In the increasingly interconnected environment of today, outsourcing has become a widespread practice. Many firms choose to use contractors from other countries where the cost of labour is substantially lower than that of the UK, the EU or the US. Outsourcing customer support operations to Indian firms or the transfer of physical production of goods to China is deemed the new ‘status quo’ for minimising your extra costs and making your financial year results more impressive to your investors. However, this approach poses a number of serious risks that may affect both your reputation and your profitability.
In this article, we will analyse 5 possible solutions to potential issues associated with outsourcing your digital marketing functions.
1. Have a Plan
An external agency or freelance expert is similar to your own employees. Recruiting a person and paying them serious money without outlining their job responsibilities first seems as illogical as sending your resume without running a basic grammar checker first. Unfortunately, hundreds of companies make this mistake and mix outsourcing with consulting. If you have not explicitly specified that the persons responsible must spend sufficient time studying your business before proceeding with their activities, chances are they will use generic practices with medium effectiveness.
Here is how you address this problem:
- Clearly outline your existing business needs and problems.
- Make sure that the end performer is fully aware of this list of priorities (an interview might help).
- Introduce intermediary check-ups to ensure that they continue working in strict accordance with your plan.
These steps will not protect you from a low-quality plan (this should be the responsibility of your marketing consultants) but will ensure that all outsourced activities are performed in strict accordance with your agreements.
2. Monitor Your Progress
Digital marketing instruments take time to start working. While some SEO practices or paid promotion methods create prompt effects if used right, you should expect to see recognisable and sustainable results in 2-3 months. However, this does not mean that you should not monitor the performance of your outsourced activities during this period. This may be a relatively ambiguous idea, which is why we would recommend a compromise strategy discussed below:
- Select 4-5 key indicators (otherwise, you will be wasting your time double-checking all outsourced activities).
- Monitor their trends on a weekly basis.
- If you recognise some declining patterns, ask your partners about potential reasons for these adverse changes.
- Introduce the necessary adjustments.
Offering a clear plan to your partners does not mean that it will be perfect for all scenarios. In most cases, you will need to introduce some adjustments or listen to the recommendations of your partners. Monitoring your progress allows you to identify the need for such strategic meetings and avoid wasting your time and money on sub-optimal marketing activities.
3. Use Mystery Shoppers
Many outsourcing scenarios imply that some phases of the consumer journey are distributed between the external marketing agency and your firm processing new leads. Unfortunately, these structures frequently ‘fall apart at the seams’ due to technological errors or human factor issues. If possible, use ‘mystery shoppers’ to engage with your digital marketing channels and measure their effectiveness.
Here is how you do this:
- Ask 10 persons to express interest in your products/services or respond to your recently launched marketing campaign.
- Wait for your partnering organisation to respond to their posts or queries.
- If everything works fine, measure the time and money spent on the conversion of a single lead.
- Look for potential optimisation routes.
In some cases, you may encounter a situation where ‘mystery shoppers’ cannot complete their customer journeys due to the lack of response from your partners or data transfer problems. This instrument allows you to identify such bottlenecks and promptly address these issues.
4. Maintain Brand Consistency
Modern digital marketing is frequently characterised as omni-channel marketing. Your customers expect to seamlessly communicate with your brand over multiple channels and get personalised responses to their queries. The same is true for repeat clients who have to receive tailored offerings and be recognised for their loyalty to your company.
Before you choose to outsource some of your functions such as customer support or customer communication, make sure that the following areas are properly addressed:
- You have a database containing all client information and a history of prior contacts.
- This information is made available to all persons involved in customer service and customer communication.
- All involved parties strictly observe GDPR and similar regulations ensuring the safety of client data.
The last point may be especially significant in outsourcing schemes since cybersecurity scandals and leaks frequently occur due to third parties handling important and sensitive information without taking sufficient precautions.
5. Have a Well-Defined Contract
Most problems associated with consumer data handling, poor performance or the inability to promptly address some emerging issues can be traced back to the use of standardised self-compiled contracts. A well-defined agreement with your outsourcing partner must clearly specify the following aspects of your cooperation:
- Contract duration.
- Specific obligations of the parties.
- Penalties for violation of such obligations.
- Remedial actions and corrective measures for any emerging issues.
- Contract termination provisions.
- Rules of handling consumer data before, during, and after the contractual period.
If you are planning to use a foreign provider of services such as Brickwork India or other third-world aggregators, you must pay special attention to your contractual agreements and their enforceability. Keep in mind that you will be directly responsible for any reputational problems if your partners fail to deliver on their promises.
A well-designed outsourcing scheme allows you to substantially decrease your operating expenses. There exist hundreds of reliable providers across the world who can assist you with the development and execution of digital marketing functions. The recommendations listed above allow you to monitor your new partners during the initial phases of your cooperation to promptly introduce some necessary adjustments or terminate your contract.
Start small, get positive results with minor outsourcing projects, and develop your collaboration afterwards when you are 100% certain about the credibility and effectiveness of such schemes.