How to Outsource Your Marketing Department in 2019
Global advertising and marketing spending is expected to rise 4.6% in 2019 (Source: PQ Media). It is estimated that by 2020, digital’s share of advertising will be 50% (Source eMarketer). With so many businesses aiming for the sky to create impactful marketing and advertising in 2019, especially online in the growing digital space, this has put an incredible amount of pressure on marketing departments.
Not all businesses are willing to put their money where their mouths are when it comes to dedicating resources to marketing. This equates to understaffed in-house marketing teams which are functioning rather than thriving. Which means they are unable to fully capitalize on the array of opportunities that the market provides.
At the top of the organization, some companies lack the heart and brains necessary to set the company on a path forward. The bi-product of neglecting your marketing is complacency and under-performance. If we’ve learned anything in the last 1000 years, it’s that the market is always changing. Those that adapt and find opportunities will flourish. Those that don’t will lose market share and we all know where that leads.
For the companies that are unable to scale-up their marketing because they don’t have the capacity, budget or know-how (or for any of the reasons mentioned above) there are options. One option is to outsource some of the functions of your department. This can fill the stop gaps and allow your marketing department to move-forward.
So let’s look at some options for filling the void in your marketing department:
1. The Agency
An agency comes in many forms, but they all generally set up the same way. Agencies are tasked with creating, planning, and handling advertising and marketing on behalf of clients.
One of the biggest reasons why you don’t see every business working with the most well established agencies is that they are extremely expensive. If a more established agency does decide to take on a smaller account, the obvious and major drawback is access to the agencies top talent.
In the agency model, talent is shared, but prioritized by dollar amount that the business accounts are willing to pay the agency. This means their superstar copy-writer, designer or strategist will be working on their top paying accounts 99.9% of the time. So if you are not shelling out big bucks, you won’t be getting the same level of attention.
Many go into an agreement with agency thinking they will have access the top talent, but the reality is that the bulk of your work will be handed off to junior associate who simply is not the same pedigree as the talent whose work was what lured you in to begin with.
For many the more established agency model is not a right fit. Even if they do decide to bring you on you will need deep pockets. If your advertising budget is not the equivalent of Kraft Foods or any other Fortune 500 company for that matter, don’t expect the a more established agency to bend over backwards for you. It’s a matter of dollars and cents and not meant to be taken personally.
Smaller Boutique Agencies
If you do go with a smaller boutique agency you will again run into the same problem. You will be sharing limited agency resources with other businesses. You’ll also need to get used to even smaller amounts of time dedicated to your cause. In some ways it might make sense to pool resources with a smaller agency, especially if they have competencies where you lack. However, in business time is money. If you are not getting campaigns launched while the market is hot, you will experience the disappointment of missed opportunities. We all know where that leads.
There are some upsides with working with smaller sized agencies. The obvious being access to certain skills you don’t have in-house. However, if you need to make significant strides in your marketing, you will absolutely require something more substantial then limited runs of time with a small agency that has limited resources. Some companies have gone with multiple agencies to solve this dilemma. However, it will mean that you will have to dedicate in-house resources to managing your portfolio of agencies. This person will have to be in expert in project management and branding. And because there will be so many participants producing marketing collateral, managing the consistency of the message across all mediums will become vital.
Industry Specific Agencies
Lately there’s been a boom of industry specific agencies that have emerged out of the woodwork. These are agencies that specialize in a very specific industry. An example of an industry specific agency is a Digital Advertising Agency for Veterinary Hospitals. For those that have even briefly studied business or marketing strategy, a major red flag would immediately go off in the form of conflict of interest. Yet these types of agencies keep emerging. And they tend to do so in fields where owners of businesses are not all too familiar with business strategy let alone the sustainable advantages that one can create from smart and guarded marketing strategy.
After all where would a veterinarian find the time to concern themselves with business and marketing strategy? They are far too busy running their practice. So when a sales call comes in from an agency that says they only handle advertising and websites for veterinary practices, they think they’ve found a solution. What they have found however is a plateau. Yes, they will get the initial services they are after, all while having their analytics, trade secrets, customer data and unique opportunities shared among an agency that serves their competitors. This is a conflict of interest and generally a poor way to guard your market share let alone a giveaway of the very blueprint of how you got to where you are.
2. Marketing Consultant
A marketing consultant is a skilled marketing professional that is available for hire generally on a part-time or full-time basis. What makes a consultant helpful is they can really dig into your marketing and dedicate themselves to your hurdles more so than any other form of outsourcing available today.
The main issue with consultants is that they are not all created equally. This means you will need to look at some criteria before hiring one. A good rule of thumb is to look at the consultant’s experience. A consultant’s experience in the marketing game (measured in years and milestones achieved) determines their worth.
Realize also that hiring a marketing consultant isn’t always sunshine and roses. There will be moments where they will point out your biggest flaws and shortcoming which will result in some uncomfortable moments which will dig at your ego. However, that’s also the opportunity of working with a consultant; they can help turn your weaknesses into strengths.
Bringing on a consultant with experience directly in your industry is not a must, though it can help. If you do decide to go the consultant route, make sure to always ask these questions when hiring a marketing consultant.
3. Freelance Platforms
There are several freelance platforms available today. Currently, Fiverr or Upwork are the most popular platforms. Freelance platforms are set up like a marketplace where freelancers with very specific skill sets can be hired for a project. Freelance platforms can be a good option for short-term projects like a graphic design project where the requirements of the project are set in stone.
One of the obvious drawbacks of hiring an online freelancer is the inability to have a face to face meeting let alone the inability to have them visit your business to see what it is that you do. If you are hiring a writer, obviously you want them to see first-hand what they will be writing about. After all they will be describing with words the very nature of your business. If you are hiring a graphic designer, ideally you would want them to see what it is you do so the design encapsulates your brand. In the online space this can be challenging.
If you have ever talked to anyone that has used online freelancers, they’ll tell you firsthand that it is “hit or miss”. Sometimes you feel like you landed a great freelancer, other times their work leaves a lot to be desired. This can translate to spinning your wheels and spending unnecessary money when you need to be hitting deadlines. The best freelancers that I’ve had the pleasure of hiring for a project are no longer available because they were swept up by a company who brought them on a full-time basis. So the consistency of work, the reliability to be able to go back to the same source to find the same person can sometimes be absent on these sites.
Marketing departments come in all different sizes and shapes. This article is not a suggestion to outsource your most important roles and functions by your most talented personnel. Companies that keep their most talented people in-house stand to gain the most in both the short and long-term for their marketing efforts. This article is more of a suggestion to become more effective in your role and to fill stop-gaps in your marketing with outsourcing options. When you find success with outsourcing, it would make the most sense to bring people on full-time to cultivate those opportunities.
For those companies that don’t even have a marketing department, let alone a single marketing manager, you’ll need to hire someone if you want to find success. Whether it’s bringing on a marketing consultant part-time to get you started or by hiring someone to manage and oversee these functions on a full-time basis – you will need to address this very critical function of your business.
Levon Guiragossian is principal marketing consultant and founder of The Holy Grail of Marketing, a marketing consulting firm that is available for your marketing outsourcing needs.