Smarter Marketing Blog

18 Useful Smarter Marketing Tips You Might Want to Know

useful-smarter-marketing-oc&k-scrabble-tiles

As a marketer, you know that the concept of useful marketing is still about connecting people with a brand in the hope that they will buy something.

If you have been a marketer for many years you probably use a marketing approach that has worked to-date. This post, therefore, may serve as a checklist for you or hopefully will give you some ideas to try. For people new to the industry, start-ups or SME owners I’ll include some tips that can start you on the road to success.

There are plenty of useful smarter marketing activities that are being lost in the sea of buzz words such as – content marketing, digital marketing, strategic marketing etc.  It is becoming more and more obvious, to us anyway, that despite the description of the method used, successful marketers realise that people will always have different relationship needs.

If marketers want to be able to focus on these needs, they really need to be much more flexible in their approach and thinking. This requirement is even more pronounced in our ever-shifting digital world.

In addition to traditional one-to-one communication, this flexibility also means having the ability to adapt to social media insights, behaviour analytics, personalisation, big data, etc. You could argue that never before has it been so easy to deliver the right kind of messaging to the right person at the right time.

So yes, building relationships are nothing new, but it has never been as important as now if we are to create a positive experience for our brand (or that of our client’s brand).

In many of our previous posts, we stated that the smarter option for success is to link marketing objectives to business objectives. The challenge for marketers, however, is not to get caught up in the trap of only focusing on quantifiable business results. In doing so, we forget that regardless of the result, marketing remains about the one thing mentioned above – relationships.

Here’s one more complication, relationship types don’t remain fixed. Depending on outside factors people may change their relationship needs daily, hourly, weekly etc. especially when they encounter your marketing message. No, it’s not as easy as it used to be but if you get your focus right – you will be successful with your marketing activity.

Useful Smarter Marketing and Business Priorities

So what am I saying here? Firstly, we don’t have to learn and undertake new types of marketing. We just need to be smarter about what we currently do and use the tools available. Some specialist skills might be required but these can be learned or outsourced. Secondly, if we are genuine about building relationships, we have to think about people’s priorities and not put our own first.

If you can message people according to their priorities, you have a better chance of being successful. Caution is required when engaging people many times with the same messages because most of them will not be at the same part of the buyers’ journey. The danger is that while your messaging can be establishing or cultivating a relationship, it may also be damaging it.

Here is a useful checklist that we put together that may help you reconsider your business priorities. The idea is to put relationship building front and foremost in your objectives.

Useful Smarter Marketing Priorities Checklist

As marketers, we should realise that how each time we touch a person with content is important because it forms part of building a relationship. If you are doing this right, therefore, it means that marketing campaigns would change, in real-time, to individually fit/ respond to the customer’s needs.

On this point, here is a link to a related article on just-in-time marketing that’s well worth a read.

The downside of this relationship building is that there is no definitive way to measure the impact of relationship building. From a sales point of view, we can check metrics such as leads generated and conversions but this can’t be directly quantified to the nurturing element of our engagements.

What is becoming the norm though is that people want to deal with a brand that is human-friendly. They do not want to be seen as leads, opportunities and in-the-pipeline. No, they want to have a relationship just like every other aspect of their life. For an established brand this is a challenge and for start-ups, it really needs to be up front and central in their planning.

6 Useful Smarter Marketing Approaches for Start-Ups.

  1. Market your product/service before it is ready
  2. Explain why you’re different (the benefit), don’t compare
  3. Listen to your customer (sometimes they defy logic but are usually right)
  4. Test fast. Fail Fast – think outside the box (live streaming etc.)
  5. Connect multichannel advertising and PR activity (builds credibility)
  6. Provide a place for customers to engage with you (website etc.)

Useful Smarter Marketing Essentials to Grow Your Business

I’ve often been asked at networking events, to provide a quick list of essentials in a marketing approach, for start-ups and established organisations alike. Here are 5 main marketing approaches that I suggest they should really be using.

