You’ve probably heard stories about ‘the time that it all went wrong’ with an agency or internal marketing resource. But what about those times it went spectacularly right?
The difference often comes down to the process used when outsourcing to an agency. In this article, we share some strategies to ensure you make the right choice from the beginning.
Quite often the marketing department or function is the first to suffer when times get tough. Marketing managers are expected to lift their marketing game, particularly with online marketing, to drive the company out of tough periods. But they are expected to do that with staff cutbacks and perhaps a lack of resources or expertise. In times of uncertainty, there is also no appetite for hiring costly independent consultants or being bound into a lock-in contract. But on the other hand, outsourcing to cheap and unknown contractors is a risky game.
This is where outsourcing to a specialist strategic digital marketing agency can make all the difference. By using proven strategic marketing techniques to drive what works for your business, an outsourced marketing department can drive tangible results. It also means that during your company’s natural peaks and troughs, you can easily scale your agency consulting budgets as required. This reduces the inefficiencies and stress that come with internal redundancies or bulk-hiring and training during times of change.
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What You Will Learn
You will appreciate the importance of choosing a strategically focused digital marketing team that can be your greatest ally. You will also learn how to avoid the pitfalls of outsourcing to inexperienced operators, and how transparency and demonstrated experience can seamlessly integrate with your marketing and senior management team.
What’s The Problem?
The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in an unprecedented shut-down or cut-back for a lot of companies, while many of those still in operation faced a shrinking market and economic uncertainty.
The regulatory restrictions and trading limitations imposed by Federal and State governments led to major and fundamental economic and business problems, such as:
- loss of demand
- inability to source products to sell
- loss of revenue
- evaporating cash balances
- future uncertainty.
Added to this, due to a dwindling workforce and reduced marketing budgets, internal resources were stretched. Yet there was also increased pressure to gain leads and sales. And this situation and accompanying problems don’t only occur during a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic. There are a number of factors that can have a similar effect on individual companies at any point in time.
On the flip side, COVID-19 highlighted that there can suddenly be an increased demand for an industry, product, or service. Your company might have found itself faced with an urgent need to expand your team to make the most of this chance. But hiring and training new staff is costly and time-consuming, not to mention the question of what to do with these new employees once demand returns to normal.
The online environment offers untapped opportunity in both good and bad times. You may not, however, have the infrastructure to pivot your marketing quickly. Or management might consider unproven strategies too risky. Attempting your own digital marketing may be too dicey.
If you are facing these challenges, as a business owner or marketing manager, you may think about outsourcing some or all of your marketing functions. Unfortunately, you may also have been stung in the past by shonky operators. Are any of the following familiar?
- They’ve often not achieved objectives that were not clearly defined or tracked, resulting in wasted spend, no leads, or poor SEO performance for example.
- There was no strategy, just cookie-cutter solutions with little or no responsibility taken.
- Low-quality output resulted in lacklustre results and sloppy brand management.
- A lack of transparency left management guessing what they are actually paying for.
- Restrictive lock-in contracts meant there was no room to make performance-based decisions.
- Language barriers and timezone differences from offshore workers hired by onshore operators slowed productivity and results.
- Lack of experience, skills or capability where the ‘expert’ team was shuffling tasks down the line for the rookie to complete.
- A restrictive or narrow skill set that did not allow strategic thinking across the marketing mix.
- Lack of consistency and coherence meant continuity took a hit as you dealt with multiple account managers and consultants, with inadequate communication and handovers.
- Research into finding the right company was time-consuming and stressful. And how would you even know until you are locked in and it’s too late to back out?
Why This Matters
The price of engaging the wrong provider can be very high, particularly when your business is on the line.
The cost of doing nothing can also be very high. If you’re gun-shy and don’t get help you could be leaving a tremendous opportunity on the table through not having the:
- resources you need to take advantage of opportunity
- know-how to reduce costs and make sure that marketing is working cost-effectively
- advice you need on-hand to be able to make confident decisions
- flexible resources needed to keep the ship moving in the right direction
- appropriate contingency and backup resourcing plans in place for if things go wrong.
The right outsourced marketing provider, however, can help you through times of difficulty and be an asset even at the best of times.
What’s the Solution?
The solution is to engage a high-quality and reliable digital marketing agency to meet your outsourced marketing requirements.
You don’t want the type of digital marketing agency that simply implements your strategies with a set search engine optimisation/search engine marketing/social media marketing formula and doesn’t take responsibility for the results they drive.
Look for an agency that invests a lot of effort into strategy > implementation > testing > pivoting, and driving what works for the individual business and their objectives.
Criteria For Choosing An Outsourced Marketing Team
1. Do they have full-service marketing capabilities?
It is important that the agency you choose understands what you are holistically trying to achieve, and has the expertise to devise marketing strategies to support this. With digital marketing the primary driver in the marketing landscape, the agency must include this as a core competency. Look for a company that also has strong web development and graphic design capabilities.
The more you can rely on just the one company for all of your strategy and marketing needs, the lower your internal management costs will be. You will also be confident that every marketing and web component is cohesive and all built with the same objectives in mind, rather than a mismatch of different designs, messaging, and calls to action.
2. Do they have an exceptionally talented locally based team?
Don’t be afraid to add to your contract that if any outsourcing is done, you must be told first. Ask if any staff or contractors work overseas. Often an agency will contract a specific service, such as web development, to an offshore company. However, they get around the “offshore outsourcing” question, as technically that company might be considered part of theirs.
Look at the agency’s staff profiles and ask about their experience. Be confident they are the best in the business. You want to work with a team that never stops training, has a low staff turnover, and loves what they do. Also look at a company’s partnerships, certifications, and any awards they’ve been nominated for.
