Should we outsource online marketing?
This question is something that every business owner needs to consider at some point when their business starts growing.
Do you continue to do online marketing yourself?
Do you hire someone to help you manage online marketing?
Or do you outsource it to some online marketing agency?
There are many areas like this in any business, but one, in particular, is an online marketing and its management. Creating and promoting content, especially for a business site, is essentially a full-time job. If you have a small team, you can’t always dedicate a full-time person to online marketing efforts.
What ends up happening is that it is ignored or it’s done haphazardly.
Without consistency, you’re much less likely to see the full results of online marketing. Regardless of your specific situation, there will come a time when you will lack the time or manpower to execute online marketing properly.
So, what do you do then?
In most cases, you will have to decide whether your company’s online marketing be outsourced or managed in-house. This is not an easy decision. To help you make it—and make the correct one—I’ve compiled a list of 7 questions you should consider and answer. I suggest you open up a blank spreadsheet and at least jot down your answers to each question.
1. Does anyone on your team have the skills you need?
Online marketing can be incredibly effective. We’ve been driving thousands of visits and hundreds of customers using it for my various clients’ websites/businesses. That being said, it’s not easy. In order to be successful in online marketing, you need to have a wide variety of skills. And you can’t just be average either; otherwise, you’ll get lost in the crowd. If you really want to break it down, below are things that an online marketer must have hands-on experience in:
Obviously, one person can have more than one skill from this list. The best online marketers have all, or nearly all, of these skills. To simplify it even further I would say online marketers need to be competent in three areas:
- Domain Expertise
It’s not very difficult to find someone with one of these areas covered. But it’s pretty hard to find someone with two of these, and it’s even more difficult to find someone with all three. Although they do exist, but you need to find them. If you find someone it’s the eureka zone!
The fact of the matter is that you’re unlikely to have one of them on your team already. So, this is your first question:
Do you—or anyone on your team—have the skills and experience with online marketing to be successful?
If the answer is no, then you have no choice. You’ll either have to bring in someone new or outsource your online marketing to some agency.
If your answer is yes, you do have a choice.
Then, you’ll have to determine if it’s worth having them spend their time on online marketing while taking away from other core areas of your business. Many of the remaining questions will help you determine this.
2. What kind of budget do you have for online marketing?
Like with any other kind of marketing, the more you have to spend on online marketing, the better your results will typically be. I’m not talking about splurging money, but don’t pinch pennies when it comes to things like graphics, content, designing, and above all, reach.
In a 2014 survey, it was found that on average, SMBs spent less than $300/per month on online marketing. In India, this figure would be even much lower than Rs.15000/- per month. I’d say that if you have no experience with online marketing, you can start with a small budget of as low as Rs.20000/-/per month and as you taste the success, you can scale up your budget in the future.
Your budget will determine your options: If you have a very limited budget for online marketing, say Rs.15000/- or less per month you won’t be able to hire a good agency. Typically, you’ll need to be spending at least a few thousand before an agency will take you on as a client. However, for that amount, you could hire a freelancer but only if you know that they know the game well. If you have a larger budget to work with, you have all options available to you, and this won’t be a limiting factor. If that’s the case, base your decision on your answers to the other questions.
3. Would you rather work with freelancers or agencies?
Outsourcing your online marketing is a huge decision. Both, a freelancer as well as an agency are good options, but each has its own strengths and weaknesses. If you’re not familiar with the terms, a freelancer is someone who is self-employed and generally works for multiple clients at the same time. An agency, on the other hand, is more “professional.” They’ll have a full staff of at least three employees and typically have a wide variety of clients.
Price comparison: Here’s where your budget limitations might come in. When you’re hiring freelancers, the cost is all over the board. In general, you will pay less to a freelancer for the same work than you would pay an agency because the freelancer has less overhead. Whereas an agency would be relatively expensive, but they get you results.
They typically have an expert in each area for eg: They’ll have an expert designer, an interesting writer, an editor, and a smart promoter. Together, the team does an excellent job which is practically impossible in the case of a freelancer. In short, you can usually save a bit by hiring freelancers, but you’ll have to do more work managing and monitoring them. Instead, you can hire an agency and get the desired results. Simply put you’ll get what you pay for.
