Should you hire a marketing director or outsource your marketing operations?

Chief Executive Officers and Chief Operating Officers often wrestle with whether to hire in-house marketing staff or to outsource their marketing needs?

Today, I want to tackle five common myths about outsourcing. I hear these objections often, and I want to lay them to rest, one by one.

1. Outsourcing is more expensive.

There’s no denying it: good outsourced marketing is not cheap. Depending on your arrangement, you will pay an outsourced marketing partner either a monthly retainer, project-based fees or an hourly rate. If you do the math, you’ll probably find that the cost (calculated on an hourly basis) is higher than having internal resources.

But when you consider what it would cost to find and hire comparable talent, an outsourced solution can start to look like a pretty sweet deal. A typical content marketing program, for instance, requires a wide range of specialized skills:

  • Strategy development
  • Project management
  • Copywriting
  • Editing
  • Design
  • Social media promotion
  • Email promotion
  • Publication outreach
  • Search engine optimization
  • Web design & development
  • Analytics

What would it cost to put together an internal team with all of these skillsets? It’s likely to be hundreds of thousands of dollars per year. Could you afford to staff such a team full time? Maybe you’re thinking that you could build and coordinate a part-time marketing team, you’d be wise to think again. These skills are in high demand. And even if you could wrangle such a team, freelancers and part-timers are notoriously difficult to manage.

If you want professional-grade talent running your marketing initiatives, outsourcing may be your best and most affordable option for a team of marketing specialists who can successfully develop and execute a campaign from concept to completion.

2. A marketing firm won’t “get” us.

Some leaders don’t believe that an outsider could ever understand the indescribable qualities that make their company special. This attitude is not only misguided, it suggests a closed mind-set that is probably hindering the company’s growth.

Strong marketing imposes discipline on businesses. It forces you to articulate what differentiates your firm from competitors — or admit that you don’t have a clue. If you think your marketing firm won’t understand you, what hope is there for your prospective clients?

Great marketing is great communication. And it starts with your marketing firm. Think of them as your surrogate — if you can convince them you are the best thing since sliced bread, they will amplify that message. But if you can’t deliver a compelling message, your outsourced marketing firm can help you craft one. In fact, that’s their job.

If you question your marketing firm’s ability to understand your business, start with engaging them to conduct research that will help uncover the differentiators and unique sales proposition that define your company. This way you will be able to develop informed messages that will speak to your prospective clients concerns and make them take notice.

3. We’ll have less control.

When you outsource your marketing, you do give up a measure of control. Instead of relying on your own instincts, you are putting your marketing program into outside hands. And that can be scary.

download-marketig-planning-guide

But if you hire the right partner — one that’s willing to collaborate with you, studiously test assumptions and make course adjustments along the way — you’ll find that for the first time your firm has the tools to deliver an intelligent go-to-market program.

Marketing will become less a guessing game and more a series of scientific experiments to discover what techniques and messages resonate best with your audience. At times, success will arrive in explosive bursts. At other times, progress will be small and incremental. But you will be able to measure your headway, have a decent idea of where it came from and feel confident that you can replicate your success. That’s control.

4. It will take as much time to manage as when we did it ourselves.

A competent marketing agency should be able to manage your marketing program for you. They should be accountable for your program’s performance and keep you apprised of its progress at regular intervals (at least monthly). After all, relinquishing the administration headaches is one of the chief benefits of outsourced marketing.

If you choose to keep the management function of your marketing in-house and split production among a bevy of freelancers you will probably see fewer benefits.

5. We won’t get results.

This is perhaps your biggest concern because it happens so often — firms pay good money for what they hope will be sophisticated marketing expertise and the marketing agency barely moves the needle. Ouch!

It doesn’t have to be that way. Quality outsourced marketing firms are able to consistently deliver results by following a proven, 3-step process:

  1. Set achievable goals
  2. Measure and report progress
  3. Test alternative hypotheses

Repeat.

Firms that follow this scientific, circular approach are able to make progress because they are continually eliminating the practices that achieve lesser results. Of course, the best outsourced marketing firms will have a head start because they already know from experience or research what techniques usually work and which ones to avoid. (At Hinge, for instance, we’ve spent a decade studying professional services marketers and buyers to understand what works.)

When you hire a good marketing firm, you can usually expect to see some results quickly. That’s because there is almost always some low-hanging fruit — that is to say marketing opportunities the agency can see right away but your firm has not yet exploited.

Once you put these five myths behind you, you will be better positioned to make a smarter choice for your firm. While there are no guarantees in marketing — there are simply too many variables at play — outsourcing your marketing should be a relatively low-risk, high-return investment.

The trick, of course, is finding the right firm for you. For starters, look for a marketing firm that knows your industry, is easy to work with and can demonstrate they know how modern marketing works. Then make the saying, “trust but verify,” your motto: take your agency’s advice, but demand transparency and accountability in return. You’ll be glad you did.

Additional Resources:

  • Find out how to turn your firm into a high-visibility, high-growth business. Download our free executive guide, The Visible Firm®, in which we layout a detailed roadmap of this research-based program.
  • Learn marketing strategies that will generate more leads and increase awareness of your firm in Hinge’s Online Marketing for Professional Services book.