How to Get the Most from Outsourced Marketing Support
Whether your preference is freelancers, consultants, or agencies, outsourcing parts of your marketing is a sound way to ensure your in-house team can confidently lead your organisation’s marketing activity, focusing on what is most important and outsourcing the parts that save resources and time or are simply better placed with specialists.
In an ideal world, all marketing partnerships between in-house and outsourced teams would be harmonious and consistently result in the very highest standard of work. Unfortunately, we live in the real world where client-agency (or freelancer) relationships can break down for a number of reasons.
We’ll caveat this post by saying that the purpose of this blog is not to point fingers at either party! Both Founders of Insourced Digital Marketing have experience working within marketing agencies and in-house marketing teams, so we fully understand the challenges on both sides.
The truth is, establishing and maintaining long-lasting relationships with your outsourced marketing support is not always easy. The good news is there are many ways to successfully achieve an excellent relationship that delivers the exact service and work standard you expect.
In case you’re in a rush, here’s a summary of our top tips. Click to jump to the full explanation:
Have a business strategy
Business strategy and marketing strategy are not the same things. A business strategy is how your business will achieve its core vision and includes things like organisational structure and operational processes but may also include priority products/services to focus on based on which is most profitable to the business.
Marketing strategy, on the other hand, is about reaching your customer to attract, convert and retain them, so you can deliver on business objectives. Marketing strategy supports business strategy. While it can feed into business decisions by providing customer insights and the like, when outsourcing to marketing partners it’s generally ideal to first have a clear business strategy in place.
The best collaborations between in-house teams and outsourced marketing support happen when there’s a clearly defined roadmap for the business that both are privy to.
Know how to brief
Talking of clearly defining things, mastering the art of briefing your marketing partner fully and with clarity is one of the best ways to ensure you’re on the same page and working efficiently together.
A marketing brief is usually a document describing to your partner the challenge you face, your marketing goals, project or campaign requirements, budget, and timeframe expectations. Sometimes this document is provided as a template by the agency or freelancer.
Example of video brief template. Source: HubSpot
Can a brief be verbally given via phone or in-person meeting? Sure. In this case though, we always recommend following a verbal brief up with a written version, to ensure nothing has been missed or words misinterpreted.
Using this brief, your partner can fully understand the scope of work required, your desired outcomes, clear deliverables, and the timeframe and budget they have to work with. Larger agencies will often reverse-brief you, which means to provide a proposal or presentation that reiterates your original brief as they understand it, and outline their approach, costs, etc.
We’ll be the first to admit that sometimes writing a brief feels like an extra task that takes up time but it is so important. Detailed briefs save time and awkward conversations about who’s at fault when marketing work is returned to you that is not what you wanted.
Be open about service-level expectations
It goes without saying that outsourcing comes with an expectation for a high level of service, as a standard. Many consultants and agencies will provide service-level agreements that state their working hours, email response times, workload prioritisation, and so on.
If you’re in the process of selecting a vendor to work with, be sure to ask for these details because all businesses have different working practices and ways of partnering. Do they accept project requests via text message, for example, or do they use an online support system that requires you to log a ‘ticket’? If the answer is the latter but you insist on sending requests via text message or WhatsApp, there’s immediate tension in the relationship. That’s not to say either process is wrong, being clear about the type of service you expect is just about ensuring your partner is the right fit for you.
Of course, if you’re a business with unique needs, such as a hospitality business that has to be reactive to social media comments in the evenings and on weekends, and you’re outsourcing this, it’s essential that you’re transparent about your expectations for this kind of work upfront.
As much as marketing partners can be an extension of your in-house team, they’re also not involved in the day-to-day happenings within your business and may not have access to all of the reporting data they need. Sometimes, you are their main source of information and validation that what they’re doing is delivering tangible business impact.
Take for example when sales happen offline. Let’s say your marketing partner sends an email campaign and reports back to you on KPIs such as opens, clicks, and website enquiries. Everything looks positive but the key measure of success is whether the email generated appointments for the sales team and whether these became customers. In this case, the feedback you provide is golden and should be shared proactively.
Providing constructive and data-driven feedback ensures your partner can progress and adjust their work according to performance and also ensures your partner knows you pay attention to the results they deliver.
In short, communication is key on both sides.
Pay on time
A controversial topic but important nonetheless: Paying vendors on time is the number one way to demonstrate that you value their efforts. If you’re asking for them to react quickly, be an extension of your in-house marketing team, and care about the business like they worked solely for you, but you’re consistently paying late, you’re sending mixed signals and negatively impacting their own cash flow and business growth.
Granted, late payments are often due to internal processes that could originate in other departments, and there will be flexibility from your partner when it’s a rare occurrence. If it’s a recurring issue though, it’s a fast way to damage the relationship you have with your partner.
Endeavour to ensure your outsourced marketing support is paid on time and if you’re encountering difficulties with this, be open and communicate about potential solutions such as different payment terms.
Have some knowledge in the area you’re outsourcing
One of the biggest frustrations we hear from clients is they don’t know what their outsourced partners are actually doing behind the scenes. This is especially true for more technical marketing services such as search engine optimisation (SEO). When an agency says they are “optimising in the back-end”, what does that mean?
Yes, outsourcing to specialists is about relieving in-house teams of the channels or tactics that they aren’t experts in, and there has to be trust and reliance in marketing partners to work with integrity and deliver the work they’re paid to do. However, having some level of understanding in the area you’re outsourcing benefits both you and your partner.
With more knowledge about the outsourced area, you will feel empowered to evaluate and give feedback on work because you understand the language used, factors at play, and outcomes. You’re also able to ask informed questions and complement outsourced activity with what you do in-house (check out our blog on good in-house SEO practices, for example).
For the agency, freelancer, or consultant, clients who understand the topic they’re working on are the best because it means less time spent explaining the basics and more confidence to attempt sophisticated and innovative marketing approaches.
It’s a win-win all around!
If you’d like to learn more about a marketing topic so you can effectively manage both in-house activities and outsourced marketing support, get in touch for a chat about bespoke, tailored marketing training based on your business strategy and goals.