4. Do they have an area of expertise? Is it relevant?
If you choose to outsource your online marketing, it’s crucial that you hire someone (or some agency) that will get you results. Just for a second, let’s think about the type of marketers you might need in this situation. Most of the marketers will have two skills—Technology and Domain Expertise—out of the three main skills we talked about earlier (Technology, Domain Expertise, and Creativity); those are, after all, fundamentals of modern marketing. But the third one isn’t so easy because creativity cannot be learnt from books it is innate.
It’s very rare for someone to be an expert in technology and creativity and also have the necessary marketing skills with domain expertise. If you decide to outsource, you’ll find a lot of freelancers who say that they can market any business. The fact that they think so shows that they are not top-level online marketers. All the best online marketers will have one or two areas of expertise.
When it comes to agencies, it’s a bit different. A large agency may have professionals who are experts in several niches. However, small-to-mid-size agencies who are generalists may face some problems initially until they gather the required knowledge of your niche.
That alone doesn’t mean that they’re a good agency, but at least it tells you that they understand your industry and recognize that domain expertise is important.
5. How will they measure success?
Just like everyone has a different definition of online marketing, everyone also has a different definition of success. In order to have a good working relationship, you need to establish reasonable guidelines for success beforehand. If your expectations don’t match up, at least one of you will be frustrated.
It’s entirely possible for the agencies to be thrilled that they generated X number of visits, Y number of Likes, and Z number of comments & shares but for you, the calculations may be totally different. You may not care about the XYZ of visits and likes and are more interested in business or additional transactions through online marketing efforts. If your focus is additional moolah please lay down your expectations clearly before you agree to work together.
When you discuss your expectations, you will see whether you have any differences with the other party. If they think your expectations are unreasonable, they can tell you why, and you can discuss the subject until you agree on reasonable expectations around their work.
If you can’t come to an agreement now, consider yourself lucky that you found out early that you aren’t compatible. It will save you a lot of stress and frustration in the future and yes money too!
A few important indices to measure online marketing initiatives would be something like this.
6. Do they give any guarantees?
No online marketing agency can make guarantees about the number of sales or the amount of sales because that’s out of their control. Most transparent online marketers (especially agencies) will offer some sort of guarantee of a result but after 6-12 months. They probably won’t promise X,000 leads per month, but they can promise that you’ll like the work that they’ve done (the content, the reach, and the mindshare), the way they’ve done it, and the results so far (according to the metrics you’ve agreed on).
If anyone gives a guarantee right at the start it means there is something fishy, beware!
Sales depend on many things, including the many parts of your sales funnel. Online marketing can be useful to attract prospects, but you’ll also need to convert that traffic into leads.
The takeaway: Online marketing is only one piece of your business. If you outsource it, make sure that the raw leads get nurtured and finally get converted into sales through flawless follow-up.
7. How will they keep you informed of their progress?
This final question will also save you a lot of stress and frustration. All agencies and freelancers communicate differently. Some won’t communicate as often as you’d like, while others will keep you too updated. Everyone is different, but I think a monthly report is a good frequency for checking in, in addition to communicating about any big issues that may come up.
Most agencies will send a template-based report of all the most important metrics, which is good because you’ll get used to finding important information within those reports quickly. Most freelancers don’t have any reporting system, so it’s critical to outline to them beforehand what information is important to you and how often you want it.
This may not seem like an important issue, but it’ll save you from wondering about the status of any work in progress or worrying whether any work is being done at all.
Online marketing is an effective method of marketing for almost any business. Its importance continues to grow every passing day, so even if you haven’t started, you should still get going. If you have started but are finding that you don’t have enough time to give online marketing the attention and effort needed to get the results you want, something needs to change.
The most common option is to outsource online marketing.
This is a big decision that will have a significant impact on your overall marketing results, so you need to make it carefully.
The 7 questions that I’ve gone into great detail about in this post will ensure that you know whether you should outsource your online marketing and how to find the right person or agency to hire.
If you’ve further questions or concerns about online marketing or looking out for some agency to outsource your company’s online marketing kindly write to me using our contact form available here.