Seven Easy Steps to Outsourcing Advertising and Marketing Production

While most companies outsource at least one or more processes (e.g., payroll, cleaning services, landscaping, security, and benefits are rarely done in-house), there are many companies who have never outsourced advertising and marketing production, a mission-critical function that can include design of display ads, websites, emails, social media, marketing collateral and more. The idea can seem new and daunting.

Although marketing and advertising production is essential to every business, the outsourcing process doesn’t have to be complicated, especially if you are working with an experienced company that can lead you through it efficiently. Here are seven easy steps to outsourcing advertising and marketing production.

Samples of work Affinity Express has created for clients

1.  Initial Engagement—Client and Provider Sales Team

  • Conduct initial discussion and mutual qualification.
  • Share information and execute an NDA, if needed.
  • Complete provider documentation.

There is nothing surprising about this step: you engage with the provider’s sales team to discuss objectives, qualify the capabilities and decide whether to advance the relationship.

Assuming you want to proceed, you will be asked to share information and populate some sort of data collection tool. This may require contributions from several people in your company (e.g., directors of advertising to salespeople to sales assistants) and you must empower and allow them the bandwidth to gather the details. The more information you share and the more organized your team is, the better the assessment from the provider. If you aren’t open and candid (e.g., you try to hide faulty processes or inconsistent performance), surprises and delays will happen, hindering the success of your project.

Not every organization has perfect knowledge of volumes, existing bottlenecks, on-time delivery rates, quality statistics and the like. Be upfront if you don’t and the provider can help by shadowing your team during the next phase of the process. We’ve had situations where a company’s reported ad volumes are dramatically different than what our new client implementation observes in action, so we provide the added value of establishing baselines that didn’t exist previously.

2.  Discovery—Client and Provider Implementation and Production Teams

  • Discuss data collection results.
  • Share additional detail on SLAs, workflow, best practices, etc.
  • Review pilot plan and schedule follow-up calls with required resources.

At this stage, you’ll review together the information you provided to answer questions and clarify. It is also your opportunity to be very specific on your expectations. Maybe your team has turn times of four to six days for microsite design but you want to achieve one- or two-day turn times. Make this very clear.

Discuss whether the provider needs to use your existing workflow or can provide a separate workflow. Understand the differences and benefits to each approach. You also want to get more detail on how a pilot program will work and agree on how it will be evaluated.

Just as in the data collection phase, you will need to have your resources available to work with the provider. Many companies designate an internal champion who is incented to contribute to the transition and given the authority to coordinate with the internal team at all levels.

3.  Workflow Discussion—Provider Implementation, Technology and Production Teams

  • Discuss project assumptions, schedule, risks and constraints.
  • Involve appropriate team members on both sides to configure workflow and communication tools.

It might be easiest for you if your provider integrates to your existing workflow, but you will have to contribute training and access to the system. If you are adopting a proprietary or third-party workflow from your provider, the reverse is true and detailed training methodology should be supplied. Discuss any costs involved on either side. You may find that a Software-as-a-Service or cloud approach from the provider means that you don’t have to invest in technology and may benefit from best practices established across many clients.

Beyond workflow, at this time, you want to agree on reporting. Determine the metrics you will use to measure the provider. Typically, you will want to see turn times, costs, quality, escalations and the like. Make sure you understand the communication plan and have a full list of contacts. If there is an issue, you want to know who your team should contact and the escalation process.

4.  Statement of Work (SOW) Review and Execution—Client and Provider Sales

  • Get a draft copy of the SOW for review.
  • Send samples product to outsourced production team for review.
  • Sign document and schedule internal project kick-off sessions.

Basically, this is the contract stage of the process. The documents will come from the provider and will likely consist of their standard agreement customized for your environment and unique requirements. Have your legal team review thoroughly, along with the personnel who will interface directly with the provider (they’ll have different view of the terms outlined and need to understand how the relationship will work). Ensure what you agreed to verbally is accurately represented.

Once you’ve signed off and the paperwork is done, product samples will be requested for testing (if you haven’t previously submitted them). This is part of the validation the provider will need to conduct to ensure they can do the work and meet your standards.

This is also when you will communicate implementation milestones to your team members. Again, this is a joint effort and both sides need to be thoroughly prepared. The provider should lead you though and support, but your employees will need to be 100% committed and able to handle their responsibilities.

5.  Pilot (Parallel Production)—Provider Implementation and Production Teams

  • Define pilot terms (e.g., volumes, start and end dates, duration, amount of resources, etc.) and sign off.
  • Assign pilot resources to the core production team and to train other team members as they are added.

When you are outsourcing a function like advertising and marketing, a pilot program is critical. The outsourcing company has to be tested under true production conditions. Again, the burden in this phase is mostly on the provider but you will have to share feedback to allow the outsourced team to prepare and adapt.

Keep in mind, the employees who work in the pilot will be the ones who train additional resources added when higher volumes are turned over. The better the input they receive, the better the information they will share with others.

6.  Ramp-Up—Provider Implementation and Production Teams

  • Assess pilot results.
  • Update documentation.
  • Train resources in specific requirements.
  • Capture increasing volumes according to desired schedule.

Now that all the systems, workflow, requirements and other aspects of the relationship have been established and tested during the pilot, greater volumes of ads and/or marketing materials are turned over to the provider. Any changes required to the output or other aspects of the relationship are implemented at this time. In our relationships, the transition is typically done in increments of 25% until we reach 100%, which is the go-live stage.

7.  Go Live—Provider Implementation and Production Teams

  • Participate in weekly quality assurance calls.
  • Share satisfaction levels.
  • Ask for adjustments as needed and review reports.

The relationship is in full swing and you move into a monitoring mode, collecting feedback from your team and passing it along. If you wait for a monthly meeting or provide input sporadically, you don’t give the provider a chance to make quick adjustments. Your comments should be specific and, if at all possible, measurable. For example: “Five ads in the first week were not accepted by clients because instructions on logo placement were not followed” is actionable. However, “The sales team doesn’t like the workflow” is not.

In all likelihood, as the relationship stabilizes, the number of meetings and conversations will become less frequent. With our clients, we find the conversations move from being tactical to strategic as they look to build on initial successes and expand the services we deliver for greater benefits.

What you can see from these seven easy steps is that the process is straightforward. Although quite a bit of work is done by the outsourcing provider, your responsibilities are vital: disclosing facts, sharing requirements and communicating early and often. The difference between successful and unsuccessful outsourcing partnerships is just that: partnership. When you outsource a process that is part of your revenue stream and is sold to clients’ end customers, continual input and monitoring is essential. If you approach it with this perspective, your selected provider will deliver better service and your company will reap measurable benefits that may even exceed your expectations.

And once the relationship is established and working well, don’t forget to serve as a great reference and/or case study for your provider!

About Kelly Glass
Kelly has been vice president of Marketing at Affinity Express for nine years now. She drives company strategy and all marketing activities.

One Response to Seven Easy Steps to Outsourcing Advertising and Marketing Production

  1. Arturo says:

    But remember, you’ll have a larger audience than just yourself for your small business marketing plan – and you might be pleasantly surprised at useful this step is to you and how you view your future marketing activities. It is considered as one of the fastest, easiest and most inexpensive marketing methods. While both may technically be correct, there’s a big difference between the two.

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