Create a Marketing Plan

We have mentioned the importance of a marketing plan in many posts before e.g. ‘Marketing Plans: Who Needs Them Anyway‘ and the main reason for it is consistency. Sending out flyers, using social advertising and building a website on separate occasions do not make for a concerted effort – results will be unpredictable. Create a plan for 6 months at a time and keep the priorities in the graphic above, in mind.

Build a Mailing List

All traffic directed to your website or landing page takes time, effort and money. If you don’t secure people’s contact information while they’re there, you are throwing money away. Building an email list is the easiest way to stay in touch with your customers/prospects. Use a monthly newsletter or lead magnets so as to offer value in exchange for their email address.

Have a Mobile Presence

Every day we are seeing statistics on how using a mobile device is the main way that people are searching online. If your site or content isn’t mobile friendly, your business will not survive in the long term. Even if you are a bricks-and-mortar business you should allow your prospects shop from their mobiles.

Social Media

I don’t need to quote all the statistics for social media usage in Ireland here, but suffice to say that almost 50% of the population have smartphones and 700,000 of them use Twitter, for instance. People use social media for various reasons but from a business point of view, relevant automated posts and a presence for answering queries is a must to stay in the conversation with your customers and prospects.

Search Engine Optimisation

The blogosphere is awash with posts that delve into the specifics of Search Engine Optimisation. Whilst it can’t be gamed anymore, it should definitely be incorporated into any marketing campaign so as to make sure your efforts are recognised by the various search engines.

Of course, not all of your marketing ideas will generate a profit. In fact, you might lose money at the start of a campaign. But as long as you know what factors to measure, you will be able to adjust your approach.

Tips to getting your marketing plan on the road to success.

We believe that you can certainly be a better marketer in this day and age by working smarter and not necessarily harder. Here are 7 smarter marketing tips to contemplate, that might help you along you along the road to success:

  1. Be professional – have a unique and descriptive business name with the online domain to match.
  2. Don’t be boring – build your brand on being remarkable, authentic and realistic.
  3. Have professional branding – consistency is the key word because first impressions count.
  4. Deliver your message in different ways – use multi mediums (social, radio, referrals, online ads etc.).
  5. Make sure everyone knows you – ensure you/your business is the most recognised in your market.
  6. Out-serve your competition – market where your competitors aren’t
  7. Always improve your digital visibility – social media, website, landing pages, SEO etc.

Conclusion

No business can succeed really, without good marketing. While nobody has the ultimate cheat sheet that propels us up to the next level, being smarter about your marketing can definitely contribute to success.

Instead of copying everybody else in your marketing plans, be remarkable in what you do. Look for unique ways to appeal to and reach new audiences. If you are to build a relationship with your customers/prospects, it is essential that you talk with your customers and not at them. If they have a complaint, deal with it and if they have a question – answer it.

Finally, admit to yourself when something isn’t working. You have to make changes if your marketing isn’t creating the impact that you want it to have on your customers. If people didn’t respond to your first efforts, you can be sure they will dislike having you repeat the process for the second time.

Plan to be smarter about your marketing and you will eventually see some real return for your efforts.

“Thank you for reading our blog post today – Aidan & Jim.

By The Way: Can We Send You Emails During the Year?

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How to Realise Your New Year Ambitions for a Successful Business

2017-tablet-keyboard-successful-business

I remember reading somewhere that only about 10% of us stick to and achieve our New Year resolutions. Doesn’t that mean, therefore, that making them is ensuring a 90% failure rate at some stage? Luckily, planning for a successful business doesn’t usually adhere to the same statistics.

That being said, many people will use the start of 2017 as an opportunity to undertake a make-over, whether personal or business. Nothing wrong with that of course, but the 90% figure above hints that most of them are probably doomed to failure. Why is this? – We reckon it’s because of competing priorities, lack of simplicity or procrastination.

