Aderson Oliveira: I've spoken with Kristjan Raude about outsourcing content creation like articles, blog posts, videos, and what to do to select the right partner to help you on that. He also spoke about the fact that content marketing is about talking to your clients, to your audience, and not necessarily talking to your peers. Such an important lesson. In the end, he shared a horror story about selecting the wrong marketing automation tool, and I went on a big rant.
Hello, hello, Aderson Oliveira here. This is another interview for the OuchSourcing Podcast, where I talk to specialists, to business owners, to agency owners about the outsourcing process, and what to do and what not to do when you are outsourcing a project. Today, I have with me, Kristjan Raude. I hope that I got that right. He is the CEO of WSI Online from Estonia. Kristjan, thank you very much for being here. Welcome.
Kristjan Raude: Thank you, Aderson. Thank you for inviting me.
Aderson: Kristjan, first question. How does outsourcing relate to your business?
Kristjan: As a CEO of digital marketing, my job is to find the right people, put them into the right seats with the right mindsets, and to do the right things, and to provide all the necessary tools, and also for them to deliver the service to our end clients. Saying that, outsourcing is definitely part of our business. I'd say we outsource some of the activities, but let's say 80, 90 percent, maybe, we actually do in-house because we see that, like this, we create the most value to our customers. But, there are some certain areas where we see that it's better to outsource because of our customers and because of also our own business model.
Aderson: Let's get down to more specifics here. What do you outsource? Can you outline some of the services you look for outsourcing partners?
Kristjan: Sure. Like I said, we try to keep it in-house as much as possible as needed. But, more or less, like I said, 80, 90 percent work that we deliver what we do in-house. If we're talking about mostly what we outsource is softwares, definitely, content, different content, text, video, for example, and also we outsource paid media, and by paid media, I mean Facebook ads, Google ads, etcetera, because you can do these things in a very different level, but we prefer to choose a relevant partner to deliver high quality.
Aderson: Let's talk a little bit about content outsourcing, and for me to ask that, I need to probe you a little bit on your business there. Are your clients mostly from Estonia or are they all over the place? Tell me a little bit about that.
Kristjan: Today, yes, our business model is focused more in Estonia market, but actually, if you look already, then you'd say 30, 40 percent from our revenue coming from activities outside of Estonia. So, other clients who are outside of Estonia are part of clients who are located in Estonia, but we help them to export the service of products outside of Estonia.
Aderson: Because you have a mix of local Estonia and outside of Estonia as well, I can only imagine that when you outsource content, you outsource content locally as well as globally? Can you talk a little bit about that?
Kristjan: That's a long story.
Aderson: Okay, so let's start.
Kristjan: If you look at content as content marketing, then this is basic, this is the fundamental of basically every move that you do in digital marketing. If today, for example, inbound marketing, it's built up on content. If you take, for example, marketing automation, it's content. If you take, for example, lead generation, it's, more or less, content offering. If you take video, what we are doing right now, this is also content. So, content is definitely a basic pillar of our services, what we deliver. But, saying that, why are we also outsourcing that? Why are we not doing 100% in-house? It's because of our client's needs.
For example, one copywriter, if we look at content as text, and one copywriter can be okay or very good for one client, and for another client, it just doesn't match, is it the writing style, is it the understanding of the business, understanding of the industry. So, that's why we need also outsourced copy partners. Are they freelancers, are they agencies, companies? Actually, this doesn't matter so much.
Aderson: But, going back to my point here of where do you outsource that to. Do you do it locally or globally, your content outsourcing?
Kristjan: We do it globally. Just giving you, for example, is that, of course, globally, if we want to produce Estonia language content, there is not so much of global marketplaces where we can hire freelancers to do that. So, we need to have local contractors and freelancers. But, for example, if I'm talking about Estonia companies, or companies, as a client, who we are also enrolled, then definitely, some of them have a Finnish market as a target market, Swedish, Norwegian, or is it the U.S. as well, UK as well. So, these definitely, we cannot deliver in-house, the content. So, we need to have the content partners, let's say, worldwide, to really provide the good quality service for our customers.
Aderson: When you're talking about locally, sourcing locally, how do you go about that? Is there a marketplace that you can say that, "Only give me Estonians"? How do you go about sourcing those?
Kristjan: I'm dreaming of that. So, if someone wants to have a good business idea, and thinks that Estonia is a big market enough to make them, I will be your first client. But, no, that's through referrals, through word-of-mouth, through just finding a good journalist or copywriters who know what they're doing. Because, you know, copywriting and copywriting can be two totally different things.
