In-house marketing departments are being tasked with more and more difficult projects, especially in the digital space. It’s no wonder they are hiring out to keep up.
From apps to creating an omnichannel customer experience and developing new products, the world for marketers is more technical today than ever before. At the same time, marketing departments are under constant pressure to reduce the size of their staffs and budgets. More work, and tougher work, needs to get done with less people. As a result, marketing departments are hiring more outside agencies to help them complete projects.
A 2016 report by SoDA found:
“Despite widespread reports of agency consolidation in the trade press, the number of clients with three or more digital shops on their rosters grew 42% in 2016 on a year-over-year basis (from one in four in 2015 to almost four in 10 in 2016).”
I’ve seen this myself and not solely in digital projects. Because workloads on marketing departments are growing ever higher, outsourcing to agencies and freelancers is a must to stay afloat. Beyond obvious projects like app creation, marketers are outsourcing writing, graphic design, video production, event management, market research and other jobs. Even if they have internal talent with the skills, they often just don’t have the time to produce everything that’s needed.
Resources are out there waiting to be tapped. A report by Freelancer’s Union found that 53 million Americans were working at least part time as a freelancer in 2014.
So what should marketers know before hiring freelancers and agencies to take on their projects?
Hire Specialists, Not Generalists
It’s tempting to engage with fewer agency partners, but that can be a mistake. Firms that offer everything are appealing at face value: less people to deal with, ease of hiring and so on, but the generalist mentality often leaves firms without the necessary talent depth to produce what you need at the right quality. It also means that your agency may not have the industry expertise you need.
Solution: look for freelancers and agencies that specialize in one kind of work. For example, if you need a video production agency for your annual conference, hire one that has proficiency and experience in corporate events.
Beware Vendor Management
If you’re in a larger organization or in a regulated industry, watch out. Your existing vendor onboarding processes might be a show-stopper for bringing on a small agency or freelancer. I’ve seen draconian standard contract terms foisted upon boutique shops with requirements they couldn’t possibly adhere to, from drug testing policies to shocking liability conditions. Bad agreements can kill new partnerships before they get started.
Solution: before looking for outside help, work with your purchasing, vendor management and legal teams to develop contracts that work for your organization but don’t pose a barrier to hiring outside agencies.
Create Clear Expectations
Whatever you are having created, make sure that your agency knows exactly what you expect before work is started. Going forward without a clear end in mind creates frustrations on both sides and leads to ballooning budgets through needless revision. Example: if you hire a copywriter for a case study, provide copies of previously finished pieces in your organization’s template, so your writer knows what kinds of copy are needed.
Solution: don’t count on your freelancer or agency to bring this up. Make sure you add expectations around deliverables to your meeting agenda and get it agreed upon in writing by both sides before your project starts.
Keep Your Partners Happy
Lastly, it may sound like a no-brainer, but when you find a great partner firm, do what you can to keep the relationship strong. Pay on time and in full, minimize disputes (don’t sweat the small stuff), and communicate often on your upcoming needs.
If you do all of the above, you’ll be well positioned to find, hire and keep strong agency and freelancer relationships that help you create better work, year after year.
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