To Hire or to Outsource: Finding the Right Fit

A rapidly growing organization requires its employees to stretch beyond their job descriptions, addressing countless urgent needs as quickly as possible. Often, during these early stages, you do not have the time nor budget to build the robust team that you need. In this fast-paced environment, it makes sense to hire individuals who can be trusted to wear multiple hats and put out fires as they arise.

No matter how much drive and energy you have, there are only 24 hours in a day. It can be tempting to become accustomed to controlling every move within the business. While there is reassurance in knowing you have the final say, micromanaging every process in your organization is not a sustainable solution. There comes a point when trying to do everything yourself becomes detrimental and requires you to work twice as hard to hit your target growth rate.

Plus, adding marketing specialists to your team can boost ROI. Tasks ranging from copywriting and design to SEO and PPC require experience in both strategy and execution. While you could develop an in-house team to perform many of these marketing duties, some capabilities are stronger when they are outsourced to a group of specialists who can bring more to the table than a single individual.

Marketing results take time

Once your startup achieves a certain level of growth, you can round out the team with specialists who can expertly tackle specific needs. However, seeing tangible results from marketing programs is not always instantaneous. It can take weeks or months until you see the full benefit of new marketing programs. In the meantime, you may lose valuable time if you do not have experienced specialists on your team.

And by the time you realize your strategy is not working, your business will have lost valuable momentum. Unfortunately, developing in-house talent takes time as well. In situations where an internal resource is not in place, it is a good idea to reach out to third-party to bridge gaps.

If you have several positions to fill, the time and energy required to make the right hire can be time-consuming. In these circumstances, hiring an outside agency can create momentum, accelerate learning curves, and improve the efficacy of your resources. Working with a third-party gives you a reliable and experienced team, so you are not putting all of your faith in a single in-house hire to deliver the results you need.

Find the best option for your organization

Turn to an advisor who does not prefer one specialization or channel more than others. This outlook will provide objectivity that takes into account your target segment and your goals.

Imagine if you are considering hiring a social media manager. An impartial consultant will advise against hiring an in-house social media manager or paying top dollar to outsource to a social media agency if your customers do not spend a lot of time on social media. However, if most of your traffic is through organic search, then you stand to benefit by outsourcing your SEO needs. If you ask a social media agency for advice on whether you should outsource, they have a powerful incentive to ensure that you solicit their services.

Generally, unbiased advice will hinge on a few key factors:

A competitive analysis brings insights into your true level of differentiation from your competition as well how they successfully connect with your potential customers. The learnings gleaned from this analysis will help zero in on what your target is looking for in terms of messaging and how they want to interact with your offerings.
If there is a certain specialization that holds the key to differentiation and corporate identity, you should create a permanent position responsible for overseeing this area. Having internal capabilities allows you to maintain complete control over functions, and finding the right person to carry out a task means you can invest heavily in them.
The skill sets within your current team will play an important role when you are deciding what roles to outsource. If you have enough work to fill 40 hours each week, it might make sense to hire a full-time employee. Otherwise, you can have your employee manage one or more agencies who can fill in gaps until there is enough workload to justify a full-time hire.

Deciding whether or not to hire can be daunting, especially when you have a limited budget. Fortunately, TBGA can help answer your most crucial hiring questions. We have helped organizations large and small grapple with the same questions, and we can put you on a curated path toward successful growth. Take the first step and reach out today for a free consultation.

Categories Leadership, MarketingTags , , ,

Are you maximizing the ROI of Your Marketing Spend?

Your organization quickly expanded as a result of the people you have hired, most notably the handful of employees who have worked alongside you since the beginning. Naturally, you feel a great deal of loyalty toward these employees. After all, you want to keep the people around that helped you bring the company to where it is today.

In the early stages of any business, you often have to find people who can do a little bit of everything. This is especially true for marketing. If you did not hire a person (or two, for that matter) with at least a base knowledge of how to engage consumers and build brand awareness, you could easily count yourself as one of the nine out of 10 startups that fail.

As your business grows, your marketing needs will inevitably become more and more specialized with each passing year. Every campaign must deliver greater insights, results, and returns. Otherwise, your products or services could easily fall off even the most loyal of your customers’ radars.

This is not to say that you should replace all of your generalists with specialists. When industries shift, as they often do, it will be your generalists – and their innate ability to pinpoint issues and adapt – who will enable your business to come out on top. Their broad knowledge and problem-solving can piece together the big picture for the rest of your organization, helping predict the best next move.

As a marketing leader, you must build an organization that can support a rapidly evolving landscape. You must balance developing in-house talent against partnering with external providers. With each hiring decision point, you should evaluate whether you are striking the delicate balance with your in-house team or if an external agency can fill any gaps in executing your marketing strategy.

