Outsourcing various activities has grown in the last decade. According to recent statistics, over two million jobs were outsourced in 2013. More importantly, 43% of the IT sector and 38% of research and development was outsourced.
Research, strategy and market analysis are ingredients of marketing. Accordingly, an increasing number of small companies prefer to outsource marketing, too. There are a number of different reasons why companies choose outsourcing marketing activities. The following scenarios may work:
- You are a small company and you cannot yet afford to have a marketing team
- You are a small company and your marketing team lacks specific skill-set and experience
- You are a company that needs outside opinion on or advice for what you do
- You are a company that deals with a specific project and you need extra assistance to handle that project
- You are a company that has past failures and realizes it needs fresh new approaches for success
Some marketing activities that you can consider for outsourcing are the following:
- Strategy analysis
- Slogans and taglines
- Product naming/branding
- Email campaigns
- Blogging and Copywriting
- Electronic newsletters
- Social Media Management
- Creative photo, audio and video services
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Different projects require different sets of marketing activities. For example, a startup may have its own copywriters and Social Media Marketing (SMM) specialists, hence they may only outsource photo, audio and video services from time to time. You are free to outsource only a part of activities offered by a marketing company.
Businesses that have never outsourced marketing functions sometimes doubt the reliability of such an option. Based on my experience, I would strongly recommend outsourcing at least some marketing activities. However, I will now put aside my own preferences and will try to provide you with several pros and cons of outsourcing marketing activities as objectively as I can.
Pros of outsourcing marketing activities
You get experts in your team
You can either choose the everyday technology or the latest one. What will work best for you? Of course, the latest technology will provide you with wider opportunities. High-end professionals are the people who make use of the latest technology for marketing solutions. Hence, outsourcing to a marketing agency means that you are engaging a team of experts into your business.
Good specialists know how to implement newer strategies into the market as they have access to the latest tool packages to coordinate the process. For example, you may have a good writer in your team; however, an expert content writer who can generate a top-notch, SEO friendly and a well-researched article may be way more useful for your project.
Note that outsourcing is skill-set plus experience. While some may argue that a small company can also have high-end professionals, outsourcing will provide you not only with experts possessing the skill-set needed for your business, but also the experience that small company in-house marketers may lack.
You can expect high-quality results
With a marketing agency, you can expect the best results possible. And it's not only about the expertise and the wide skill-set that their specialists possess; it's also about their strong motivation to please the client. All good marketing agencies know that they can easily be replaced by better ones. Hence, most often than not, they are quality-oriented.
Outsourcing helps cut costs
According to the U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, salaries usually account for nearly 70% of an employee's wage package. The remaining 30% includes the taxes and the benefits. Outsourcing a marketing firm will give you the opportunity of saving those 30%.
A long term outsourcing relationship with a marketing agency may be more effective for you than keeping a full time team of employees. This will also provide you with the flexibility to pay only for what you need.
For example, corporate bloggers and content writers charge a certain amount of money per article/post. If you need, say, 15 articles and 500 sharings in social media this month only, you will pay the content writer and the link building specialist once and that's all. If you are not planning to post that many articles and to make that many sharings for the next month, then you will not have to pay anyone anything. Things will be different with employees who must be paid regardless you need 15 or 5 blog posts per month.
Less management, more output
As a startup, you typically fight for survival for the first 3 years of your business in 90% of cases. Hence, you need to focus more on what you offer as a product or service and leave marketing and similar stuff to people who are already experienced in it. Besides, by outsourcing marketing activities you free yourself from such managerial headaches as arranging day-offs, documenting sick days and fires, dealing with vacations, increasing employee motivation and so on.
Let us not forget about space availability. By outsourcing, you get more space in the office both physically and figuratively. For example, you can outsource overseas digital marketing and let your marketing department do the market analysis part only.
Outsiders are more objective than in-house employees
Outsiders almost always offer a fresh new perspective to the things you do. They are more objective than the insiders are and, accordingly, they may suggest more constructive criticism.
Outsourcing triggers more collaboration
Outsourced marketers will need answers to different project and company-related questions. Hence, several departments or team members will be involved in the question and answer sessions. Such sessions will increase the amount of collaboration between the departments and the teams within your company. Startups, where everything is newly established and where people hardly know each other, will benefit from such collaboration the most.
Cons of outsourcing marketing activities
I would rather call these risks of not choosing the right agency or the right marketers. Let us just look at several things that may hinder your outsourcing experience as a small business.
Risk of hiring incompetent marketers
As a small business, you need to be 100% sure that the marketing agency you choose is one of the best in the sphere. You had better spend some time on generating criteria to select the right professionals, rather than hire non-professionals.
It may be easy to find a marketing agency, but without criteria to choose the right one, you risk to hire people who never meet deadlines or who fail to complete the assignments at all.
Risk of ruining your company reputation
Losing company reputation or jeopardizing relationship with customers is another problem you may encounter when outsourcing several marketing activities. Certain marketing tasks require direct communication between marketers and customers. If the marketers you hire are not trained enough to meet the customers’ expectations, then they may ruin the relationship between your company and your customers. Having alienated customers is not the best thing for a business, especially a small one. Hence, if you want outsourcing marketing activities to work for you, you just need to find the balance between outsourcing and in-house marketing.
Outside marketers may not be easily accessible
This is another risk for small businesses who are outsourcing marketing activities. Your employees are constantly under your watch. This means that they are more reachable than people who are not in the office. However, this point has been argued upon rather frequently, as some managers say they do manage to contact any outsourced specialist whenever they need to. Well, this is a thing that depends both on the project manager and on the marketer being outsourced. Some project managers and marketers manage to discuss things either via email, Skype or project management software. You just need to choose a person who is ready to document progress all the time, from anywhere.
Outsiders may care less for your business
This point is arguable, too. One view suggests that outside marketers may not know as much about your business as in-house specialists do. Also, they may not care as much for the company as the insiders do. Hence, outside marketers may view your assignment as just a task that should be completed carefully and on time, nothing more. Accordingly, outside marketers may not be as enthusiastic about the growth and prosperity of your business as your employees. You pay these people for specific tasks; hence, they may not feel as a part of your company. While in-house marketers might feel more connected to your business and may be more eager to serve it well.
After looking at the pros and cons of outsourcing marketing activities for a small business, let us enumerate things that you should or should not outsource:
Things you should outsource:
- Important marketing activities that may support your business and that require specific skill-set, experience, newest technologies and fresh methods
- Activities that can be performed off site (overseas outsourcing)
- Short term activities that cost less with outsourcing than with hiring an employee
Things you should NOT outsource:
- Core competences i.e. core services you offer to the customers. For example, if you are already a marketing company, then it’s mostly useless (and may even damage your reputation) if you outsource another marketing company
- Low-cost activities that your team is able to perform without much management
At the end, I would advise you to try outsourcing at least several marketing activities for your small business. You just need to find the balance between the two: outsourcing and using the in-house marketing potential of your company. Outsourcing smartly will allow you look further beyond and concentrate on the quality of core services you offer.