Strategy

The Do’s & Don’ts Of Outsourcing Marketing To An Agency or Freelancer

Anand Srinivasan
September 1, 2021

Modern marketing comes with its challenges.

You’re probably looking to make an impact with your marketing, keep the costs low and equally equip your team with the best tools.

But going all out to achieve this may drain your resources or, worst, leave you exhausted without the intended results.

At this stage, you’ll either bounce back with a string of options or take the next step to do it all by yourself.

Relying on marketing experts like an agency or freelancer to get the job done can save you a lot of time.

There’s also the case of not going through a trial phase where you’re paying for costly errors. And you get new perspectives to approach marketing you probably never thought of before.

Of course, like all things, weighing the pros and cons can help you decide whether outsourcing is right for you or if an in-house digital marketing team is ideal or an outsourcing agency can serve your business the best.

Get long-term ROI.

Not fake marketing jargon or typical agency bullshit.

1. Challenges of owning an in-house digital marketing team  

Going all in and hiring an in-house marketing team can work for you if you like taking control of your marketing, overseeing every minute detail, and executing it as per your vision.

But before you jump in and decide that it is best for you, consider the challenges you’ll have to face while owning an in-house digital marketing team.

Different skill sets: Marketing on different channels requires expertise.

You might have hired the best in-house team but ensuring each channel gives the desired result might be a stretch without actually getting the expert on each project.

By doing so, you’ll end up paying for each such resource making it difficult to contain costs.

On the other hand, if you’re looking up to generalists to do the job, they might not be equipped to follow through.

Higher Costs: With an in-house digital marketing team there are many variables at play.

You’re juggling between keeping the best people on board, hiring new talent, factoring in team size versus deliverables, and managing pay versus project expectations.

And there is the human resource team that needs to be filled in every time there’s a talk about benefits, management practices, and culture, thereby adding to your workload.

Limited Flexibility: Outsourcing to an agency has its perks. You can try out different agencies at once and pick your best.

If your campaign is not doing well, you have the flexibility to halt it and try new things. With an in-house team, it’s about using the existing skills and talent at your disposal without this flexibility.

2. Outsourcing: Agency vs. Freelancer: points to consider

Working with an agency or a freelancer can both work well.

But if you want to get the benefits of a good collaboration, consider your end goal when choosing either an agency or freelancer.

Both come with their strengths and weaknesses. And when it’s an important decision to outsource your critical projects, it’s wise not to take a chance with these factors.

Reliability

Agency: Agencies work with many clients at a time and also bring along experience in different settings.

It gives you the comfort of knowing they deal in projects you wish to outsource. This proven ability lends reliability to their work, making it easy to pick them over a freelancer.

Freelancer: If your preference is hiring SMEs (Subject Matter Experts) for a few projects within a limited time, then a freelancer is a better option.

It’s easier to communicate directly to give your project personalized attention.

Cost

Agency: Building long-term relationships with an agency gives you the edge to understand their working style and compatibility for future projects.

By doing so, you are investing your costs in the projects and setting up a work culture that makes it easy to collaborate with the agency.

Though you’ll have to factor in that working with an agency comes with relatively higher costs than it would with a freelancer.

Freelancer: A freelancer often operates individually, which means fewer overheads as compared to an agency.

In turn, it can cost you less to hire a freelancer. However, if lowering costs is your sole aim while hiring a freelancer, then think again.

Unlike agencies, freelancers don’t always have standard operating procedures (SOPs) in place for their projects. This means experiences can widely vary. Agencies are established businesses by themselves, and so are a lot more organized to take up projects and deliver them as per your needs.

Expertise

Agency: With access or potential to hire top-notch experts, an agency is positioned to bring onboard expertise that’s hard to find.

Because they look into this, it’s easy to soak in their expertise for your different marketing needs.

Freelancer: A freelancer can be an excellent fit for specific marketing projects. But not all individuals are equipped to handle all aspects of marketing, leaving you asking for more.

Regardless of who you go with, it is important to make sure that you outsource your project to someone with experience in your specific industry. SEO in eCommerce can be quite different compared to SEO for SaaS Tools. An eCommerce company would do well to hire someone who knows the customer journey in eCommerce and consequently, the baseline metrics they should achieve.

Project quality

Agency: Past projects are a good indication of project quality. Agencies have their own internal SOPs, which are a fair indication of how they work.

When it comes to choosing one for your projects, it’s ideal for picking one by understanding if their SOPs suit your working style. Social proof is another way to vet their work for you.

Freelancer: With freelancers, testimonials and portfolios reflect their work. But if these aren’t the only parameters that seem good enough, consider the word of mouth, responsiveness, and reliability while making the best choice.

3. Do’s and don’ts while outsourcing your marketing

Whether you plan to go with an agency or a freelancer, factoring in a few points can change how outsourcing works out. These do’s and don’ts can take the stress of trying to achieve a lot from outsourcing and streamline a few marketing processes before you take the leap.

1. Working without an in-house marketer

Going in without an in-house marketer has its upsides.

The in-house resources are not stretched thin, there’s more flexibility in trying out different strategies, and you are no longer placing your team under pressure to achieve outstanding results.

