Are you making the most of your outsourced support?
As fast-growth business leaders expand their teams, the time and resource needed to properly assess, research, and optimise your team set-up is a luxury that's hard to come by.
This week, we spoke to both brand leaders and agency specialists to share the pros, cons, and key considerations that go into assessing and managing your external partners.
This article contains key learnings from our virtual workshop, ‘Finding your Fit – Managing External Support in a Fast-Growth Business.’ To join an upcoming event, take a look here.
Why do you need to engage marketing agency support?
The decision to outsource certain tasks to external agencies, freelancers, and partners is one most marketing leaders will have to face during their careers, but how do you know when to make it? Examples of these tasks include SEO support, web development, rebranding, content overflow – the list goes on.
- A constraint on resources verses your goals in the growth journey
- A new project or strategic shift (i.e., taking a new product to market.)
- The maturing of your marketing plan
- An increase in revenue levels
- An evolution of your marketing strategy
- New investment levels into the business
These triggers can mean that you struggle to meet your needs using only your existing staff and resources. Outsourcing a project will allow your current marketing team to focus on their strength and deliver what they’re good at.
The benefits of using an external marketing agency
External resource benefit #1 - Better return on investment
Marketing partners often offer a better ROI than hiring someone in-house. Many projects that are outsourced are one-off ventures, so it wouldn’t make sense hiring someone in-house.
External resource benefit #2 - Contingency plans for hiccups
Campaigns and deadlines don’t stop for unexpected events such as sickness. External partners, especially agencies, will have multiple resources that can be drawn on to continuously deliver work.
External resource benefit #3 – Gaining specialist resources
In-house marketers are often expected to wear many hats and be savvy in all areas of marketing, so it’s likely that you’ll need to engage agencies who specialise in certain skills.
External resource benefit #4 - Flexibility and focus
Having external partners managing certain aspects of you marketing means you can focus on what matters – business growth.
How to assess the need for different types of support
Of course, the first step for deciding if you need to engage external support is to ‘review what you already have internally.’ According to Nick, ‘If what you need requires a big shift from where you’re currently at, it often requires you to go external.’
Let’s break down the three main options, freelancers, agencies, and in-house:
To help you decide what’s right for you, check out our breakdown of each: What Works for you? Freelancers, In-House or Agency?
Different types of support - Freelancers:
Freelancers are usually the most affordable of the three options, and you can mostly find a freelancer that is specialised in any type of project that you have.
Caity Smith, Director, Delivery & Operations at Daydot says, ‘if a brand is looking for an experienced person for a specific project, they might only need to engage a person as an individual freelancer for a certain amount of time.’
Because they are not a long-term commitment, freelancers can be re-hired if you need their services again. There is also a level of personal accountability to provide work on time and be available for questions and queries.
Different types of support - In-house:
Hiring someone in-house a great option if you need a broader resource that you can shape and develop over time. ‘Brands shouldn’t need to be permanently dependent on an agency,’ Caity explains. ‘It’s all about when you, as a business, have the budget and need to hire someone, and they can deliver to the same standard as your agency partner.
However, as we found out in one of our recent sessions, recruiting top talent to come in-house in the current climate can be difficult, and you’ll need to offer competitive salaries and benefits.
Different types of support – Marketing agencies:
There are many benefits to partnering with an agency on a project. Agencies may either specialise in one skillset or be broad and offer a full-service when it comes to your marketing needs.
The difference between single and multiple agency support
Sometimes, your needs might require you to engage and work with more than one agency. Working with multiple agencies comes with its own challenges – and a lot of it comes down to communication.
‘To move in the right direction, working with one single agency keeps things more streamlined and agile,’ advises Dan. ‘Working with multiple agencies with different specialisms can be harder to get everyone on the same page. Conversations don’t happen so easily.’
He goes on to highlight that despite the potential difficulties in communication, engaging multiple agencies will mean gaining resources and support in areas where they have a key specialism.
How to effectively manage your external support
When external support has been engaged, whether it be a freelancer, single, or multiple agencies, we asked our panel how to effectively manage this relationship:
For Caroline Goodwin, Operations Director at Tangent, communication is key. ‘When engaging externally, it’s all about communication. Everyone needs to be on the same page, and everyone needs to understand what they’re trying to achieve and have a clear brief.’
‘Nothing really trumps having weekly sessions where everyone is together talking as a group,’ says Nick. ‘Who is being consulted and does everyone know what their position is in the project?’
#2 Having a clear set of KPIs
For everyone to be on the same page, and to measure performance, Nick says it’s good to have a clear and specific set of KPIs to work from. ‘Having clear and specific KPIs from the start is a good way of measuring success.
This is not to say that these KPIs can’t evolve, but it’s a clear way of reviewing performance.
#3 Using messaging platforms
‘Slack, Teams and other instant messaging services are a good way to encourage clear communication,’ recommends Caity. This was something echoed by Nikki Thwaites, Marketing Manager at Daniel Thwaites in one of our recent sessions.
#4 Being honest
One of the common themes for successfully managing your external partners was ‘honesty.’
‘A brand might set a good brief, but we need to be able to absorb that as an agency and say what we’re able to achieve,’ Caity explains. ‘It might require a refinement of the brief, or we might need to get additional skillsets onboard. Everything can be solved with honest communication.’
Nick says that, ‘Not everything can be positive all the time. If there are hits and misses within the project, be honest about these.’
Our final piece of advice from the session came from Caroline.
‘The more honest you can be with your partner, the better. You get the best out of them when you’re as honest as you can be.’
If you’d like some advice on engaging a marketing agency, GO! can help. You can book a call with our team here.