10 Reasons to Outsource (Some) Marketing (1-5)
All businesses outsource to some degree. Whether it’s their advertising, SEO, or janitorial services, all businesses have vendors that the rely on to provide services that lie beyond their core product/service offering. But marketing is a part of all business models (unlike janitorial services), so how can you tell whether to outsource any of your marketing?
I started my career working for a company that champions vertical integration, but for almost five years now, I’ve been an agency man, working for an SEO and social media shop, and an affiliate management one before that. So I’ve experienced the pros and cons of outsourcing marketing from both the vendor and client perspective.
Now, you know your business model better than anyone, and you have to weigh these reasons against your core product/service offering. But understanding what they are can help you determine how heavy each one weighs, especially within the context of your business/industry.
1. Specialized Expertise
You already have a core product and/or service. That’s your set of expertise, and that’s what you need to focus on. Anything that falls beyond your core business model might be better left being outsourced.
So as much as you understand how some particular marketing channel can help you increase sales, you’re not an expert on that channel — and you shouldn’t be. You should be focused on optimizing your own internal processes, and avoid getting distracted by some particular sales/marketing tactic.
For example, if you’re an affiliate that relies on search arbitrage to drive/refer traffic, PPC is part of your core business model, and isÂ kept in-house. But if you’re a manufacturer or retailer, then you might want to outsource it. This way, you can free up resources and bandwidth to optimize things like supply chain management.
Take Apple: here is a company that manufactures a variety of lifestyle gadgets, but it relies on an ad agency of record to brand them and their products as ideal for those leading a young, hip lifestyle.
Of course, if a single marketing channel is driving the majority of your sales, then you might consider taking it in-house. But very few businesses rely on advertising, SEO or affiliates to drive the majority of their sales. Instead, most businesses rely on price-point and costs to drive overall sales and profitability, and each of those channels each represent only one slice of the sales pie.
Insofar as your business should be focused on its core product/service offer, what comprises that core should take up the majority of your time/resources. After all, there are only so many hours in the day, and every minute your team spends obsessing over a particular acquisition tactic that falls outside your core product/service offer is a minute that’s (arguably) spent/wasted not taking care of business.
Consider advertising. The advertising industry is one that’s driven by a very specific kind of creativity, and most businesses do not need that brand of creativity to operate. Yes, advertising is a kind of creativity that can help boost sales, but it has no place in the board room where managerial, logistic, and pricing decision are made.
And the same can be said about PR, SEO, and social media. Obviously there should be an internal marketing department setting guidelines, goals, and targets for each of these activities, but that doesn’t mean that it should be directly executing each of these activities.
After all, your marketing department should be looking at sales numbers and different ways to boost them; not at how to build better relationships with journalists or how to increase the quality score of your PPC campaigns.
Consider this: when News Corp. was getting ready to launch their subscription-based digital news service, they went looking for a PR firm to help them. Here you had a media giant with print, digital, and TV properties, the very kind of properties that PR hacks rely on to get their message out. But News Corp. was focused on building a revenue model around its core business, and understood that it was better to outsource the buzz to people who knew how to stir it up, rather than just push it down the line of their countless in-house content producers who really just pass it on.
3. Fresh Perspective
There’s a saying about not being able to see the forest from the trees. Well, we’re all probably guilty of this in business. We all specialize in some industry/niche, but that also means that we live in a fishbowl, and it’s easy to lose sight of the bigger picture.
I mean, sure, we know what marketing channels are working and not working for us. Also, we usually have a good idea of what channels our competitors are using. But that doesn’t mean that our impression of each of these marketing channels is correct.
Just because a specific channel isn’t working for us right now, or just because our competitors aren’t using it doesn’t mean it doesn’t have a lot of potential. Oftentimes, we need a channel expert that understands our business and its goals, and then point out new ways that we can use that channel.
In other words, we need a cut-throat ninja assassin who can challenge us. Someone who hasn’t drank our kool-aid, and sees the world from outside of our fishbowl, and we need them to show us what they see.
As Don Draper put it to one client who wasn’t interested in a fresh perspective: “Youâ€™ve already tried your plan and youâ€™re number 4. […] Youâ€™ve enlisted my expertise and youâ€™ve rejected it to go on the way youâ€™ve been going. Iâ€™m not interested in that. You can understand.”
4. Training & Education
You know your industry, and agencies know theirs. That’s why you can learn so much from them.
Working with an SEO agency, for example, can help your IT team build better websites. Similarly, working with an ad agency can help your marketing department better understand just what kind of “brand” or “messaging” actually resonates with consumers.
So instead of building websites that you like, you can build ones that search engines and users like. And instead of talking about your brand in a way that makes you feel good about yourself, you can talk about it in a way that makes consumers feel good about it.
This is one area in which JC Penny and Overstock.com failed to work with their SEO agencies. On the one hand, their agencies should’ve educated them in SEO best-practices. On the other hand, JC Penny and Overstock.com should’ve then used that training to audit the work/strategy of their respective SEO agencies.
5. Saving on R&D
Your industry evolves. New technologies, competitors, standards, and legislation force it to reinvent itself constantly.
Well, marketing niches are no exception. Just consider how social media changed digital marketing.
So working with an agency can help you keep ahead of the curve.
For example, Google’s algorithm is changing all the time, and while it’s an SEO agency’s business to know what the latest developments are, it can be days, weeks, or months before your internal marketing department clues into it. And the time they spent trying to determine where their rankings went could’ve been better spent positioning your products in the marketplace.
Similarly, a social media agency will be up to speed on the latest monitoring tools and tactics. And the time it takes your internal marketing staff to notice, understand, and familiarize themselves with these, is time that could’ve been spent generating leads/sales.
Stay tuned for our next installment on why to outsource marketing to an agency. From Best Practices to Internal Politics, we’ll look at 5 more reasons to help you decide whether you should be working with an agency.
About CT Moore
A former Staff Editor here at Revenews.com, CT Moore is a recovering agency hack with over a decade experience leveraging search, social media, and content marketing to help brands meet their business goals online. He currently provides digital strategy consulting to start-ups, SMBs, enterprise level companies through his consultancy Socialed Inc.. CT is also an accomplished blogger and speaker who educates groups and companies on how they can better leverage different online channels.