Outsourcing your marketing activities can be a fantastic solution when you lack the time and resources to do it yourself.
But what can you expect when you choose this option?
Let’s look at the benefits and drawbacks of outsourcing your marketing. And how to get started if it’s right for you.
What Does It Mean to Outsource Marketing?
Outsourced marketing is when you hire an external party to conduct some or all of your marketing efforts.
This third party can be a digital marketing agency, a marketing consultant, or a freelance marketer.
And they can work remotely or alongside you in an office (depending on your company and its policies).
It’s also a popular option. Nearly 94% of businesses outsource some or all of their marketing activities, according to our study, How Businesses Hire Agencies.
Benefits of Outsourcing Digital Marketing Services
Here are some of the main benefits of outsourcing your marketing efforts:
It Saves Time
When you have a limited number of hours and multiple marketing functions to manage, outsourcing your digital marketing can help you reclaim your valuable time.
Imagine you need to create articles for your website’s blog. You need to:
- Interview experts
- Find images and/or videos
- Optimize for SEO
- Upload the content to your site
- Promote on social media
This is a lot of work. And means you could spend many hours on each blog post you write.
But outsourcing to an agency or freelancer means you can focus on other important aspects of your business. To improve efficiency and performance.
It Saves Money
Outsourced digital marketing can be more cost-effective than handling all your marketing activities in the long term.
But not everyone recognizes this.
In fact, How Businesses Hire Agencies reports the main reason companies don’t outsource their marketing is that they think it isn’t financially viable.
But here’s why outsourcing often is an affordable option:
- You only pay your agency or freelancer for the work they do—not things like holiday leave, pension, sick pay, or training
- Outsourced marketers are specialists in what they do. So, they’ll do the work quickly and efficiently to maximize your return on investment.
- External agencies and freelancers provide their own tools and technologies. So, you can minimize the number of tools you actually have to buy.
It Provides Access to Expert Knowledge
When you work with an agency or freelancer, you gain access to their experience, knowledge, and skills.
This is a huge draw from marketing teams, especially small ones.
How Businesses Hire Agencies reports that the main reason why businesses outsource their marketing is because they don’t have enough in-house expertise.
Outsourcing the marketing activities you’re less experienced in means you can focus on what you’re best at.
For example, let’s say you’re good at on-page SEO and less skilled at outreach. Outsourcing means you can concentrate on on-page optimization and leave the link building to the experts.
The agency you work with could even show you how to build links. Which helps your team learn valuable new skills.
It Provides Access to Expert Tools
Working with an agency or freelancer means you'll benefit from the high-quality tools they use to do their work.
To create exceptional digital marketing campaigns, you need a solid and dependable marketing technology (MarTech) stack.
For example, let’s imagine you’re improving your SEO in-house. You need:
- A keyword research tool to identify the right words and phrases to target
- A position tracking tool to monitor where you rank for specific keywords in the search engines
- A competitive SEO research tool to review your rivals’ SEO strategies
- A website auditing tool to pinpoint and fix any technical issues
- A link building tool to track your outbound link building campaigns
The costs for these pieces of software can quickly add up. You’ll also need to invest time and money in training to use these tools effectively.
But working with an agency or freelancer gives you access to the valuable data and insights these tools offer.
It’s Easier to Scale
Outsourcing makes it easier to grow your marketing team as your business evolves.
Because you can increase the amount of marketing you do without hiring more in-house staff. Or investing in additional training.
So, you can more easily market new product and service ranges. Or launch in new countries.
It Provides a Fresh Outlook
Outsourcing gives you access to a team that can offer a different perspective and suggest new ways of achieving your goals.
This is particularly useful if you feel your marketing campaigns and tactics have become stagnant. Which is common.
The chart below shows how a major brand’s traffic from organic search remained flat and even declined from April 2023 to September 2023.
Agencies and freelancers work with a wide range of clients across multiple industries. And can apply what they have learned to your digital marketing campaigns.