If this sounds familiar to you, don’t worry you’re not alone. Personally, each year, I have to remind myself to tackle these three pitfalls.

i) To avoid procrastination I try to change the way I think. We have all heard that we should start the most difficult tasks first, which is good advice. So, by saying to myself do-it-now, without weighing it up, I find works well. Do this for the month of January and it’ll set you up nicely for the rest of the year

ii) When trying to keep goals simple I have to remember to break activity into small bites. I think it is always easier to achieve small goals than one overwhelming one. Also, there’s a sense of accomplishment I find, as you strike them off your list.

iii) With regard to competing priorities, I make all my goals as tangible as possible by writing them down (or share with colleagues/friends). It makes it easier for me to prioritise my activity.

Realising your ambitions for a successful business in 2017.

The rest of this post will be for those people who have either been thinking about creating a business or want their business to be more successful in 2017. I suppose it is natural to look to the start of a New Year as the perfect time to plan guidelines for the year’s goals.

This post, however, won’t be a bullet point guide as to how you should plan for a successful business. Instead, initially, I’m going to focus on three outlooks that might help you with your 2017 business aspirations.

The foremost thing that I have learnt since setting up O’Connor & Kelly is that the purpose of business is to cater for people who will/can actually pay for the services provided. To do this there must be a complete focus on who the customer is.

For instance, we have recently launched a bundle of smarter marketing packs on our website. We based these on what we have learnt from various organisations over the last three years. We focused on different customer segments; SMEs, Clubs and Non-Profits, and have built up an understanding of what their needs really are.

What helped us with this is that we put ourselves in the shoes of the customer and asked:

-What is the trigger that would cause them to consider a purchase?

-What would deter them from going ahead with the purchase?

-Is the price matching the value that they perceive they will get?

When the customer’s needs become your focus – you can deliver value in a real way.

magnifying glass-value

The second outlook is to ensure that you are a customer’s preferred option. The main way to do this is to be relevant by providing outstanding value. If your value is not outstanding, you won’t have loyal customers, which means you won’t have repeatable business – which means higher costs looking for new customers.

Again, using O’C&K as an example, although we have targeted our smarter marketing packs as outlined, any organisation can mix and match. The point is that we have developed a good understanding of these segments based on customer insights. As a result, we believe that we can solve any particular marketing problem (flexibility) based on our experience, and can help those organisations with their growth.

Finding your own strengths to match customer insights is essential. The question to ask yourself is – are your services improving the life of your customer?

The third outlook we propose relates to marketing. If you want to realise your ambitions for a successful business in 2017, it is essential that you have a marketing strategy. In many of our previous smarter marketing blog posts, we have emphasised that marketing is an investment – which means allocating budget to it.

Look at it this way, if you have a great product/service, a great location and great staff but, nobody knows about it – you will never have a successful business. Here’s a simple, 2 part, strategy for you –  a) be seen by your target audience and b) convert that attention into business sales.

magnifying glass-strategy

Focus on these activities and avoid the other two other stumbling blocks of self-doubt and unnecessary spending.

It doesn’t matter what tools/channels you use (online ads, trade shows, social media, sponsorship, emails etc.) as long as you are showing how your solution can solve their problems. One final point on this, sales is a numbers game so you will hear a lot of no’s before getting a yes.

Personal New Year Resolutions Play a Part in Your Business Success

Whether already in business, a club, a non-profit or starting up a business, it is worth focusing on some personal resolutions also. This year why not try something new instead of adding the usually failed goals to last year’s list. It might be an idea to pick something that you would enjoy (rather than giving up something).

Here are some ideas – enroll in a certificate programme for a hobby, activity or ability you always wanted to try (learn a language, creative writing, song writing etc.). Listen to podcasts, audio books and become an expert in one topic – fundraising, for instance. Volunteer for the Board of a local charity. Mentor somebody and pay-it-forward. Try a life coaching or motivational speaking session (e.g. Howard Hughes International).