Just to give you an example, if you give me a choice where I need to choose one copywriter, for example, who has a degree in journalism, for example, and another copywriter who has a degree in marketing, but has self-learned a journalist or fellow rookie as on top of that, then I will go for the second one.
Aderson: Because it seems that it's one key outsourcing piece of your business, let's explore more the content outsourcing here. How do you go about evaluating a good copywriter? How do you go about doing that?
Kristjan: That's a tough question. I don't have a clear answer for that.
Aderson: I guess, let's translate that into how do you figure that out? Is that when you give the content to you client and they say, "This is BS," or, "I love this"? Is that when you know that someone is good or bad?
Kristjan: That is already too late.
Aderson: I get it.
Kristjan: What you want to do is definitely, you will send them, for example, a test work where we can find out about their style of writing, for example, and then, of course, if that is okay, then you definitely want to try to make the interview as a person, because sometimes we also need to send our partners to our clients, for example. So, we definitely want to make sure that everything is like it should be. It's a test work and it's an interview, but it's only for the text. So, if you give them a picture or a video, for example, then you need to have also some portfolio.
Aderson: Let me tell you this, a short story here. I was evaluating a content writer a few months ago, and because I'm not a writer myself, I find myself just saying -- I look at two different styles and I said, "It seems that I like this one better here," but just a gut feeling. It was just more of a gut feeling than anything else. Do you have people, I guess, in your team, or maybe yourself as well, that can truly evaluate, "This is good writing, and this is bad writing"? Do you have someone that does the check for you on that?
Kristjan: Yes, yes. We have the head of copywriting we have in-house. We'd never send out any piece of content without reading it ourselves.
Aderson: But, I would assume that you're the editor there. If you are dealing with different languages there, unless he knows the different language as well, otherwise it gets harder too. So, how do you handle content on different languages there which you may or may not have in-house people to be able to handle that? How does it work? Tell me.
Kristjan: I can also put one layer on top of that is the different industries. Because, for example, if you want me to write about curtains, or latest fashion trends, then sorry I'm not the guy. It's also in terms of industries. But, to answer your question is that if it's a foreign language, then we definitely can leverage some platforms. What I have also a kind of project manager, proofreader, or it doesn't matter what we call it, to really check the local language, for example, for us. Definitely, by industry, the client is actually on top of the game. So, if a client says yes, it's yes. If a client says no, it's no.
But, here I'm going to maybe point out one thing, which sometimes our clients maybe misunderstand. It's also maybe we had some also flaws or lessons learned is that, normally, if we provide a piece of content to our client, then it can happen that a client tells it's not too specific, it's too broad, it's too general, it's too marketing. It's not specifically for our industry. But, the point is what we must understand is that if I want to market, for example, car mechanics or a repair shop, then the purpose of the content should be for the average person to really go for that service, not an expert to go to that service.
Some piece of content is not for a competitor to qualify you as a competitor or not. It's for an end consumer, who is actually maybe less educated in your field than your competitor. So, you need to always think about your bio personal, and about your end clients, and about their knowledge about your interests.
For example, we also make a blog about digital marketing, and if I really start to write a high-quality, very, very high, very specific content there, and actually, I think the only broad readers which I have is competitors, more or less, or digital marketing edges us, not my clients, as CIO's or CMO's, because they don't understand this language. You need to always keep the balance between what you want to tell, and what actually your audience want to read or listen.
Aderson: I think this is a great, great point, Kristjan, and here's why. It's because, as experts, and your clients, they are experts on whatever they are doing. You're saying repair shop, mechanics, so they are experts on those fields, and they tend to think that they need to impress or to have content for the people in the industry to look at that, and to say, "Wow, these guys, they know what they are doing." But, it's not. As you said, you're not writing to your peers; you're writing to your audience.
But, again, that's a hard concept to come up with, and I'll even go a little bit further. I don't want to talk too much because it's your time, but it's a great point because people stop second-guessing themselves about pushing content because they want to impress their peers, and they don't think about their audience will be buying from them, consuming from them. So, how do you break that mindset of your clients there, which as you said, you have some clients that have that mindset. How do you break that?
Kristjan: Well, it's tough. We have some clients who don't accept it to the end. At the end of the day, it's their show, of course, and we can only advise them how to make it better. Let's say an average project, what we are doing, if we're starting a long-term cooperation with our clients, normally, it takes, let's say, one to three months before we, as an agency, start to really understand about their business more in details, in depth, and they will start to understand that, okay, this content is not for our peers. This content is more for my bio personals, for my audience, and I need to educate them, and education can be in a different level. Is it only an awareness phase, is it a consideration phase, which is more in detail, or is it also already a decision phase, which is just give me some hard facts and I will go through it?
