I’m currently finishing Simon Winchester’s The Perfectionists: How Precision Engineers Shaped the Modern World. Apart from a treasure trove of insights, there’s also another critical point that jumped out at me now that I’m in the closing pages of the book.
Just as how things like machine tools and interchangeable parts helped usher in the Industrial Revolution and eventually led to the age of information we’re now living in, it’s also clear that outsourcing has helped accelerate this entire process.
As businesses and their activities grew more and more complex, it soon became clear that companies needed outside help to operate. This started in manufacturing where one company relied on the products and labor of another to make their operations more efficient.
More than two-thirds of B2B companies outsource their marketing
The marketing world soon caught up with the outsourcing trend when companies also began to farm out branding and advertising. Today, with practically every marketing channel requiring some degree of specialized expertise, it makes more business sense to outsource part or all of marketing to an agency.
According to Hubspot’s 2018 Marketing Mix Report, more than two-thirds of B2B companies outsource their marketing, and much of this is due to marketing’s ever-increasing complexity:
- B2B marketers’ budgets are shifting toward activities that need in-depth technical proficiency such as marketing automation and digital touch points. (Gartner)
- There’s a shortage of marketing talent as the growth in marketing responsibilities outpace the available talent pool. (LinkedIn)
- Marketing now plays newer and expanded roles. Marketers are now expected to perform sales, IT, product development, and other business responsibilities. (Salesforce)
As a vital part of your business process, you need to manage outsourced marketing effectively. That’s what I’ll share with you in the rest of this post. We’ll go over seven practical ways to ensure success with your outsourced campaigns using lessons I’ve learned from my experience at both ends of the outsourcing table.
Align your expectations right from the outset
One of the first things I always set out to establish with new clients during the early stages of a campaign is to outline the project’s expectations. These are different from the project’s goals and objectives in that expectations tend to be more qualitative.
For example, defining the scope of the relationship (one-time vs. ongoing) is a key expectation that needs to be mutually set. Another important expectation to define is the specific steps in your marketing activities that the project covers along with branding guidelines.
Set clear and specific goals together
All of us know that goals form an essential component of any project. For outsourced marketing campaigns, in particular, goals need to be jointly set and mutually agreed upon by both you and the outsourced lead generation firm.
When fleshing out a campaign plan with new clients, my team makes it a point to uncover the customer’s business objectives, available budget, and implementation timelines. From these pieces of information, we can then work out well-defined, measurable, and realistic objectives for the project.
Designate who makes and owns specific marketing decisions
There’s one thing that I tend to notice in almost all of our highly-successful projects. These clients placed their full trust in our team and put us in a clear position to make and own key marketing decisions.
From campaign to campaign, I work with different point persons (from SMB owners to marketing VPs). The most successful ones are those where both my team and the client have clearly outlined and set who does what.
Embed the outsourced agency with the right internal people
No matter how seasoned or capable your chosen lead generation firm may be, they’ll always lack that insider knowledge and feel for your marketing processes and audience that only your internal people have. That’s why it’s important for the agency to team up with persons in your company who have the expertise they need.
For example, when creating campaign materials, the outsourced team will need to closely work with the right people to help them carry out prospect research, customer profiling, and product familiarization. Integrating campaign workflows will also require close coordination between the outside team and persons in charge of your tech stack.
Avoid micro-managing the project
With a very crucial business function like marketing, it can be difficult for some companies to place their complete confidence in an agency’s expertise. This oftentimes leads to clients micro-managing every component of the campaign which, in turn, results in delays and setbacks.
It’s important to understand that outsourced marketing programs require the full trust and confidence of both parties to succeed. So, thoroughly screen potential lead generation providers and only choose the one you’re comfortable working with. Once the project starts, have faith in their expertise and be sure to respect their autonomy.
Make sure to stay engaged all throughout
Letting the agency take the driver’s seat doesn’t mean you can leave the whole project on autopilot. Trust also requires verification, so you really need to stay engaged and involved throughout the outsourced program.
When handling outsourced campaigns, the most productive ways that clients remain involved in the process include giving feedback, raising concerns about performance, bringing new information, and following up on agreed-upon milestones.
Implement a proper communication plan
Outsourcing is all about communication, communication, communication. But communication goes beyond connecting and keeping in touch. My experience has taught me the right and wrong way to keep communication lines open throughout an outsourcing project.
- Determine the channels and frequency of your communications
- Always offer context when communicating
- Understand that being responsive is not the same as being available 24/7
- Take language barriers and time zones into account
- Choose the tools and time schedules for real-time communications
- Support communications with visuals such as screenshots, flowcharts, and data visualization
- Make sure to document and archive your communications with the agency
The success of any outsourced marketing campaign depends on a whole host of factors. But one element that you can control is how you manage the whole project. No matter how reputable or experienced your partner lead generation firm may be, the campaign won’t amount to much without your involvement.
If you have other pieces of advice to add about managing outsourced marketing campaigns, I’d love to read about them. Just let me know through the comments and please feel free to shoot me your questions.