How about using social media at a personal level? You might have been building relationships online for your organisation, but how about your personal brand? You don’t have to post every day, but you can expand your own network with people that have similar interests. You might even enjoy it. 😃 As a bonus, from a brand point of view, it would be another way of allowing your personality shine through your engagement.

If you do any of the above, you won’t just be setting targets for 2017– you’ll be acquiring benefits that stay with you forever.

Tips about getting rid of those nasty habits

We outlined 3 outlooks earlier that will help you realise your 2017 aspirations whether you are setting up a new business or kick-starting an existing one. There are six mindsets that should be dropped before embarking on your 2017 odyssey.

  1. Don’t try to do everything on your own – ask for help or outsource if required
  2. Don’t try to be perfect – everybody fails sometime, making mistakes is OK as long as you learn
  3. Make it happen – don’t wait for business to come to you
  4. Procrastination – stay in the present by measuring your targets and your goals
  5. Don’t let competitors’ success frighten you – learn from them and do it better
  6. Keep focused on the mission – don’t spend money on things that won’t help you achieve it

There are plenty of things that can become obstacles in your business. Don’t let your mindset be one of them.

Conclusion

In this post, we suggested three outlooks that entrepreneurs and/or business owners need to have in order to realise aspirations for a successful business in 2017.  They were: a genuine customer focus. providing outstanding value and having a marketing strategy. We also mentioned that personal resolutions can impact on your organisation, so it might be worth planning for them as well.

Our tips above focused on some bad mindsets that business people should probably drop if they are to succeed in 2017. Our final caveat is not to focus purely on the science of marketing in 2017. Finding creative and smarter ways of delivering the message will always be the artistic side of marketing. We hope you will continue to be artistic and have a fun-filled and prosperous 2017.

“Thank you for reading our blog post today – Aidan & Jim.

By The Way: Can We Send You Emails in 2017?

Twice a month or so we send an email with our best content. We never bug you; we just send you our latest piece of content.

Join others who love to get free smarter marketing tips –  right here, right now.

‘Tis Time to be Boosting Your Seasonal Marketing

seasonal-marketing-shopping-cart-

As we fast approach the Christmas holidays we believe that it is never too late to add some sparkle to your seasonal marketing. Even if you haven’t the time or experience to implement these over the next few weeks – you have approximately 52 weeks left to get ready for the next one.

Every year we can count on a few seasonal stalwarts: decorations will be up earlier than the previous year (people will be complaining about this), the John Lewis ad and Christmas FM will single the real start to the festive season and the Miracle on 34th Street movie will start showing on TV.

What is changing slightly, though, is the effect of the internet on shopping habits and behaviours.

The over-riding message of this post will be that it is really important for small business owners to boost their efforts during this hectic season of impulse buying. The rest of this post will offer 28 activities you can start, continue, or consider for next year. In fact, most of them are transferable to other holiday seasons also.

Seasonal marketing lends itself to much more than just SEO and advertising. People are usually happier and appear more open to interacting with brands. These interactions may be through channels such as social media, on-site reviews, blog comments and video feedback.

seasonal-marketing-girl-christmas-bauble

Because buying behaviour is different around this time of year, driven by festive cheer and promotions (discounts and special offers), – a simple seasonal marketing plan therefore, might include some or all of the following:

– A festive-themed landing page to promote an offer / attract the Christmas audience

– A PPC campaign that has identified keywords from your clients rather than popular festive ones

– Branded video content that will encourage positive comments from browsers (or sales)

– Email and social media activity to generate a buzz around your brand (share discounts)

– Joint marketing activity with regular activity you have planned (use search & social data)

Before we continue with the tips, however, we have two recommendations. Our first one is to check out what worked, online, for you last year. Google Analytics is a great tool for determining which channels were responsible for most of your sales. They can even reveal how your customers found you.

