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Employ or outsource your marketing?

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You would fully expect us to always come down on the side of outsourcing your marketing, as an outsourced marketing company ourselves. Of course, we do see the merits but we also don't see the point in dragging any business owner screaming and kicking into an agreement that they are not entirely happy with.

Marketing, by its very nature, is at the inner core of any business and many directors will be able to recall with clarity, the firms that came along with big promises and failed to deliver, many with an accompanying loss of money and leaving a general 'won't be bitten again' sentiment for the business owner to take into the future.

So is outsourcing your marketing a good idea? Does it work? The answer to this is that it very much depends on the business and whether there is enough traction for marketing initiatives to then have the necessary legs to create an impact.

Scenario 1:
A small, long established engineering firm, manufacturing to a very niche audience, made up of clients who are very knowledgeable about the company and the other tiny array of competitors in their marketplace. Order book always full (actually, problem is more about capacity to cope with work they do have) and don't actively need to look for business. They have a website, but it's more of an 'expected to have one' requirement than as an active marketing tool.

This is typical of a client who we come across often and it won't come as any surprise to find that they probably wouldn't be looking to outsource their marketing - as they don't have any to outsource!

There is nothing wrong with the company for not employing a marketing capability, it's just not appropriate and we wouldn't try to convince them otherwise.

Scenario 2:
A technology based manufacturer, selling a product that is targeted at small business owners across the UK. The product is regularly searched for on Google; it has competition but is superior to the other competing products. The company is small and the current staff are a combination of sales, admin and tech people. They do marketing, but not as much as they know they should. The website is dated and not regularly updated. The marketing actions tend to be uncoordinated and sporadic, meaning the results can be up and down. They are aware of their competitors becoming much more aggressive in targeting their customers.

The company in scenario 2 is coming to a point of having to make decisions where their marketing is concerned. They need senior marketing planning and help with implementation, but they may feel the price tag and commitment of taking on a full-time employee is a step too far.

In such as case, outsourcing can be a viable way forward as this negates the high overheads and contractual responsibilities of taking on a senior staff member, as well as being a way to access the function of a full marketing department.

A good outsourced marketing function will be able to provide a marketing action plan and then take this forward to swift implementation. The other key benefit is the many industry contacts that are provided, in areas such as design, web development, SEO, video, social media and many other services. This means that there is no learning curve to navigate when purchasing other marketing services.

Each company has to make its own decision on their own marketing approach, some business owners are simply happier to see a person in their office that they can see and talk to at all times. Others can easily adapt to the outsourcing model and have no problem with the remote arrangement, as long as the results are measured and a good return on investment achieved.

As Phil Ashforth, MD at Ashforth Marketing comments, "What we really want for our clients is to help them grow, using marketing expertise that can be tapped into as and when required. We realise that outsourcing may not work with every company culture, but for those that we can help, we know that the benefits can be enormous and progress far greater than they would have achieved without our input."

So in summary, an outsourced marketing function can bring senior marketing expertise and a virtual marketing department to businesses who recognise that marketing is essential to their growth. It is not appropriate for every business, and most outsourced marketers will not work with every client that makes an enquiry. It is always a good idea, as with every strategic business decision, to weigh up the pros and cons and have an initial chat with outsource providers, as well as recruitment agencies to see which approach is preferred for your own situation.

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