Do More with Less: Accelerate Marketing Growth with Hybrid Outsourcing. Read Guide
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One of the toughest challenges for marketers these days is the pressure to do more with less. Rising costs and the difficulty of securing in-house talent limits many marketing teams’ capabilities. Yet B2B companies are often reluctant to outsource due to quality concerns and the belief that an external team can never truly understand their product.
Fully outsourcing may lead to a lack of control, and assigning one-off tasks to freelancers brings inconsistency. But there’s a better way. Hybrid outsourcing allows you to attain a balance between internal and external resources, saving costs and maintaining quality. Continue reading to learn the following:
Hybrid outsourcing is about creating the perfect balance between both your internal team and external partners to streamline your marketing operations, reducing overhead costs, minimizing risk, and ultimately improving performance.
With hybrid outsourcing, you’ll have a strong internal marketing team to focus on core efforts working alongside an external agency to execute and expand on them. Hybrid outsourcing involves close collaboration to develop a flexible plan that meets your needs.
The way tasks and functions are divided between internal and external teams will vary based on your preferences, requirements, and budget.
The hybrid model can benefit companies of all sizes. However, the strategies that we recommend are designed primarily for SMBs and startups.
The one most adaptable to change is the one that survives.
The one most adaptable to change is the one that survives.
No one can truly predict what is going to happen in 2024. Will generative AI jeopardize your website’s traffic? Will the upcoming elections impact CPMs and drive your ad spend up? What if customer demand suddenly drops? Until it actually happens, we can only speculate.
As Peter Hinssen suggests, we find ourselves in the ‘never normal,’ an era of accelerating tech developments, digital disruption, and bold innovation amidst economic turbulence.
Everything can change at a moment’s notice – brands that can adapt and respond to change quickly will gain an advantage. They will remain agile and vigilant, making micro-pivots as they go, while positioning themselves to win the long game.
This is only possible if they can manage their resources well, ensuring that they have the ability to immediately scale their operations up or down without compromising on performance.
We think the brands that pursue the hybrid model in earnest are those that have the best chances of achieving this.
An increasing number of businesses are recognizing the value of outsourcing, with 37% of small businesses already relying on it. And that number is only expected to go up. The outsourcing market is predicted to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 4% between 2021 and 2025. What are the reasons for this trend? Major reasons are necessity due to rising costs and widespread uncertainty, but businesses are also coming to understand the value of high-quality partnerships.
It used to be more affordable for SMBs to run social or search ads, but with increased competition, costs are skyrocketing. According to The Drum, Meta’s cost per thousand (CPM) went up by 61% in the past year while Google search ads’ cost-per-click (CPC) went up by 14%.
With so much budget spent on ads, there’s less to be spent on manpower, and the average marketer’s salary in the US is $77,913. For a typical marketing team of 20+ people for a mid-sized business, that’s a cost of over $1.5 million a year.
In addition to budget concerns, finding and retaining talent is difficult, with 68% of mid-market companies struggling to attract top talent. Efforts spent on recruitment and managing turnover make it harder to maintain a cohesive team.
Fluctuations in the economy, the rise of AI, and the coming US election have also created an uncertain environment in which businesses need to be agile to adapt their strategy. Certain full-time marketing functions may be a drain on the budget at times but be badly needed at others. A hybrid outsourcing model provides the required flexibility.
In the past, businesses tended to see outsourcing as a lower quality option, only trusting their internal teams with high-value work. But now, they’re beginning to view it as a viable partnership opportunity, with 78% of firms reporting a favorable connection with their outsourcing partners.
External partners offer new skills and tools, for example, for design and analytics, and 51% of organizations report outsourcing to gain access to additional capabilities.
When done correctly, hybrid outsourcing offers many benefits to businesses. There are some downsides, but those can be mitigated with an effective strategy. We’ll cover the benefits and disadvantages briefly and then get into how to apply the model.
Access to partner expertise, tools, and data – Outsourcing gives you instant access to expertise in fields like web development and video production along with SEO and analytics tools and data you may not be able to get elsewhere.
Better control, tighter collaboration, and increased performance – When done well, hybrid outsourcing gives you more control over your project, increases your teams’ focus and improves performance overall.
