If you’re a startup, rolling out a new service offering, or an organization wanting to build an inbound marketing funnel you may be struggling with the decision of whether or not to build an internal marketing team or outsource to a third party agency.
Outsourcing marketing operations isn’t always the right solution for every organization. If you’re a C-level executive or senior member of your organization, you must first determine if outsourcing is a valid option for you. If you think this is solely based on the size of your organization, think again.
Here are a four instances when it may be a good idea for your business to look into outsourcing your marketing needs:
1. When you don’t have a marketing background or lack expertise
To build an internal team you must first know what positions need to be filled, have the ability to attract the highest quality professionals and select the correct candidates to fill those positions.
One of the common misconceived assumptions I have seen is the “I can find one marketer that can do it all” mentality. This could not be any more unrealistic. It will take a team of people to plan and execute inbound marketing campaigns and the success of the campaigns hinge on you selecting the correct people. You’ll need marketing strategists, marketing managers, content writers, designers, developers, a video crew, etc. — roles that cannot be effectively fulfilled by one person.
Here is an example: you run across a web developer who also happens to know how to operate the Adobe design suite and you are thinking, “SCORE! I can get two for one!” I know from experience it is highly likely, if not almost certain, that they will not be great at both.
An A+ designer is creative, visually stimulated and is primarily interested in how things look and feel. They think like an artist. An A+ developer is the exact opposite of that, they are highly analytical problem solvers and enjoy staring at lines of code for hours on end. They think similar to an engineer. Most of them only put up with the design aspects because they worked at companies that forced them to learn it.
There are many situations like this that a Chief Marketing Officer will know from experience and utilize when building his internal team. Without industry knowledge you will most likely have a learning curve and make some mistakes when creating your internal team.
2. When you’re busy and have limited time
It takes time to hire and manage an internal team on your own. To do this efficiently you will need to build systems to manage their work and the ability to communicate with them on their level — requiring a good comprehension of various expertise so you can properly oversee the work being done. Most likely, this endeavor would take reading a few marketing books around the specific strategies you will be pursuing as well as implementing a project management methodology or system.
You’ll need a project management system because you have limited time to oversee the project and campaigns have many moving parts completed by different people that all come together for the campaign to be successful.
For our inbound marketing agency, we use the Agile/SCRUM project management methodology and keep track of each task using a project management software. Each morning we run “check-ins” where each team member states what work they have previously completed, what they will be working on for the day, and if they are being “blocked” from completing the task by any event or individual. This keeps the campaign running smoothly, transparently, and keeps things from falling through the cracks.
Working with a marketing agency that already has specialized manpower and project management systems in place takes much less time, effort, and reduces your chances of failure. You can focus on working with them on creating and refining strategies as opposed to wasting your time with tedious tasks to build a team that may cycle out or may not be as effective as you want them to be.
3. When you do not have the budget to hire an internal team
Effective internal teams need to be experienced because you will not be training them. They will need to be able to work in a somewhat independent fashion and environment where they will not have a senior person above them to reach out to when they get stuck or don’t have a solution for a situation.
“To build an effective internal marketing team, you’ll need to hire staff with at least over 5 years of experience who preferably had leadership roles. This puts each hire at the upper end of their pay range. Even with a small team this can easily put you over $200K in salaries a year very quickly.”
Generally, hiring an agency will be less expensive than building an internal team. A marketing agency will have everything you need — from strategists, to marketers, to writers, designers, developers, etc. Not to mention, hiring marketing agencies who specialize in your industry will most likely have a better edge, familiarity, and skills to help you win against your competition.
4. When you have a trusted internal admin or assistant who can facilitate communications and have some authority to make minor decisions
If you already have an internal marketing administrator or even personal assistant, outsourcing will be a good solution to consider. Instead of spending time and resources building an entire marketing team that you’ll have to train and oversee, you can task your marketing manager or assistant to be in-charge of co-strategizing and facilitating communications between your company and a marketing agency.
