating a blog, infographic, or some other piece of content, you will likely need their input to create high level content. It depends on their industry. I’ve spent many years in the diet and fitness niche, so I could create most of that content with little to no input (unless they had specific ideas and direction). However, if I’m working with a client that is an engineering firm, you bet I will need not just their input, but as much as they are able and willing to contribute.
Now, for an important aspect to all of this that must not be overlooked. Your client should never feel they are doing the work they hired you to do. Communicate what you need from them, why you need it, and how it will ultimately benefit them and their company.
The benefits are twofold. The client’s involvement helps make the content creation process faster (or at least lightens the burden), plus the end product will be more sophisticated. In some instances, it may be best for the client to create a piece of content completely on their own. Even then, you should still contribute on some level. That may mean providing the topic ideas based on your industry research. It may be just a matter of simple copy editing.
Subcontracting Content Creation (The Right Way)
Depending on how overwhelmed you are with content needs, you may need external help. With low to moderate volume, you may just need a freelancer to help with a few occasional pieces. On the other hand, you may need a much larger scale fulfillment solution, which may mean a content creation service. They are certainly not created equal, so do your due diligence and don’t settle in either case.
- Find writers (or a content service) that will produce content with minimal (or no) editing needed. They need to meet (or beat) deadlines. These are common sense principles, but in your rush to find a solution, you may not vet them as well as you should.
- If you have multiple freelance writers who help on an ongoing basis, consider content specialties for each. If you’re still in the market, find writers with niche expertise and/or an interest in specific industries. This makes for better content and a quicker turnaround.
- On a related note, consider assigning specific clients to each writer. Not only will they feel more comfortable building a familiarity with the topics, it may make writing quicker as they get used to their specific niche and needs.
- Freelancers will likely never have contact with your clients, so they will never have quite the level of understanding you have. That’s why it’s so important to give them the tools they need to deliver content that will pass muster. If they are being asked to come up with topic ideas, share some of the aforementioned web-based tools. Make sure they understand your clients’ needs, expectations and personality.
When your workload starts to grow and maybe feel a little overwhelming, it’s time to work smarter, not harder. Being prepared and preparing your team and clients will make keeping up with your growing work an achievable goal.