How Smart Startups Are Outsourcing Marketing | 4 Key Areas

Marketing Tactics

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Startup founders know marketing matters. They also know that there’s a product to be built and investments to be won. Outsourcing marketing is one of the ways to maximize the success of a new venture.

Especially as the marketing landscape grows, founders with technical and sales backgrounds simply don’t have time to study marketing’s many niches. No wonder the latest CMO Survey, conducted by Deloitte, Duke’s Fuqua School of Business, and the American Marketing Association, showed planned marketing outsourcing at its highest level in at least five years.

Outsourced marketing processes vary by company, of course. A founder with branding experience might be happy to handle that function himself, while others may struggle to know where to start. But at upstart companies, certain areas of marketing simply don’t make sense to tackle internally.

Where Does Outsourcing Marketing Pay Off?

Unless you’re fortunate enough to have an expert on your founding team, don’t try to hire or hack your way through the following marketing functions:

1. Strategy

Marketers love to specialize. But if you start spending on SEO, email marketing, paid search, or any other tactic before setting up a strategy, you’re going to miss out. Opportunities can come from anywhere, and tapping them often takes a multidisciplinary approach.

“If someone wants to just run Facebook ads, that’s fine, but people will come to your site, see it, and if there’s no nurturing, it won’t turn into sales,” explains outsourced CMO Erik Huberman. “People don’t just show up and buy on their own.”

Fortunately, the strategy doesn’t need to be outsourced ad infinitum. Once a company knows its customers and has a plan to reach them, there’s not much to do but monitor metrics and keep the wheel straight.

2. SEO

Search engine optimization may sound simple, but it’s one of the most complex areas of marketing. SEO is an interdisciplinary, step-by-step process that progresses through website crawl accessibility, user experience optimization, content development, and more. Few small teams can afford to hire their own web developer, UX designer, writer, and more.

Although SEO experts generally agree that it’s a smart area to outsource, some caution against delegating content creation. One thing that is hard to outsource is content planning and an ongoing editorial calendar. Content creators outside the company often misunderstand what differentiates it from its competitors.

3. Automation

If there is one thing companies need — other than a working product, that is — leads. When done well, marketing automation delivers new leads for 80 percent of companies. Unfortunately, it’s rarely done well at smaller companies.

Marketing automation comes in many flavors, some of them easier to implement than others. The autoresponders for mailing lists, for instance, are relatively easy to set up. The challenge is stringing together multiple tools in a way that delivers a strong user experience.

“Most businesses are at least familiar with a few of the individual marketing practices,” notes Jenna Puckett, junior technology analyst at TechnologyAdvice. “This can cause a lot of confusion since companies may be executing a few of the practices while not actually experiencing marketing automation.” True marketing automation involves predictive analytics, social media marketing, email marketing, lead generation, and more.

4. Influencer relations

Like SEO, influencer marketing is another area that seems simple at first but is complicated beneath the surface. After all, how hard can it be to pay a few social media stars to say good things about your product or brand?

By definition, long-term relationships take time to build. Startup leaders who decide to do influencer marketing themselves may need months to establish trust with influencers. In that time, trends change, and influencers who seemed promising at first may lose relevance or drift into different interest areas.

Startups can’t skip marketing, but they also can’t cover its many bases alone. Like it or not, they have to give up some control in order to compete. Outsourcing marketing may not be ideal — but it’s better than the alternative of letting a great product go unnoticed.