Outsourcing Marketing - The Gotchas
Accountability to Deadlines - I don’t often have a problem with vendors that don’t hold themselves accountable to the deadlines I set. I’d estimate that nine out of ten of the vendors I’ve used have far exceeded my expectations. When I do have issues, it’s almost always when I hand over a small project to a large agency. I suspect it is a matter of their priorities with my little project being pushed to the bottom of the list.
On the other hand, I would have expected freelancers to have more of an issue with deadlines. After all, they don’t have a staff of people to delegate to. In reality, the opposite has proven to be true. I am constantly amazed at how fast the solo shops can turn my projects around.
Over-complication - This is also an issue I see when I work with large agencies. What I see as a simple project can often grow into a multifaceted project spanning many months. Sometimes agencies come up with angles that I should have thought about. More often than not though, they can make a simple project exceed what’s necessary for time and available in budget. If you’re working on short time frames and a shoestring marketing budget, keep that in mind.
Disclaimer – In the previous two examples, I may seem like I don’t like agencies. I do! In fact, they are great for when you need a “soup to nuts” project completed because they usually have staff with expertise in multiple areas. Agencies can also typically afford to hire the best and the brightest and the product they deliver usually reflects that. My point is that you should think about whether a vendor is best suited to a particular project before deciding who to use. There is no “best vendor” for everything. Or at least I have never found one.
Narrow View of the Problem – When you’re working with a specialist, they will look at the problem from their own unique perspective. However, you need to take a more holistic approach. For example, if you’re revamping your web site to optimize it for the search engines, it’s great to work with SEO specialists. They know far more about Search Engine Optimization than I have any need or wish to know. However, while they are optimizing your content for keywords, they may forget that these words mean something when strung together in sentences. The content on a web page, while optimized for a search engine, still needs to resonate with your target audience.
Different Views on Marketing – I’ve worked with marketing teams from all over the world. Offshoring marketing tasks can save money. However, capitalism is relatively new to some parts of the world. Not everyone has the same knack for creating prose that speaks to your target audience in a way that moves them to action.
Different Ways of Speaking - In addition, you may do all of your marketing in English, but English is used differently in different parts of the world. If I’m creating materials to help us sell to an American market, I often find that I have to rewrite content that I get from overseas. Although so many people speak English well, not everyone can write prose that will resonate with an American.
The same is true when content moves the other way. I am sure my team in China rewrites everything we pass over to them!
Lack of Qualifications – The marketing field is filled with talented people. The opposite is also true. It doesn’t take any creative talent to start your own marketing business. Make sure you ask for references and samples to ensure that the talent you are working with is qualified.
And, just because they are skilled in one area, doesn’t mean they are skilled in everything else. My best freelance writer is not a great graphic designer. I quickly learned that on our first project where she attempted to write and do the layout. Since then, I’ve kept her as the writer but hired an intern to handle the simple design work that most of our projects need.
Loss of Collaboration Opportunities – I love it when my team collaborates on projects. They can create some outstanding deliverables when we combine the power of our collective imaginations.
This doesn’t have to stop when you work with outside talent. However, some are better at collaboration than others. Our PR firm for example does such a great job that I forget they are not part of our company. With others, it’s like our input goes into a black hole. Eventually, we get something out and we just hope that it resembles what we were looking for.
I also expect the team to learn from each other and from our external resources. When we don’t have the opportunity to work as part of the team with the vendor’s staff, we lose that opportunity.
Delays Due to Time Zones – This is another collaboration issue. If I’m working with a team that based in the same time zone, we can complete many projects quickly. We may go through several rounds of edits in an hour. If I am relying on a vendor on the other side of the world, each iteration can take an entire day. Working with talented people in emerging countries can help you keep costs down and it can help you tap into some interesting minds and markets. However, you may not want to use a resource in a vastly different time zone when time is short.
Outsourcing marketing projects helps me contain costs. It is usually less expensive to outsource than to hire an individual full-time. Plus it keeps us agile. With outsourcing, I can hire the vendor most suited to the task instead of trying to make-do with the talent we have on staff. This also gives my team the chance to focus on what they do best.
You may have to go through several vendors before you find one that works for you, but when you do, they are golden!