Superpath’s job board was one of the first places I looked when I decided to transition from freelancing to a full-time content marketing role. In a meta-reality moment, I applied to be the Content and Community Manager for Superpath, a company that advocates for content marketers.
Fast-forward two months, I got the job—making me the company’s first full-time hire. It was no small decision to hire a full-time content role first. Jimmy Daly, Co-founder and CEO, wanted content strategy and content creation to be core competencies of the team. Hiring a Content and Community Manager spoke to the core belief that content should be done in-house to build a strong reputation for the brand.
Though Superpath will potentially scale content with freelancers later on, having an in-house content manager helps lay the foundation for a strong library of content. It’s important for Superpath to “walk the walk, not just talk the talk” as a company that understands content and executes it well.
We’re not saying your core competencies have to be related to content creation, but rather that you should think strategically about which skills you’ll build in-house and which you’ll hire external vendors for. If you’re at the point where you need to choose whether to hire or outsource for certain skills, this article will help you decide which route to take.
Ask yourself, what will move the needle? Content strategy should always be connected to business strategy and work with sales. Even in the same industry like SaaS, content teams have different beliefs on how content should be done.
Your product’s price point is one factor that should influence these core beliefs. For example, let’s say you have a freemium product that needs a high volume of customers. You can’t afford to spend weeks on individual pieces of content–you just need too much of it. SEO and content strategists would make more sense as core competency roles in this case.
On the other hand, you can spend more time on individual pieces of content if you’re selling a high-price point product with a high-touch sales process. White papers, case studies, and thought leadership content will help build trust with your audience. So, hiring a dedicated in-house content manager and writer may be better core competency roles.
If you have a few core competencies in mind, ranking their priority will help you decide which roles you should hire in-house and which to delegate to vendors. For example, do you have the budget to hire a Head of Content, Conversion Rate Optimization Specialist, and SEO Strategist? If not, which roles and skills are most important at this moment?
From social media marketing to backlink building, there are many core competencies content teams need to develop. We propose hiring in-house for one or two important ones, depending on your team’s budget, then hiring vendors to manage the rest.
For example, a team may decide to hire a Content Marketing Manager to focus on content strategy and content creation, then hire vendors to work on building backlinks, conducting outreach, and expanding content production.
Vendors can help fill in knowledge gaps or increase a team’s capacity. With SEO, most people on content teams know the basics–like tracking and understanding analytics, localization, keyword research, and best practices. Even so, hiring an SEO Specialist or using an agency can increase capacity, give a third-party opinion, and help with site auditing.
For example, when Lisa Banks, Chief Content Strategist at SaaSpirin, was working as the content lead at an accounting software company, her team decided to hire an SEO consulting firm. The firm was tasked with helping to increase organic search visibility, run campaigns, and perform keyword research—which was quite complex given the industry.
Even though Lisa was knowledgeable about SEO, hiring a consultant to do the SEO heavy-lifting gave the marketing team time to focus on other core competencies.
At Superpath, the core belief that creating strong content should be a core competency led Jimmy to hire a Content Manager. However, many content teams prefer to hire an agency for content creation if there’s a more critical core competency, such as SEO.
In Superpath’s case, content strategy is looped in with the Content Manager role since it’s a leaner team, but other teams may outsource strategy to an agency.
External writers can also help add subject matter expertise, especially in more technical industries like AI or IT. They can also help a campaign scale with a large volume of content.
For example, at an SEO company Lisa previously worked at, they decided to hire writers with subject matter expertise. This made sense since the content was in the legal space, and they needed lawyers to do the writing.
“We wanted to find someone to hold that role and be available to us, even though we couldn’t bring them on full-time. If you’re missing a skill and it’s crucial, you’ll want to find a way to bring it on part-time or in some fashion,” she says.
While most content teams would love to have a dedicated editor to review their writing, editing often gets combined with the Head of Content role. Editing is rarely a core competency for companies with content libraries of less than a few hundred articles—the budget just doesn’t allow it.
The exception would be publications with hundreds to thousands of articles—they have a bigger need for editing to be a core competency. These companies usually hire a full-time person for the role. Smaller companies typically hire a vendor to help with copyediting and proofreading.
Once content has been planned, written, and published, it’s time to distribute! While a content team may be able to write simple social media posts when new content is published, a distribution strategy requires unique skills and knowledge.
Hiring a social media marketing agency or full-time person can make sense when a content team wants better (and faster) results from distribution channels like LinkedIn and Twitter.
Another side of distribution is link building. While some of your team members may know about link building, hiring a link-building agency or full-time outreach person will yield better results. Getting your brand mentioned in industry-relevant publications helps increase recognition and authority and improves the overall SEO strength of your site.
Knowing how to communicate with journalists and potential partners during outreach is a unique skill set that not every content team will have. A dedicated backlink strategy will also require several hours of pitching journalists and partners each week.
Last but not least is conversion rate optimization.
For general SaaS businesses, Madhav Bhandari, SaaS Marketing Coach and Former Head of Marketing at Bonsai, Hubstaff, and Close, says he would hire a conversion-focused marketer to optimize content pieces for conversions, manage email communication and focus on the free to paid funnel. He says he would also heavily rely on an SEO strategist to scale organic growth and a Head of Content for content creation.
Content teams are generally lean operations tasked with a lot. Content creation is just the beginning. There’s strategy, SEO, maybe a splash of design work, plus website hygiene and even brand guidelines. When deciding what your areas of genius will be for your content team, thinking about your core beliefs (or what skills and types of content will get the results you want) will help with the build vs. buy dilemma.
For example, if you believe creating thought-leadership content in your industry will help move the needle the most, double down on content creation. On the other hand, if you believe what your sales team needs is volume, hire an SEO specialist to build a solid strategy.
Once your team has a clear vision, it’ll be much easier to get vendors involved in the process to handle things you can’t build in-house. With priorities in place, you’ll be able to see where you need external support—whether that’s to expand capabilities or fill an expertise gap.