B2B Marketing Options – When to DIY and When to Outsource

As the CEO of a B2B marketing outsource provider, you would think that I would always suggest outsourcing as the best way to handle your marketing.  However, as with much else in life, the answer to the question of Should I outsource my marketing or do it myself? is “it depends.”

But what exactly does it depend on?  For one thing, you may not be able to find the right expertise to do an effective do it yourself (DIY) model.  For example, the person who leads your marketing department may lack critical skills that could be supplemented by a marketing outsource supplier.  Or perhaps you need something done right now and don’t have the luxury of the time to find and hire a qualified internal person.  In the same vein, you may need some temporary help and don’t want to commit to a full-time employee with all the attendant costs and administrative burdens.

Of course there are some major advantages to the do it yourself (DIY) model.  For one thing, whatever you and the team learn becomes part of the intellectual property of the company.  Also, there may be (but not always) cost advantages to the DIY model.  And there are many circumstances where your best bet is to have an internal team but enhanced with specialized expertise from a marketing outsource provider.

I’m going to take the liberty of borrowing from one of my 2010 blog posts to give you a summary of the pros and cons of B2B marketing outsourcing.  First, let’s explore some of the positive aspects of outsourcing and why you should at least consider this as an option:

  • You can get a depth of talent that is unavailable at your budget level for hiring.
  • You can gain access to a larger team of specialized experts.
  • You may be able to find consultants with extensive expertise in your domain/industry.
  • You pay for only the services you need, meaning your efforts are highly targeted.
  • If you are not satisfied, it is much easier to terminate a contractor than employee.
  • When you hire the right outsource provider, it’s all about results.

And here are a few reasons why outsourced marketing may not be a good idea for you:

  • Domain expertise is a key component of successful B2B marketing and your outsource provider may not have a strong base of experience in your industry.
  • You give up some control when dealing with contractors instead of “wage slaves.”
  • Assuming you have the expertise to manage the program in-house, you can usually achieve better metrics for a given budget amount.
  • As mentioned above, the knowledge gained by your in-house resources, remains an asset of your organization.

The question of outsourced marketing vs. the DIY model has major operational, organizational and financial considerations. One option is to use marketing outsource veterans in the short-term, to help you build the strong B2B marketing foundation, then switch to internal personnel to manage the program going forward.  The bottom line is that you need to have a model that helps you generate the most awareness, leads and revenue at a reasonable acquisition cost.

Are you Generating Qualified Leads or Wasting Marketing Dollars?

If you ask a dozen marketers and sales people for their definition of a qualified lead, you might hear answers ranging from “anyone that’s breathing” to “someone ready to buy today.”  Obviously, there is a wide gulf between these two extremes, especially if the definitions come from people working at the same company.  This issue often comes to a head when the marketing manager brags about all the qualified leads and the sales manager says something like, “Yes, there a bunch of leads coming in but they stink” (often expressed in more colorful terms).

There are several different methods for calculating lead quality.  One of the more familiar is the BANT formula, which stands for: for Budget, Authority, Need and Timeline.  In other words, if you determine that an individual or company has a need and the funds to buy what you offer, is willing to purchase in a reasonably short time frame (e.g. within 3 months), and you have access to the decision maker, it is by definition a qualified lead.

Note that just because the lead is qualified doesn’t mean you are going to get a sale. In most industries, the vast majority of qualified leads do not close.  But you still need to have an established and quantifiable way to evaluate lead quality – otherwise you will be subject to the strictly subjective views of the sales department.

Regardless of how your company measures lead quality, here are some actions you can take to make sure that a larger percentage of your leads are qualified:

  1. Quantify your lead requirements.  It is amazing how many marketing and sales managers can’t answer the simple question: How many sales ready qualified leads do you need?   But if you don’t know the specific number you need, how can you be sure you don’t have enough, or have too many?  Click here for a brief article on how to calculate your target number of qualified leads.
  2. Implement a lead qualification/nurture process.  There may be a good reason that the sales reps think your leads are no good – because in fact, many inbound leads are unqualified.  While field sales reps are good at closing business, they are not usually proficient at turning raw inquiries into qualified leads. If you throw your sales team a bunch of inbound inquiries and force them to wade through the chaff to get to the wheat, you will often have disappointed reps on your hands and leave marketing with a bad reputation.  Even worse, qualified leads go ignored and the money and effort you spent attracting them are wasted.
  3. Let prospects qualify themselves.  Those who have read my blog on a regular basis understand that I am a huge fan of pull marketing. The idea behind pull marketing is to get prospects who are interested to come to you instead of you chasing them.  This means that your website and online efforts do more of the heavy lifting and you are spending less time and money on push marketing methods (calls, emails, direct mail, advertising, etc.).  Pull marketing requires that you attract larger numbers at the top of the marketing funnel. When you do this right, sales cycles decrease and close rates go up.  And you certainly hear less grumbling from sales about the lack of qualified leads.
  4. Quickly follow up every inbound inquiry. By quickly, I mean that you should follow up every lead within 48 hours, and if possible, 24 hours. Inbound leads tend to have a short shelf life and the individual who yesterday thought your product was the greatest thing since sliced bread, may not even remember who you are today. This is such an important topic that I wrote a blog post about it titled: Sales Lead Management: Are You a Victim of Failure to Follow-Up. 

If you are interested in reading more about the subject of lead qualification, I recommend a recent article by Daniel Burstein titled: Intro to Lead Generation: How to determine if a lead is qualified

Marketing Can Be Amusing

Marketing is a serious subject at most companies. After all, the marketing department is only one step removed from the sales department and revenue generation—the lifeblood of all businesses. As one of my favorite CEO’s was fond of saying, “Revenue covers a lot of other sins, but a lack of revenue causes all sins to be exposed.”  I’ve noticed that you see a lot more people laughing and smiling when revenue numbers are good and frowns when revenue results are mediocre. While this is not amusing, there is some comedy in our daily marketing lives and the various misconceptions about the practice. Here are a few examples:

• During a meeting a CEO once asked us: “Why do we need any more than a home page on our web site?”  Prospects can just call or email us if they want to learn more about what we do.”  We had to chuckle at this instance of “dinosaur thinking.”

• We’ve received inbound leads from Luke Skywalker (from the Jedi Nation, of course), Mickey Mouse (several of these; he must be a very ripe prospect), Snow White, Barack Obama, Mitt Romney, Clint Eastwood and many other athletes, celebrities and cartoon characters. It’s comforting to know that so many luminaries are interested in our clients’ offerings.

• One executive claimed that the new website design was the greatest he had ever seen while another from the same company described it as “god awful.”  Although we were frustrated, we still had to laugh.

• Another CEO once stated: “Let’s just stop all of our marketing activities and hire some more salespeople.” This would have been terribly ineffective. And while the outcome wouldn’t have been amusing, the thought certainly was.

• A CMO told me that social media marketing never works and stated that it is a total waste of time and money. This despite two inconvenient facts: First, several of our clients found us strictly through social media, and second, we have used social media to drive large amounts of revenue for our clients. The CMO was entitled to his opinion, but this did not negate the truth: Social media marketing works if you do it right.  Maybe this belongs in the “not amusing” category.

This item from the hubspot.com blog is related to the previous anecdote: Q:What’s a personality trait of a bad marketer?  A: Anti-social. Now that’s amusing.

When you’re on the spot and forging marketing strategy with real consequences, it’s harder to appreciate the humor in situations like these. But as they shrink in the rear-view mirror, you have the luxury of laughing.  Like Will Rogers said, “Everything is funny as long as it is happening to somebody else.” But sometimes it takes a little time to realize that “somebody else” was you!