3. Do they have enterprise-level experience?
When evaluating the agency’s team, look for consultants who have come from senior positions in major organisations. They will have a deep knowledge of variety of industries and their verticals in Perth, across Australia, and in international markets. Use LinkedIn to research the background of the digital marketing team who will be working with you.
4. Are there positive reviews and testimonials?
An amazing track record produces extremely happy clients. Their reputation in the industry should be rock-solid. Look at their reviews across third-party sites such as Google, Facebook, and similar, not just the reviews they choose to feature on their website.
Also look at who is leaving the reviews – are leaders of well-respected businesses leaving glowing reviews? Or are they simple reviews which look like they are just employees or family members trying to get the star count up?
Look at how a company addresses negative reviews too. Do they get defensive and attack the reviewer? Or are they polite and seek to work to a positive resolution for both parties? That can tell you a lot about how your own future interactions with that company might go.
Lastly, have a look at their digital marketing case studies to see the results they generate, what companies they work with, and the types of strategies and campaigns they implement.
5. Do they Avoid long-term, lock-in contracts?
The best firms don’t need to lock you into a long term contract. If they are really that good, they should be confident that their clients will stay with them without being forced. Ideally, commit to month-by-month contracts, based on results. This stops the agency getting complacent. They will work harder to drive real results if they need to prove their worth regularly, as opposed to knowing you can’t leave for 2 years.
6. Do they promote full transparency?
One of the biggest problems you may face is knowing exactly what you will get for your money when you engage a digital marketing agency. This is very common for agencies who charge by a ‘service’ basis, as opposed to a time basis. For example, if you are paying somebody $2,000 a month for a search engine marketing (SEM) service, what exactly does this mean? Do they spend 10 hours each month refining and improving your search campaigns, coming up with new strategies? Or do they only pop into your account every now and then to check there are no errors? Ideally, they should be accounting for every minute spent on your campaign, and every dollar you are paying them.
Also ask to see an example of their detailed reporting. Are they detailing cause and results? The utilisation and performance of each marketing dollar spent?
7. Do they have results-driven strategies?
Quality agencies work best with milestones and KPIs, and continually drive improvement. They should be implementing campaigns and strategies that generate results directly aligned with your marketing and business objectives. Are they focusing on metrics like cost per acquisition (CPA), return on investment or ad spend (ROI and ROAS)? Or are they just sending through figures around impressions and likes, which have no real impact to your bottom line?
Check that they can provide examples and clear estimates of projected results so you can confidently understand what budgets will allow you to drive expected results. Our article Digital Marketing Budgets: Establishing Investment Frameworks for Predictable Returns delves deeper into the importance of this.
If your outsourced agency isn’t focused on driving you more leads and sales, contributing to increased revenue and profits for you, then give them the flick. They should be as invested in your business success as you are.
What Are The Benefits?
Instead of having to hire internal marketing resources, an outsourced team can provide multiple benefits. Here’s what to look for:
- Cost-effective entry points, often starting at less than 50% of the cost of a full-time resource.
- Contingency planning, a team backed by multiple people to rely upon instead of coming unstuck if an employee gets sick.
- The ability to scale rapidly, an agile approach can expand or contract the team quickly as needed.
- Expert knowledge and proven agency experience running enterprise level campaigns.
- Being able to tap into a broad skill set. ‘One trick monkeys’ only know one thing. Your market is more sophisticated than that. That one trick wears thin pretty fast.
- A team capable of driving strategy, with deep experience in strategic marketing, traditional marketing, and business operations. A team that can step in to help in areas outside of the digital marketing sphere.
- Battle-hardened people who have run successful marketing campaigns through economic crisis before, so they know what works, what doesn’t, and how to operate in extraordinary times.
- Efficient ad spend and a focus on real results. ROI, ROAS and CPA are not just jargon, they are critical KPIs.
- Collaborative engagement model, where they integrate seamlessly with existing teams and work together to achieve a great outcome.
- Demonstrated results. Readily available and in detail.
What Should You Do?
To make the right choice, start by understanding your needs. Then evaluate outsourced digital marketing agencies based on their understanding and experience.
- Define your objectives so you can clearly quantify and articulate the results you are looking for.
- Identify your skills gap. You may have internal strengths in some areas, but lack others. Which gaps can be filled or complemented? Think lead generation, copy writing, technical SEO, web design, social media marketing, and more.
- Conduct in-depth research to find an outsourced team or agency that meets the aforementioned criteria. Engage them on a month-by-month, performance-based contract.
Or, simply reach out to Living Online.
The Living Online Difference
Our experienced, strategic team acts as a partner to a number of companies like yours across the country and globe. We work with business owners and internal marketing managers to understand your specific objectives, then develop and implement a ROI-driven strategy.
You may engage us to fill a knowledge gap, such as your paid search or SEO, working seamlessly with your marketing and sales department to ensure total brand consistency and alignment with your company goals.
Or you may want us to become an integral component of your complete structure. We’ll act as business and marketing consultants, providing in-depth strategy and audits around business processes along with crafting all-encompassing multi-channel marketing solutions. We’ve even been voted “Employee of the Month” for a client due to the value they placed on our partnership.
Whether you know your exact requirements for an outsourced agency, or are wanting to further understand how we can fit in seamlessly with your organisation, we have time for you. We are ready to work closely with you and your team, together building and growing your business, based on tracked data and in-depth analysis to provide proven results that are directly affecting your bottom line.
By knowing what to look for in a digital marketing agency, you can avoid wasting money on unsatisfactory results. Choosing an experienced and battle-hardened digital marketing team such as Living Online can be a critical component in recovery.
If sales and marketing are important to your business, the time to act is now. Reach out for a chat.