Did you know that the marketing agency industry is expected to reach almost $10B per year in 2027 (according to Marketwatch)?
A lot of companies outsource their marketing to agencies or freelancers. I know this firsthand, because the other company I founded, Credo, has helped almost 10,000 companies looking to hire an agency to help them market their business.
Unfortunately, a lot of companies do a terrible job of outsourcing. They waste a lot of time and money because they either:
- hire a bad agency, or
- work ineffectively with the agencies they hire.
Eventually, they start to think all agencies are bad, which leads them to give up and realize they may never getting the results they want or need.
To help companies do a better job of outsourcing, and specifically outsourcing marketing, we wanted to understand how experts have successfully outsourced marketing in the past.
There are three (3) main points to outsourcing, which are:
- Determining the specific need and what to outsource,
- Doing a good job of hiring the right type of outsourced provider,
- Working effectively with the provider you choose.
Thanks to Terkel, the best HARO alternative, here are 15 answers to the question, “What is your best tip for outsourcing marketing work? How do you decide what to outsource?”
Determine Your Specific Need
The first step to outsourcing well is determining your specific needs. From there, you can determine the type of provider you need to hire.
Determining your need involves being clear and honest about your current situation, establishing your goals, or clarifying your progress against your goals, and then strategically approaching the problem that you are trying to solve with hypotheses around how to solve it.
This applies whether you’re hiring for marketing, development, finance, or anything else.
Define Your Goals and Research
Clearly define your goals and expectations at the outset of the engagement. [Then], research and carefully vet potential outsourcing partners, looking for established providers with a sound track record. Use a clearly-worded contract that defines deliverables, deadlines, and payment terms.
Maintain open lines of communication with the outsourcing partner throughout the engagement. Consider allocating a portion of your budget to ongoing training and upskilling of the outsourced team to ensure they remain up to date with the latest marketing practices.Brenton Thomas, Twibi
After helping hundreds of companies hire agencies, I can confidently tell you that Brenton’s advice is correct.
Especially in good economic times, some companies will hire an agency quickly without doing their due diligence. The same company will expect fast results with very little input from the agency, almost expecting them to know everything the company wants even though that has not been communicated.
Instead, Brenton’s advice is to be a partner, and I couldn’t agree more.
Admit You Have a Problem (Don’t Drown in Your Hubris)
One of the biggest challenges many of us have is admitting when we don’t know. We’re all smart people, so we think we can figure it out.
Often, this works. But then there are times when you just can’t figure it out. At that point, you need the humility to admit that you don’t know what to do and that you need outside help.
Admit when you’re in over your head. Marketing can be expensive, which is often enough to make many businesses consider handling everything themselves. Unfortunately, bad marketing can be as harmful to a business as good marketing can be helpful.
Professional marketing is money well spent on your business, not a burden or an undue cost. If your business genuinely can’t handle the scope of your marketing needs, then it’s absolutely time to seek outside help. Rather than wasting money, have the job done right the first time, even if it’s a bit more costly.Max Ade, Pickleheads
Stop throwing good money after a bad approach. An outside provider can help you get the right perspective shift and maybe even help you execute on the shift.
Identify Your Organization’s Unique Needs and Skill Gaps
Once you’ve identified your goals and admitted you have a problem, it’s time to identify your organization’s unique strengths and weaknesses and, from there, your skill gaps.
Conduct a thorough internal audit of your current marketing strategy, pinpointing areas where external expertise can make a significant impact. Assess your team’s strengths and weaknesses, and prioritize tasks that require specialized knowledge or time-intensive execution.
By delegating these tasks to experienced professionals, you ensure that your marketing efforts are not only efficient but also driven by the latest industry trends and best practices. Outsourcing allows your in-house team to focus on their core competencies, fostering a synergy that can propel your brand to new heights.Michael Lazar, ReadyCloud
Evaluate Your Time
Admitting you need help because you are stuck is one approach, but sometimes you know exactly what needs to be done, and you just don’t have the time to execute it. Or, maybe the required work is simply below your pay grade, and while you are able to do it, doing it yourself is not the fiscally responsible solution.
My best tip for outsourcing marketing work is to evaluate your core competencies and time constraints.
You can begin by identifying your team’s core strengths and known weaknesses, and then consider outsourcing the tasks that fall outside your team’s expertise or require specialized skills.
By doing this, you can ensure higher-quality results while allowing your in-house team to focus only on their core responsibilities. Additionally, assess the time-sensitive nature of marketing projects. If certain tasks require more time than your team can afford, outsourcing can help maintain efficiency and prevent overloading your team.
The decision to outsource should be driven by the need to optimize resources, maintain high-quality standards, and improve overall business performance.
Allocating budget, people, and time well is the key to business growth.Basana Saha, KidsCareIdeas
Evaluate the Cost of (Not) Outsourcing
Not outsourcing can be more expensive than outsourcing because of lost opportunity and the fact that you can often outsource a task for much less than it costs to staff it internally, even if the outsourced provider’s “per hour” cost is higher.
