10 Top Tips for Outsourcing your Marketing

As the seeds of economic recovery begin to sprout, business owners are turning their thoughts to profiting from the upturn.  For many, this may mean putting more time and energy into marketing and business development, but how do you boost your marketing at a time when costs are also under constraint?

In the past, the only option for most SMEs looking to inject some ‘oomph’ into their marketing was to hire a new marketing employee but recently a different alternative has become available: outsourced marketing.  Over the last decade outsourcing has become increasingly commonplace in a variety of sectors especially IT, finance and HR.  Now, SMEs are recognising that outsourcing their marketing function could also make sense for the same reasons.  Increased flexibility, variable and reduced costs, and an ability to tap into a wealth of specialist experience when you need it are all reasons for considering outsourcing.

If this is a possible solution for your business, here are our ten top tips for getting it right:

1          Be clear about why you’re doing it

There are a number of different reasons why outsourcing might work for you but, unless you’re clear about what you want to achieve, your chances of success are going to be reduced.  Here are some pointers on effective outsourcing scenarios:

  • Outsourced marketing director: you need an experienced person but not full time, either because you can’t afford it or there isn’t enough for them to do
  • A complete outsourced team: your skill requirements are going to be variable as your priorities evolve, and it’s going to be difficult to find those in one employee
  • Skills transfer: you want an outsourced marketing director who can train your junior staff and coach your management team, and then recruit their own full-time replacement as your business grows
  • Project resource: you need some specific skills and capacity to handle a defined project alongside your existing team

2          Identify the cost benefit

For many SMEs, the cost benefits of outsourcing versus hiring a staff member are clear.  You can expect the overheads of hiring an employee to effectively double or treble their salary.  So a marketing manager on £35,000 is going to cost your business at least £70,000 (just ask your accountant).  With outsourcing there are no overheads and the cost should be variable – you can use as much or as little outsourcing as you need from month to month.

3          Short or long-term?

If you need a long-term, full-time resource, then hiring an employee may be the most cost-effective route.  But if you’re hesitant about committing to more fixed costs, or not sure whether a long-term appointment is really necessary, an outsourced marketing director or manager is a good interim solution.  And you can use their experience of recruiting marketers to scope a full-time role and recruit the right person when that becomes necessary.

4          Be clear on the skills and experience that you need

When cash is tight, the temptation is to hire a cheap junior marketing exec.  If you simply need someone to do a relatively low-level job and you have the time and expertise to manage them effectively, then this might be the right route for you.  The danger is that they don’t add any strategic or creative value, and they become a drain on the time of senior management.  So be clear about the level of experience you need and consider whether it would be more effective to have a part-time, outsourced senior marketer than a full-time junior.

Also be clear about the skills you need; this will be directly related to your business strategy and your market.  The advantage of outsourcing is that you can often draw on a team of people with different skills when you need them, from digital marketing to running sales campaigns and handling PR.

5          Evaluate an outsourced marketer as you would an employee

You’ll want to take the appointment of outsourced marketers seriously because they should have a major impact on the revenue and value of your business.  So evaluate them in the same way as you would a full-time employee, and that includes the ‘cultural fit’ with your business: will they mesh with your way of working, and with the rest of your team? (Unless you want them to shake up your business, of course!).

6          Set measurable objectives

Any successful outsourcing needs to start with a clear statement of what you are hoping to accomplish so that potential suppliers can provide you with realistic proposals and defined costs.  Before the engagement starts you need to agree measurable and timely objectives, and review these on a regular basis.  You might also want to consider tying some element of payment to results, depending on the project or engagement.

You should put what you agree in writing and agree the ownership of any work and intellectual property upfront.

7          How ‘embedded’ do you want the relationship to be?

Before you outsource your marketing, consider what kind of relationship you want to have.  Do you want them to represent your business as a ‘card-carrying’ member of your staff, or as a consultant?  How much responsibility do you want them to have, for example, in managing other staff or purchasing?  Some businesses like their outsourced staff to work on site while others prefer them to work remotely.

8          Look for skills transfer

The advantage of hiring outsourced marketers is that you are getting access to a substantial range of experience and skills.  Whether the engagement is short or long term, you should expect good outsourcing suppliers to transfer skills into your organisation, through training, coaching and mentoring, just as a full-time senior manager would.    And it might not just be about up-skilling your junior staff; consider whether your management team could learn about setting marketing strategy or how to manage your marketing function more effectively in the future.

9          Check credentials and references

Before you make an appointment, take the time to check an outsourced marketer’s track record.  Ask for examples of relevant previous work and testimonials; and talk to previous employers or clients.


10         Have a succession plan

Particularly if you don’t view outsourcing as a long-term solution, you should build a succession plan from the outset.  Indeed, many businesses hire outsourced marketing directors to help them define the right structure for their marketing team and then recruit appropriately.  If you’re hiring an outsourced marketer to deliver a particular project, then make sure you specify what support might be needed once it’s complete, and how much of that is included in the project fee.

With these tips in mind you should be well equipped to make informed choices on outsourcing your marketing, and getting a fast-track to increased revenue.


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