Outsourcing your marketing efforts can make a lot of sense for today’s entrepreneurial firms, provided you understand the best practices for achieving success. Here are seven must-haves for successful outsourcing engagement:
1. Set Goals Together
When interviewing potential marketing firms, make sure to talk about the goals you have for your business, the general budget you have to achieve them and the timeline you hope to achieve them in. This is a great conversation because it will illustrate quickly whether or not a particular firm is a good fit for you. With an outsourced marketing firm, you will be setting and tracking goals regularly, so you have to be on the same page in this process.
2. Clarify Expectations Together
Every strong relationship requires a clear understanding of expectations. When partnering with an outsourced marketing firm, decide how often and in what format you will communicate with each other. Both of you must agree on the frequency and type of check ins and accountability you need to be comfortable and successful but the relationship does rely on trust from you and leadership from them. You may want to have a bi-weekly conference call to get an update on projects, a weekly email summary or a monthly face-to-face meeting, for example. When you each are clear on the best times and ways to reach each other, you pave the road to success.
3. Understand the Difference between Outsourcing & Employing
While an employee works exclusively for your firm during his or her working hours, your outsourced marketing firm serves several clients simultaneously. You should expect a high level of response from any partner you work with, but it is unrealistic to expect that an outsourced partner will be able to provide instantaneous response to every question or request. By setting clear expectations on communication and response times, you will avoid a frustrating experience.
4. Hire a Firm to Work with You, Not for You
The best outsourced marketing partner will not simply take your direction and execute. The right firm will be a partner in your business, a partner that brings new ideas to the table, suggests new ways of doing things, gives you information and insights to make decisions, and pushes back on your ideas when appropriate. This is what you want in a successful marketing relationship. If you are looking simply for a vendor who executes marketing tasks, look for an intern or freelancer. And if you are a micromanager who thrives on tracking every detail and knowing every step in a project, outsourcing a big function like marketing may not be for you.
5. Designate a Leader of Your Marketing Team
The best marketing teams are collaborative and cooperative, with several people offering their talent, ideas and insights. But there does need to be one designated leader, a chief marketing officer. For the most productive outcomes, the outsourced marketing firm serves as the chief marketing officer, owning all decisions, sign offs, etc. (with critical input from you and all appropriate parties) and having the responsibility to keep the marketing moving forward in the right direction. To be successful, your outsourced marketers need to have your trust and confidence so they can do their jobs and make decisions on behalf of your company. When bringing an outsourced marketing firm to the table, it is critical for you as the business owner to introduce the firm as your “chief marketing officer” to all relevant employees, vendors and other partners. This helps to avoid turf wars and inefficient communication.
6. Share Your Expertise and Provide Timely Feedback
No one will ever know your business better than you and your team, so you need to stay engaged in the marketing process. A successful relationship with an outsourced marketing group relies on an open, steady flow of communication so that your marketers can use your industry knowledge and subject matter expertise to create meaningful, relevant content for your key audiences. Success is also dependent on your providing feedback and sign offs – or assigning someone in your firm to handle them – so that your marketing will move forward.
7. Embrace Creative Differences
Much of marketing involves a creative process and how much – or how little – you like a piece of copywriting or a design is highly subjective. The right marketing firm will understand that they are producing commercial work for you and that you need to be happy with it, so never be afraid to offer your honest feedback. It’s just as important, however, to not give up on your creative team if their first efforts do not work for you. Give them the opportunity to rewrite, redesign, rework as part of the process. This is another area where clear expectations and clear communication is critical and you may be pleasantly surprised with how well a good writer or designer can take your feedback and transform a piece into something that works perfectly.
Looking to learn more about outsourced marketing? Check out our free guide: 7 Signs You're Ready to Outsource Your Marketing.