Many entrepreneurs and business executives are familiar the benefits and disadvantages of outsourcing manufacturing, software development, graphic design, copy writing and many other services. However, few are familiar with the advantages of outsourcing marketing.

Many companies simply assume that marketing has always been done in-house and that it must always be done that way. But, the truth is that companies can benefit a great deal by outsourcing marketing. By getting outside help from a firm that specializes in marketing, a company can benefit from years of expertise that would be difficult to replicate in-house.

What Does Outsourcing Marketing Mean?

Before we proceed, let us first define clearly what outsourcing marketing really is or entails. Many entrepreneurs simply don’t know what it is. To put it in the plainest language, it is simply getting an outside company to perform all marketing related activity for your company at a fee. Marketing in this context mainly refers to all promotional related activity such as advertising, public relations, promotional events and campaigns, online PPC, social media marketing and all related activities.

Over the years, many high profile companies have turned to outsourcing marketing and realized significant cost benefits in addition to a host of other benefits.

Benefits of Outsourcing Marketing

Consider the following challenges that outsourcing marketing can help solve.

1. Embrace Change and Make Brands More Relevant

Outsourcing marketing is particularly effective when companies are undergoing periods of rapid change. Keeping pace with changes in technology and business practices is hard enough – adapting new technology and practices to marketing is a complex task. By turning over those services to a professional marketing firm, companies can embrace change and make brands more relevant.

 2. Keep Tabs on the Competition

Many business executives simply don’t have the time to check on what the competition is doing. But, companies that fail to check keep tabs on what their competitors are up to will eventually lose market share. By outsourcing the marketing function, companies can keep one eye on the competition as they position themselves for future growth.

3. Identify Gaps and Fill Them

Many companies have gaps in their product line and service offering. A dedicated professional marketing services firm can help them identify those gaps and suggest ways of filling them.

Read about the top tasks to outsource.

4. Get a True Perspective

Companies may not have a true handle on how the company and its brands are perceived in the market place. An outside firm can help them get the perspective they need.

5. Determine True Customer Needs

Outsourcing marketing is a great way for companies to determine the true needs of their customers. Determining what the customer needs is a vital first step in marketing. Unfortunately, many companies are unable to keep up with the vital needs of their clients. By hiring a professional marketing firm to do the heavy lifting, companies can quickly determine and anticipate the needs of their customers. The marketing company can also determine the reason potential customers buy from your competitors instead. This will help you tailor your marketing message more effectively.

6. Eliminate Layers of Management

One of the main advantages of outsourcing marketing is that it can help you eliminate multiple layers of management. As the functions of the marketing department are shifted to an outside firm, you company can simplify its managerial structure and eliminate layers of management. Obviously, it is still vital to maintain a good working relationship with the outside firm. There will be several decisions that only the managerial team can take such as approving new marketing campaigns and determine the profile of customers to be targeted. By establishing a good working relationship with the outside firm, management can get the benefit of expert marketing minds but with a simplified approval structure. Thus, marketing campaigns that would have taken months to develop and approve under the old order can now be executed in a matter of weeks or even days. The result is  more streamlined process and faster customer acquisition.

7. Greater Flexibility

Finally, one of the benefits of outsourcing marketing is greater flexibility. Out of years of doing things the same way over and over again, marketing departments can become rigid and set in the old way of doing things even when it may not be the best way to about things. An outside marketing specialist can be a breathe of fresh air that serves to reignite creativity and innovation. The firm can bring in a new perspective and provide vital advice on what can be done better. In today’s competitive world, having a fresh set of eyes look at your strategy is always a good idea as this can provide a new and unbiased perspective.

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What To Watch Out For When Outsourcing Marketing

Now that you know the what outsourcing marketing is and the benefits that go with it, the natural question is how do you identify the right firm or individual to outsource your marketing activities to?

Well, the following are three red flags to watch out for. If the firm or individual is doing any of these, take your money and run!

1. Your Outsource is Outsourcing

I want to qualify this with saying that outsourcing in a transparent manner is completely fine. There are many disciplines and services that companies know they do not offer. Instead, they manage the outsourcing process by leveraging a valuable network of service providers that they have used for certain things before. Being a trusted point-person is something that any good marketing company should be able to be for a client. And further than that, there are many valuable project managers out there.

It only becomes a problem when a company touts itself as an expert or industry leader in an offering that it outsources in a non-transparent manner. The problem with non-transparent (or 100%) outsourcers is that :

  • You are probably paying too much
  • Ensuring a subcontracted company’s quality/availability is inconsistent over time.

People get snatched up, get busy, and trends change. A company should be upfront when outsourcing an aspect of your campaign. You need to be assured as to the quality and priority of your project. That becomes somewhat muddy when your marketing company outsourced a project to someone down their outsourcing depth chart because choices one and two were too busy. Cut out the middleman in those types of situations. There are plenty of experienced companies that do things in-house and should be able to seamlessly work as part of a larger marketing team on specific aspects of a campaign.
What to Look For: If you start a project and all of the sudden start receiving emails and updates from people who do not seem to work at the company or have generic (Google or Yahoo) email addresses, this might be a red flag. Once you do get the names of the people working on your project, check them out on Linkedin to see if they say they work for that company.

Read how to avoid common outsourcing problems.

The Bottom Line: Ask who specifically is going to be working on your project. Get names. If there is a hesitation, that might be a red flag. If a company is outsourcing aspects of a campaign, ask to be involved in the vetting and hiring process of that third-party.

2. They Have a Thin Portfolio

It’s understandable when a new company doesn’t have the world’s longest list of clients. Often, those companies can justify their ‘newness’ or lack of a list of client successes with experience in the industry. If a company you are considering is established, however, they should have a list of client successes.

While there’s no magic number that determines how many clients are “enough,” you should feel confident that your outsource has sufficient experience in a relevant field. You wouldn’t want to hire a brain surgeon to operate on your heart, no matter how talented they were. The same concept applies here.

What to Look For: Look for a company’s fingerprints. A comprehensive client list may not be available on a service provider’s website – but it should be available if you ask. If they have a portfolio on their website and when you click through to those clients, the marketing company no longer seems to be affiliated with that client – that is a huge red flag.

The Bottom Line: You should also make sure that those clients were actually happy with their results. Some number of satisfied clients are usually eager to provide an endorsement, while companies that do good work are usually eager to show off their abilities. If either seems off – especially when asked directly – it’s not a good sign.

3. They Hardly Practice What They Preach

Professionals should always be able to practice what they preach. If a marketer purports to be an “expert,” a “guru” (often a red flag in and of itself), or simply a professional, the work product for their own company should reflect it.

If a marketing agency claims an industry-leading web design focus but a cross-browser compatibility test shows that their own site won’t load in Firefox, that is a red flag. If they promise to ensure your site is optimized for mobile devices, then why is their site so cramped and unreadable on your iPhone?

What to Look For: Don’t feel bad holding a marketing company’s feet to the fire about their own marketing. Some of it might be explained with the ‘a carpenter’s house is never finished’ adage, but you should always ask.

The Bottom Line: You get the point – a competent and trustworthy marketing outsource will consistently meet the criteria it sets for its clients. If it doesn’t, that might mean that it can’t.

Finally, when outsource marketing, you will most likely be billed on an hourly basis. Ensure that you are billed accurately by insisting that the outsourcing hires using the Hubstaff time tracking application. This will ensure you get billed for time actually worked with the added bonus of seeing your campaign being worked on in real-time.

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