Cost-effective and one of the best ways to reduce overhead costs – Rather than having to hire and train employees and worry about turnover, hybrid outsourcing gives you the team members you need, when you need them.
Minimizes risk from economic turbulence – In tough economic times, hiring a full-time in-house marketing team and making long commitments to marketing tools is a risk. With hybrid outsourcing, you can add or reduce budget and functions more easily.
Reduces management burden – Managing multiple teams cross-functionally from Creative to Content to Product Marketing to PR and more is draining. Outsourcing certain functions makes your marketing team easier to manage.
Difficulty finding the right partner(s) – Not every marketing agency is created equal, and finding one that’s the perfect fit for your business takes time.
Learning curve to set up working processes between teams – It’s important to set out expectations on both sides from the beginning. Not doing this may result in delays, performance drops, or communication breakdowns.
Potential data security issues – Trusting an external organization with your data is a risk. Outsourcing to the wrong company may lead to data breaches or violation of privacy regulations.
Working with teams from different timezones – Outsourcing offshore means teams will often be hours apart, and scheduling meetings or getting urgent issues addressed may be a challenge without the right collaboration infrastructure in place.
Companies no longer think of outsourcing as simply handing off all the grunt work to reduce costs. In today’s complex marketing environment, companies now look outwards to search for strategic solutions to solve their needs.
As the lines have blurred between who comes up with the strategy and who does the execution, companies need a smarter way to structure their hybrid operations. For a hybrid model to work, you’ll need to build two separate functions; your core and non-core functions.
Your core internal team acts as your command center. It’s in charge of the overall supervision, quality control, and decision-making – ensuring that all activities correspond to business goals. A high-performing command center does the following:
With the right direction from the command center, your external non-core team can handle everything else including the following:
The command center ultimately calls the shots, but which functions are outsourced and to what extent vary depending on business needs. Here are a few examples of setups we’ve seen with some of our clients.
The MVP Setup: Perfect for small businesses that want to keep their team as lean as possible.
With this setup, we typically work directly with the founder or CMO or for slightly larger businesses, a marketing team. In this setup, the core team only handles operations, product marketing, and overall customer, brand, and marketing strategy. For the executional functions, we’ve served as their entire outsourced marketing team.
The Single-Function Setup: Best for businesses that prefer having tighter control over certain functions.
With this setup, businesses outsource most of the executional functions, but choose to keep one or two of these functions in house. For example, some of our customers prefer to keep their content production in-house because they operate in complex industries that require subject matter experts to write content. Under this approach, we typically provide support by repurposing, amplifying, and distributing content that our customers produce.
Combination Setup: Works well for medium-sized companies who want to take more ownership over customer experience and engagement.
In this setup, the business will often keep functions directly affecting the customer experience (e.g., content, web experience, and organic social) in-house. For organic social, in particular, we highly recommend this approach as it can be difficult for an outsourced provider to nail the industry nuances, and getting someone on your team to manage social can feel more authentic. With this model, we focus our efforts on growing other channels, often leveraging the assets that our customers have produced.
If you want to get started with hybrid outsourcing, here are the steps you need to take to determine what to outsource.
Download this free template for guidance.
1 | Make a list of all your current day-to-day marketing activities. Include possible future needs based on your marketing roadmap.
2 | Categorize all your work by function and task type
Function: These are the core functions of your marketing team such as content marketing or SEO. Outsourcing an entire function creates a clear division of responsibilities between you and your external partner, while also providing them with more creative freedom. In SMB teams, job responsibilities tend to overlap so it’s important to categorize. For example, many of our clients completely outsource their paid digital function to us. But prior to that, paid search and paid social were handled by two separate individuals on their team.
Task type: Another layer to consider is task types. These are most relevant when the company only wants to outsource part of their function. For example, when it comes to building case studies, some of our clients prefer to conduct customer interviews themselves, and handover the information to us so that we can write the case study. They “feel” and we “do.”
3 | Score each function/task by strategic importance to organization and importance to business operations on a scale of low, medium and high using the outsourcing decision matrix.
Strategic importance of a task or function to an organization: These are areas which can provide your business with a competitive advantage and differentiate it in the market.
Importance to business operations: These are the tasks necessary to keep the business running smoothly and could spell disaster if done badly.
