Choosing a Content Services Partner

Today, more and more companies invest in a content management system (CMS), and for good reason. In a world of e-commerce and Big Data, a CMS is crucial to a company’s survival.

Managing product information for web and print is a never-ending task. Some companies integrate the CMS into their everyday processes without a hitch. For others, the ability to utilize the CMS effectively becomes overwhelming. The reasons why vary.

Often the problem is a resistance to change. We’ve all heard the excuse “but we’ve always done things this way”, right?

Or the hurdle is finding ways to adapt workflows and processes around the CMS.

And so often the dilemma is a matter of resources. The internal team, possibly downsized over time, simply does not have the time to handle its existing workload and the demands of a CMS system.

Companies in these predicaments can turn to an outside content services provider for help. But what makes a good content partner? In my view, the answer is a partner who can make your life easier, deliver a quality product and help you to save money.

A lot of content firms talk the talk, but do they have the ability to walk the walk? These are points to consider when evaluating a potential content partner:

Experience. How long has the provider been in business? Who are their clients, and what kind of content work have they done?

CMS Knowledge. Is the provider familiar with your CMS product? Have they worked in any CMS at all?

Subject Matter Knowledge. Has the provider worked with other companies in your industry? Do they know your products? While not critical, having a provider who understands your business and markets is an advantage. For example, if you are a distributor of industrial supplies, it helps to partner with a provider who has written about shop safety products, tools, electrical equipment, and so forth.

Accountability. Can the provider demonstrate how it has taken charge of an account, followed directions and run with the project, assuring that all deliverables are met in the given timeframes?

Quality. Does the provider produce work that meets or exceeds your expectations?

Versatility. Does the provider simply write content, or can they do more? The ideal content partner can handle every aspect of content — from writing and editing to critically analyzing content, restructuring, and performing content migration tasks and possibly to catalog production work.

Value. A bona fide content partner is worth more than the cost of their services. Such a provider becomes a trusted extension of your internal team.

Before you go all-in with a content partner, think about testing them with a small project to see how they perform.

Some Thoughts about Offshoring

A few years ago, overseas providers lured many U.S. companies by offering content services at half the cost of domestic providers. Managers thought, “Wow, I can get twice the output for my dollar.” And so offshoring became the rage, and many marcomm departments shrunk as work was outsourced.

It sounded too good to be true, and it was. In time, these same managers discovered problems with the offshoring model, such as:

  • Inability to effectively communicate and explain directions or give guidance directly in real time
  • Cultural differences in written English
  • Overall quality of the provider’s delivered content, which required significant editing or rewriting by the internal team

In the end, companies found themselves spending the expected savings on “babysitting” the offshore provider.  This isn’t to suggest that offshore companies don’t offer legitimate services — but be careful about what role you ask them to fill.

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