Our second recommendation is that right now you should review your budget. If you have budgeted a specific amount for seasonal marketing – check if you’re on track. If not, don’t worry – you might still be able to put aside a small amount to do some of the activities listed below.

Whatever activity you pursue, though, it must serve to attract traffic to your website / outlet, generate sales and/or enhance your brand.

Make your Seasonal Marketing Smarter and Wonderful this Year

Content Marketing:

  • Think about the content you share. It is a time of joy and goodwill. Relax your tone, have a bit of fun and go off-piste with your content (if you dare).
  • Share seasonal content with your audience e.g. useful seasonal tips get shared the most.
  • Spread a bit of holiday spirit in your campaign – relax the sales pitch (e.g. John Lewis)
  • Change you visuals graphics to be more seasonal – especially for smartphones
  • Organise a (brand-relevant) Christmas competition e.g. share a funny Christmas jumper pic
  • Include a specific Christmas offer in your content (free shipping, BOGOF, special discount)

seasonal-marketing-digital-tablet

Digital Marketing :

Increasingly, shoppers have begun to rely on online shopping and this year looks no different. With such growth in online shopping, the number of ways your business has to reach people has increased significantly. Try these ideas to differentiate your business:

  • Offer a gift messaging service – allow recipients know when the gift is en route
  • Use your data base to personalise messages via SMS to customers
  • Set-up push notifications to reach people when they are shopping
  • Produce and share gift guides e.g. videos, flipbooks and segment into categories
  • Use seasonal emojis in your messaging
  • Use geo-location (beacons) to offer deals when customers are close by
  • Ensure that your website has a responsive design (check here)
  • Integrate your social media promotions across all channels you use
  • Make use of seasonal hashtags (try hashtagify)
  • Make sure your business address, directions and opening hours are correct
  • Offer live support on your website (try drift.)

Use your imagination when engaging your customers, be it online or offline. Get people excited about Christmas and your brand. As competition increases around Christmas like no other holiday, don’t miss the opportunity to really engage with your audience through smarter marketing.

hashtag-christmas

Christmas Hashtags

Tips and ideas to boost your seasonal marketing

Almost any organisation can add a bit of seasonal sparkle to their branding. If there is a small cost, well we reckon it can be justified as a renewable resource year on year. Spread sparkle on such things as social media profiles, header images, emails, online ads and of course eCards. In addition to the tips outlined above, here are 12 others that might help boost your activity:

  1. Remember – don’t skimp on the decorations (use brand colours if possible)
  2. Reward social media friends / followers with exclusive seasonal discounts
  3. Use a specific theme for a campaign e.g. tips over 12 days of Christmas
  4. Place your print catalogue / book / holiday brochure online and share ideas
  5. Check your campaigns / SEO for keywords that reflect your seasonal campaign
  6. Use remarketing and create a sense of urgency in your advertising
  7. Get involved with a charity campaign locally (host a fundraising event)
  8. Distribute exclusive offers to customers that have downloaded your app (if applicable)
  9. Form a group to promote the local community
  10. Get branded Christmas cards, sign them personally and send to customers
  11. Provide free chocolate samples and have gift cards available at cashpoints
  12. Provide gift wrapping and tagging beside impulse buy points in store

Conclusion

It is never too late to add some sparkle to your seasonal marketing. In this post, we provided business owners with 28 practical tips on how to boost their marketing activity this Christmas. Many of the tips will work for all types of organisations and if not perhaps it is time to start planning for 2017.

Our last tip is to make sure you load up your Spotify app (O’C&K has no affiliation) with suitable music. Although there are many playlists available for the special day – how about collaborating with the family and create a fresh one to suit all tastes.

“Thank you for reading our blog post today – we wish you Season’s Greetings and a Prosperous 2017″ – Aidan & Jim.

By The Way: Can We Send You Emails in 2017?

Twice a month or so we send an email with our best content. We never bug you; we just send you our latest piece of content.

Join others who love to get free smarter marketing tips –  right here, right now.

