Is outsourcing the marketing function your key to rapid growth?
By Barbara Bix and
Melissa Josephson Edwards
The single most important driver of growth for emerging technology firms is having
the right people in place. Even worse than having a mediocre technology is failing
to hire the experts required to aim the firm in the right direction and build
a strong foundation for future client relationships and sales.
technology firms have the same basic marketing needs
but varying levels of available resources. One strategy
that startups might consider to accelerate their
growth and compete with larger, better-financed companies
is outsourcing some of the marketing functions to
challenge is looking at the entire marketing function
and determining which pieces are best outsourced
to experts. Companies can easily make outsourcing
decisions by answering these basic questions:
What is your marketing budget? Can you keep costs
down and achieve a higher level of quality by outsourcing
certain functions such as marketing leadership, public
relations, graphic design, web site management, direct
marketing, market research, etc.? Many of these resources
are required only on an as-needed basis. If that’s
the case, consider outsourcing these functions.
How important is having a marketing professional
on-site full-time? You don’t necessarily need
a full-time marketing professional in front of you
to ensure high levels of quality. Do you have outsourcing
professionals who you can trust to maintain your
standards of quality and brand consistency? Clear
communication about expectations, deadlines and budget
is critical to making outsourcing a success.
Which functions must be staffed by dedicated, full-time
professionals? What skill sets do you require but
not on a full-time or permanent basis? Consider outsourcing
to marketing professionals who have:
backgrounds that fill particular short-term needs.
Hire a market researcher to probe buyer receptiveness
to a new product concept or a strategist to develop
and oversee launch plans.
perspectives for your marketing and management
team. An outside expert can galvanize a team with
creative new ideas, in-depth advice and specialized
experience in a particular area.
skills that you need. If you’re planning
your first trade show or user conference, think
about outsourcing the work to a skilled professional.
If you’re considering launching direct-mail
campaigns to appeal to a specific vertical market,
hire someone with industry experience on a short-term
basis who can develop your strategy and monitor
your initial results.
Can your current marketing team execute all marketing
projects? Consider all marketing tasks and priorities.
How realistic are project deadlines? If the marketing
team needs assistance in completing its work, examine
which pieces could be done by outside resources.
Do you really need a full-time vice president of
marketing? The level of knowledge that experienced
marketing professionals offer is critical to setting
direction and developing strategy. But while strategy
takes time to formulate, much more time is required
to create and execute the actual programs. Consider
the relative expense of hiring a full-time marketing
vice president versus outsourcing this important
role to an experienced consultant and hiring a mid-level
person full-time who can manage projects and execute.
years ago, there were few good options outside of
hiring full-time professionals. Today there is a
plethora of highly qualified outsourcing professionals
with specific industry expertise. During the technology
boom, agencies popped up that specialized not only
in particular functional areas, such as public relations
and direct marketing, but also in specific industry
segments, such as data communications and supply
chain software. As a result, companies interested
in hiring outside expertise can easily find highly
qualified agencies in their particular industries.
Moreover, due to all the layoffs in the past few
years, you can opt instead for a consultant with
exactly the expertise and industry experience that
your company requires.
high-quality outsourcing marketing professionals
is relatively easy. As always, start with personal
references and recommendations. Next, consider online
consulting exchanges and contractor groups that specialize
in your industry or the particular functional area.
For programmatic activities, use advertising and
public relations agencies, direct-mail companies
and market research organizations. For marketing
leadership on a consulting basis, check industry
list-servs for professionals who know your industry
and will know your competition, technology and trends.
marketing functions — and strategically placing
experts, rather than generalists, in each function — can
give firms a competitive edge. Hiring the right-level
resource for just the number of hours needed helps
maximize return on marketing dollars while accelerating
overall firm growth. The keys to success lie in understanding
when and which pieces of the marketing work make
the most sense to outsource and contracting with