Outsourcing Your Marketing? Here’s Why You’re Not Alone (and What Opportunities You Have to Gain)

Since the pandemic and The Great Resignation started, my agency has seen our virtual CMO and outsourced marketing engagements grow substantially. Many of our clients have never outsourced their marketing before, or at least not to this degree. But if staffing issues were the only reason behind this growth in outsourcing, we’d see the need shrink as brands found new employees to fill in their gaps. 

Instead, I think we’re seeing yet another facet of the massive shift in how we think about work and the workplace. 

Countless brands are realizing that marketing and PR don’t need to be in-house. In fact, these functions have undergone such a dramatic evolution, in terms of responding to what customers and clients want, that it makes more sense to have an agency team of marketing and PR experts working on their campaigns. 

So what’s driving this shift? Let’s take a closer look. 

Client and customer expectations have changed–and quickly

Clients’ expectations around the type of marketing they’ll pay attention to have tightened. Brands that don’t offer valuable information right when the client wants it–in other words, brands that don’t anticipate their clients’ need for content–will quickly fall to the wayside. 

Part of this is due to the huge increase in demand for a completely virtual customer experience, especially in B2B. In fact, Gartner reports that 44 percent of Millennial B2B buyers (and Millennials account for 60 percent of all B2B buyers) prefer an entirely digital experience, with no direct interaction with a sales rep at all. 

And Millennials are also the ones who are walking away from unsatisfying jobs en masse. As executive and leadership expert Mark E. Watson III writes, “73 percent of these millennials report that they work more than 40 hours per week, but only 29 percent of them report that they feel ‘engaged’ in their work. No wonder they are looking for other opportunities.”

In other words: They’re not messing around. If something isn’t giving them the experience they want, they’ll walk away.  

To facilitate that completely digital experience, brands need content. Buyers need to be able to answer their own questions through online research–they need the information they want when they want it. 

With so many workers quitting, creating this volume of content isn’t feasible without help (often, it wasn’t even before the Great Resignation). But with demand for content at an all-time high, even more brands are finding that their only option is to turn to an outside partner. 

More brands are realizing the importance of branding over lead generation. 

Branding and lead generation have been warring factions in the marketing department for years, with lead gen typically winning. As LinkedIn’s 2016 research found, 72 percent of marketing budget dollars were going toward lead gen activities–up from 47 percent in 2007. 

But the tide is slowly turning as brands realize that lead gen can’t deliver long-term sustainability. The pandemic is partly to blame (or credit?) for this, as such intense uncertainty forced leaders to rethink plenty of former assumptions in order to survive. 

One good way to think about this is with a financial analogy. Consider how there are two main types of bank accounts, checking and savings. A checking account is what you use for daily in and out purchases and month-to-month living–rent, groceries, that kind of thing. A savings account–or even an investment account–is what you use for the long term. This is where “compounding interest” comes into play (also the reason for stories like “how a postal delivery man left millions to charity”). 

Marketing is similar in that it can be divided into two accounts.

Checking-account-style marketing is what we’d call lead gen, or performance marketing. It’s good for short-term conversions but not so good for long-term brand equity.

Savings-account-style marketing is brand marketing–social media, content marketing, and PR. In this space, the returns are incredibly good, but they require patience.

Just like individuals, if you focus all your attention on your checking account but never work toward any savings, you’ll end up treading water for the rest of your life. Smart companies know this, and they are dedicating greater percentages of their budgets to brand marketing now than they used to. 

That requires greater resources for brand marketing than they’ve ever needed before. Hence the increased demand for virtual CMO services, which offer the expertise, execution, and strategy resources brands need, without the need to search for additional hires. 

The Great Resignation has reshaped the workforce and work as we know it in all kinds of ways–practical, as well as existential. Is your brand taking advantage of these new opportunities?

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.

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