It may come as a surprise, but outsourcing isn’t new. The concept emerged as far back as the 1950s but didn’t become fully formed and widespread until the 1980s, when the idea of focusing on core business activities started to impact significantly on several types and sizes of organisations around the world.
The growth of outsourcing has created a world of new possibilities.
In many cases, it’s delivered a positive impact on sales and productivity. For example, there are hundreds of independent call centres throughout the UK, as well as mail fulfilment businesses, outsourced IT and HR services and of course – marketing expertise, our favourite! Companies will look at how outsourcing reduces cost and or saves time (which in turn saves costs!) and find the right people to hand over a particular business aspect to.
Here at Shake it Up Creative, our overall objective is to help our clients to raise their visibility and strengthen their marketing in a busy marketplace. We manage and run key marketing activity on their behalf.
In other words, they outsource to us. Our core deliverables include website design and development, digital marketing, PR design and SEO, each service tailored to individual needs. But we outsource too – admin, accounting and sometimes, web development.
More generally, how would this approach apply to your operation?
When is the right time to outsource, what are the most appropriate business activities to outsource, and – importantly – what should be your criteria when looking for an outsourced partner?
The outsourced advantage
• Concentrate on your main activities. This is the primary reason for outsourcing, and rightly so. What are your strengths, and those of your team? How are you (or they) most productive? What do you enjoy doing in your business?
We can’t all be good at everything and you may have a skills gap.
For instance, whatever your line of business, creating your own web content may not be your forte, or getting to grips with the intricacies of a WordPress website is likely to suck up many hours of your working day.
• Increase your productivity and efficiency. An individual or a business that specialises in a certain field can do things quicker and to a higher standard.
• Benefit from an unbiased view. Not to put too fine a point on it, an external agency or freelancer will be free of “history” and won’t be affected by internal ideas. They could see a different, bigger and even, a better picture, adding clarity.
• Save on your costs. Compare your hourly costs to that of your services supplier. Often they can help you save money through achieving more in less time.
• Gain a competitive advantage. You could leverage knowledge and skills through the added-value that you receive: valuable reports to help you develop new strategies, for example.
What are the different ways you can outsource?
Whilst you may understand your target audience better than anyone, do you have all your expertise in-house to reach them effectively?
Outsourced marketing services include:
Web Design and Development. If you want a life-changing website, don’t DIY. Web design experts create websites that deliver a great user experience, allow for growth and align fully to the needs of your business.
Social Media. A common service to outsource. However, we should distinguish between organic posting, and the services offered by a Social Ads Manager. The former uses the skills of someone on your behalf using free social media platforms and tools to engage naturally with an online following. The latter, paid for social media (PPC) that aims to grow your followers, increase conversions or expand your reach.
Copy and Content Writing. There is a simple, but fairly brutal, truth about written content: everyone learns to write, but not everyone can write – although they think they can. Web content writers structure their words, phrases and sentences with great care, knowing how to optimise the text naturally. It’s like the rise and fall of a cadence in music. And, they know how to write in different tones of voice.
If you can afford a copywriter with commercial experience and SEO knowledge, hire one.
SEO. It’s not a dark art, however, search engine optimisation is not easy. It’s time consuming, and if you want it done to a high standard, it should be the job of a skilled professional.
We could fill an entire blog about search engine optimisation, but should you decide to outsource your SEO, please be wary of companies that promise page one organic rankings within a matter of weeks. They may be using black hat (illegitimate) techniques, which could earn a penalty from Google and this is hard to be rid of.
Marketing and PR Services. A broad topic, not least because marketing and PR could encompass several elements. If you’re aware that you need support with brand awareness and how best to reach your target market, then outsourcing your marketing to an experienced agency that can support you, such as Shake it Up Creative could make a substantial difference.
Some advice on outsourcing
Firstly, don’t be concerned about ceding control to an external business. An experienced freelancer or small company will understand that they’re working for you and with you. Independent specialists should be good listeners and have strong professional empathy; they wouldn’t be good at what they do otherwise.
Are you thinking of collaborating with a freelancer or an agency? In brief, freelancers could be cheaper, but do bear in mind that they may be juggling several projects at once. Skilled freelancers shouldn’t have completely empty work diaries.
Communication is key. A thorough briefing should reassure you that all will be well but communicate clearly to get the best results. Give timely, constructive feedback on the work that comes back to you.
Importantly, recognise that outsourcing to save cost is also the start of a working relationship and may take a bit of tweaking. After a short while, you’ll be a well-oiled machine – productive, effective and getting the results you need.
Rachael Dines, Director of Shake It Up Creative