You run a small business, with at least someone on staff to handle marketing. Maybe they send e-mail blasts or post to social media. You're the thought leader for your brand –the keeper of the company vision, where it’s going and what it stands for. You're possibly asubject matter expert (SME). You've got the makings of a marketing department.
You hire a marketing director, but he's not going to do the hands-on marketing himself. Mostly, he allocates your marketing budget to agencies. With a little annual advice, you could have done that yourself.
You skip right to the agency, but they're busy maintaining their advertising and overhead, so mostly they allocate the labor to freelancers and pass along a considerable markup. You stop funding it for a month, and discover your marketing team has dropped to zero. Effectively, you're hostage to line level specialists you can't access directly.
So, you go to the freelance marketplace, but it's the wild West, Now you have to manage the team as well as create and maintain your evolving marketing strategy.
After a year working your way down the food chain, you're no better off and wonder where the money went. That's because, in the marketing food chain, you're the food. How do you stop being prey and start getting your money's worth?
The key is insourcing. That doesn't necessarily mean hiring; you can insource with existing staff and contractors, even with vendors, but mainly you're insourcing with processes. The problem with most relationships along the food chain is territory; the team is spread out, it's not acting in a symbiotic manner.
It can seem a lot to manage, and a key reason you outsourced in the first place. Weigh three straightforward changes against the time spent fixing a broken marketing system and the opportunity cost of a wasted budget:
1) Foster Open and Standardized Communications
Get marketing out of your inbox. There's too much confusion over what is actionable and what's merely information. E-mail creates an unsustainable pile of undifferentiated content, arranged differently in each person's inbox. Likewise, chat and instant messaging demand a single level of urgent attention; every message becomes an interruption, undermining any conception of priorities. Fortunately, tools like Slack and Hipchat use Twitter-inspired technology to permit internal team communications that avoid these pitfalls. Messaging is both manageable and transparent, looks the same to all participants, and rolls easily with an evolving mix of W-2 and 1099 team members. Moving from e-mail to newer technology permits any constellation of staff, contractors, and vendors to interact seamlessly.
2) Centralize Planning, Make it Transparent
An effective marketing plan is transparent, hierarchical, and continually evolves. You need to track initiatives, campaigns, and processes. Documents aren't a good solution, because they're linear and marketing plans aren't. Spreadsheets are hierarchical but inelegant and a hassle to update. Traditional project management software may work, but can feel like collaborating around a light version of a standard Office suite. Trello is designed around the kanban, a Japanese efficiency concept. There are lots of kanban-based tools, but the approach is the same. You track planned items, items in progress, and what has been done. If your marketing plan is just one big document, it's likely more inspirational guidebook than effective plan.
3) Create Accountability and Recognition for Momentum
Accountability is less about cracking the whip than facilitating positive collaboration and keeping meetings lean and actionable. A weekly marketing call keeps everyone focused. Three questions need to be answered by each party: What have you been working on? What are you doing next? What do you need from someone here? Once a month, you want to ask, "What has been the most recent result?" Get numbers for everything. You should expect either a quantity of input, a measure of output, or a date by which some particular need must be met to deliver effectively. Numbers for everything encourage personal ownership by all.
The role of the marketing director, if you choose to have one, isn't really to spend your money; it's to craft and maintain your strategy, direct your team, and ensure progress. It's the insistence on effective communications, consistent planning, and personal accountability that produces sustainable momentum. Insourcing brings control of the marketing back inside the company. The result can be a company-wide sense of ownership that translates into better ideas and more effective audience engagement.
As CEO of MadPipe, Daniel DiGriz is the external Marketing Director for various client companies and organizations. As digital philosopher, he writes continually about marketing strategy and is creator of the Digital Ecologist™ designation for Digital Strategy. As a serial entrepreneur, he has a background in Fortune 500 sales, marketing, and corporate training, as well as digital publishing and media. A frequent public speaker and podcast host, he also has an M.Ed. in instructional technology.