Potential Downsides of Outsourced Marketing
Outsourcing your marketing can be a great option, but here are a few possible cons you need to be aware of.
You Might Have Different Expectations
When you outsource marketing, you may not achieve the exact results you anticipated.
This can lead to frustration for both you and the third party you work with.
So, clear communication is critical. By stating your goals and what results you want to see, the agency or freelancer you work with can make sure expectations are met.
It’s best to create and share a creative brief to ensure everyone is on the same page. Like this one that was created using SEO Content Template:
You Forfeit Some Control
Outsourcing means you hand over a degree of control to your agency or freelancer. Especially if they’ll have access to some of your data.
Make sure you know exactly what data they truly need. And give them the lowest level of access possible (something your IT department will likely require).
You can also retain some control over your campaigns by taking a collaborative approach. Some agencies and freelancers even provide marketing dashboards so you can review data in real-time.
And a good agency or freelancer will always make sure you have the final say over your data and your campaigns.
You Have to Be Mindful of Your Budget
While outsourcing your digital marketing is often more cost-effective than recruiting in-house team members, there are fees to consider. And those costs can quickly add up if you aren’t careful.
Define how much you want to spend at the start of the hiring process. And look for an agency or freelancer who’s willing to work within your budget.
No matter who you choose, make sure they provide a clear breakdown of what they charge.
What to Expect When You Outsource Marketing Activities
Here are some marketing activities you can outsource to a third party and what you can anticipate from outsourcing them:
Outsourcing Content Marketing
Many companies outsource their content writing by having agencies and freelancers write blog content. Or create content like videos, infographics, ebooks, and case studies.
And content marketing is an excellent place to begin if you want to outsource your digital marketing because:
- It’s easy to find talented content creators. You can find freelancers and agencies on platforms like Fiverr, Upwork, Semrush Content Marketplace, and Semrush Agency Partners.
- It's time-intensive to plan and create content. So, outsourcing it frees up your time to focus on other things.
- It’s easy to scale content marketing when someone else is doing it. You can start small and increase the amount of content you need as your digital marketing strategy evolves.
If you want to outsource your content marketing, the more information you can provide your agency or freelancer, the better.
Creating a content brief for your agency or freelancer can help. This content brief should include:
- What the goal of the content is. For example, generating leads, increasing brand awareness, or promoting your business as a thought-leader.
- Who the target audience is
- What keywords you want to include (if relevant)
- The main points you want to cover
- How long the content should be
It’s also important to agree on how much time should be spent on each piece and how many deliverables there will be. To ensure you get the amount of content you expect.
You can start generating content ideas for the third party to execute on using Topic Research.
Just enter a seed keyword (a broad search term related to your business) and click "Get content ideas."
You’ll then get tons of ideas for related topics you can cover in your content.
Outsourcing PPC Campaigns
Some businesses outsource their pay-per-click (PPC) advertising campaigns on Google Ads, Microsoft Advertising, and social media. Which includes setting up campaigns, designing advertising assets, and optimizing campaigns to get the best results.
PPC advertising is a good marketing channel to outsource because it means you can take advantage of specialized knowledge that you might not have in your company. But it’s important to understand what you want to achieve from your PPC campaigns before working with an agency or freelancer.
That might be:
- Improved brand awareness
- More leads
- Increased sales
This will steer the third party in choosing which platform(s) and campaign types to use.
Outsourcing your SEO means using a digital marketing agency or freelance specialist to create an SEO strategy, manage your SEO activities, or make recommendations to improve your existing SEO. To improve visibility and drive organic traffic to your website.
SEO comprises many activities, including keyword research, link building, technical SEO, and local SEO.
When outsourcing SEO, keep an open mind. While you might plan for your agency or freelancer to carry out a specific activity, they may advise that another activity is best for achieving your specific goals.
For example, you might want to boost your search engine rankings with on-page optimizations and content creation if you’re a small business with a regional presence.
