Science has done it. Movies have showcased it. There are undoubtedly times when you wish you could do it, too: clone yourself. Cloning, in fact, is a popular business practice today but you won’t find it in a petri dish. Call it by another name: outsourcing, and it is on the rise.
This practice is rapidly gaining favor as a useful management tool to complement internal resources, improve productivity and stretch budgets. Given today’s deep pool of marketing consultants, there has never been a larger supply of “sellers” of outsourcing. But how can you make the right decisions about what advertising, public relations, direct mail, social media and promotions responsibilities to outsource?
Outsource for the Right Reasons
Here are some tips to help you successfully and cost-effectively get the most out of your marketing dollars, while freeing up your time to focus on other business needs.
- Understand your business’ culture. Outsourcing can be an effective management tool for organizations that embrace the concept of combining their staff’s expertise with strategic vendor partners to become more efficient, weather change and capitalize on opportunities.
- Understand which marketing functions are essential to your core business. Some activities, such as customer relations, may be better handled internally. While others, such as newsletter production and social media campaigns, may be conducted more efficiently by a vendor.
- Be strategic about outsourcing. Deciding whether or not to outsource is often a decision about resource allocation. Are you simply looking for temporary help during times of peak seasonal demand or are you interested in shedding day-to-day marketing responsibilities?
- Look at outsourcing over the short- and long-term. Short-term projects, like a special event, are ideally suited for a vendor to implement. Others, such as a proactive publicity program, will require a more long-term approach. A vendor can lay the groundwork, but ask yourself this question: can your organization devote the manpower to sustain the activity?
- Consider the ramifications of outsourcing. If you plan to outsource for the long-term, be clear about the potential costs vs. rewards. How will you use the time you previously devoted to potentially outsourced tasks? What minimal return on investment will make working with a vendor be a good choice?
- Set clear, realistic goals. Whether you want to save money, increase productivity, become more flexible or improve your operation’s ability to react to opportunities faster, it’s important to explicitly lay out your goals before making an outsourcing decision.
- Choose your vendor carefully. There are several ways to improve your chances for a good client/vendor “fit.” Determine the nature of your outsourcing needs and which vendor or specialist best matches it. Ask peers whose opinions you value to refer you to trusted partners. Check their references. Spend time interviewing them. Ask for and review work samples that are akin to the project at hand. And, listen to your intuition.
- Stay involved and accessible. If your goal is to completely walk away from a marketing function once you have outsourced it, think again. You will need to manage the vendor’s work and coordinate it with other internal functions. Also, stay accessible to the vendor; a good one will be motivated and self-reliant, but will need ongoing input from you to help achieve the goals you have set forth.
- Teamwork is the foundation of a successful outsourcing relationship. The more mutual sincerity, honesty and respect you have with your vendor, the more successful your combined efforts will be.
Originally published in CokeSolutions.