Smarter Marketing is a Route to Business Growth

business-growth-smarter-marketing

You had a brilliant idea for a new product / service that nobody else has thought of, so you set-up a small business. For business growth then, you decide that your marketing time is best spent on social media to spread the word (because it’s free). Does this sound familiar?

Unfortunately, many start-ups use social media as a substitute for effective marketing techniques as they tend to focus more on building the business from an operational viewpoint. As a result, they don’t have the time for consistent communications.

We believe that effective marketing is just being smarter about your marketing. If you don’t have the time or experience for smarter marketing well then, outsource it. It is an investment just like any other assets you use for business growth.

In this blog post, we’re going to look at ways that you as a business start-up or an SME owner can undertake smarter marketing which will help business growth through more effective communication.

Many small businesses don’t realise that a formal marketing strategy is the best way to build brand recognition and to grow a customer base. As a result, businesses that don’t undertake effective marketing initially will take longer to establish a customer base and therefore profitability.

3 Marketing Planning Actions for Start-Ups to Consider.

When setting-up your business it really is important that you allow for some time in planning your marketing activity.

The first action we recommend, that will only cost you your time, is determining what makes your start-up unique. The result will form a basis for your marketing message.

Our second recommendation is to focus on a specific customer base. All businesses seek revenue as a route to success and specific audiences will deliver that revenue. This requires a focus on which activities will build a sustainable customer base. Only by attracting customers and maintaining relationships can future revenue be delivered.

(Our last O’C&K blog post, alluded to the different types of brand loyalty).

The third action, we would recommend is to spy on your competitors. This does not mean copying them but it does mean finding out how you can improve on what they offer. There are many tools available to enable you to do this. RAZORSOCIAL is a website that has a wonderful array of online tools.

These three actions will deliver an outline for your marketing activity and for your business communications going forward.

Don’t forget the Business Plan

We know we said that this post will be about smarter marketing but it really would be remiss of us not to mention a business plan – especially if you are in a start-up scenario. When done properly the business plan will provide you with a real growth strategy and a guideline in how to tackle specific challenges along the way.

The plan can be as brief as you wish but just needs to be thorough (not detailed). There’s no point in copying a competitor, as every plan should be as unique as the business itself. Just remember to make a fair assessment of the business needs and plan accordingly.

[ctt template=”3″ link=”BPgER” via=”no” ]Every business plan should be as unique as the business itself. Just make a fair assessment of your needs and plan accordingly.[/ctt]

So, once the business plan is in place you should have a good idea of your mission. Your mission will reflect what you want to achieve / change or add value to, in the marketplace. It helps if your offering comes from an empathy with a specific customer base. If not, perhaps you might find a partner that brings that empathy to the table.

Your business plan will also have provided you with goals. The only caveat here, we believe, is that goals should be changeable mid-stream. If your business (and you) is set-up for continuous learning, you should be able to adapt in real time as you progress through your business cycles.

A business plan is a documented description of your organisation’s future. It doesn’t matter whether it’s written on the back of an envelope or in an online template – it is a plan. You have a starting point, an ending point (perhaps) and an outline of how you are going to get there.

Not being Smart about Obstacles for Business Growth

There are many common causes for business failure obviously, but perhaps some that you might not think about as much would be:

– Not paying for an expert’s help with areas that you are not strongest at e.g. taxation, legal and marketing can be a mistake. We would put, not being able to analyse your data, in this bracket also.

– Not understanding that a business is more than one product / service is another reason for a short business life-span. It’s not all about selling one product, it’s about understanding that a customer has a life-long value and that a sale can take a long time.

– Clinging to a wrong idea because of a fear of failure is a very common malaise amongst start-ups particularly.

– Not being ready for the challenges of being a business owner can have its own, personal life pressures as well. Also, changing from being an employee to an employer is not an easy task.

– Lack of a smarter marketing strategy can definitely be a cause of failure, especially in a changing business environment.

