Visit the Shared Services and Outsourcing Network (SSON) website, the world’s largest community of shared services and outsourcing professionals, and search for outsourced marketing content. Sadly, you’ll come up with nothing.
Outsourced marketing services and the proliferation of agencies offering those services are still finding their way in the marketplace. Outsourced marketing’s vague definition creates confusion for the many who seek outsourcing as a means to improve their marketing efficiency.
Even the marketing agencies promoting themselves as an outsourcing option have yet to define their services or give compelling reasons to consider marketing as a shared services option.
Several advertising agencies that aggressively promote their outsourced services on the Google Advertising Network have yet to include any mention of outsourcing on their own websites, leaving the site visitor to wonder, does the term outsourced marketing have any meaning at all?
Outsourcing By Any Other Name Is Still Outsourcing
Wikipedia fails to give outsourced marketing its own identity, relegating it to a subset of outsourcing. There is no clear definition, no specific services identified and no way to judge whether or not outsourced marketing is right for any company, much less yours.
At its core, outsourcing is subcontracting a process like manufacturing, accounting or consulting to a third-party company. In each of these cases, outsourcing seems plausible because the outsourced service can be easily defined, quantified and measured. Yet when it comes to outsourced marketing and the many disciplines of marketing, the meaning becomes immediately fuzzy.
To outsource content creation is definable, measurable and certainly quantifiable. To outsource website development is similar and doable. But to outsource marketing and its many strategies and tactics creates a hurdle to understanding that many business leaders can’t clear.
Is Outsourced Marketing Right For Me?
Outsourcing marketing enables companies to acquire all the expertise, tools and tactics of a comprehensive marketing department from a third-party company, which eliminates the need to hire skilled marketing personnel.
Companies that have yet to build a fully staffed, in-house marketing department have a need for a diverse set of marketing skills the moment they open their doors. Even the smallest of robust businesses need marketing, but they struggle to fill all their needs with one marketing agency, let alone one marketing person.
Consider what a fully staffed marketing department could do:
• Set strategy with an experienced chief marketing officer• Develop a website, understand UX and maintain that website• Have digital marketing expertise, including lead generation and search optimization• Create customer engagement and brand building via social media• Drive measurable sales outcomes using direct and indirect marketing channels
Outsourced marketing satisfies all these needs because it gives companies access to various experts without hiring them individually. Company leaders who try to hire this level of expertise usually find they’re searching for a unicorn marketer — a rarity in today’s market, driven by single-subject experts.
Being an expert in digital marketing is not the same as being an expert in strategic marketing. A well-qualified outsourced marketing department should be media- and discipline-agnostic.
Getting The Most From An Outsourcing Relationship
If you’ve decided to embark on an outsourced marketing relationship, consider these tips for making the most of your investment.
• Define expectations clearly upfront, including deliverables, tactics, timeline and costs. Just like any other partner/vendor relationship, having clear expectations keeps everyone happy.• Treat your outsourcing partner as a member of the team. The more an outsourcing partner integrates with your in-house team, the better the outcome for everyone. This may take an investment in time spent on training, but it’s money well spent.• Make sure your outsourced marketing partner has experience in all the skills you want and need. Just because a vendor is willing to take on a project doesn’t mean they are qualified or skilled in that specific discipline.• Ask for mileposts and frequent check-ins. Because outsourcing your marketing can often include a broad number of tasks, there can be a tendency to lump activities together, making reporting complicated. Establish more frequent touchpoints with your partner for early and frequent accountability.• Just like any other marketing or advertising agency relationship, make your goals clear, definable and measurable. Everyone involved needs to know where you are going and the path to get there.
Sometimes Outsourcing Is A Fit, Sometimes It’s Not
For companies that already have one or more marketing team members on staff, an outsourced marketing relationship has benefits. Existing staff can work alongside a team of subject-matter experts and specialists to begin to gain experience in more technical areas of marketing. In-house marketing staff can gain valuable experience as a byproduct of a close relationship with the outsourcing company.
If your company has established marketing leadership and infrastructure in place, an outsourcing company may not be necessary. In these cases, simply filling holes with channel experts can close any gaps, creating a holistic marketing department in-house.
Also, consider your tolerance for the learning curve necessary when an outsourcing company gets involved in your business. The more complex a business, the more time it may take for a partner to get up to speed. For some companies, this becomes too big of an investment in time and valuable marketing dollars.
More and more advertising and marketing companies are promoting outsourced marketing as one of their service offerings, but few people understand exactly what it is. Perhaps, someday, outsourced marketing will get the respect it deserves.