The past couple of years have changed things in our modern work world quite a bit. Generation X was raised to believe that, if we just get an education and land a corporate job, we’d have security for years to come. Think again my friends, because those days are long gone.
With our economy running on life support, the dollar in the tank, and fast-rising inflation, companies had to pinch pennies wherever possible to keep the ship afloat. The results have been widespread and severe…significant loss of jobs, budgets slashed to levels we haven’t seen in years, and even a slew of companies going belly up during the prolonged recession.
Now we find ourselves with an unemployment rate higher than we’ve seen in at least couple of decades, if not longer. All companies want to do “more with less”. But business must go on, so we have to work within the current constraints placed before us.
As marketers, there comes a time when you have to consider outsourcing some or all of key programs. Let’s look at the most common situations where you should consider an outside consulting resource.
Doing more with less essentially means your company has decided to squeeze lemon juice out of a turnip, and you’re the turnip. Work/Life balance? Fat chance. This is typically a situation where the company has lopped off as many limbs as possible in hopes of surviving, and all of their work either goes away, or more likely, falls squarely on your “to-do” list. If you have been working so many hours that it takes more than a split second to remember your kid’s middle name or birthday, draw a line in the sand and sign up some help.
Missing Skillsets or Experience
I’ve spent a great deal of my career in startup environments, and there always comes a time when you need to do something that no one on the team has done before. There are two answers to this situation – invest your own valuable time and effort into figuring out how to band-aid a solution together, or pony up the dough to hire someone who already knows what they are doing. Having taken both approaches, I can speak from experience on this one. Bring in a consultant for the execution, and spend your valuable time working with them on fitting it into your overall strategy and vision.
Short-Term Needs or Projects
This is the situation where you most need to look outside. It’s one thing to have a new ongoing need, which is the only time you’d really want to invest the time and energy in ramping on a complex new skill. If you have a time-limited project where you need specialized technical or execution resources, save yourself the hassle, and budget for hiring some help. You can do a quick ROI analysis by taking your hourly rate, estimating how long you have to work to learn the skill, calculating how much slower you’d actually do it than an expert would, and comparing that to their quote. If you are still ROI positive, what other non-financial tradeoffs are you making, such as opportunity costs (i.e. other important projects that go into a queue instead of getting done), your stress level (and how that affects your ability to properly address other priorities), and whether you are getting enough time to recharge personally.
Building a “Virtual Support Team”
Maybe you’ve determined you do need to do a large volume of work, you are missing skillsets for managing the work, and you have frequent needs for short-term project assistance. Great! You may not be able to get a permanent job req for hiring new direct reports, but you can likely plan around setting budgets for your extended team. I’ve run entire virtual marketing groups myself by hiring outside professionals for web design, PPC strategy/execution, trade show support, writing, graphic design, etc. This is a valid and proven model, particularly in the startup world where you have to do the work of an army by yourself.
Your company may expect you to do the work of a small army, but is that truly reasonable? You can do financial calculations to justify outsourcing rather simply. Use those numbers as ammo to negotiate funding for outside help or to persuade the company to de-prioritize activities that aren’t worth the investment. After all, if it isn’t worth a few grand to get it right, is it even worth doing in the first place?
This work originally appeared as a guest post for the As-Such Communications blog.
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