Here are a few old school marketing vs modern day marketing reasons why your marketing activity might not be as smart as you expect:

– Relying on PR press releases for media coverage vs promoting content across all brand touch-points

– Designing a logo with strict guidelines vs adapting to a changing design paradigm (e.g. websites)

– Campaign + message + paid media vs A/B testing, online polls, customised CTAs + remarketing

– Major advertising campaign vs continuous engagement

Tips for getting your branding right for business growth

As a start-up business, getting your brand off on the front foot initially can be the main route to revenue growth. Not doing so, however, might be a very costly mistake. Here are six ways of avoiding the latter –

  1. Choose your brand name carefully
  2. Understand how your visual identity matters
  3. Don’t confuse your brand with your logo
  4. Know your audience and think big
  5. Convey the right message to the right people
  6. Embrace failure

Conclusion

Of late, there appear to be many people embracing self-employment or setting up new businesses. This could be as a result of many things e.g. responding to the uplift in the Irish economy, technology removing barriers-of-entry, more female entrepreneurs or people not finding employment to be fulfilling. Whatever the rationale, turning a new business into a profitable enterprise is not an easy task.

Business growth is about being smarter about what you do – especially your marketing.

Those start-ups that are successful seem to be the ones that are driven by a personal vision – a story. The purpose or cause appears to be at the heart of everything the business stands for. Therefore smarter marketing should be an integral part of your business, ensuring consistency of message in the telling of that story.

When people believe in your brand as much as you do – it’ll be easier for them to do business with you. Make it easy for them – be smarter about your marketing.

“Thank you for reading our blog post today” – Aidan & Jim.

 Would you like us to notify you, by email, when we publish new content? If so, just let us know by clicking here. Of course, we can always meet face-to-face, just leave your details here and we might grab a coffee, cheers. Jim – O’C&K

 

The Simplest Ways to Make the Best Use of Digital Activity

digital-activity-showing-carton-with-eggs

I read an article recently on Why You Should Outsource Digital Marketing, here. At the end of the piece, Robin Ayoub’s sign-off (quoted later) made me smile – and prompted me to write this post. Accordingly, I would like to discuss some ways to make the best of digital activity. In the main, we will look at whether businesses should be outsourcing or insourcing the online element of their marketing plans.

Allow me to point out upfront that, I don’t really like the description digital marketing because, in O’C&K, we firmly believe that marketing, in essence, has not changed. It’s just that nowadays, marketers must operate in an increasingly digital environment.

So, I’m using the term digital activity in this post in the understanding that it is an important constituent of any marketing activity. The second thing I’d like to elaborate on is what we mean by insourcing vs. outsourcing.

O’C&K – Insourcing means hiring team members in-house and outsourcing means working with an agency.

It recent times, a trend has been suggested of corporates insourcing more of their digital activity. Of course, these corporates may have specific and good reasons for doing so, including:

a) the spend on online marketing is rising and they want more supervision of it, or

b) because agency talent is moving across the divide! or

c) because as agencies have grown over the last 10/15 years they might not be nimble enough for ‘lean’ marketing departments. These departments constantly have to respond rapidly to their changing customer’s online behaviour, so flexibility is desirable.

Another point worth remembering is that digital activity is more than just advertising online. A move to an inbound strategy needs to reflect this i.e. inbound marketing is not a campaign.

I spoke with an SME (SMB) owner recently and his fear of outsourcing digital was really about outsourcing his personal relationships. He was also worried that some ‘youngster’s’ lack of commitment / knowledge in an agency might damage a long-term relationship that he had built up. Both are legitimate worries that must be attended to genuinely.

Thinking positively, though, I believe that the suggested trend might not be all bad for agencies. For me, it shows that businesses are thinking more about, and understanding, their marketing activity, be it online or offline.

Do you Insource the Chicken or Outsource the Eggs?