It’s a welcome relief when your money isn’t clogged with scarce resources.

But there is a downside to this too.

When you outsource, it’s tough to get a look at how the metrics are shaping up. For a short project, it’s even critical to get updated regularly before the campaign wraps up. A few delays and you’re probably going to regret not having an inside look before the project swiftly finishes.

It’s vital that you have a generalist marketer serving as a point of contact from your side. They will be responsible for constantly seeking updates, as well as validating the agency’s claims and tracking them against your goals.

You’ll have to suggest tweaks as the campaign shapes up.

2. Rely on SaaS tools as an alternative

SaaS tools are a great alternative to get work done quickly. Of course, they can’t replace the outcome a team can produce. But there are many reasons to pick SaaS tools.

Cost-Effective: SaaS tools are made to solve a market problem and are tuned to address a fixed set of needs.

The associated cost compared to hiring a team or outsourcing is less and can work well in most cases.

Output Clarity: Demos and free trials are the optimal time to check if SaaS tools can help you achieve your marketing goals.

SaaS tool reviews are an excellent place to evaluate this. However, like with all tools, there is a learning curve to know it better.  

And if the learning curve is a steep one, it will likely take a lot of time and effort. In contrast, you can save a lot of time on outsourcing it and getting results quickly.

3. Set clear SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures)

A good practice when outsourcing is to set up SOPs that are easy to share with agencies for compliance.

Putting your best practices down in writing makes it easier to know all on the project are on the same page rather than leaving your project deliverables to assumptions.

And the SOPs can be handy when you want to scale up operations with multiple agencies.

Along the way, tweak the SOPs to maximize efficiency.

4. Invest in tools – account for the cost

Marketing tools and technologies are rapidly changing.

Every time you plan a new project, you’re using the best project tools for efficiency and results. That means you end up spending on the tools, and it ends up as an additional cost.

If you’re hiring a well-setup agency that charges much more than an average agency, then they are equipped to factor in the cost of using premium tools. That’s no additional cost to your budget.

However, if you collaborate with a freelancer or a small or new agency, be prepared to invest in third-party editing or design tools. It increases your costs but makes the output better.

If budget is a constraint, you could look for cheaper alternatives to popular tools like Photoshop or Mailchimp and find a freelancer who knows how to use these tools.

There is a third alternative that may work for you, sometimes. You could buy third-party tools that can replace an agency or freelancer altogether. For example,

5. Finding the right KPIs

Learning to set the right KPIs is the key to measuring and assessing your marketing campaigns’ effectiveness.

With outsourcing, it’s essential to focus on the critical metrics that matter.

E.g., For a Facebook ad campaign, the right KPI to measure is the cost of customer acquisition. If you’re looking at likes and shares, it isn’t a good metric unless it is a branding campaign.

It goes without saying that the metrics have to be quantifiable. However, avoid going into a long list of metrics that will only make it a long-drawn process. Instead, pick 5-8 metrics that can be tracked consistently in your reports.

6. Document everything

An often-ignored part of outsourcing is carrying out frequent checks on the process and fine-tuning it.

It is possible when you get your outsourced team to document every task. In turn, this will help you understand any issues that come up in the project and how you can address them.

The benefit of this is that you push for efficiency and consistency in every project, irrespective of the type of campaign.

And there’s the added flexibility of adding invaluable inputs, especially if your outsourced team is small and needs a recommendation on specific aspects of the campaign.

You can also use the documentation for future hiring needs.

4. Checklist when outsourcing your marketing

Outsourcing gets on board the expertise without the hiring costs involved with an in-house team. But make sure to consider these pointers.

Deliverables: An agency can provide an assortment of services or a niche service that’s relevant to your needs.

But even the best intentions can go haywire if it is not aligned to your marketing goals.

When you sit down with the marketing agency, make them aware of the specific goal you intend to meet and how their collaboration can help you achieve them.

Customization: You could be investing in an SEO audit, conversion optimization, or creating automated email workflows.

Getting custom-tailored solutions for these can narrow down your results specifically for your audience, making it easy to communicate and answer different customer needs.  

Efficiency Check: An apparent reason to outsource is reducing overhead costs and risk.

And when you do so, you also stand to benefit from a consistent voice in your branding and marketing campaigns. It brings in a level of efficiency that can be difficult to sustain as your marketing campaigns move across different channels.

New Technologies: If you’re outsourcing to escape the ever-changing new technologies and their impact on your business, then step back and consider the new agency and its potential.

Are they competent to adapt to this trend, and can they deliver on this promise if they do so?

Understanding this can be the difference between choosing the right agency and expecting the results when you partner with them.

Conclusion  

Outsourcing can be a challenge for a business.

Especially if you are new to this or operate as a small business and are yet to find your way around it.

But if you start by defining your goals, setting clear expectations, finding a suitable agency or freelancer to outsource your marketing needs, then half your work is done.

The other half is setting clear deliverables, tracking KPIs, and documenting the process to ensure it is aligned to the very purpose you hired the agency.

Not every campaign will succeed, but monitoring every campaign and assessing the results will indicate the future of outsourcing for your business.