Effectively Assess Your Needs

You do not need to have all of the answers — and even if you do, team shakeups can still feel uncomfortable. Often, it can be hard as an entrepreneur to know when to bring in a new perspective. Fortunately, you can turn to a consultant to assess your marketing team, map them against your goals, and provide an unbiased recommendation for what to do and how to get everyone on board. However, you must select an advisor that brings first-hand knowledge in aligning a marketing organization with corporate strategy to get a real return on investment.

While advice will vary from business to business, here are four steps to set yourself up for growth:

  1. Gain a brutal understanding of the competition.
    You may be surprised by how much is learned through a competitive analysis. In addition to positioning, you can uncover where the competition devotes most of its time and budget. This can signal which channels and outlets allow consumers to interact with brands similar to yours.
  2. Look at your customer.
    For example, say your target segment spends limited time on Facebook, Twitter, and other social channels. It would not be a good use of your resources to hire a social media specialist, then — or even an outside agency to work on your social messaging. If the reverse were true, we would encourage you to find a resource to handle these social media tasks.
  3. Address structural gaps.
    Map your staff’s collective skill set against to your future marketing needs. Dive into performance metrics and speak with your team to assess how to best allocate your bench strength. If necessary, you can bring in specialists and leverage your current generalists as strategic coordinators and project managers — the glue that holds everything together.
  4. Start planning.
    After assessing your needs, determine whether the projected workload warrants having a full-time hire or part-time support. Also, make a call on whether you want to develop the expertise on your team or lean on niche partners. It can take months to hire the right people or tap the right partner who can both fill in the gaps and fit within your culture so start moving.

Here is an example: With mobile phone penetration expected to hit nearly 83 percent by 2020, this channel will serve as the primary path to purchase for many customer segments. As you map the opportunity, you have to understand how consumer behavior differs across devices. This presents a golden opportunity to strengthen your team with expertise in mobile marketing. If you lack this expertise, your business likely will not see the same results for this marketing effort as competitors who are prepared. After you find skill gaps on your team, you must answer the following difficult questions: If you were to bring someone in to handle mobile marketing capabilities, would that person have enough work to fill up a 40-hour week? Or, would a better option be to hire a freelancer or agency to execute this task?

If a time comes when you need an unbiased opinion, you can rely on TBGA’s proven track record of improving marketing ROI and implementing time-tested solutions to get the most value out of your marketing spend. Get started, and reach out today for a free consultation.

Categories Leadership, Marketing, Operations, StrategyTags , , ,

Four Tough Pills to Swallow for Growth

You hired a strategic consultant to help make some much-needed changes in your company. Now, it is time to get the ball rolling.

While your head might be ready to make those adjustments, your heart might be throwing a bit of a tantrum. Constructive criticism can be difficult to digest when you feel protective of the teams and systems you have worked so hard to put in place. Even if the recommended changes are completely rational, some might surprise you while others insult you.

But after the initial sting, you will soon realize that being open to criticism makes you a stronger leader. Deep down, you know that you hired a consultant because your business is not reaching its full potential. In order to implement the changes that will encourage your business to grow and thrive, you need to open yourself up, listen, and really take part in tough conversations.

Find the Silver Lining

Let us take a look at some of the toughest pills that a strategic consultant might prescribe you and consider why (and how) you should swallow them with a smile.

  1. “You need to revamp your team.”
    Criticisms about your team can be the hardest ones to accept. You might love the members of your team like family. They have stuck with you through good times and bad and have helped you build your company from the ground up.

    But in many cases, personal attachments to team members can blind leaders from seeing the dysfunctions that are actually holding the company in a rut.

    It is important to look clearly at the skills and experience of your team members. Ask yourself, “Who do I need today to take my company to the next level?” Goodbyes are always hard, but it is better to say them now than after your business has collapsed.

  2. “You need to pivot your product strategy.”
    Many leaders founded their companies based on a great idea. Subsequently, they are so married to this idea that they avoid revising their product strategy when necessary.

    The saddest thing I have witnessed is when founders realize this strategy problem too late. For example, we once had a client come to us with Google-sized aspirations, but the company had been hemorrhaging cash for the past several quarters. Unfortunately, it was far too late to make the crucial changes in the product strategy.

    To avoid this dreadful situation, do not delay. Instead, complete the tough work now to ensure your business model is healthy.

  3. “You need to focus.”
    Many entrepreneurs have so many ideas on the drawing board that they struggle to properly execute any of them. The ideas might be phenomenal, but without focus, they will never graduate from the brainstorming stage into a living product. The office will forever be a maze of half-finished plans and good intentions — and frustrations for everyone.

    If your strategic consultant comes to you with this criticism, do not start backpedaling with excuses. Instead, go against your natural instincts and thank them.

