What is outsourced marketing?
7th March 2022
Over the last couple of years, we've seen a growth in outsourcing in every function of business as uncertainty has persisted and budgets have been constrained, reduced or even cut.
We've also seen the rise of new terms like 'fractional' 'distributed' or 'remote' but most of these terms simply refer to good old fashioned outsourcing.
When it comes to marketing, outsourced marketing is simply the act of handing some or all of your marketing requirements out to a third party.
Of course, this doesn't need to mean a complete marketing takeover, it can be as small or as large as you need. You might just need some extra capacity to help deliver your content marketing or accelerate your graphic design, maybe you want to bring in someone experienced to help you think through and unpick a thorny marketing conundrum or maybe you want to test build a marketing function to help drive growth for your business. Whatever your specific marketing challenge might be, outsourcing all or some of it could be a great option.
We've felt your pain
Running a marketing team is hard work. You have pressure on budgets, aggressive lead, sales and revenue targets and never enough people. When we were working in house running our own marketing teams, we had all these same pressures and regularly had capacity issues or gaps in skill sets as the business or the marketing objectives changed or ebbed and flowed across the year.
The problem is that when you get those spikes in demand it’s very rare that you can justify hiring someone to deal with it properly. Building a business case, getting budget signed off and then hiring someone can take 6 months or longer so inevitably, like we did, you end up muddling through these challenges as best you can, asking more of your team and managing stakeholders to expect a mediocre or delayed return.
With the move towards remote working and a growing freelance community or marketing experts, it’s now becoming possible to plug those short term gaps by outsourcing to skilled marketing specialists. It means you can say yes to more of your stakeholders, make short term problems go away and all without any long term commitment.
How can you outsource your marketing?
If you haven’t done it before, outsourcing some or all of your marketing may seem like a daunting task and you might have a lot of questions; How do I make sure my outsourced team is doing the right work? How do I guarantee the quality of the people I outsource too? Will managing my outsourced team just be a headache and an extra job I need to do?
If done correctly, outsourcing your marketing should make your life as a Marketing Director or Head of Marketing much easier. With the shift to remote work, the experts or team you outsource too can be anywhere but they should still become an extension of your existing team. Focused on the key priorities you dictate, that are aligned to your objectives and with a specific list of deliverables. The purpose of an outsourced marketing expert or team is to give you more marketing fire power, to help you move faster and deliver better results.
When it comes to outsourcing to the right people, it’s obviously critical you interview them and qualify that they are able to do the specific job you need. Here at The Inspired Marketing Group all of our 40+ strong community are former client side marketers who are used to owning a lead, sales or revenue number and rolling up their sleeves to deliver the activity required to hit that number. We interview people before we accept them into our community in just the same way as when we in house interviewing people to join our own marketing functions.
If you can get these things right then managing your outsourced marketing team becomes super simple, although one of the benefits of outsourcing is that if you get a wrong fit or the business objectives change (again!) you can normally cancel the contract which means no headache of redeployment or potential redundancy that you might have with an employee.
Top tip: Make sure you check any outsourced contracts for cancellation periods and payment terms in the event of cancellation. We hated being locked into contracts too!
Outsourced marketing checklist
If you think you’re ready to outsource your marketing then there are a few things to get clarity on before you engage any potential third party:
What is the marketing / business objective you currently have?
What gap or problem do you have that means you can’t meet that objective?
What are you expecting your outsourced marketing person or team to deliver?
(N.B. This is an important one to get on the table up front as a mismatch here will end up causing delays, frustration for both you and your outsourced marketing team and also potentially cost you more money!)
How long do you expect those deliverables to take?
Do you have a deadline?
What’s your budget?
If you aren’t sure what your budget needs to be, try to quantify what delivering your requirements would mean to you and your business. Knowing if it’s a potential small or large return on investment will help you workout if outsourcing your marketing is an option and what the economics need to be if you need to build a business case.
By answering these questions you are essentially writing the brief for what marketing support you want to outsource, why you need it and when you expect it to be done. Obviously the more detail and specifics you can provide here then the greater the chance of finding the right people with the right skills to deliver what you need.
A quick word on budget
Top tip: When budget is tight, outsourcing to the cheapest person isn’t always the best solution. Pay for an expert and get the output you want right, first time.
In-House or Outsourced Marketing? Actually it’s both
If you have a tight budget then you need a tight brief.
If your budget for outsourcing marketing is small then the above questions become even more important and need to be even more detailed. As a general rule, anything that requires interpretation, thinking or clarification is a hole that money has a habit of leaking through. Plug the holes in your brief and you can get extraordinary results without breaking the bank.
We are big believers that all businesses need a high quality, skilled and flexible in house marketing function. Nobody will be able to understand the details and nuances of your customers, your business, your market, your stakeholders and your competitors like an in-house marketing team.
As one of our clients Karen Dales said on episode 6 of the IMG podcast, “You still need to have the foundations of a really strong team of talent. That has to be at the heart of any kind of growing organisation. But I think there's a lot of logic to boosting that, with specific skill sets as and when you need it…”
An In-House marketing team is critical, but that team, no matter how good, simply cannot be specialists in every aspect of marketing; You can’t expect a copywriter to also be a graphic designer or an email marketer to run your paid search ads.
Of course, lots of marketers have a broad skill set, particularly client side marketers who by the nature of the job need to wear lots of hats but they aren’t specialists and when you want to accelerate a channel or expand into new channels you need the right skills. Imagine you needed a heart transplant, your GP is a very knowledgeable, very well trained and expert practitioner, but you definitely wouldn’t want them ‘having a go’ at your surgery.
Of course insourcing those marketing specialisms generally doesn’t make sense, particularly when you add in all the extra costs of taking on a member of staff:
Equipment (laptops, work phones)
This is the point Karen was making about boosting your in-house team with outsourced marketing specialists. It’s not a case of in-house or outsourced marketing, to really accelerate and drive the power of marketing it needs to be both. Your in-house team can stay focussed on the activity they already have in flight and ensure that any activity delivered by your outsourced team is additive and helps you reach your overall objective faster and with less effort.
Supporting successful businesses with outsourced marketing
Like we mentioned, we’ve run in-house marketing teams for (almost) 20 years so we know the pressures and challenges you face, we also know that every business is different. It’s why we created The Inspired Marketing Group, this is what we always wished we’d had!
We work with clients in three simple ways;
Do it yourself - No retainer, just on demand support from director level marketers
Done with you - Boost your in-house team with specialist outsourced marketing expertise
Done for you - A full outsourced marketing team to deliver your marketing goals.
If you feel ready to outsource your marketing or you’d just like to chat about how it could work for you let us know, we love talking about this stuff!