Outsourcing – of anything – is often a yes-or-no situation.
It either works, really really well – delivers what you need, at a lower cost or greater speed than you could do it internally – or it fails miserably and you get a bit disillusioned with it.
At PF, we’re the outsourced marketing people. But what does that even mean? Is outsourcing your marketing a good idea at all, whether with PF or someone else?
Here’s when outsourcing your marketing will not work for your accounting firm:
Outsourcing marketing won’t work if you simply hire someone to do it, and leave them to it.
You can delegate marketing, but you can’t abdicate it.
Marketing is still your job.
Regardless of the task, the core of the marketing comes from what you and your team know.
The questions your clients are asking. The opportunities only you are aware of. The texts or direct messages sent to you, or in person comments made to you. The idea you had when attending an event.
Yes, you can get someone to source images or create hashtags for social posts or build a web page in the back end of WordPress. They can write unique, original content via blog posts or PDF guides or emails. They can even become your entire marketing team (as in the case with some of the firms we work with on a regular basis).
So you have to work together with your outsourcer – whether that’s someone you found on People per Hour, or a virtual PA, or an agency.
The number one lesson we’ve learned at PF over the past seven years is that for outsourced marketing to work, it absolutely has to be a partnership.
We’ve had firms ready to spend any amount of money on their marketing. Ready to invest in lead generation, running a big event, getting billboards or radio adverts designed, or press releases written. And they’ve hired the people and spent the money and left it to run and….been a little disappointed that it didn’t magically result in what they hoped for.
Eventually, you’re going to need a full time marketing person in your firm (at least) – and if your firm is larger (or it expands over time) you’ll need an in house marketing team.
That’s the goal. That’s what you’re working towards.
So outsourcing becomes one of two things:
- It will either sustain you with a marketing team when you’re not ready to hire one
- It will support the marketing team you have.
Here’s how you can help your outsourced marketing experience be the best you’ll ever have:
Work with a person or team you like.
Think about the approach you take to hiring a new employee for your firm.
You’ve got to get on with them personally, enjoy their company, be glad they’re joining you, make sure they’re a fit with the rest of the team.
The same goes for an outsourcer. Think of them as an outsourced employee – and don’t skimp on your usual hiring process.
At PF, we have four Pillars we stand on as a company – Creativity, Integrity, Generosity, and Rest.
When we are looking at hiring a new employee, we send reference requests to three individuals who know the person really well. And we ask them questions that relate to these pillars. How does this person stretch themselves creatively? What hobbies do they have? Has this person ever lied to you, or do you believe they would? Are they generous with their time and money – in what way? Are they a workaholic, or do they make an effort to get breathing space? How?
Your brand is the core of everything you are, and your firm is. What does your firm stand on, and stand for? Will this outsourced person or agency fit in with how you do things?
(Oh, and if you don’t currently hire with a structure specifically built around your brand and values, it’s time to revise your hiring processes.)
Be ready to commit the time personally where needed.
The whole point of outsourcing IS to save you time. But as with any new situation (like hiring a new employee or expanding offices or investing in new tech), you’ll need to invest a little extra time at the beginning in order to see that time savings down the road.
The firms who work with us and get the best results from their marketing:
- Are in the strategy meetings themselves. Even if they have a marketing manager or a whole team, the owner(s) or director(s) make sure they are part of the marketing direction and discussions.
- Involve their team. They talk to the whole team about what the firm is doing with marketing. They hold marketing meetings, invite ideas from everyone, set up collaborative documents (or share the ones we create), bring all the team to events.
- Invest in marketing training for the whole team. They buy copies of They Ask You Answer for every team member, send team members to marketing events and conferences, run internal TAYA sessions. They actually pay cash for things that relate to marketing for their accountant team members. (Not just the ‘marketing people’.)
- Show up to regular marketing update meetings. At PF, part of every outsourced relationship is a Co Pilot & Tracking Call. This is held either monthly or quarterly (with options for in person strategy sessions) – and the owner or responsible person for the firm is always part of these.
When you approach outsourcing this way – being part of it at a high level right from the start, and being involved on a regular basis – you’ll get the very best from it.
But if you hire someone (internally or externally) and then simply leave them to get on with it, you’ll be frustrated.
Ask questions so you understand how and why it works.
You may not get into the nitty gritty of whether it’s this hashtag or that one, or spend three hours picking the right image for the website page. That’s not the best use of your time.
