I’ve partnered with close to a hundred companies in the last decade, and these are some common traps that I see solo in-house marketers and tiny in-house teams run into when they need to hire agencies, consultants, and freelancers as they scale up.
PROBLEM: Trying to create thought leadership content out of thin area
Way too many marketing teams just summarize and report on the top 10 articles on a topic and call it thought leadership. Real thought leadership has to have a strong POV and some originality nugget.
Instead, hire great thinkers and interviewers, who can write. Compelling thought leadership content is all about the quality of your ideas and thoughts. The best insights will come from actual interviews they do not from Google research. That’s why your biggest advantage is to hire ex-journalists like me 😉.
PROBLEM: Keeping strategy and writing in siloes
There is a 99% chance you are investing in writing to grow your business. You don’t need someone simply to write words. You need to hire a strategist who can write. Subtle but huge difference.
You don’t need more freelance writers or marketing generalists. You need marketing strategists who can write especially if the company is doing less than $10M ARR. This will save you so much time when it comes to content briefs, outlines, and editing.
In fact, when you work with marketing strategists who can write (like me!), they become partners instead of order takers. For instance, I take the lead on onboarding myself, diving into customer/product research and creating content briefs, which can save you a boatload of time.
PROBLEM: Focusing on the craft of writing instead of business goals
You’re not trying to win a Pulitzer here. You are leveraging content marketing for your business. This means the quality of your ideas, having a POV, and establishing you understand and can help your ICP is 100x more important. In fact, if the quality of your thinking and ideas is strong enough, it will mask mediocre writing.
Here is a simple tip to figure out when a post is ready. Define what done is at the beginning, and then hit publish. It is easy to get stuck fine-tuning a piece for days if not weeks. However, when you are producing content for business results, there is a real cost for every day that you spend revising it.
PROBLEM: Hiring an agency that Can’t execute
You need a strategy to give you focus and direction. However, focusing too much on strategy before you execute on anything is a red flag and a form of procrastinating. You are losing money.
Work with contractors and agencies who are results-focused. Many agencies, in particular, are great at talking the talk but fall woefully short in execution. For instance, the sign of a great marketing partner is someone who spends no more than a month getting up to speed and creating a MVP strategy and then immediately starts executing. This matters because even the smartest marketing strategy isn’t going to be perfect. The fastest you can start executing, the faster you’ll learn what works. You can use that to refine your strategy and process moving forward.
Hint: you can find a unicorn who can market and write, like me 😉.
PROBLEM: THINKING YOU CAN CREATE CONTENT THAT CONVERTS WITH ONLY AI TOOLS
Replacing some or all of your content marketing team with AI tools might sound like a great cost-saving measure. However, AI content isn’t a competitive advantage when anyone can do it. Because anyone can use these tools, it is now the lowest barrier entry for “acceptable content.” If you want your brand’s content to have reach and resonance, you need to build trust and connect with your ideal customers. AI tools are designed to spit out “facts” and “informational content.” It is 10x copycat content that lacks context and nuance.
Don’t try to outsource your thinking to AI tools. Remember: the content that converts the best is about your ideas and thinking not just your words. That’s why AI tools work best when they are just one part of your process not the entire process.
PROBLEM: HIRING JUNIOR MARKETING GENERALISTS OR WRITERS BECAUSE THEY ARE CHEAPER
Yes, it might cost less than a mid-tier or senior marketing strategist with subject matter expertise but it is going to cost a lot more in the long term in managing, coaching, and editing costs.
Instead, hire the most experienced person or agency you can afford – No matter how many times you’ll hear this advice from me and others. It is hard to fully grasp why until you go the cheap route once or twice.
PROBLEM: LEANING TOO MUCH ON ASYNC COMMUNICATION
Keeping everything to text threads in email, project management software, Google docs and Slack is efficient but if that’s your only way of communication, you are missing an opportunity to get more out of everyone you work with.
Try to meet with anyone you work with at least once a month. For instance, I love communicating through Slack and project management software. However, meeting somewhat regularly is not only important for relationship building but it also means you communicate the full context and get in front of potential issues before they snowball.
From chatting with clients on a daily basis, these are some of the biggest traps I see small marketing teams make.
If you are struggling with anything that I shared above or if you are just looking for advice, I’m happy to help anytime. Let’s chat.