Marketing Process Outsourcing: Case Studies, Business Model & Talent Availability Assessment

Both SMEs and large, global corporations have experienced the benefits of marketing process outsourcing. A global financial services provider with offices in more than 50 countries, for example, recently outsourced social media monitoring services to a major service provider. The company already has systems in place to monitor traditional marketing channels (newspaper and print coverage), but lacked expertise in social media to drive an effective communication strategy. So they worked with a third party to provide a comprehensive outsourced solution that will reduce complexity and costs. The service provider developed and managed the social media monitoring strategy and integrated the new system into the organization. 

Procter & Gamble (P&G), another established company with a global presence, outsourced consumer research and analytics to a third party provider. The consumer goods manufacturer wanted to improve the quality of its virtual solutions program while scaling up and reducing costs. The service provider used virtual reality centers around the world to develop, test and optimize virtual product packaging, shelving layouts and store designs for the company. As a result, P&G’s product design activities were completed in days instead of months and allowed the company to save money on physical store designs.

An offshore marketing service provider kept clients happy by focusing on value and improving quality. The service provider keeps local marketing professionals to handle online marketing, content development and campaign management in-house for their clients. They also found experts for specialized tasks like research and data analytics. This combination approach and an insight-based strategy allow the company to deliver high-quality marketing services consistently. 

British mass media firm Guardian News & Media (GNM) has also jumped on the MPO bandwagon, outsourcing advertising, sales support design, presentation and events marketing to a design agency. GNM also outsourced production of commercially-funded supplements, ads and microsites to a service provider. Not all functions were outsourced, however. GNM held on to the production of promotional material like the Guides booklets as well as editorial control of all commercial publications. A representative for the firm said that working with an outside expert will lead to more flexible and responsive marketing and design services for GNM.

Will Marketing Process Outsourcing (MPO) Work for your Business?

There are three ways to do promote your brand, product or service: do it yourself, build an in-house marketing department, or hire outside experts to perform the work. Outsourcing, no matter how attractive, is always an option, not a requirement. The “best” method depends on the situation and your business goals, budget, and an honest assessment of your needs. Due to limited resources, small business owners and entrepreneurs often learn do to marketing and promotion themselves (at least initially) or hire a freelancer on a temporary basis to do the work.

Larger businesses and more established organizations can afford to build an in-house team from scratch, but the right way to do marketing still depends on the circumstances. Most businesses never outsource all marketing functions; instead, they tend to outsource non-core functions and hold on to core marketing activities. They also adopt a combination approach of in-house marketing, outsourced marketing and DIY.

Sometimes, it makes perfect sense for managers to just take on a fairly routine marketing activity because they have time on their hands or they feel that only they can execute their unique vision. But even if you’re running a one-man team and digital marketing is right up your alley, hiring a marketing professional or working with a service provider could be a better business decision. 

A lot of factors should go into the decision of who should be in charge of your marketing activities. The type of business, the industry, you financial situation and current market conditions are just some of the things to consider. Whichever method you choose, it should be rationalized and backed by cost/benefit analysis. The ultimate goal is to achieve long-term value and quality improvement, whether you outsource, perform everything in-house or embrace a combination approach.

Business Model

Your business model is one of the most important factors that impact the decision to outsource or not to outsource marketing. If marketing is a core activity and marketing strategy drives your business model, building an in-house marketing department to perform these functions is a reasonable option. For example, an established retailer moving very high volumes of products each year is more likely to benefit from having a team of dedicated internal marketing professionals that cover all marketing channels (print, TV/Radio, online). On the other hand, small online retailers, whose business depends largely on digital marketing, should educate themselves about search engine marketing and social media marketing, even if they eventually plan to outsource these functions to an ad agency or third party firm. 

The key is to focus on what you do best (whether it is creating products or engaging customers), keep mission critical business activities close to the chest, and farm out marketing activities that other people can perform better and more affordably. As an entrepreneur, your time is valuable. If you spend more time doing SEO or customer analytics instead of developing new products or honing your competitive edge, you are way overpaid.

Availability of Talent

But what if you have zero budget and unlimited time, like many first time business owners? In this case, DIY is your best option. As entrepreneurs who built their own websites, cold-called prospects, and became part-time bloggers/vloggers to spread brand awareness have demonstrated, it can be done. If you are your only employee, then it follows that you should teach yourself marketing and how to develop a promotion strategy. There are hundreds of good (and free) online tutorials on digital and traditional marketing, from managing multiple social media accounts to building a mailing list and creating marketing collaterals for distribution. There are even videos that will teach you to understand customer behavior and tap the power of data analytics.

If you have other people on your team besides yourself, and you have the budget to hire marketing professionals, the first thing to do is to evaluate your current marketing situation. Is someone already doing marketing (and doing it well)? Or is that person overwhelmed with too much work? If you hire someone else to do the job, will the quality improve? Remember that you will still have to spend time on management and oversight even if you have additional people on board.

For those who can’t find marketing talent locally, outsourcing the job to a service provider can be the right solution. Many service providers operate on a national level, and some on an international level. This means that they can draw on their extensive networks to source marketing talent and bring them to you. If you decide to hire an offshore service provider, don’t be blinded by cost. Consider time differences, connectivity, language and cultural compatibility. You’ll find that outsourcing brings its own set of challenges to the table. For the outsourcing project to succeed, you should be prepared to meet these challenges and adapt to changes.

Outsourced Marketing in Action

The development of an ideal marketing strategy is a process. It starts with multiple concepts that are tested over time and monitored. The best concept is then chosen for adoption. Whether you decide to build an in-house marketing team or outsource marketing to a third party, keep in mind that the best campaign is not slipshod or built on guesswork. To improve the quality of a process and achieve value over time, marketing should be carefully planned, executed and monitored. 

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