Aderson: Let's talk a little bit about some of the common problems that you come across when you are dealing with content outsourcing. Can you mention a few of the common problems and things that people should look out when they are outsourcing content?
Kristjan: Sure. If you're looking for a content partner, definitely, you want to test them first before you will sign anything or you will order your first job from them. So, definitely, test. Because, if the client is a tester, or testing this, then it's too late already, then you can lose your reputation or your face. Then, what I can more point out, you need to understand and you need to make sure that the copywriter, if we're talking about the text, is the copywriter understanding your client's business, or your business, if your outsourcing is a business. If they don't understand it, it's very hard to write a good piece of content, or make a good movie, or video, or picture. So, they need to really understand it. Of course, the best case is they need to love it, but that's really a best one.
Aderson: When you say they need to understand, how do you make them understand? Is that they have a meeting together with you and the client, the client has to fill out forms, to detail what they want? Tell me a little bit about the process that you go through to make the partner, the content writer understand your clients. Tell me a little bit about that.
Kristjan: If we are talking about, again, the copywriting, and text as a content format, then definitely we ask a lot of questions before our cooperation. For example, the audience, the bio personals, the channels, what they use, their best practices before, and so on. So, based on that, where you can start profiling our customer's customer, and based on that, the copywriter can write better-engaged content for the customer. As well, there are interviews, there is workshops, there is many different things.
We don't have any, let's say, particular process because clients are different, people are different. But, more or less, what I can also point out is we're also due for a sample keyword analysis. So, we've been talking about content for digital marketing purpose, and definitely content can be as a part of journalist as classical, and the second can be also as search engine optimization booster. We want to mix them together so it's also content taken as classical PR activity, plus content as a piece of SEO booster, search engine optimization booster.
To do that, we also make, for example, keyword analysis. Analyze which keywords, how they rank, what their search volume is, etcetera, and based on that, we can also, actually provide various lead sites to the copywriter: here are the topics, here are the keywords, this is the client audience, all that.
Aderson: Let's talk a little now about the frequency. When you are engaged with one of your clients, do you recommend a certain frequency of posting of article, or do you have a mix of, "Okay, let's go weekly, let's go monthly, and then let's have one-offs as well." How do you work scheduling on the content side?
Kristjan: Monthly, we recommend all bases to our minimum two blog posts per month. I think that's a minimum. One blog post a month, too little. There is no consistent flow, and your audience will definitely forget you. Every month, they have a nice surprise that, "Oh, you're still there." So, minimum, two times per month. If we're talking about our paid media, outsourcing of paid media, for example, ads, then this is totally different stuff. Is it campaign-based? For example, is that around the campaign, and the campaign lasts two weeks, that's it, and the second types of the clients is, let's say, a long-term non-ending lead generation model for our customer.
Aderson: You mentioned that not only you do written content, but also video and images. Can you talk a little bit about that, because of course, for those types of mediums: video and imaging, you may not be working with the same copywriters. You might be working with other professionals. So, can you talk a little bit about, let's say, the video side? What do you do for your clients in terms of video?
Kristjan: Definitely, the text as a format is the easiest to make, to publish, to create. The video is definitely the hardest because it takes copywriting, it takes video, it takes, also, post-production. There is a lot of nuances what you need to care about. If we see today's trend, if we see how Facebook, how YouTube is pushing video as a content, up front, then we cannot tell that let's go only for text and you're sure you are fine for the next five years. No, this, we cannot do.
Aderson: What are these styles of videos that you produce?
Kristjan: There are, for example, product videos, service videos, brand images, brand videos, there is also interview forms, there is also only for advertising purpose videos. So, depending on what are the goals for a campaign, or what are the marketing goals in general, based on that, we create a content strategy, and one piece of content strategy can be also videos.
For example, with one client, we start bi-weekly webinars, or let's say news shows where she just stands up and tells about interests in her field. I don't know how it's going to be, because it will be in the future. But, I can come back to that and share that experience.
Aderson: Is there a video scenario that you actually send a crew of people to record on your clients' office? Is there a scenario like that?
Kristjan: We don't have any video team in-house. We have video project manager, always creative in video side, and always master of taking all these video projects all together. But, here, we also outsource the video given to us, while experience, we send that to the client space, and they will make everything what's needed there.
Aderson: You mentioned yourself that there are a lot of moving parts when you are dealing with video that there's copywriting there in other elements as well. How do you go about getting all the different elements that will compose a video? Is that the job of your video manager?
