- Not every business needs an outsourced marketing firm, but these firms can help businesses that have minimal marketing experience.
- If you hire a marketing expert or agency, it's important to give them enough access to understand your business and its culture.
- There's no right or wrong decision when it comes to outsourcing marketing or PR. If your business can benefit from outsourced marketing, consider using an outside party to better engage with your audience.
When it comes to marketing and public relations efforts, small businesses can feel lost. There are dozens of different social platforms, traditional marketing efforts, digital marketing firms, SEO experts and other sources of information that can help a business with marketing and PR. Unfortunately, sometimes all of these channels and information sources are overwhelming. At times, it's easier to outsource PR and marketing efforts to take that trouble off your plate.
Although there are clear benefits to outsourcing PR efforts, there are also downsides to letting an outside entity handle your PR. If you're wondering whether you want to outsource marketing and PR, it's important to consider both sides of the equation.
Pros of outsourcing marketing and PR
Let's start with the positives. There are many different reasons to outsource PR and marketing, and small business owners shouldn't feel bad if they elect to outsource these tasks instead of hiring a social media manager, marketing coordinator or any other in-house person. There's nothing wrong with needing outside help.
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"Of all the marketing activities to outsource, PR would be top of my list," said Mark Allwood, CEO of GlobalX UK. "What a lot of small business owners don't realize is that the majority of the work done by PR agencies is beneath the surface. PR is not just about big ideas and expert copywriting. In order to successfully secure coverage, agencies are continually adding to their network of journalists and contacts. They do this every day, and it's not something a small business owner or an internal marketing manager has the time to dedicate themselves to."
Focus on your business responsibilities
Maybe the most obvious positive is having more time to focus on other business responsibilities. If you're a local food store owner, you likely enjoy cooking and working in your store with customers. You probably don't want to spend all day scheduling Facebook posts or reaching out to local news organizations for potential media coverage. By outsourcing PR, someone else handles those duties while you focus on what you do best.
This doesn't mean you won't be involved in the process of brainstorming social media campaigns or monitoring PR efforts, but outsourcing the task means you won't have to handle the low-level efforts needed to run successful campaigns. For some small business owners, that's a dream come true.
It's critical that small business owners maintain some connection to the PR firm or marketing agency, as it's important to oversee the process.
"This doesn't mean an entrepreneur should blindly hand off projects – it's essential the entrepreneur learn the basics first so they can have an intelligent and informed conversation about what their specialist is doing for their business – but it's OK to hand off projects that go beyond what an entrepreneur can effectively do for themselves," said K.M. Robinson, a social media strategist.
Generate more media attention for your business
If you hire the right PR agency, your business should generate more media attention. PR agencies know what they're doing, and they're able to craft story pitches to media outlets that get your business in the news. Positive news clippings are great, as they are a free way to reach customers.
While this is a nice concept, it is important to hire credible PR agencies that create good media pitches. Some PR companies create pitches that aren't ideal for media entities, and those efforts can easily be ignored or may even be annoying to media outlets. You don't want that situation.
PR firms can also help handle customer service, which may include interacting with media sources. Answering questions from media entities can be a valuable service provided by some marketing firms.
Solidify your marketing strategy and target audience
Small businesses sometimes need help determining exactly who their target audience is. Determining its audience helps a business create a sound marketing strategy rather than just guessing at what will attract and engage customers. Outsourcing marketing and PR allows you to work with marketing experts who can help you narrow down your audience and strengthen your overall marketing strategy.
"Surprisingly enough, a lot of small businesses need some help in being able to identify who their audience really is," said Karen Swim, president of Solo PR Pro. "I'm always shocked by that. They have this fuzzy idea, or they have this really precise idea, or they think that they're supposed to be all things to all people. Having an expert come in and really help you to define that can be so valuable, and it can allow you to be more effective with your resources."
To achieve success as a small business, making the most of resources is critical. Small businesses need to use the resources at their disposal well, and sometimes it makes more sense to outsource marketing efforts to best utilize those resources. It's not easy to create an effective strategy alone, and using a marketing agency makes the process easier.
Cons of outsourcing marketing and PR
While there are clear benefits to outsourcing PR and marketing tasks, there are some downsides to consider when making your marketing decisions.
Outsourcing marketing can be costly
If you outsource marketing tasks rather than doing them yourself, you're going to pay for those tasks. For some businesses, the benefit of hiring an outside PR firm doesn't outweigh the reward of successful PR campaigns and efforts. Some businesses just don't need extensive PR and marketing help.
On the other hand, the cost of outsourcing isn't much different from hiring a marketing manager. It's worth noting that spending on outsourcing can be viewed as an investment into your business rather than another expense.
"What you're actually doing is investing to gain money," Swim said. "It's a big mistake to neglect it, feeling like it's an expense that doesn't have a tangible benefit. Public relations and marketing efforts absolutely can help you to drive bottom-line dollars."
You can do the work yourself
Don't outsource for the sake of outsourcing. If you can do the work effectively on your own, do it. If you can't, consider outsourcing. Some businesses would rather do the work on their own because they enjoy marketing and being creative as a team rather than bringing in an outside party.
"In our case, at this stage, the cons outweighed the pros significantly," said Amy Finlay, a web content creator at Edinburgh IFA. "As a result of taking on the tasks in-house, we have developed lots of additional marketing and PR ideas that we probably would never have thought of had we outsourced. Outsourcing just wouldn't have allowed us to come up with the ideas, and constantly having to run these ideas and plans by someone outside the company would've been a real pain logistically."
If you love marketing and PR and understand how to successfully run marketing campaigns, you don't need to bring in an outside party. It might even hurt your business to get outside help. Outsourcing works best for companies that need additional guidance during the marketing process.
The outsourced marketing company doesn't know your culture
One of the biggest downsides to outsourcing is that an outside expert doesn't know your company like you do. It's easier for a member of the team to create ideas related to your business than it is for someone who barely knows what your business does.
If you decide to outsource, it's important to find an expert who takes the time to learn about your business and your company culture. You want all of your marketing and PR campaigns to reflect your company's values.
"There can be some challenges if the proper outsourced partner isn't a great cultural fit to the business," said Eric Dahl, founder of Revmarka. "When messaging your audience, capturing the authentic voice of the business is mission critical. I've seen times when the outsourced PR or marketing partner has fallen flat in doing that. Therefore, the vetting process for outsourced talent must be adequate; otherwise, the cost and efficiency benefits won't make any difference."
Hiring a marketing firm or public relations agency is as important as hiring an employee. Take the necessary measures to ensure they can do the job well. If they're representing your business, you want to make sure they portray your brand accurately and professionally.
The bottom line
An outsourced marketing firm acts like a full-time employee, although you don't have to provide health benefits and other perks to outsourced firms. These marketing and PR agencies can help your business, especially if you need guidance as you create a social media and public relations strategy. On the other hand, not every business needs outsourced help. Paying for a marketing firm or expert should only be done if they can provide you with value that moves your business in the right direction.