Quadrant 1: High strategic importance, low importance to business operations
Form a strategic alliance: These are tasks or functions that can be safely entrusted to a strategic partner who will share responsibility over them and work alongside you to drive them forward.
Quadrant 2: High strategic importance, high importance to business operations
Retain: These are tasks that should not be handed off to anyone else in order to retain maximum control, for example, the lead handoff process between marketing and sales. That is something that should be decided and communicated between your teams internally. Including an outsider into the mix introduces inefficiencies and risks that could break the entire process – causing leads to drop off and put your future pipelines in jeopardy
Quadrant 3: Low strategic importance, High importance to business operations
Outsource: This is what most businesses think of when it comes to outsourcing. For example, outsourcing graphic design. While it’s important to have images to go along with your e-book, it does not necessarily warrant hiring a full-timer to handle it. That being said, some companies underestimate the importance of some activities like creative and design – outsourcing them to low-cost freelancers and in turn receiving low-quality output. We beg to differ. In this day and age where competition is at an all-time high and the attention economy is a real thing, investing in strong creative may help you stand out from the crowd.
Quadrant 4: low strategic importance, low importance to business operations
Eliminate: Marketing teams are already overwhelmed by the dozens of different things they need to do to execute a comprehensive demand generation strategy. Sometimes, not all of it is worth doing – especially these tasks. Eliminate or automate them and spend your effort and budget elsewhere.
4 | Finally, make a decision based on where all the tasks and functions fall in the four quadrants
Once you’ve decided which functions and tasks to outsource, the next objective is to choose your provider or providers. Here are five points we recommend you consider.
In this uncertain environment, flexibility is key. You may want to start outsourcing one or two functions and then add more later. Or you may later decide some functions are no longer needed or best handled in-house. It’s important to choose a partner that will work with your requirements and also has the capacity to grow with your business.
With a marketing-as-a-service (MaaS) agency, you’ll be able to choose the functions that you need, and adjust or scale your plan as your business requirements change.
B2B businesses require marketers to understand their industry. Even though your agency partners will not be subject matter experts on your exact product, they should have a thorough knowledge of the B2B marketing and sales process and have experience with similar businesses.
We have years of expertise in the SaaS and tech industries. With every new client, we strive to learn their business and develop a long-term relationship, and our work reflects that.
When you’re outsourcing multiple functions, it’s best to consider a full marketing-as-a-service agency to allow for greater cohesion. When you choose an agency that can fulfill it all, you’ll get a team that works together and understands how each function is dependent on the other. Outsourcing to different agencies or freelancers can lead to miscommunication and inconsistencies.
Outsourcing your marketing should save you time and reduce the burdens of management. Choose an agency with well-managed teams that can produce quality work independently. Of course you’ll have the final approval and regular meetings will be necessary, but you shouldn’t need to oversee every detail of the day-to-day process.
With our clients, after initial campaign discussions and briefs, our team works independently to handle all marketing functions, sending the final drafts for review and holding weekly or monthly meetings to provide reports and stay aligned.
Finally, budget is an important consideration, but remember to look at the actual cost to outsource vs. the opportunity cost. Engaging with freelancers is certainly the cheapest option, but when you factor in the headache of managing multiple freelancers, time spent editing and reviewing their work, and time spent sourcing, they may not be cost-effective anymore. That is why we recommend going with only 1 or 2 providers to reduce the burden on your team.
Our packages start from as low as $5,500/month, which is enough to generate 4-5 pieces of content or run 1-2 ad campaigns. After an initial evaluation phase, most of our clients increase their agency budget to $12,000-$30,000/month to get a dedicated team of 8-10 professionals working across marketing functions to achieve their commercial objectives.
The stakes have never been higher than they are now for B2B CMOs and digital marketers alike. The economic uncertainty has forced companies to raise their targets and cut back on spending, leaving our customers with no other option than to “do more with less” – literally. To ensure that our customers continue to have access to the world-class talent they need to execute their growth initiatives, we’ve revised our subscription model by lowering its barrier to entry and providing discounts on longer-term subscriptions. This allows us to give our customers access to a full team of B2B marketing experts to execute their growth strategies at a fraction of the cost of hiring one full-time.
To learn more about MaaS