Kristjan: Yes. I want to mention here one very important thing is that we are talking about content, and the video, and the text, and so on. That's very important. That's the basic for digital marketing, more or less. But, we should not focus too much on creating content. We should focus twice as much to digital that, to market that. Because, for example, you will put a lot of dollars, a lot of euros under creating a good video piece, and nobody's watching it, then it's a waste of money. So, my recommendation to others, if you're planning to do a video, or if you're planning to do a blog, or it doesn't matter which is content, think about the content, but think more about where and how your discipline is.
Aderson: Makes perfect sense, because again, as you said, if there's nobody watching that, what is the point? If there is nobody reading that article, what's the point?
Kristjan: It's only good when your coworker made it.
Aderson: I get it, I get it. In one of the ways, Kristjan, that I think that us as business owners, and people in general, learn, is through mistakes, through problems, and I can only imagine you have nine years of running your business, and I can only imagine that you had a lot of problems, mistakes, horror stories, as I like to put them. Is there anything related to outsourcing of an outsourcing partner, maybe a copywriter, maybe related to video that didn't work out that well, and what were the lessons learned from that? Are you able to share anything specific? Of course, without mentioning names, but just some specifics that we can learn something about it.
Kristjan: Yeah. During the last decade, there is a lot of lessons learned. Luckily, I don't keep a list of all our failures. Maybe I should, but let me think. The only thing, my job is to run the business and to see if everything works well. So, I am not the specialist in everything, and that means that, sometimes, it is very hard to make decisions which is right or which is wrong, which is good or which is bad. So, I definitely need, sometimes, help from outside to make decisions about choosing the right copywriter, choosing the right partner for certain activities.
I think this is a challenge, and I have locked myself with that one. Luckily, I'm also learning a little bit in a daily basis. So, definitely, don't be afraid to ask for advice, to ask for help. Even if you don't have a good friend who is an expert or has good knowledge about the stuff that you're doing, you can shout out to Facebook groups, or LinkedIn groups. There is a lot of public channels what you can actually crowdsource your opinion regarding one party or another party.
Maybe a good example will be not in copywriting, or not in paid media, or video, but it's maybe choosing the right technology partner. Because, choosing the right technology is also kind of outsourcing, in my opinion. Currently, there are 5,000 different marketing technology companies in the world, 5,000. Now, if you can imagine them, I think you don't have so much time to go through all these 5,000 and look for a best one for your business.
Every month, I try something new, of course, but the biggest failure was that I chose one platform, what we started to use ourselves, and then I think it took six months to implement that on our business, and it took, I think, my personal time, it took maybe two or three hundred hours to dig deeper, to find all the possibilities for what we can have it, etcetera, etcetera. Then, after these six months, more or less, we also started to offer this to our customers. Because, first we test for ourselves, then we start to offer it if it's okay.
What happened was there was some nuances regarding the pricing and regarding the limits what we didn't clarify to the end. So, what happened was that I think our client used this platform for three to six months, and then the surprises started to come, and it was not a good situation for our client, and of course, as us as well. Luckily, we still have this client. We are in a different platform today, but it was a lot of pain, a lot of extra hours, a lot of extra effort what we need to put into this project to really save it from the worst things.
Aderson: In the end, did you move to another platform? Did you stay with the platform?
Kristjan: No, we didn't stay with the platform. We moved to another platform.
Aderson: I'm going to share -- you're right. Hiring a platform, having a platform is a sort of an outsourcing. You're correct, and I can share that. There is one platform out there that I don't like, and I can openly share that I don't like Infusionsoft. I don't like that. I mean, I had a bad experience with them. They have a high learning curve, I had a lot of hassle to cancel them. So, I shared my platform, my horror story. Are you able to share the name of your platform? Are you comfortable sharing that?
Kristjan: Yeah. I think I will leave it as it is, because this is one of the top platforms, and it's interesting in its niche. So, I don't want to. Maybe, one day, I will share it.
Aderson: No problem. But, in my case, whenever I have the opportunity to share about my bad experience of Infusionsoft, I share that because they treated me like garbage. So, I hate Infusionsoft. I will never do business again with Infusionsoft in my life. I am not ashamed of saying that. Anyway, that's my rant. Sorry about that. Sorry. It's not about me; it's about you, Kristjan. But, I had to get this out, and as much as possible, I do that. When you started talking, I said, "You know what? Maybe it's Infusionsoft." Who knows? You don't want to mention; that's fine.
Kristjan: But, I can tell you it's the same niche platform.
