EVERY Thursday at 1pm Made in Britain hosts #madeinbritainhour on Twitter. During that hour Made in Britain asks questions of its 19,500 followers and the results are fascinating. Previously this information was enjoyed by the audience at the time and then left to drift away in the Twittersphere, rarely read again. So, we have decided to capture some of the best comments and re-present them for a new audience and easy reference. Some of the responses have been edited.
This week we look at marketing.
Question one: What should a business consider when looking to outsource some of its marketing activities? How do you decide between agency/freelancer?
Response: We work with many companies sometimes providing direction & strategic advice, sometimes becoming part of their advisory board on marketing. We also work directly handling their marketing & digital requirements. Because we work closely with the company, the marketing goals are met
Response: Have a brief objectives, ideal customer personas. Set budget, share this with the freelancer/agency. Take advice. Freelancers, with credible records. It is personal for them. Agencies, with credible records have wider scope. Your choice - based on budget.
Response: It depends on what is needed to be outsourced! Freelancers usually have concentrated skills in one area whereas agencies usually have a wider team all with a range of skillsets. Budget then comes into this as well, as if you go with a freelancer but need to outsource multiple areas which they don't cater for, then you'll be looking at hiring more than one.
Response: Business should consider what outsourcing can add i.e. time, new/creative ideas, costs including intangible costs, access to the latest technology. The biggest plus to in-house is understanding the company so a hybrid mixture of both is a great alternative.
Response: When making the decision to outsource marketing activities there are many criteria that need to be met. To name a few; your budget, the specialism of the designer, their previous and current design styles, etc
Response: Budget is always a key consideration, in any business function, be it accountancy or marketing
Response: Expertise is a likely motivator for outsourcing e.g. online mktg: the structuring of different tools to grow a leads base, deliver content, funnel prospects & drive conversion is a real skill. Cost / benefit will determine supplier
Response: Specialisms, sector experiences, cultural fit, track record to name a few Although we tend to stay away from marketing agencies as we prefer to do everything in house
Response: Most of it has already been said but budgets often play a large part, also skill sets of the agency vs freelancer. A lot of agencies are able to use staff with multiple skill sets which can mean wearing a lot of hats for a freelancer if they are an individual.
Made in Britain: Is there a question here about "knowing what you want" or "finding out what freelancers/agencies can do for you"? @NigelTPacker and @MarketAccentsalways say about externals giving a fresh pair of unbiased eyes.
Response: Yes I agree...it is about knowing what you want and then finding how to best reach those goals. Sometimes you have the luxury to hire talent that will grow into vital roles assisting your growth. Other times you do not. I believe in training & giving opportunities to your team
Response: Sector experience is very important
Response: When outsourcing, aside from looking for extra help and skills, cultural fit and feel is important. Good communication between the agency and the business is key.
Made in Britain: Interesting insight - client engagement is so critical in every business & we all have to find a way to make CRM a real skill. I wonder how introverts cope in the world of Marketing (other than by focusing on tech skills)...
Response: Nowadays I believe with the myriad of options to communicate, everyone, even introverts, find good ways of communicating. We know have messaging channels that allow conversational selling and relationship building.
Response: It is also important to remember the experiences they bring. - will a freelancer have the same reach & expertise as an agency which brings fresh perspective from across sectors? Many have dedicated teams that would almost be working exclusively on one or two clients.
Made in Britain: Does that also work the other way, depends on your budget as to what and how much you can afford and small fish in big ponds?
Response: There are ways to make sure you are maximising your spend. A lot of tasks can be carried out internally even if you work with an agency, thus keeping your costs down.
Response: Time, resource available, knowledge of the business, industry, and cost. Setting clear objectives and briefs is also really important
Made in Britain: The question then arises does the company who is outsourcing need to have an understanding of marketing to start with?
Response: A reliable agency or freelancer should take their client through a brief process and not be afraid of setting any any objectives, asking what the client wants to achieve
Response: Consider how much time and liaison you would like the marketer(s) to dedicate to your company. If you decide on an agency, they naturally work on various clients at once and may not have the same capacity to focus on your activities as a freelancer might.
Made in Britain: Is there a longer term investment required to build up the expertise in-house rather than outsource? is it worthwhile?