Robin Ayoub’s sign-off mentioned above: “Think about this: You need a dozen eggs. Do you go to the super/farmer’s market and pick up a carton, or buy a space to farm chickens and pay for all of their expenses?”

Of course, we can all see that digital is changing how we engage customers, measure marketing activity and develop strategies. Whatever the size of the business, being smarter about marketing is key and being online is part of that.

Be honest when answering this question, though, how many SMEs really have the time, experience or the resources to develop and implement their comprehensive digital marketing activity?

In such cases, and many of our own customers’ cases, outsourcing is a good way to put their toe-in-the-water. Jumping straight into building an in-house team mostly comes with a hefty price tag e.g. experience, technology and salary+.

Outsourcing to a small, flexible marketing agency can add productivity to your business team and provide measurable results.

We know that outsourcing is not opportune in all business scenarios and In a previous post on Inbound Marketing, here, we discussed the pros and cons of same. Here are a few questions again that might help you determine whether it makes sense for your business:

  • Does your marketing activity need a general overhaul anyway?
  • Do you understand online marketing but just don’t have the time to implement campaigns?
  • Do you know nothing about online marketing and want to start small and learn?
  • Do you want to scale up your existing online activity to drive business growth?

If you have answered, yes, to any of the above – you should probably outsource your digital activity. With the risk of this sounding like a business pitch, outsourcing can be a great way to get just the right expert that is already skilled at what you want to do. Your marketing capacity will increase, it will be fresher and, if applicable, your staff member looking after marketing will have the opportunity for continuous learning.

At the end of the day – as a business owner – outsourcing allows you to concentrate on growing the business, safe in the knowledge that the marketing is in good hands. An agency can help you understand where you are with your current digital activity, and strategise where you need to go with it.

Pros and Cons of Outsourcing Digital Activity

There is one simple way of determining whether you should outsource. Ask yourself – what is a core competency for my business? If digital or marketing (or both) are not – then you probably should look at bringing in this skill.

Some downsides of outsourcing are, that 1) you must be willing to trust the agency implicitly by sharing data, strategies etc. Also, if the agency is paid by the hour – the fees may add up. 2) you might not get the senior operator at the agency on an ongoing basis (alluded to above) and 3) an agency may not be as passionate about your business as you / in-house team are.

A few of the main advantages are (some mentioned above) that i) outsourcing can bring in the exact skill that you require, ii) the agency will have substitutes in case of illness etc; iii) agencies learn from other customers and can transfer their learnings and iv) agencies may well have existing platforms / IT that can be used for you without extra expense.

The decision whether to outsource or not is not an easy one because of individual businesses’ variables. It is our opinion though that quite often, due to time constraints, the decision is not even being contemplated.

Outsourcing tips and timesavers for SMEs

We predict that outsourcing will continue to be a good option, especially for SMEs, in the immediate future. With the advances in marketing tools and channels, funds can be allocated to measurable activity that will help grow the business.

Here are 5 overall benefits why we think outsourcing will be favoured over insourcing for the foreseeable future and 4 ways how a business might maximise results from doing so:

  1. Productivity increase – people are free to concentrate on core competencies
  2. Cost effective – less finance required for outsourcing and savings / cost reduction are paramount for start-ups
  3. Low risk – marketing accountability is passed on to the agency with the project
  4. Time management – outsourcing ensures measurable activity / milestones at a relatable cost
  5. Expertise – Outsourcing opens access to a range of other expertise that agencies use

Maximising the results:

  1. Treat the agency as a partner
  2. Provide the agency with very clear objectives
  3. Be passionate about the project and expect the agency to be as passionate
  4. Agree up-front whether hourly rates or a project fee suits both parties equally

Conclusion

Availed of at the right time and for the right reasons, outsourcing can provide the knowledge, and the experience, for focused marketing execution. In particular, it can provide the business nous necessary to create value and to successfully deliver upon online marketing objectives.

“Thank you for reading our blog post today” – Aidan & Jim.

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