The potential of outsourcing your marketing needs

It’s been a stressful year, and one of many vexing business questions is: “How do I maintain my presence in the market while keeping an eye on my expenses?”

Research demonstrates that a consistent, strategically focused marketing effort during an economic downturn has significant benefits. During a recession, businesses are more likely to maintain market share and keep sales stable. Once the economy turns around, the data shows that business will typically recover faster and market share will increase compared to where it was before the recession.

OK, that may be true — but what of it? Sales are uncertain. Budgets are tight. Everyone is cutting expenses to an absolute minimum. For smaller businesses the challenge may be greater. Many owners attempt to do all the marketing themselves. Or they rely on inexperienced staff to manage marketing efforts – whether they know anything about strategy, positioning, promotion and advertising or not.

You can turn this difficulty into an opportunity by “outsourcing” your marketing efforts.

Many of us are comfortable with outsourcing in other areas of business, including bookkeeping, payroll and IT. Outsourcing your marketing means that you are hiring an expert marketing professional, on an independent contractor basis, to think and act on your company’s behalf as your “marketing director.” This individual works with you to maintain a robust marketing strategy, develop a coordinated marketing plan, and drive the implementation and execution of the activities defined in the plan.

Outsourcing eliminates the need to add marketing responsibilities to an unprepared and inexperienced employee, or to hire a new employee. With outsourcing, you purchase a piece of the expertise, time and talent of a marketing pro.

What are the most important benefits?

• Flexibility. Outsourcing allows you to purchase exactly as much marketing effort and expertise as needed, for as long as it is needed. For example, a seasonal business may need a lot of marketing work during a specific period. Another business may outsource until it is large enough to bring marketing in-house. Yet another business may be thrilled with outsourcing and make it their long-term answer to getting marketing done.

• More expertise for the dollar. For less than the amount needed to pay an entry-level marketing assistant, you can outsource to obtain “VP-level” marketing skills (and have additional incremental dollars available to invest in marketing activities). That means strategic expertise and planning know-how as well as the ability to creatively execute individual marketing projects. Even the smallest business markets more effectively and makes more money when they think strategically and act on the basis of a marketing plan.

• Get things accomplished efficiently and effectively. Outsourcing results in a focus on getting the work done. A knowledgeable independent marketer can get much done with his or her billable time. And because you are engaging in a higher level of marketing skill, you’ll not only get your marketing done, you’ll get it done with better results.

When outsourcing, make sure you maintain the marketer’s independent contractor status. You don’t want the IRS reviewing your relationship and determining that the person is, by their rules, an employee. You also need to stay involved. Outsourcing doesn’t mean putting it out of your mind. In fact, you should be very engaged with the work, especially strategically.

Look for three things in a good outsourced marketer:

• Expertise. The marketer should have strong skills in strategic marketing, developing marketing plans and project management and implementation, with a good track record of results.

• Wide range of experience. The broader the experience, the better able to make recommendations that are best suited for your business. Keep in mind the old cliché, “when the only thing in your toolbox is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” Some businesses need a robust Web site. Some do well with print advertising. Others can benefit from social network marketing. Beware of one-solution-fits-all marketers.

• Objectivity. This may be the secret ingredient for success. You want to work with someone who can demonstrate the ability to develop marketing strategies, plans and tactical solutions that are truly in the best interest of your business – the result of seeing himself or herself as your “director of marketing.”

Outsourcing your marketing is a creative opportunity: not only during tough times, but in a robust economy as well. A well-managed relationship will provide you with flexibility, access to a high level of expertise and strategic thinking, result in a more effective use of business resources, and generate strong bottom line results.

David Deziel, founder of Nebesek Marketing and Communication, Manchester, can be contacted at or 603-361-2184.