Aderson: It's the same niche, okay. Perfect. So, guys, be careful when you are choosing your platform for marketing automation, for CRM, because you're going to be investing a lot of time, there is usually a steep learning curve, and if you make a bad decision there, again, you will be paying the price for months and months. It took me a long time before I had the courage to discontinue Infusionsoft because of the time that I had invested on that tool, and I'm sensing, Chris, that's more or less the same kind of situation that you have here.
Aderson: Perfect. Great to rant. Great to be able to rant a little bit. Kristjan, we are coming towards the end here. Is there anything in particular about outsourcing or dealing with partners that you'd like people that come across this video to leave this conversation knowing more about and being more mindful about? Is there one thing that you want to leave here, this conversation, leave us with?
Kristjan: I think you definitely need to outsource some stuff, and again, if you're talking about the technology point of view, then this is also kind of outsourcing, and technology, there is no point to create the technology only for your company, of course, if you are not Microsoft or Apple.
Definitely, try outsourcing, try different activities. I can only talk about marketing activities, more or less, and try to think about outsourcing -- try to outsource the activities what is, in the future, maybe a commodity. So, what you can take piece by piece, or what you can take results-based, or what you can take in a meaningful measure rates-based. So, the strategy, the account management as a marketing agency, or let's say project management, basically it's hard to outsource, because that means a lot of hassle in between.
But, if you split your activities in, let's say, pieces, and if you say that, "Hey, I need four blog posts per month, maybe this I can outsource." Of course, it's a little bit of a learning curve, as always, but if you look at it at a different angle that you as a business, for example let's say you have a business, you have a car dealership business, and then the outsourcing means also if you outsource your marketing activities.
So, should I hire CMO or marketing specialist in-house, or should I outsource marketing activities from, for example, marketing agencies? Now, there is different opportunities, of course. In-house, definitely, maybe a most secured way of doing that. But, at the same time, don't forget that people are moving, and if they're moving, they will take the knowledge, the know-how, and they're stepping out of the door. So, think about that.
Comparing, for example, to find a freelancer, if you're a small business, or to find the agency, if you're a little bit of maybe a bigger business, have a bigger marketing budget. Because, if you find a good agency, if you find a good marketing partner, if you find a good copywriting partner, then actually, they are much more modulated to work for you comparing the employee, maybe, within your own stuff. Think about also long term, and think about, also, motivation of outsourcer.
Aderson: As you say, to add to that, the outsourcer, the partner there, they will be much more focused and much more specialized than you can ever be. If you get to your example there, your clients, they're not focused on marketing. They're focused on whatever their specialty is. So, they outsource marketing to you. As a consequence, you also outsource content creation to somebody else who's much more specialized on the delivery boat of that service or that product, correct?
Kristjan: Correct. Same for the accounting services. I mean, that's a very regular standard to outsource accounting services.
Aderson: That will be the topic of a future interview. It's outsourcing accounting. Kristjan, thank you very much for your time here. Before I let you go, I just want you to give you the opportunity to hook up your company, plug your company, how can people reach out to you, what can you offer from your organization? Talk a little bit about that.
Kristjan: Sure. Long story short, if you want to know more about me as a person, then I'm quite active in social media. So, you can follow me or contact me on LinkedIn. I will accept that. Also, Easter army is also one of my favorite channels, so I'm also quite active there as well. Regarding my business, wsionline.ee. There, you can choose English as a language. There, you can find everything about all the services, etcetera. More or less, we have full service digital marketing agency, and together, we have a partner, we can basically serve a full spectrum of the client life cycle from the top to the bottom, starting from strategy, website, lead generation, sales generation, and ending up as a client, lifetime client.
Then, actually, the latest project that I maybe want to promote the most is the video show called IMPACT 80/20. There, I will also interview interesting business persons, and also marketing executors, and I will try to find out what are they 20% of the activities, what makes 80% of the results. So, I have a pretty strong lineup already, and you should have all the videos today and also in the future on a YouTube channel. So, if you go to YouTube, just type in IMPACT 80/20, or you can also it at impact8020.com. They will find also all the episodes that I put out. I think if you just check these episodes, check this video show, give me a short feedback, that would be excellent.
Aderson: Perfect. Kristjan, I'm looking forward to checking out your episodes. As usual, all the links mentioned here will be posted in the show notes. That's really about it. Kristjan, thank you very much. All the best, and good luck to your new show, and I would love to share that with people as well. Good luck with that, thanks very much, and talk to you soon. Bye.
Kristjan: Thank you, Aderson. Bye.