But your agency may advise using local SEO instead. With a focus on enhancing your Google Business Profile and increasing the number of listings you have online.
Outsourcing Influencer Marketing
An outsourced influencer marketing specialist will identify potential influencers to work with, create engaging campaign ideas, and help you measure the success of your campaigns.
The more details you can provide to your agency or freelancer, the better the results they’ll be able to generate for your organization. So, make sure to provide them with a brief that contains:
- The goals you want to achieve. For example, more sales, increased website traffic, backlinks to your website
- The social media platforms you’re most interested in
- The target audience you want to promote your business to
- Information about the product or service you want to promote, including unique selling points
- Your budget
You can also provide additional information about any previous influencer campaigns you’ve carried out. And examples of influencer campaigns you like.
Outsourcing Marketing Analytics
An agency or freelancer specializing in marketing analytics will review your data and extract valuable insights.
Plus, they can ensure your analytics programs are set up to receive accurate data and help you build easy-to-use dashboards.
It’s important to work with your agency or freelancer to let them know what goals you want to achieve. And clarify what they’re responsible for.
Defining roles and responsibilities at the start means everyone has clear expectations about what needs to be done.
And remember that you may need to grant third-party access to the software you use.
Many analytics tools (for example, Google Analytics and Google Ads) let you set restrictions so you can grant and remove specific levels of access as needed.
Outsourcing Social Media
There are lots of different ways you can outsource your social media to an agency or freelancer. Like having them develop a social media strategy, manage your accounts, or create imagery for posts.
Outsourcing your social media is a good option if you operate internationally. Because the freelancer or agency you work with can help you create posts in additional languages and respond to messages outside of regular working hours.
You can outsource your social media in full or partially. For example, your marketing team may be confident creating content for Facebook but less so for TikTok.
It’s important to clearly define your expectations when outsourcing social media. You’ll want to share your goals, provide information on your target audience, and spell out the level of support you need. And grant access to your social media accounts.
Outsourcing Email Marketing
An agency or freelancer can help you write engaging email content and subject lines, set up automation flows, and segment customers to increase the odds of conversion.
Outsourcing this activity can really drive results because email marketing tends to convert well.
Because email marketing enables you to reach out to people with highly targeted, personalized marketing. Like in this message:
You can help your freelancer or digital marketing agency send high-quality emails by providing them with as much information. For example, your brand guidelines or tone of voice document, examples of previous emails, and the assets you want to use.
If you want to send automated emails, it’s important to advise your agency the points you want to reach out to customers. For example, if a customer leaves an item in their shopping cart, or to send a discount code on their birthday.
Don’t worry if you’re not sure, though—a high-quality agency or freelancer will be able to suggest the best ways to automate your email processes to get the best results.
How to Choose the Right Partner for Outsourcing Your Marketing
Do your research when looking for the right marketing services provider.
Here’s how to find the perfect team to work with:
1. Understand Your Needs
Take the time to identify exactly which services you need and how you want to structure the partnership.
That largely depends on your goals and your budget:
What Are Your Goals?
Having a firm grasp on your marketing (and larger organizational) goals will inform which services you need. And what type of partner will bring the best results.
For example, let’s say you want to increase brand awareness and build a stronger community around your brand. You originally planned to outsource your PPC ads, but outsourcing your social media may bring better results.
You should also share your goals with the agency or freelancer you end up working with. To give them something tangible to work toward.
And make sure your goals are specific, measurable, actionable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART).
- Specific: Goals that are well-defined and clear
- Measureable: Goals that allow you to measure progress
- Actionable: Goals that you can act on to improve
- Relevant: Goals that drive you forward and are aligned with your overall marketing strategy
- Time-bound: Goals that you can achieve in a set amount of time
What’s Your Budget?
It’s important to know how much money you’ll have available for outsourcing your marketing. Because it will impact who you work with and the level of service you receive.
How much should you budget for?
It depends. The How Businesses Hire Agencies report found that 22.4% of marketing teams allocated between $1,000 and $2,500 a month for their outsourced marketing.
