Get The Most Value From Your Outsourced Vendors & Creative Professionals
When businesses and organizations don’t have the bandwidth or skill set to accomplish certain projects, they turn to outsourced professionals. But these same companies can experience frustration with these relationships. In most cases, the culprit is inadequate communication that leaves marketing initiatives languishing, vendors confused and clients frustrated.
But that doesn’t have to be the case. When done right, using outsourced providers is a cost-effective way to access top talent, ideas and opportunities without adding to your payroll.
Just in 2020, I helped several clients unravel their vendor interactions, clarifying why projects were stalled, where things went awry, and how to maximize return on investment.
On February 3rd, I joined Laurie White, president of the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce, to discuss some of my pro tips to get the most value from your outsourced team. See the full webcast here.
1. Selecting a Vendor
People ask: Do you know any website people who could design-update-host-maintain my site? Or who can help me make my brand elements look more modern without breaking the bank? The answer is “yes” but my recommendation depends on the scale and complexity of the project, the budget, the industry and, most importantly, the goals.
For example, is the website focused on SEO (search engine optimization) to attract new “cold” clients or, rather, should it be an eye-catching and professional online brochure showcasing the company? Does the client plan to conduct e-commerce or appeal to a specific age or geographic region? As with any vendor you seek, you may not need the Picasso of design for a simple brand refresh.
Pro Tip: Take the time to pinpoint exactly what you want from your end-result before asking for recommendations and selecting a creative resource.
2. Understand the Deliverable
When businesses and nonprofits outsource a project – such as a website, email marketing campaign, social media presence – they likely do not have the in-house skill set to make it happen.
However, like interpreting your legal documents or income tax returns, a creative vendor might seem to speak a different language. As with any purchase of goods and services, it’s crucial to understand what you are getting for the money spent and to seek ongoing clarification as needed.
What clients think they are receiving for the agreed-upon fee and what was actually specified in the signed agreement is often different. Look for outsourced vendors who really understand your goals, your mission and your marketplace. For example, it’s unlikely your website design-development team will write your content or take custom photography.
Pro Tip: Look for one leader, outsourced or in-house, to help you understand your deliverables, drive your marketing mission, and keep all components on track to achieve your desired outcome on time and on budget.
3. Do you “have a guy?” Should you DIY?
I know that my colleagues and I all cringe when prospective clients say their college roommate’s nephew is designing their logo or their partner’s wife is doing the office photo. Using family and friend connections are meant to save money but those situations often backfire.
For instance, if your photographer does not produce a high-resolution image, your final office photo may not translate to print; if your logo design is too detailed, you might not be able to use it for your e-signature and other branding needs.
Pro Tip: Be sure your family or friend understands the exact specifications of the deliverable you need and how you will use the final piece of creative work to fortify your marketing and branding.
4. Strategy is a Group Effort
The best outcomes for all marketing projects involve collaboration. That means marrying the vendor’s know-how about best practices and the latest and greatest ideas with the client’s own perspective and business acumen.
My most fruitful work for clients — that generates the greatest, measurable results — always starts with a client who is highly involved in the initial discussion and strategy. We think through the elements of the client’s project together, sharing ideas and refining the plan.
In my case, I can usually run with a project from there, checking in with minor questions along the way. This approach means less disruption for my clients in their busy work days and a more productive process to get the job done. (See what some of my clients have to say here.)
Pro Tip: Commit to collaboration. Set up regular meetings when you start a project to foster communication for your best outcomes.
5. Check Your Tone
People are busy … and now busier than ever juggling the demands of home-life and work-life during COVID. The worst situations involve clients, often slammed with work demands, who attack their outsourced vendors with “just do it” edicts.
For instance, an outsourced public relations professional needing vital data to write and disseminate a press release in AP style will be hard-pressed to create positive results with a just-do-it mandate; conversely, a respectful conversation and active collaboration makes all the difference.
I have had instances — especially using the example of press releases and other media pitches in search of publicity coverage for clients — where I know that sending incomplete information will damage my reputation with certain media outlets and organizations. That hurts both my clients’ business and my own.
Pro Tip: Take a beat. If you are too busy to participate in the process, it may be wise to hold off on your current marketing endeavor.
6. Pay A Fair Price
Over the years, I have had a few clients who think it’s a win to pay vendors less than a project is worth, undervaluing the industry experience and marketplace knowledge their outsourced team brings to the table.
Clients like that think they are clever to get professional services for a price cut and always need a deal; those relationships struggle at every turn. Enough said.
Pro Tip: Do your due diligence. Understand the pricing landscape for various outsourced professionals before you begin a relationship.
7. Track Results
Success. Getting the job done is such a relief that some company leaders tend to skip the final step of weighing the results against the agreed-upon objectives and costs. What’s more, a post-mortem call with your vendor will likely generate remaining action-items to produce added value from everyone’s contributions of time and energy … data to mine, follow-up to pursue or content to repurpose.
For example, you may have recently launched an email marketing campaign. You’ve gathered your list of clients-friends-referral sources and other centers-of-influence and then you worked with your marketing vendor to create the design for your email blast. The email campaign was a success, with a great open rate and lots of engagement. What now? Your savvy marketing professional will help you dig into the data and see where follow-up will be vital for business development.
Pro Tip: Gather with your outsourced team to track what’s been done and capitalize on ensuing opportunities to maximize the results of your project.
The competition for attention in today’s marketplace is fierce. Businesses and organizations rely on outsourced professionals to drive and support their overall marketing and communication strategy.
Whether revitalizing a website or business brand, creating a buzz to get in the news, carving out your presence on social media, capturing your all-staff photo, or training your team to be rainmakers, look to your outsourced vendors for advice and action with visible value and return-on-investment of your marketing dollars.
Thanks Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce for collaborating with me on this timely topic.