10 Reasons NOT to Outsource Your Marketing

December 10, 2007

Partnering with a marketing firm, creative firm or ad agency can be a really rewarding experience.  But outsourcing isn't right for every business. Our last article gave 10 reasons why you should outsource, and this counterpart gives 10 reasons why you should not outsource.

1. You are not prepared to respond to growth
The purpose of working with an outsourced firm should be to increase business. If your organization isn't equipped to deal with rapid growth, then you might want to get your resources in place before trying to boost your sales.

2. You don't have a designated point of contact 
Managing an outsourced team may be simpler than managing an internal team, but someone still has to do it.  Be prepared to participate. Client involvement is a critical success factor of the marketing process - don't expect good results if you work with a firm that can "do it all" without your input.

3. You aren't willing to let go
If you aren't willing to trust an outsider with your marketing, do not outsource to a full-fledged firm. Hire freelancers and the cheapest production labor that you can find. You will pay a lot more for solid advice and experience - don't bother paying more unless you are going to be receptive to it.

4. You aren't prepared to give it 6 months to 1 year
Whether you are hiring an internal marketing department or outsourcing, be realistic with your expectations with regard to timeframes. While there are some short term efforts that can lead to immediate boosts in sales, many marketing efforts take time to develop and then track. Be prepared both mentally and financially to commit to a trial period of at least 6 months to 1 year.

5. Your team has trouble reaching consensus internally
There's no point in having a team of talent standing ready in the wings if you aren't able to reach consensus within your firm. A single dedicated point of contact can help streamline communications, but even better is a single decision maker with the responsibility to report back to the management team on critical items.

6. You are not open to spending money to make money
Hiring anyone costs money. Be prepared to set goals and hold whoever you are working with accountable - whether that's an internal hire or external/outsourced arrangement. Look at your marketing, design and advertising as investments. Choose carefully, always consider the ROI and monitor results regularly.

7. Your busy schedule keeps you from meeting regularly 
Since you are generally paying for services on a monthly basis, it's important to be able to meet and communicate on a regular basis. If you can keep your appointments, you will do great. If the nature of your business causes you to reschedule often and/or have trouble scheduling, you might wind up paying for time that is never used.

8. You already have marketing resources provided to you
If your business is a franchise or a distributorship with materials and planning available to you at no cost or little cost, it might not make sense to outsource. You may wish the materials were better or that the headquarters were more on the ball, but consider the costs of doing it yourself carefully and try to work with your providers before making an investment on your own.

9. You don't need marketing
Seems crazy, right? While it is rare, some cases do exist. Some firms just don't need the kind of marketing that requires an outside firm. Some examples: you work exclusively through a regulated bidding process; you have too small of a staff to be able to follow up on leads or to deliver product; you are content with where your business is and are not interested in growth.

10. You need tons and tons of marketing
There is a point at which businesses can reach critical mass with their marketing efforts. At that point, it might make sense to begin to bring some or all of the marketing initiatives in-house. You can always bring in an associate marketing person to handle the organizational side of the relationship, or hire an executive level Marketing Director who will have autonomy to make marketing decisions independently. At the far end of the spectrum, an entire department can be installed to deal with all aspects of the organization's marketing.

Whether you are outsourcing or hiring an internal marketing department, it will help to be prepared, committed and very self-aware of your own organizational challenges. And if you aren't sure if you are ready to outsource or not, just be up front with any known issues when initially interviewing a partner-firm. That firm will appreciate the directness, and may even be able to offer advice and solutions to some of your challenges. Whatever your decision - best wishes for your marketing in 2008!