There will be small tasks, general information gathering, and other communications with an agency that will need your involvement. Instead of worrying about these minor tasks, you can focus on the bigger picture such as the strategy and let your internal employee handle them. They can act as the point of contact and handle much of the communications and interactions with the agency. This will allow you to focus on what you do best and maximize the investment you are making in your internal marketing admin/assistant.
Who To Outsource To And Respective Challenges
Specialized Marketing Agencies
Specialized marketing agencies are the perfect fit for B2B organizations. Not only do they have expertise, familiarity, and skills needed for successfully marketing in your specific industry, but the good ones will have a proven track record. They understand the nuances of marketing in your industry and will most likely have an already proven process and strategy in place to keep you at the top.
General Marketing Agencies
General marketing agencies are more suited for smaller B2C organizations. Since they generalize, they are likely to have little to no specific industry or market knowledge and will apply general strategies to all their clients’ uniformity and learn what works by trial and error.
Overseas talent teams
Overseas talent teams can be tricky to manage. You’ll need an internal manager who can rise above the language barrier or any communication issue that may occur. There will also be time difference to overcome and it is very likely that they lack in-depth market knowledge and culture familiarity to be effective.
Managing An Outsourced Team: The Pitfalls And How You Can Offset Them
As with any external involvement, there are common challenges to an outsourcing relationship. It’s best to take the time to understand and address these challenges with the marketing agency of your choice beforehand. The common challenges are:
Poor Project Management
Make sure your outsourced agency is using a project management methodology and that you understand it on your end. It can be waterfall, Agile/SCRUM or something else. Whatever they may be using, make sure they do have one in place and that you understand what their process is like. This will improve their efficiency, make sure tasks get accomplished on time and increase the success rate of your camping.
Ideally they should be using a software that manages the tasks and progress of the project and you should have access. This will allow you to easily keep track of progress and reduce the amount of your valuable time spent on oversight and management.
Believing you do not have to participate
Outsourcing will drastically reduce the amount of time and effort needed on your end to be successful with your organization’s marketing. While it frees up your time, it will not completely eliminate effort on your end.
In the beginning, engaging in the transfer of information from your organization to the agency of your choice is key to success. You will need to provide them with information they request and connect them to resources as they perform research and plan marketing campaigns. I would estimate 6-10 hour per month of your or your admin’s time depending on the size and scope of your camping.
Accountability and Transparency
There is often a misconception that when it comes to accountability and transparency, it is the outsourced marketing agency’s responsibility alone to do so. For a meaningful, advantageous, and truly successful outsourcing relationship, it is important for your organization to be just as transparent and accountable for your end of responsibilities.
You should be clear about your expectations, decisions, and any other issues that should be communicated to your agency. You must also try your best to deliver tasks that need your input or participation in a timely manner. If you are expecting delays or are being blocked from delivering these items, make it known to your agency so they can move on to other tasks temporarily or find an alternative solution for what’s needed.
As far as holding the marketing agency you’re working for accountable, make it a point to meet periodically for the purpose of planning and going over reports. In our inbound marketing agency, we meet at the beginning of the month with our clients to go over monthly plans and talk about the results or progress of recent campaigns.
Ideally, you should get the following reports regularly to hold your marketing agency accountable, understand where the campaign is heading, what is working, as well as what needs to be adjusted. Doing so will help you identify and address any items that may be impeding success.
Tracking Closed Sales
Closing the loop in marketing and sales is key to measuring success. You do not only want to track the “Leads” that are being generated but also the leads that are converting into sales. This will allow you to measure a true ROI and allow the marketing team to truly understand when they are winning. Your agency should connect your CRM to your marketing platform to easily keep track of this data.
Your agency should have a monthly call dedicated to the review of what they are doing and the results of the campaign. You will have other communications with them throughout the month, but assigning one meeting to performance and reporting will keep you both focused on the end goal.
In my humble option, outsourcing your marketing to a specialized marketing agency is ultimately a simpler and more rewarding undertaking than building a full internal marketing team from scratch. A good outsourcing partner will reduce your risk of failure, reduce cost and require less of your time.