March 10, 2021
10 Min Read
Building an in-house team of marketing experts can be costly and time-consuming. Especially if you’re targeting fast growth and results from a standing start.
And even if you have an established marketing department, scaling at speed often requires outside help to bridge knowledge gaps and explore new tactics.
That’s why nearly two-thirds of B2B companies are turning to outsourced marketing providers to reach new audiences, generate leads, and boost sales.
Yet, this approach, if handled incorrectly, can be fraught with complications. There’s vetting to be done and budgets and expectations to be set — and that’s before anyone has actually done any marketing.
Here we take a look at some of the most common pitfalls when outsourcing marketing, before sharing how you can avoid them to get it right from the word go.
Note: Most of the pitfalls in this article often stem from this one mistake. Plugging this gap is a must.
Before you start outsourcing your marketing, you need a plan and someone to execute that plan. Whether that’s an internal hire or an external marketing strategist, having someone who can identify the marketing needs of your business and coordinate outsourced resources is non-negotiable.
Without the right leadership in place to develop and own your marketing strategy, you could fall into the trap of simply making it up as you go along. Hiring an SEO here and a social media manager there will only get you so far. To succeed, you need the joined-up approach which comes from having a knowledge expert calling the shots.
Remember: Marketing isn’t an ongoing expense. Marketing is an investment.
That means, at the strategic planning stage, you need to assign a clear and considered budget for your outsourced marketing. Otherwise, tracking ROI at the execution stage can become tricky.
Let’s put it another way. Without a plan, and without a budget to underpin that plan, you can start to (begrudgingly) view your outsourced marketing as a cost, plain and simple. And costs can start to spiral. If you can’t draw a straight line between the money spent on marketing and your leads and sales, it can become tempting to cut those costs — even if that’s likely to do more harm than good.
Failing to manage your own expectations around the progress and results of outsourced marketing can lead to friction and frustration with vendors. Expecting to be ranked #1 on Google within 24 hours? Expect to be disappointed.
Therefore, during the planning phase, realistic expectations need to be set.
This is where it pays to have a bonafide marketing strategist at your side. A strategist can help you determine what’s achievable within a certain timeframe, and that, in turn, allows everyone (internal and external) to pull in the same direction towards shared goals.
At the same time, you need to be wary of marketing providers pouring you a great big glass of snake oil as they promise you the earth. Again, a seasoned marketing strategist or CMO can help you separate the fast-talkers from those with real-world results.
And while hearing that it may take six months to a year to see any tangible results from an SEO campaign, for example, can be tough to swallow, it’s better that you know what to expect early on in the relationship — otherwise, things could quickly go sour.
Hiring someone to develop your marketing strategy and oversee its execution is only part of the puzzle.
Sadly, it’s not always as simple as handing over the keys and walking away to focus on another part of your business. In the opening days, weeks, and months of a campaign, you need to be available to provide industry-specific knowledge and guidance. You also need to monitor the output and make sure it remains on-brand — after all, your company’s reputation is at stake.
By removing yourself from the picture (either too soon or entirely), you’re essentially leaving your marketing leadership to fend for themselves. This means they — and by extension, any other outsourced providers — are left to play catchup when it comes to understanding your business, your industry, and your customers.
And if you’re not on-hand to answer those awkward technical questions or approve initiatives, it could slow progress, costing you time and money in the process.
Remember when we said that marketing is an investment? This is especially true when it comes to outsourcing. While you might be tempted to go with the SEO with the cheapest per-hour-rate or the copywriter who charges pennies-per-word, it will only save you money in the short-term.
In the long-term, you get what you pay for, and results don’t come cheap. Low-cost providers are usually synonymous with low-quality work, and costly mistakes can soon creep into your marketing output.
Ranging from seemingly trivial typos to broken links and purchased followers, the corner-cutting can reflect poorly on your brand. And that’s before you get into the realms of outdated tactics and spammy techniques, which, if allowed to run, could actively harm your growth and reputation.
Let’s say you hire a freelancer to handle your SEO. How do you know they’re actually doing what you’re paying them to do? How will you monitor progress and evaluate success? How do you spot the spammy link building campaigns and keyword stuffing on-page optimisation?
If you don’t have that knowledge expert at your side, you need to step up to the plate and educate yourself on some marketing fundamentals. Whether it’s SEO, PPC, CRO, content marketing, or social media, it’s vital that you have a basic grasp of how it works and what success looks like.
Otherwise, you could be out-of-pocket and none-the-wiser as to whether or not it was a worthwhile investment.
Finally, a major mistake made when outsourcing marketing is not taking the time to properly integrate vendors with your existing teams.
From making one-to-one introductions and adding people to communication channels, to clearly defining roles and responsibilities, things can fall apart fast if you don’t manage this key step.
The last thing you want is for internal team members and outsourced providers to be overlapping where tasks are concerned. What starts as toes being stepped on can quickly breed contempt and mistrust. And if your existing employees start to view freelancers or agencies as a threat to their employment status, it can be difficult to row that back and have everyone pulling in the same direction.
Without the proper structure and know-how, these mistakes are easily made. But the good news is, there are plenty of things you can do to guard against making them.
For starters, hiring someone to manage and support the outsourced marketing strategy and execution should go a long way towards avoiding poor results, wasted investment, and reputational damage.
And if you plan, prepare, and plug your own knowledge gaps, you’ll be better placed to oversee a successful outsourced marketing campaign yourself — with or without help.
To that end, consider doing the following:
Knowing which questions to ask and which answers to listen out for will help you identify quality operators while avoiding those who simply talk a good game. Whether you’re working with a strategist or doing the hiring yourself, a little bit of interview prep is essential.
Once you’ve selected your freelancer or agency, you need to ensure a smooth transition and allow time for the vendor to get up-to-speed with your business, industry, and objectives.
This freelancer onboarding checklist from Contently suggests repurposing existing HR content to help freelancers better understand the landscape and get them on the same page as the rest of your team.
Meanwhile, making sure your tech stack is up-to-scratch will help with the day-to-day communication between existing team members and outsourced providers.
And if you want to go deep into the challenges of working with freelancers and how to build a strong culture within a blended team, look no further than this post on the Traktion blog.
Lastly, if you don’t know what you’re supposed to be tracking when it comes to specific marketing disciplines, it can be tough to know if your outsourced marketing is having the desired impact.
Taking the time to understand certain key performance metrics can be the difference between drawing that line between spend and ROI or getting lost in the weeds and cutting costs.
With so many moving parts, avoiding the pitfalls of outsourced marketing can sometimes be easier said than done. But to stand a fighting chance of making it work, you need to surround yourself with the right people, ask the right questions, and appreciate that you still have a huge part to play, even when you’re handing off responsibility to an outside provider.
Avoid mistake #1 by hiring pre-vetted freelance marketing talent with Traktion. Connect with the world’s sharpest strategists, content marketers, SEOs, and more through our easy-to-use platform.