We all need help sometimes. In your daily life, you may hire a dog walker, employ the services of a house cleaner, or have a tutor come help your child out with their math homework. All these services could be considered outsourcing. Paying for professional help frees up your time to focus on tasks better suited to your skill set. It’s much the same when it comes to marketing: Outsourcing is a way to access new talent, reduce costs, and save time.
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What does it mean to outsource marketing?
Outsourcing marketing refers to hiring a third-party company to complete any variety of marketing tasks. Marketing an ecommerce business involves many different initiatives—coming up with email campaigns, creating SEO-optimized content marketing, and concocting savvy social media marketing strategies. Each of these initiatives requires a different skill set, and you may not have the resources to hire a full in-house marketing team to undertake them. When you outsource marketing, you hire a third-party marketing agency to complete some or all of those tasks. That allows you to access the expertise of individuals who specialize in each area in order to save the time and money it would cost to acquire those skills in-house.
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Benefits and challenges of outsourcing marketing
Before you commit to outsourcing, consider what you want out of the relationship and what you’re willing to put into it. Although third-party companies can provide the same deliverables you’d receive from an in-house team, they require different processes to manage and use them. Here are some of the benefits and challenges to outsourcing the marketing for your business.
Benefits of outsourcing include:
Access to specialized skill sets
Marketing disciplines such as search engine optimization (SEO) require specialized knowledge to operate effectively. Hiring an agency gives you access to experienced marketing professionals with expertise in each area.
Ability to diversify your channels
A marketing agency can help your brand expand into new marketing channels. The agency’s team might help you start a content marketing program, for instance, without the friction of needing to hire and train dedicated employees to manage your blog.
When you hire an outsourced marketing department, you’ll pay a fixed fee per hour or project. You’ll only pay for the exact services you ask for, and you’ll save on costs associated with full-time employees, like providing benefits and investing in training and development.
You don’t have to outsource every aspect of your marketing strategy. Instead, you can pick and choose which marketing services you need to contract out to an agency, and which (if any) you can handle in house. You might choose to outsource solely the particularly time-consuming tasks or those that require specialized knowledge, for example.
Challenges of outsourcing include:
- Difficulty with communication
- Taking some time to find a compatible outsourced partner
- Difficulty grasping your brand voice
- Requires relationship management
Difficulty with communication
An in-house marketing department is looped into your communication systems and has a deep understanding of your brand, your customers, and your business. An outsourced marketing partner, on the other hand, is not integrated into your business. It may be more difficult to find time to meet with your outsourced team than with an internal team member, and you may also need to devote more time to explaining brand and business fundamentals to the outsourced team. Small things like not having access to shared calendars and working with different software can slow communication and work.
Taking some time to find a compatible outsourced partner
Interviewing marketing agencies and onboarding your chosen partner requires an upfront time investment from your team, as you all need to source the right agency for the job. This can take working time from your team and may involve a lot of meetings to align on the scope of the project before the outside agency can begin doing any work.
Difficulty grasping your brand voice
Creating engaging content that reflects your company's point of view requires in-depth knowledge of your brand. Third-party partners won’t have the same understanding of your brand voice as an internal marketing colleague might.
Requires relationship management
External partners require in-house management in order to understand what it needs to do and to operate successfully. A member of your staff will need to manage the relationship by setting expectations, briefing projects, and reviewing deliverables.
6 tips for outsourcing your company’s marketing
Selecting your outsourced marketing partner is the most difficult part of getting started. Shopify Plus partners can help you find a compatible marketing agency. Use these tips to find a reliable partner and set them up for success:
- Determine the scope
- Set a budget
- Conduct interviews before you choose an agency
- Set clear expectations and timelines
- Select an internal team member to manage the relationship
- Maintain good communication
1. Determine the scope
Before you choose a partner, outline which marketing services you’d like to outsource, and assess how they fit into your overall marketing strategy. You can decide, for example, if you want help developing a new marketing plan or help with the content creation process. Setting the scope will help you determine the size and type of agency you need to work with.
2. Set a budget
Outsourcing marketing is generally more cost-effective than creating an in-house marketing department, as you don’t need to hire, train, and manage a whole team. Establish what your budget is before reaching out to potential partners. Send out a request for proposal (RFP) to get quotes from different agencies, and rule out any that have a minimum spend above your budget.
3. Conduct interviews before you choose an agency
Use in-person or virtual meetings to describe the services you’re looking to outsource and to get a feel for potential partners. Look for agencies with a history of running successful campaigns or have worked with brands similar to yours, and feel free to ask for references.
4. Set clear expectations and timelines
Bring your new agency up to speed on your current marketing program by providing notes about the projects they’ll work on and sharing a set of brand guidelines. Set clear expectations, and provide your partner with timelines and a comprehensive list of expected deliverables so both parties are clear on those elements before work starts.
5. Select an internal team member to manage the relationship
Before outsourcing marketing tasks to a third party, make sure that there is someone on your team who can manage the relationship. A representative from your team will need to brief projects, approve work, and provide feedback.
6. Maintain good communication
Check in frequently. In addition to written communication, it’s a good idea to set up a standing meeting, perhaps a weekly one, where both teams can ask questions and provide feedback.
Outsource marketing to an agency FAQ
What types of marketing tasks can be outsourced?
Almost any aspect of marketing can be outsourced. Some commonly outsourced services include market research, content marketing, and web design.
How much does outsource marketing typically cost?
The cost of outsourcing varies widely depending on the scope of the outsourced services. For instance, the cost of email marketing alone can range from $500 to $2,000 per month. Companies typically spend anywhere from $1,000 to $20,000 per month to outsource marketing services. Once you’ve determined the scope of your marketing needs, ask potential partners to provide you with a quote for their services before you decide which agency to go with.
Can I outsource marketing for a short-term project or is it only for long-term contracts?
Outsourcing offers the flexibility to choose the services you would like, including hiring an outsourced marketing partner for a short-term project. Note that some large agencies may have a minimum contract duration or require a certain spend.
Can businesses outsource marketing to overseas agencies or contractors?
It is perfectly legal to outsource marketing services to international agencies; many companies already outsource services like IT and customer service overseas. Be sure to interview and evaluate work samples to find a reliable partner, and confirm that your working hours align—time differences can make it harder to communicate effectively with an outsourced marketing partner.