    While being told to focus might make you initially feel constrained and less entrepreneurial, that discomfort will soon ease once you see what a little focus does to your chosen idea. Move forward by pinning down what this focus looks like for your company, and then keep tabs on new ideas and ventures so they do not go astray.

  4. “You need more structure.”
    Sometimes, observing how a company operates is like watching kids play soccer. Everyone is running for the ball, and no one is executing against a clearly defined role. The result is a messy game in which goals are random and someone is bound to get hurt.

    A lack of structure in a company can be just as damaging as a bad idea. When departments are not communicating or collaborating, everyone moves forward without a clear purpose.

    If this is the problem your team faces, there are many ways you can start bringing structure into your operations. From regular conversations between teammates to clear, shared documentation, adding structure helps team members stay accountable by giving them distinctly defined roles, priorities, and goals.

Know in your head — and heart — why you are inviting a strategic consultant into your company, and understand what your goals are for the process. If you really want to push your company to new heights, you need to be willing to embrace and find value in these tough conversations.

Categories Digital, Innovation, Leadership, Operations, StrategyTags , , , , ,

Six Ways to Help Your Marketing Team Deliver Results

Is a marketing team different than any other workgroup? Sort of.

Marketing is one of those disciplines that can look easier than it is. Those who are great at it are constantly updating their tactics to stay fresh and continually grab attention.  They stay on top of breaking news; customer feedback; new technologies and media; and the vast amount of first-, second- and third-party data.  The best marketers then consolidate all the ingredients into integrated, immersive programs to achieve the company’s goals.

Because marketing teams do not produce traditional widgets, a truly great marketing team will be extremely diverse.  Ideally, marketing teams leverage data to come up with concepts that deliver results — revenue, users, subscribers, customer experience and more. They use words and visuals in select mediums to encourage desired actions.  This requires that the team have strengths in analytics, creative design, content development, project management, marketing communications, product development and cross-functional leadership.  The one skill that cut across all functions is creativity.  (Yes, data scientists and project managers are just as creative as designers and writers.)

Managing such a diverse team can be a challenge, but surprisingly, it is not too different than managing other groups of people. According to R. Keith Sawyer, a professor at Washington University in St. Louis, anyone can learn to be creative, and good creativity is further stimulated by working with other people. But for businesses trying to create a dynamic, productive atmosphere for their creative teams, here’s how to start:

  1. Build a genuine culture.
    Whether your whole team is on site or some members are remote, you need to find ways to make the real and virtual environments positive, stimulating and organized. All three of these are easier said than done, but you have to start somewhere. Kevin Barber, author of “How to Build a High-Performance Marketing Team”on HubSpot, said the ideal team culture contains a blend of integrity, character, love, and loyalty. This helps create the foundation, but the shape of the building is up to everyone on the team.
  2. Track whenever and wherever possible. 
    If you do not measure something, you can’t understand it. If you don’t understand something, you can’t improve it.  Set goals and measure the drivers and achievement against those goals. Armed with this data, you and the team can take the proper tactics to achieve them. These could be broad conceptual goals, such as “increase revenue,” or specific goals, such as “grow social media presence by X amount in a certain time period.”
  3. Evaluate at your team.
    You may need to adjust your team and add more members as people move on or more resources become available or are needed. I agree with Joanna Lord, a contributor to Entrepreneur, who suggests that someone’s “fit” in the culture should be more of a consideration than professional skill sets.  Not everyone will have the interest or aptitude to continue based on the teams goals. Stack rank your team by aptitude, interest and skill level.  Always share feedback and put performance plans in place to help everyone adjust to the new standards.
  4. Look for gaps.
    Where is your team’s performance falling short?  Do you have enough resources to achieve those goals?  Which skills does your team lacking? Do your internal partners share your goals? Do your processes support or hinder achieving your goals? Team members should be tasked with projects that overcome the roadblocks identified in this exercise should be prioritized with run-the-business activities.
  5. Create a roadmap.
    Having different broad and specific goals established provides the team with a “destination.” Moreover, putting programs in place to engage everyone provides the team a sense of a bigger picture and how they personally help the team achieve its goals.
  6. Track progress. 
    Team members should be tasked with strategic projects that overcome the gaps identified in the exercise above. Set deliverables and timelines with each project lead and share them with the entire team.  Strategic projects should be prioritized and tracked alongside run-the-business activities.  Remember to report progress of projects and acknowledge each person for their roles in making something good happen, which also helps foster camaraderie

Overall, optimizing a marketing team’s performance can be tricky. Good managers can find a way to do so, such as how people rank individually and collectively on department goals. Better managers will find ways to not only quantify everyone’s efforts but foster a dynamic culture — it’s going to take time and buy-in, but the results can create a solid, efficient team.

Categories OperationsTags , , , ,