While it’s tempting to keep your costs as low as possible, think about quality over quantity.
For example, the lowest-priced link building providers may use questionable tactics that violate Google’s spam policies. This can result in lower rankings or being omitted from search results entirely.
And consider how you want to pay for your outsourcing. Do you want to use a retainer model, pay per hour, or pay per project?
Bear in mind that an agency or freelancer may want to be paid in a specific way.
2. Do Research and Ask for Recommendations
Businesses find outsourced marketing partners to work with in many different ways.
Good places to get recommendations include:
- Social media platforms like LinkedIn
- Networking events or trade shows
- Non-competing organizations that have recently outsourced
- People in your organization. For example, someone in your marketing team might have worked with a freelancer or agency in a previous role
You can also use Semrush Agency Partners to find agencies that will meet your exact needs.
Tell us what service you’re looking for, and we’ll match you with the right experts.
Doing research is also beneficial, especially if you can’t get recommendations. Good places to do research include:
- Review sites like Google, Trustpilot, G2, Clutch, and Facebook
- Agency and freelancer websites. Look at case studies, testimonials, and who they’ve worked with. Just know that the reviews will always be favorable and that they might not be able to mention some clients by name.
Also look at the services each agency or freelancer offers. Make sure an agency can provide precisely what you need.
3. Build a Shortlist
Build a list with multiple agencies and freelancers before immediately making a choice. To ensure you choose a person or team that best meets your needs.
How many companies/people should be on your shortlist? We recommend between three and five.
This gives you plenty of options without making the process of choosing someone too unmanageable.
When creating your agency/freelancer shortlist, consider:
- How you prefer to work: If you prefer a more intimate working relationship, you may see better results working with a freelancer. If you prefer to work with different people with a range of skills, an agency may be the right choice.
- Location and geographic focus: If an agency is in another timezone, it may mean they’re unavailable for meetings or will respond to your messages out-of-hours
- Industry expertise: Some agencies and freelancers have a specialized area of expertise while others are more general
- What size companies they work with: Some agencies and freelancers prefer to work with large organizations. Others focus more on small- to medium-sized businesses.
- Typical length of contract duration: Make sure you understand how long you’ll need their services for and determine if there’s a risk you might be locked into a contract
4. Reach Out for Proposals
When you have a shortened list, it’s time to look at each contender in detail.
You want to work with an agency or freelancer that shares your values and carries out your marketing activities to an exceptional standard.
For example, let’s say you run a fun and fashionable clothing store for Gen Z. A traditional agency that uses more traditional marketing tactics might not be the right fit.
For smaller agencies and freelancers, you can usually request a short, informal meeting face-to-face or via video to discuss your needs. And ask about their approach to marketing, how they report to clients, and what they offer that their competitors don’t.
Don’t be afraid to ask for additional information to make a decision. For example, samples of reports, previous work, and case studies.
For larger agencies, it’s typical to create a request for proposal (RFP), an example of which you can see below. This is a document where you can specify your requirements and send it off to multiple agencies for them to respond with their proposals.
The benefit of an RFP is that you can easily manage all your proposals and ensure all agencies provide you with the information you need.
5. Make Your Decision
Once you’ve assessed all the candidates, it’s time to choose which one (or ones) to work with.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions before you commit. These might include:
- Who will our account manager/primary point of contact be?
- Who will be doing the work? And what experience do they have?
- How often will we meet to discuss progress?
- What happens if we have a complaint or issue?
- Is this a fixed-term or month-to-month contract?
And be sure to review the contract thoroughly before you sign. So you’re aware of any fees and additional costs.
Is Outsourcing Your Marketing the Right Choice?
Outsourcing your marketing is a great way to save time, use your budget more efficiently, and deliver results.
The key is finding a reliable, experienced, and hands-on agency or freelancer that aligns with your brand values.
Start your search with Semrush Agency Partners. The platform provides you with the information you need to choose the perfect agency partner.