One of the most effective strategies for outsourcing marketing work is to thoroughly evaluate where you’re spending your time, how much you charge per hour, and how much it would cost to outsource specific tasks. By outsourcing tasks that someone else can do more cost-effectively, you can free up your time to focus on high-value tasks that maximize your potential revenue.
For instance, let’s say you’re a CRO specialist making $150 per hour for client calls and spending time on tasks like finding contact information for lead generation. For this task, you could easily hire a skilled virtual assistant for $15 to $25 per hour to take it off your plate.
The key to success with this strategy is to constantly reevaluate your priorities, ensuring you’re allocating your resources effectively to drive the most significant impact for your business.Axel DeAngelis, Jumpcoast
Outsource Non-core Tasks that Require Specialized Expertise
Another way to determine what to outsource is to identify non-core, but still necessary, tasks that require expertise that you cannot justify hiring in-house for at the current time.
Of course, when doing this exercise, make sure that all of the tasks you’re considering outsourcing are necessary. A task should be eliminated rather than delegated if it isn’t necessary.
I have found that outsourcing non-core tasks that require specialized expertise is the best tip for outsourcing marketing work. For example, we can outsource tasks such as graphic design or copywriting to agencies or freelancers who have specific skills in these areas. This allows your team to focus on core tasks and areas where they have expertise.
Platforms like Upwork or Fiverr can help find and hire qualified freelancers for specific tasks. It’s important to thoroughly evaluate potential candidates, including their experience and portfolios, before making a hiring decision. It’s also important to communicate expectations and deadlines to ensure a successful outsourcing partnership.Ben Lau, Featured
How to Hire Well
Once you’ve identified your needs and have decided to hire, it’s time to run a hiring process.
“A what?” you’re asking.
A hiring process means systematically finding, vetting, and agreeing to work with an outside vendor. Whether it’s an agency for a large engagement and, therefore, a long sales process or finding a freelancer for a specific task, hiring is a skill set in itself. Hiring the right kind of provider at the right time is the key to growth.
My framework for what type of provider to hire when, and for how long, is pretty simple and has been honed over the past decade speaking with thousands of companies and helping hundreds of them hire an agency or freelancer/consultant, as well as hiring over 50 employees and outside providers in my own companies.
Here’s my framework:
- If you need a strategy, hire a consultant.
- If you need services/fulfillment on a strategy requiring a team, hire an agency or a team of freelancers. The second one is much harder.
- If it’s a simple or specialized task, hire a freelancer, regardless of if it’s one-time or ongoing.
Pretty simple, right? Here are a few things our contributors had to say about hiring.
Identify Tasks and Match to Providers
It’s important to assign tasks to the right provider and to communicate expectations clearly when assigning them.
Once you have identified the tasks that can be outsourced, [choose] a reliable and experienced marketing provider who understands your business goals and has a proven track record of delivering results in your industry.
You can start by researching potential providers online, checking their reviews and testimonials, and asking for references from other businesses in your network. It’s also essential to be clear about your expectations, deadlines, and budget upfront to avoid any misunderstandings or surprises later on.Harry Boxhall, Boxhall Marketing
Start With a Trial Basis
Companies who commit for too long of a time frame put themselves at risk of not getting results. While it is important to give marketing enough time to work, it’s just as important to ensure you’ve selected the right vendor from a cultural and work quality perspective.
It’s ideal to sign an annual contract at some point, but when you’re just starting with a new provider, I strongly recommend only committing to an initial 3-month, and maximum 6-month, contract.
Be careful when choosing who to hire. If you do decide to outsource your marketing work, you could hire someone on a trial basis at first to make sure that they are sufficiently fulfilling your marketing needs and helping your business grow.
While outsourcing can seem like an easy way to lighten your workload so that you don’t have to worry about it, you still need to pay attention and determine whether whoever you hire is worth using long-term. Furthermore, you need to oversee their work and keep tabs on its quality.Marilyn Zubak, Snif
Review Portfolios and Samples
I’ll never forget my high school math teacher getting after me for not showing my work.
You’re the math teacher in this scenario. You need to ask agencies, or whoever you are considering hiring, to show you samples of the work they’ve done before. If it’s an SEO agency, ask them to show you samples of an SEO audit. If it’s a content writer, ask them to show you samples of work they’ve done.
You wouldn’t hire a software developer without a coding challenge, would you? Then why hire a marketer without seeing what they’ve done in the past and the quality of their work?
Always review portfolios and samples! By doing so, you can ensure that their previous work meets your expectations for quality and style.
Once core areas are identified, we consider outsourcing anything related but non-essential, such as specific types of SMM or blog management projects. An experienced marketer could easily handle those works at a much lower cost than trying to hire and manage staff in-house.