Response: Definitely worthwhile, especially if you have someone in house just as enthusiastic about the business and the solutions it can provide to customer needs and want They will have more knowledge about current customers, company culture, process, target market info etc
Response: Internals have a greater understanding of the products and objectives of the company. Make sure they have a full set of skills to do the job. Internal teams work very well.
Response: I believe in training internal resources, they are passionate about the products and will have your back, time and time again
Made in Britain: Is there also an element of risk if the internal team is a single person? Sickness, resignation etc?
Response: Potentially, however marketing is a critical branch of any business and is worth dedicating time and resources to and investing in. Having marketing personnel in-house means they can fully understand and embrace your brand and messaging.
Response: I have worked with many single team internals. We can usually find others in the sales team and management who, after bespoke training can keep the plan on track
Response: Precisely, and when you work with scheduling software and plan weeks / a month ahead you can avoid the impact of any disruptions could fall upon you due to illness or other reasons I think the key in marketing is time management and reaction
Response: As with any outsourcing decision there are a number of factors to be considered, such as skills in-house, time available, flexibility to turn on and off. Cost is of course a consideration too, but not the only one by any means.
Made in Britain: Should companies look to skill-up themselves in the area rather than outsource?
Response: The best people to promote a company are those who work inside. They understand the product, customer and goals of the company. Provided they have the right training and skill sets.
Response: Giving a brief to a company who already knows about your industry is easier and your budget goes a long way
Question two: How do you get the best out of an external agency/freelancer who is providing marketing activities for you?
Response: A bit of checking that they are doing what they said and getting a report from them of whether their efforts are having an impact on your business. We have been using codes etc. to monitor marketing efforts.
Response: Make sure you fully inform them on all aspects of the business operations so they can accurately represent your services and core values. The more information you supply and the more they understand the business, the better they can represent you through social channels.
Response: Routine reports/check-ins: you need to make sure your in-house strategy aligns with what their doing to maximise your marketing efforts. Make sure things are heading in the right direction and if not, start asking what needs to be changed
Made in Britain: Do the clients understand the reports. "Never mind the quality feel the width" I have seen many reports that are not understood by the client
Response: Understanding the reports is like a science!
Response: Many reports are auto generated and little work goes into them. But they look good. I have many horror stories.
Response: Ask questions—the agency should have the answers. When we used to meet with external teams, we would bring in several colleagues with different expertise to get the most out of the meeting
Response: This is such a crucial point - love it. The amount of reports I have come across (not just in marketing) that are a triumph of form over function. Full of pretty graphics and jargon but impossible to act on without the understanding.
Made in Britain: So you then need to hire another expert to explain the reports......?
Response: Exactly. Or more likely, stick it in the bottom drawer and forget about it.
Response: Regular updates and progress reports against set objectives
Made in Britain: We mentioned objectives in the first question and perhaps should reiterate that the objectives should be realistic. How many agencies have been engaged with the expectation that they are the silver bullet?
Response: Yes - agreed. The company needs to reflect and embrace what the agency is doing, so its a cohesive approach
Response: After all, a lot of agencies pitch themselves as the silver bullet in the first place
Made in Britain: Are they the ones to avoid then?
Response: Depends whether they have the figures to back it up! To some extent, they need to be able to “sell” themselves, otherwise how do you know if they’re good at their job?
Response: Firstly, by making sure that you have a clear objective in sight, from which a detailed brief can be created that it is understandable and feasible to accomplish. Also, being completely open to dialogue and communication when it's needed.
Response: Keep up communication with them! They need to know the business so they can fully support you! Monthly meetings to understand what they've achieved and their plans for the next month are always helpful!
Response: The more that an external agent/freelancer knows the better they can help you. You have to let them see you 'warts n all' so that they can help you properly. You can't paint them a glossy picture of your company if you don't perform as such...
Response: It's important to ensure that the cultural fit is right between you and an agency and that they actively listen and understand what you are trying to achieve. Write a strong brief and ask lots of questions!
Response: Drafting tight contractual spec, monitoring cost and KPIs, etc are all valid but good comms & team energy (you & them) will no doubt spur on returns. Executing well is more likely if you are both on the same wavelength throughout.
