Marketing: DIY or outsource?

15/03/18Marketing: DIY or outsource?

Recent meetings, firstly with our accountant to review our 2017 performance and secondly our business coach, looking forward to 2018 and beyond, got me thinking about outsourcing.

Both our accountant and coach provide expertise which would take years for me to learn, even if I had the inclination, which I don’t!

Therefore, given my lack of time, expertise and willingness to learn (aside from the fact it’s impossible to coach yourself), outsourcing these tasks is the right decision.

As I wrote late last year, one of my three key aims when we set Yardstick up was to provide employment opportunities for talented people in Nottingham. I didn’t want to become a shepherd of freelancers and over a year later, with nine of us now in the team, our core offering is facilitated in-house. Even then however, it makes sense to outsource some tasks; photography, videography and animation to name three.

That leads me to consider the occasional conversation where potential clients pose the question, and I’m paraphrasing: “Why should I pay you, when I can do my marketing myself?”

I’ve got a variety of stock answers. However, perhaps surprisingly for a business whose future is dependent on attracting new clients, my answer often includes an acknowledgement that outsourcing isn’t right for everyone, in every circumstance.

Reasons to outsource

Perhaps the first and foremost reason to outsource your marketing is expertise; more accurately, a lack of it.

There are many advisers and planners who are fantastic marketers. However, many others don’t have the necessary expertise or skills required to successfully market their business. That’s not me being clever, it’s just a fact of life.

If you lack the expertise, you need the willingness and time to learn. If you don’t have both, it’s time to start giving outsourcing some serious consideration.

Secondly, many advisers and planners taking the DIY option fail to adopt a strategic approach and understandably lack confidence. The temptation to succumb to the lure of shiny new things, trying different options yet moving on too quickly, is a tell-tale sign of both.

Thirdly, taking the DIY approach means learning as you go, making mistakes and refining from there. In contrast, taking advice or outsourcing certain key tasks means bringing in experts who have already made the mistakes and know what works.

To put it another way; isn’t that what your clients pay you for? To help them avoid making costly mistakes?

Finally, if it’s not your area of expertise, doing it yourself will probably cost you money.

Let’s take a website as an example.

It takes us upwards of 70 hours to design, write, develop and test a new website.

For you to get the same result it will almost certainly take longer, but let’s be generous and say it takes you the same. If your hourly rate is say £150 that’s over £10,000 of billable time you’ve lost.

The cost of us producing a website? That depends on your exact requirements, but I can safely say it will be much less than £10,000.

The case for DIY

Like all good financial promotions though, our blogs should be clear, fair and above all, balanced. It’s only right therefore that we acknowledge the fact that there are times when outsourcing isn’t the right approach and completing tasks in-house is.

The first of these is when you have the necessary time, inclination and skill, or at least the desire to learn. There are some notable examples of adviser’s who make great marketers; Martin Bamford, Andy Hart and Pete Matthew are three who spring immediately to mind.

Of course, some of the tools available online, such as Squarespace, make it easier than ever to market your business. However, none are a substitute for experience or will provide the crucial strategic thinking necessary to successfully market your business.

There are of course some occasions when you have absolutely zero budget, and one can’t be created. If that’s the case, then time and the inclination to learn must be found. The good news though is that there’s something very satisfying about building a business from scratch and learning as you go.

Finally, if you are going to successfully take the DIY approach then you have to enjoy it. It’s too important a task to allocate time and resources to begrudgingly.

However, even if you have the time, inclination and skills, outsourcing certain tasks makes sense; which is why the answer to the original question isn’t binary.

For me, outsourcing strategy, the equivalent of the financial plans you produce for clients, makes perfect sense. From there though, it makes equal sense to implement certain tasks in-house, outsourcing those you don’t have the skills, desire or time to do.

In our experience, tasks such as website design and development, content writing and document production are ideally outsourced. On the other hand, tasks such as social media management, the organising of seminars and PR might be better kept in-house.

How much should you spend?

There are other equally important decisions too, not least how much to invest in your marketing.

I’ll leave the last word on the subject to Jason Butler, Financial well-being expert and ex-CEO and founder of Bloomsbury Wealth:

“Financial advice and planning businesses that wish to survive and thrive need to invest sufficiently in marketing and communications. The target audience isn’t just new clients, important as they are, but includes existing clients, to ensure high retention and advocacy (propensity to make referrals).

This activity needs to be part of the firm’s strategic business plan and the practical actions reflected in a rolling 12-month action plan or roadmap, with proper provision made in the firm’s budget. Most business planning books I’ve read suggest that ambitious businesses need to be spending at least 5% but ideally 10% of their revenue on marketing and communications activity.

Whatever the size of business it’s essential that they work with outside experts that have the right skills and experience to help deliver the right outcomes at the right price. What is clear to me is that the days of piecemeal, ad hoc or amateur marketing activity is well and truly over for the advice firms of the future.”

Until next week…

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