But it is your responsibility to understand what marketing you’re doing and why.
When PF started using Infusionsoft as our lead nurturing and CRM system, I got to know it as well as I could at the time. I went to Infusionsoft events. Attended trainings. Listened to webinars. Hired experts (some real ones who actually helped, and some so-called ones who didn’t).
I also used the system myself. Used the email builder. Applied tags. Created campaigns and sales processes. Uploaded images. Asked questions from the Infusionsoft team via the live chat function.
I don’t really do that anymore – my team now create campaigns and send emails and do all the detail work. Trust me: they’re far better at it than I am. The last time I went in to create and send an email, I guarantee you it took me about four times longer than it would have taken them. But I do have a sense of what’s possible with the system, so I can instruct the team accordingly. And I have a real appreciation for the work they do and the time they save me!
When we created the PF Marketing Map to explain what elements of marketing your firm needs to address and in what order, the very first item we included was Training.
We’ve seen time and time again that the firms getting the very best clients, the highest number of quality leads, more business than they know what to do with….they are always making an effort to learn.
Hit your deadlines, too.
Marketing will often be the thing that takes a back seat.
You know you need to be doing marketing for your firm on a consistent basis (not just now and then), and you fully intend to do that.
And then client work. Emails. Phone calls. Meetings. Opportunities. Your one-hour or eight-hour slot in the calendar that is specifically identified as “Marketing Time” gets moved around, shifted, shortened, and eventually deleted.
“I’ll review that web page, I just need to reply to this email first.”
“I know I’m supposed to send those bullet points so they can write that blog post, but I’m so busy today.”
“We definitely need to review our brand, but it’s not exactly urgent.”
Think of your outsourced marketing team as not simply the people who will support you and help the firm, but who will push you to be better.
At the start of your outsourced marketing relationship, the problem with marketing tasks is that you haven’t gotten enough wins yet to know just how incredibly powerful any one of these small tasks are.
It’s not the one social post that lands you a new PR opportunity. It’s not the one blog post that gets you business. It’s the combination of continual blog posts and social and the updated brand and the new web page and the discovery call form and all the other little things, day after day, month after month, year after year.
I’m (at the time of writing) on my way to London for a two day QuickBooks conference and meetings. I’ve written this marketing tip whilst sitting on a bus to the airport. A table near the gate waiting for it to board. On the plane. On the train and the underground.
After writing marketing tips every Friday for almost ten years, I know people read them. They take in the content and it helps them make a decision about working with PF. They save me time when someone asks me a marketing question in the future and I can send them a link rather than typing out a long answer. They give us fresh content to share on social. They help me process what I personally am learning about our audience and what matters most to you.
There is always time to fit it in, when you know what it’s doing for you.
When we ask accountants what their greatest challenge is in marketing (or social media or branding or whatever), we always say, “other than time”.
Time is always the issue, and it is never the issue. An example of this is the accountants who wanted to learn about how marketing works for their firm, and to get their team involved. We run a live marketing training course, but it’s important that it runs in order, with live sessions. So sometimes the start date for the next intake is at a time that feels really perfect…but most of the time, it doesn’t.
Some accountants joined right in the middle of tax season. Some got the unlimited team member option and brought in every member of their team. Some were marketing managers of large firms, and others were sole practitioners doing everything themselves.
But because they joined, because they paid for it, they showed up every week. Created content. Recorded video. Rebranded. Launched a new website. Quadrupled their social media followers. Hired a marketing manager. Ran an event.
For people who are considering the Accelerator but aren’t sure yet because they don’t have time, I tell them you can spend an hour or two a week pretending or trying to do marketing yourself (that “marketing time” blocked out in the calendar), or you can spend an hour or two a week actually doing it, with support and help and ideas from the PF team.
The latter gets better results, every single time.
The same applies to your outsourced marketing relationship. You can try to do marketing yourself, squeezing it in here and there amongst all the other things you have to do, and letting it drop lower and lower on the priority list.
Or you can bring in someone who knows what they are doing and have done it before, and let them help you bring out the very best of who you are and who your firm is.
Show that to your prospective clients, the ones who are desperate to find you but right now don’t know you exist. Show that to your referrals, the ones who have been told you’re amazing but haven’t decided yet. And show that to your future team members, the ones who will one day work for your firm and serve your clients…and be part of marketing the firm, too.