I’m a strong believer that marketing is an integral part of product and company strategy. Therefore, it can’t be done by agencies or third parties. I don’t believe someone else can write our posts, manage our blog or plan our campaigns. That is why we try to outsource any generic task. I want my marketing team to focus on creating unique content and ideas, rather than working on tasks that don’t require knowledge of our product/domain. Our average monthly outsourcing budget is around $300. It enables us to publish more posts, create better content and increase our conversation rate. Here are the top tasks we outsource and best practices for doing it:
Research based posts generate more traffic. Use oDesk for the research
When I planned our blog strategy, I researched many different blogs to understand which kind of content becomes viral and attracts a large number of readers. One of the most popular content types was research – interesting data backed by numbers and facts. Posts like:
- We Analyzed 30,000 GitHub Projects – Here Are The Top 100 Libraries (link) (48,000 unique visitors)
- The Dark Science Of Naming Your Post: Based On Studying 100 Blogs (link) (12,000 unique visitors)
- The Anatomy of a Great Stack Overflow Question (link) (11,000 unique visitors)
Such posts tend to become viral and receive lots of referral links. To generate this kind of content, you usually need to sort and analyze data for a few days or write a script to do so. We managed the research in-house for the first data-based posts and then started outsourcing the research. Once you have a solid idea for a post and detailed instructions as to how to analyze the data, you’ll be able to get great results for a relatively low cost in a few days. Note that we used outsourcing just for the research itself; one of our team members was in charge of planning the research, double-checking the results and writing the post.
Cost: $50 – 150 ($100+ if you’d like someone to write a script to analyze results or pull data).
Where: We use oDesk for these tasks. Elance is also a good option (usually, costs a bit more).
Tip: the key to getting high-quality data is writing a super-detailed description. My main criterion when we need to choose whether or not to outsource a task is how easily it can be explained.
Here’s a sample description for our oDesk offers:
Using Fiverr to step up your content:
Fiverr can get marketers into shopping mode easily. Click on the “Online marketing” category to discover thousands of gigs to boost your product for just $5 – from SEO optimization to creating graphic content for your posts. The downside: unlike oDesk where you define the task, Fiverr works the other way around: you choose among a variety of existing “gigs.” The upside is that, well, it’s only $5, and you can order multiple gigs from various sellers for a few dozen dollars.
Some gig types worth knowing about:
- Voiceovers – they can ramp up any video or screencast. Around $5 for 1-min or 100 words. Some recommended narrators we have worked with: Rever B.Domina (link) and Lucky Sean (link)
- Adding custom graphic or illustration to your posts – you can find hundreds of illustrators here: www.fiverr.com/categories/graphics-design , another option is using cartoons: http://www.fiverr.com/categories/graphics-design/create-cartoon-caricatures
- WordPress customization – setting up a new WordPress site, creating custom elements, fixing CSS problems and typing your content into WordPress: http://www.fiverr.com/search/gigs
- Creative presentations of your logo – there are hundreds of gigs which offer to draw your logo in any way you can think of: written on a coffee cup, painted on a body or 3D-animated. This can work great for blog posts and creative landing pages.
Martijn Oud covers another seven gigs for in-house marketing teams – link
Creating ‘ultimate lists’
One of my favorite content types is lists. I’m not referring to “5 ways to ….,” but rather to research-based lists with dozens of items. It can be tools or apps for a certain purpose, recommended blogs, tutorials, websites, etc.
Here are a few great examples, you can also notice these posts got great traction:
50 marketing blogs you should read every day (link)
53+ free images sources for your blog and social media posts (link)
The 32 best photo apps (link)
Note that long lists usually work much better than short ones. “40 tools to…” will likely perform better than “7 tools to…”. These posts also have a great SEO potential and tend to rank high for the list’s keyword. The main ingredient in creating this content is research: you’ll have to go over a few hundreds websites to compose your list. We outsource part of this research and, by doing that, are able to create more valuable content. For example, we outsourced a project looking for all the Java/ Scala/ DevOps events in 2014 to produce – java2014.org. The cost was $100. As in any task you outsource, you’ll need to work on a very detailed description, and after getting the results – edit and filter it.
Building external projects, like a calculator, a game or a calendar, is an amazing marketing tool. A few examples from Takipi include the Stackifier (link), which helps developers clean their logs, and the Java/ Scala calendars, which offer interactive calendars with the events for this month (link). Since these projects are usually well defined, don’t involve the main product and are fairly easy to develop, they are a perfect fit for outsourcing.
Where: We usually outsource such projects to oDesk. One of the developers on our team helps me write the offer and works with the freelance we hire.
How much: around $100-300.
Creating the right landing page for each ad or referral link can dramatically impact the conversation rate. Landing pages are also a great way to A/B test different messages or campaigns. One the main bottlenecks in our team are dev resources. Much like mini-projects, landing pages are not a part of the main website, so outsourcing them doesn’t risk breaking the company’s site or slowing it down. That means they’re perfect for outsourcing. We tend to keep the design in-house and outsource the HTML implementation. You can check out this landing page or this one for examples. We also use these services for implementing newsletters.
There are hundreds of websites which offer to convert any design to an HTML file. Here is a great list of 20 recommended websites. The minimum cost for the first page is around $49, and any additional page is about 60% the price; the turnaround time is 1-2 days. We worked with HTML Angels a few times and got great results.
Three more tips
When working with a new freelancer, try to split the project into a few small chunks. Once you have a $20-50 chuck, it’s much easier to assign it to 2-3 different freelancers and, based on the outcome, decide whom you’d like to complete the project with.
Give oDesk’s freelancers more credit. We started using oDesk less than a year ago. Our assumption was that our assignments were too complex for oDesk. We were wrong. One of the freelancers we worked with is one of the top 10 StackOverflow users (highest reputation). If you’re able to define the task well and have the right budget, there is a good chance you’ll get a great result.
Another great use of outsourcing marketplaces, similar to the examples I covered before, is product research. What is the usage pattern of your most engaged users? Which users are most likely to try out a new feature? How long does it take for a new feature to be adopted by most of the users? There are countless important product questions which require manual research or sheer data. With a limited budget of a few dozen dollars, it’s possible to get accurate answers to these questions without using your valuable in-house resources.
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