When Is It A Good Idea To Outsource The Marketing Function

by Debra Andrews | May 13, 2011

At a quick glance, the word “outsourcing” sounds icky to me.  But, it’s actually a great thing for the right company.  Outsourcing, in many forms, gives small to mid-sized firms a level field to play with the big guys. 

How do you know when it’s a good idea to outsource?

As a marketer in a company that provides these services, you probably expect me to say outsourced marketing is the best idea ever and everyone should get on board.  The thing is, outsourced marketing is not necessarily for every firm.  As an outsourced provider, I would never want to push it on the wrong firm.  A client who is a wrong fit for outsourcing may not gain as much value from and that would not feel satisfying to me.

So what makes it a good fit?  There are many reasons aside from a company’s size to base the decision on whether to outsource, such as: goals, management style, company culture and resources.   Through my experiences as the one-and-only marketer in a mid-sized firm, and later as an outsourced marketer for a handful of firms, this is what I’ve learned… 

An ideal-fit firm would:

  • Not have all skill sets satisfied in house.  An effective marketing program uses many different skills from strategizing, technical and creative writing, graphic design, web programming, social media skills, as well as general organization and project management skills.  It’s a rare person who will possess these skills and be great at all of them.  A common problem for smaller firms is they can only pay a single full-time salary, but really need an entire staff.   An outsourced marketer has the flexibility to seek the best of all worlds—including strategic, creative, technical, and organizational talents and still save costs.     
  • Be open to an objective/outside viewpoint.  If you can’t see the forest for the trees, an outside marketing provider can serve as a resource for an objective perspective of your place in the market and use this to plan effective positioning and tactics.
  • Need help setting and achieving goals.  An outside firm is held accountable for the process and results.  They need to be sure the client —you— are satisfied.     
  • Want to be able to focus on their core business and developing a working partnership.  You’ll need to participate to some degree but we can take a whole lot off your plate. 
  • Be open to trying new tactics.  We are on the lookout for new, effective tactics that can provide more value to clients.  It’s great when clients are open to trying new things and often we find faster, easier, better ways of doing things when clients are open-minded.  
  • Be willing to participate in the process. You’ll still need to participate in the process.  After all, you are building the relationships, you are the thought leader in your space.
  • Understand that marketing is a process to achieve long-term goals.  Sure, there are some quick fixes to jumpstart a program, but in the big picture, successful marketing is about developing processes, credibility and relationships…there’s no magic potion.  It takes time and persistence.

To determine the right move for your business, start with an assessment of your firm’s current situation and where you would like to be.  Take a good look at your staff, their talents, experience and availability and the resources you would need to move your business on a path to better visibility, relationships and ultimately, growth. 

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