Made in Britain: Who would normally draft the contractual spec? And KPIs come to that?
Response: Agencies will work according to terms which have been applied in the past, & this is a starting point. But firms should always revise at the outset what it is in their power to change. Any KPIs (s.a. conversions / mth) should be jointly reviewed on a regular basis.
Question three: What are the common mistakes when working with external ‘experts’ for marketing?
Response: Monitoring to make sure that there is a return from external marketing “experts” efforts
Response: An expectation that numbers will improve immediately. It’s better to see a steady and consistent increase over time. Also, you should not fall into the trap of seeing big nums of impressions/outreach and forgetting about whether this actually translates into sales
Response: This is very true, and very pertinent, which is why I mentioned KPIs...they should be set according to the work that can be generated. Bear in mind as well that a lot of marketing, especially social marketing is a #long term investment
Response: The first mistake is believing that marketing 'experts' actually exist. The second would be expecting instant results. A well-planned strategy with a committed team of marketers will likely yield more positive results as opposed to a lone 'expert'
Response: Being 'hands off' because you bow to their expertise; alt., refusing to take their advice on board; engaging in big spend w/o testing likely ROI; not gathering at least >1 set of perpectives on how campaigns may be interpreted; the list goes on.
Response: As previously mentioned, micro-managing the external experts needs to be avoided. You've hired them because you've done your research, you need to give them space to do their job! It can be difficult but a necessary step! It's very difficult to get the perfect balance, not enough communication or too much communication! That's why monthly meetings are great and also reviewing content or activites and signing them off before going live with them!
Response: One mistake is giving ‘experts’ too much free rein over content and online representation. Ultimately, the core company employees will represent the business most accurately. Don't risk content being published from your brand which doesn't fit your ethos.
Response: That they have the magical solutions to all your problems. Marketing results take time and are sometimes trial and error to see what works, yes there are strategies that can be followed but they still need tweaking to get optimal results. Don't expect 'numbers' right away...
Response: Most people outside of marketing will assume the agency can solve all marketing problems when in reality that isn't the case part of the reason for hiring an agency is to get access to the skills and technology you need to accomplish your vision, strategy, goals & success metrics. Also if you don't understand what you want or even need you're not going to get the results you are looking for no matter what agency, in-house or hybrid solution you choose
Response: Not sharing or providing enough information.
Response: Not knowing the Industry that their clients work in. For example we are digital marketing agency in the manufacturing sector and we are all engineers, thus being ideally positioned to take products or services to market.
Question four: Do many small businesses fail to address all aspects of marketing and just focus on a subset?
Response: Our own research shows that far too many small businesses do a “tick box exercise”. Jumping on the latest digital fashion or trend without having an integrated strategy. Essential digital skills training is a must.
Response: It is a tough one for a small business. But without letting your potential customers know you are around by doing some marketing you will not have any customers. Subset or the Full set
Response: This is so true! You can't be the 'best kept secret' - For small businesses it is about just plain doing any marketing at all!
Response: I don't think its necessarily that it just means picking what works best for the business
Response: We had an interesting comment in a recent webinar. "Our company has never done any marketing" - not sure thats possible is it?
Response: We have to go back to the definition of marketing. That example if you dig down will probably be the MD or other execs networking to win the business. This is not seen as marketing
Response: Yes. Many simply think go ahead with advertising, social media or brochures, without addressing deeper brand issues first, for example defining what their core offering is. This in turn leads to innapropriate outcomes, which don’t work.
Response: Agree that it can be a case of jumping on the latest bandwagon as that's what is currently being talked about. That can mean that you're always playing catchup with the early adopters who have since moved on to the next best thing... You need a robust plan.
Response: SMEs may find it hard to ignore the marketing activities that larger businesses are doing when in reality they should be paying attention to their in-house resources and being realistic to what they can achieve
Response: Yes - time & money are constraints, so quick wins are often prioritised. These will provide a short term 'sugar rush' but long term gains will be poorer than they could have been because deeper mkt engagement was overlooked.
Response: At times, this happens. If you are in business, you need to market it. If you don't do anything, you may as well be operating in a little bubble and your chances of growth are only organic. That may be fine for a while, but they are not a way forward for sustainability
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