Many marketing departments have been straight jacketed due to budget cuts.
Several of my clients have eliminated or replaced key people in marketing over the past two years, creating a severe interruption to the communication process with their customers. Product development and sales efforts have moved forward, but in many cases, marketing efforts slowed significantly.
It’s understandable, really. Sales dropped off, revenue declined, and budgets dried up. Writers and designers were let go, and depending on the severity of the crunch, so were marketing managers and even VPs.
The companies were presented with some interesting dilemmas: If you’re not out there actually selling, with improved messaging, persuasive solution descriptions, and ongoing communication with your customer base, then you’re not getting any new results, like improved sales, refined strategies or breakthrough ideas.
The predicament affected all aspects of the selling process, including:
- lead generation
- trade show communications
- Web messaging
- email campaigns
- direct mail
- sales support collateral
As a result, sales departments had to adopt new “guerilla warfare” strategies in order to proceed without updated support collateral. They were left to their own devices to generate leads and sent into the field with sub-standard briefcase tools.
Many companies looked on the bright side and saw the economic conditions as an opportunity to separate themselves from the pack, improve their bread and butter products, and pound their competition into submission.
They still didn’t have a lot of revenue to support marketing projects, but they were able to complete key initiatives with a lean and mean approach to production, a re-emphasis on digital document delivery (rather than costly print) and the utilization of outside consultants, writers and designers.
Fortunately there’s a well-educated, technologically skilled open market of freelance professionals that offer these kinds of services. For a fraction of your usual training, HR and actual production costs, you can hire a freelancer on a piece-by-piece basis.
There are several benefits to hiring outside help:
- Most freelancers will always be around, honing their skills and industry expertise even when business is slow.
- Professionals that are dedicated to a specific industry are less likely to switch their focus and disappear. Young, full-time hires, just out of college or new to the industry, often switch careers and plans with much higher frequency.
- Costs are significantly lower than in-house production, especially when focusing on per-project production costs. Full time staff requires payroll and HR support, medical benefits, desk space and computer equipment. That adds up, especially when no projects are in the pipe and you can’t turn off the money spigot.
- You don’t need to retrain or start from scratch with seasoned professionals.
- Professionals dedicated to your particular industry have good visibility across the market. They already understand your competition, your markets and your customers.
The benefits of outsourcing make as much sense in good times as they do in bad. When things were booming, executives were hopping from company to company, leaving projects in the lurch and disrupting production.
We all saw that in the late 90’s. Even low level production staff were making good dough and then heading off to travel or pursue some other avenue. Yet after the 2001 and 2007 bubbles, marketing management and production staffs were severely reduced.
So it works both ways. Outsourcing is advantageous in good and bad times. If you can consistently leverage quality resources at the right prices, you're going to be able to stay nimble and continually develop first rate content for audiences that are engaged with your industry, product or service.