By Peggy Bekavac Olson
With the weak economy of the past few years, organizations are now tasked with doing more with less. This is especially true when it comes to marketing. Given today's realities, budgets are cut to the bone and resources have been stretched way too thin, even out of existence.
Nevertheless, marketing still plays an integral role in helping businesses become successful, so many companies are turning to outside marketing experts to tap into their knowledge and resources on an as-needed basis. Some businesses outsource specific marketing functions to supplement the efforts of exsisting marketing teams; others outsource to compensate for severely limited or nonexistent in-house capabilities.
While outsourcing to a marketing firm can bring your business many strengths and broad capabilities, these qualities tend to come in two distinct flavors: strategic and tactical. And outsourced marketing can be strategic, tactical or both. Strategic marketing occurs at a high level and involves developing strategies and creating plans to do the following:
Strategic marketing involves a careful assessment of internal and external factors, such as company mission; business goals; marketing mix; organizational constraints; market and competitor analysis; and any technical, economic and legal issues likely to impact success.
Tactical marketing executes elements specified in a marketing plan that is based on a defined business strategy. Examples of marketing tactics are creating a brochure or advertisement; planning an event; executing a direct mail, public relations or advertising campaign; and building a website. Marketing tactics can also employ reactive, shoot-from-the-hip activities and initiatives that occur in response to market conditions and unexpected situations.
Many companies outsource activities that are not core to their businesses. For example, developing a brand strategy may be of critical importance; but writing and distributing a press release may not be and, therefore, may be easier to outsource. On a tactical level, many companies strapped for marketing resources can't get work out the door because of a lack of expertise or bandwidth, especially if their marketing teams are departments of one.
Companies intuitively know what's right for their organizations in terms of marketing outsourcing. They know what they're good at and where their weaknesses lie. Outsourcing should be used to bolster marketing weaknesses so that more time can be allocated to maximizing strengths.
For example, when internal marketing resources are good at developing strategies but can't be bothered with the details, it makes sense to outsource the tactical functions. Likewise, when marketing resources are not yet seasoned experts in the payments industry, it is wise to engage them in tactical work and get outside help with strategy development. Further, when marketing resources are good at creative design, but their communications and copywriting skills are lacking, outsourcing those is the way to go.
Before you engage an outside marketing expert, identify the most important things from a marketing standpoint that must be done to achieve strategic objectives. Then make a list of all the day-to-day work that simply can't be avoided. Prioritize and outsource what you don't have skills for, time to do or care to do internally. This activity helps focus the search to find the right type of outsourced help.
Marketing firms come in many varieties: corporate behemoths, boutique industry specialists, and regional or local firms. Each firm has its own unique strengths, such as strategy, research, brand, public relations, Web and interactive media, and events. The basics of marketing do apply somewhat across all industries. However, because of the complexity of our sphere, choosing an outside marketing partner that understands the unique aspects of the electronic payments industry is prudent. When you don't do this, you spend too much time teaching the partner you've brought on board. Even worse, you may end up with ineffective strategies and tactics that fall far short of the mark. I recommend choosing a firm whose successes closely align with your needs.
The job of a marketing partner to which you can outsource is to provide a rich outsider perspective, fill gaps in capabilities and expertise, and strengthen your overall marketing efforts. The end result should propel your business forward in a very positive and effective way, while helping you do more with less.
Peggy Bekavac Olson founded Strategic Marketing, a full-service marketing and communications firm specializing in financial services and electronic payment companies, after serving as Vice President of Marketing and Communications for TSYS. She can be reached at 480-706-0816 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Information about Strategic Marketing can be found at www.smktg.com.
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