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Should Your Firm Outsource Online Marketing?

A recent study of online marketing for professional services firms shows that professional services firms that generate at least 40% of their leads online grow up to 4X faster and are twice as profitable. This offers a compelling case for online marketing. But before a firm can achieve these results, it has to overcome some important hurdles:

  • Most firms are unsure how to do online marketing effectively
  • They lack adequate time to devote to the tasks involved
  • They may not have the right skill sets on staff

 
One way firms can address these shortcomings is to outsource their online marketing. So let's dig in and see what's involved.

Outsourced Online Marketing Defined

Outsourcing is typically defined as contracting out a routine business function to another firm. It has grown in popularity over recent years because it can reduce costs while allowing firms to focus on their core functions. The ongoing nature of online marketing makes it an exceptional candidate for outsourcing.

Prevalence of Outsourcing

Hinge's recent study of online marketing in the professional services shows that almost a third of firms (31%) outsource at least part of their online marketing functions. In most cases, these firms are using a mixed model in which part of the online marketing is done in-house and part is outsourced. Yet 5% of firms contract out virtually all (80% or more) of this function.

Outsourcing online marketing chart

Functions Commonly Outsourced

Some of the most frequently outsourced functions are content creation: writing or editing e-newsletters, blog posts, online articles, white papers and ebooks. This function is particularly valuable for time-strapped executives or people for whom writing is a chore rather than a pleasure.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is also often done outside a firm — both the basic onsite work and ongoing link-building campaigns. The technical and sometimes tedious nature of the work makes it a great candidate for outsourcing.

For similar reasons, paid search (PPC) is also a commonly outsourced function. It requires special expertise and ongoing analysis and adjustment.

Developing and maintaining a social media presence, too, is often an outsourced service because it can be very time consuming and requires a certain flair to be successful. There is some pushback on this front, though, as social media is supposed to be personal and interactive. But because many professional services executives simply don't have sufficient discretionary time, outsourcing is a viable option.

Finally, many integrated campaigns are handled entirely by external agencies. In these campaigns, multiple online techniques will be combined to reach a specific goal — typically lead generation or raising a firm's brand profile in a specific target market. Agencies are usually better equipped to coordinate the many moving parts in an integrated campaign, and they provide a single point of accountability.

The Case for Outsourced Online Marketing

So let's sum up the case for outsourcing some or all of your online marketing:

  • Online marketing works for professional services firms
  • It requires very specialized skills and talents to be most effective
  • It also requires dedicated time, which is often in short supply
  • An integrated campaign can be complex to coordinate without a single point of accountability
  • Given the direct impact on growth and firm profitability, the costs are easy to justify

 
However, there are also some cautions. In particular, people who interact with a firm through social media assume they are dealing with employees of the firm. If the firm's messaging and brand are inconsistently applied to social media, it could have consequences on a firm's reputation. A low dollar shortcut can become very expensive in short order.

Keeping these limitations in mind, you may want to consider outsourcing your online marketing. Next week, I’ll take a look at the cost of outsourcing and how you can build an outsourced strategy. In the meantime, you may want to check out the online lead generation guide below.

 

Author: Lee Frederiksen, Ph.D. Who wears the boots in our office? That would be Lee, our managing partner, who suits up in a pair of cowboy boots every day and drives strategy and research for our clients. With a Ph.D. in behavioral psychology, Lee is a former researcher and tenured professor at Virginia Tech, where he became a national authority on organizational behavior management and marketing. He left academia to start up and run three high-growth companies, including an $80 million runaway success story.

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