So, make sure to investigate portfolios to ensure top-notch quality and define core competencies to know exactly what tasks should be outsourced.Maria Harutyunyan, Loopex Digital
Working Effectively With Your Outsourced Providers
After the hiring stage, you need to work effectively with your new provider(s). Just like you’d train a new team member and eventually trust them with what you hired them to do, you need to invest in your providers while also setting them up for success.
Maintain Good Relations
No one likes to be treated like they’re “lesser than.” As someone who worked at two agencies, has started two agencies and a successful consulting business, and hired multiple agencies and consultants over the years, I can assure you that the best agencies and consultants don’t “need the work.” Too often, clients treat agencies badly because the client feels that they have the upper hand.
While it’s true that there are always more agencies out there to hire, the best are very successful and are willing to not renew a contract with a bad client.
Outsourcing partners are not expendable. Many businesses have a bad habit of treating contractors with less importance and respect than they would give to their in-house marketing team. This sort of attitude can be a drain on the relationship between client and provider.
While at a glance this may seem inconsequential, bad feelings between two parties can lead to dispirited interactions, lowered productivity, and stress for everyone involved. A poor attitude may harm any potential your business has of finding a long-term and quality partnership for your outsourcing needs. Treat everyone you work with respect, regardless of whether or not your marketing professionals are a literal part of your business.Liza Kirsh, Dymapak
Build Strong SOPs and Outsource One Process at a Time
One of the most commonly unmentioned ways to be more successful in hiring is to have up-to-date standard operating procedures (SOPs) that someone else can use to get up to speed with your company.
It’s unfortunate to watch a company hire an agency, give them no direction or feedback, and then fire the agency for lack of results. In reality, if the company had been prepared and ready to hire, they would have had operating procedures, a history of what’s been tried or not tried, and a process for getting the agency up to speed as quickly as possible so they can get down to preparing or executing on the strategies.
My best tip for outsourcing marketing work is to build robust Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and start by outsourcing one process at a time. Begin with the most mundane and repetitive tasks, as these are easier to delegate and monitor.
By establishing clear SOPs and gradually outsourcing, you can maintain control over the quality of work while freeing up time to focus on more strategic aspects of your marketing efforts.Max Desiak, Spreadsheet Daddy
SOPs free up time once they are created, as long as you keep them updated, which is the most common reason I hear for people not creating them- they’re hard to keep updated. While it is true that SOPs need maintenance, establishing a culture of ownership and using SOPs, and updating them when they become outdated, eliminates most of these problems.
Choose Tasks with a Short Learning Curve
Even when you have good clear SOPs, starting off a new outsourced provider with simpler tasks with a short learning curve can be a great way to get them up to speed and be productive earlier on.
As a business of one, I have to be creative with my time. I outsource some tasks to freelancers to help me scale my time and take on more clients. I choose tasks that don’t require a lot of training or expertise. If I can’t simply explain it in an email, I don’t outsource it. Otherwise, the time it takes me to explain and train could be better spent doing that task myself (and saving myself money).
After working with a couple of members of my freelance team and learning more about their skills and abilities, I feel more confident outsourcing to them. Some tasks might have a longer learning curve, but knowing what they’re capable of and how they communicate allows me to share more work with them while making the best use of my time.Alli Hill, Fleurish Freelance
Outsource Tasks That Can Be Done Remotely
In today’s digital world, most jobs can be done remotely. While I disagree with Harry Morton, who says that “marketing…works better when the team is present on-site,” I can’t disagree that outsourcing is most effective when it is viewed as a remote-first or remote-only thing.
[M]arketing is a team effort, and it works better when the team is present on-site. However, there may be some overflow of tasks that your team doesn’t have the bandwidth for.
Whether it’s SEO blogs, video design, editing, or more, many tasks need little strategy and planning. My best tip for outsourcing work would be to identify such tasks that can be done remotely and look for freelancers to execute them.Harry Morton, Lower Street
Harry’s take is great advice whether you’re hiring freelancers or an agency, and when you need specific types of tasks done. While specific tasks are often a better fit for individual freelancers and larger engagements are usually a better fit for an agency, expanding your search area away from your local area can yield much better results, both in terms of quality and the time it takes to hire and get a job accomplished.
Finally, you can see great results by staying flexible with outsourcing and finding the right partners who can handle your needs as well as changing your approach to both working with them and how you work internally.
As a business owner, you can’t be an expert in everything. For marketing, outsourcing specific tasks to professionals can be hugely beneficial. However, it’s critical to find partners who understand your brand and goals.
Be flexible in how you work together—don’t just hand off assignments, but collaborate and provide feedback. Give context about your business and customers so the work is tailored to your needs. If you find the right partners and maintain open communication, outsourcing marketing tasks can be an efficient way to scale your efforts and reach more people than you could on your own.Antreas Koutis, Financer
Thinking About Outsourcing Your Content Editing?
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