Lydia Adams — VP, Marketing & Communications at Personiv was recently invited onto the MarketScale Technology podcast hosted by Daniel Litwin, where she discussed the most important aspect of a relationship with any vendor that you potentially trust with your brand, and how to spot it from a mile away:
Prioritizing Digital Needs When it Feels Like Everything is Changing
Litwin and Adams opened their conversation by tackling the biggest challenge any marketing department faces, whether that department has multiple branches or is a team as small as one: the sheer volume of work that needs to be done by today's marketers.
Between online channels, distributive marketing collateral and the ever-changing demands of a connected world, it can feel impossible to get out of the weeds. It's crucial to prioritize, but where does one even begin?
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According to Adams, even as marketing rapidly evolves, there are a few things that stand out as consistently key to the success of any marketing campaign and therefore to the success of the team that executes them and ultimately, the brand they represent.
In the broadest sense, says Adams, successful marketing lies in educational, value-driven content, and marketing leadership needs to keep the creation of that content central to their departments' mission.
The written word isn't going anywhere, she reminded Litwin, explaining that even the leanest operations have to be able to focus on long-form content to provide a solid foundation of educational resources to buyers and prospects. In-depth blog posts that support those long-form efforts and strong, professional website copy that adheres to brand style and voice guidelines is also key.
Other means of content delivery are also growing in importance. Video sits at the top of the list when it comes to how audiences consume the content marketers are producing, and audio is a rising star, especially for B2B marketing efforts.
No marketer can ignore the cruciality of search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM), both of which strengthen the odds that consumers will be able to find you when they need you. No brand survives without it and having either the resources on staff to deploy it, or the time to do it yourself is absolutely crucial.
Every marketer is familiar with the problem this represents. No department has only these four elements to focus on, and even if they did, these priorities alone represent a massive undertaking of time, effort and coordination.
Outsourced Digital as a Solution to Time and Talent Restraints
To be an effective strategist, Adams explains, marketing leaders need to develop the ability to discriminate between what has to be handled in-house and what can be outsourced. Determining where this branching off occurs is actually quite simple at its core, but it requires organizational introspection and will vary from company to company, Adams told Litwin.
"You have your top priorities – maybe content comes first, and then it's the website and SEO or SEM – what is it that you feel like you need to have in house? From there, you look at everything else."
It's "everything else" that marketing leadership can consider letting an outsourcing provider take care of. It allows marketing departments to devote their focus to the highest-value action items. The other key element of strategy in marketing leadership, Adams explains to Litwin, is finding a provider that is a good long-term fit for you. Not all vendors or providers are created equal.
One thing sets a strong, long-term relationship with a provider who handles your outsourced marketing apart from a short-lived, fraught relationship that ends when it's discovered to be a bad fit.
Adams can sum this key element up in one word: "trust".
How to Spot a Quality Digital Outsourcer & Avoid a Bad Fit
Outsourcing is crucial for any busy marketing department, and truth be told, every marketing department is a busy one! But for this kind of model to be successful, the outsourcing partner you choose has to be one that you can rely on to value your brand in the same way that you do. Trust is key because you need to know that the partner you choose – whether they are producing video, optimizing your website for search, creating pay-per-click (PPC) ads or tweeting on your behalf – will treat your brand with the same care and gravity that you do.
Adams knows from experience that that isn't always easy to find and explains how she sorts the red flags from the green ones. One of the telltale signs a vendor will not make a good long-term partner?
According to Adams: "When you put yourself out there and they don't take your brand as seriously as you do. If the work they produce shows they don't understand the tone; the color, the font -- the brand itself – these are the things that are sacred to marketers."
The consequences of a vendor who can't or won't understand these sacred elements of a brand? "It's going to have an effect on customer acquisition and customer retention," Adams asserts. Sloppy copy, misspelled social media posts and creative deliverables that miss the mark may seem small, but they can cause a brand's online relationship to suffer and detract from the professional message you're trying to send. "Potential customers make snap judgments," Adams warns.
It's possible to spot green flags, too, however, and Adams is uniquely positioned as someone who has both outsourced marketing efforts to third parties and who oversees the marketing initiatives of an outsourcing provider. There are the usual indications of a promising potential partner:
- Portfolio - look for a strong body of proof demonstrating the ability to perform the work required to a high standard. For vendors that provide services like SEO, there should be tangible metrics and case studies provided.
- Infrastructure – make sure the vendor has the tools, talent, and capacity to deliver the results they promise. Ask for details about the software they'll use and if they can work within your own infrastructure.
- Reviews – word of mouth is still king, and a good reference or a bad review can tell you a lot about an organization. Do your due diligence.
- Response – Adams allows for the fact that every road can get a little bumpy and all partners can occasionally miss the mark. "This is where you find out what kind of company you're really working with," she says. A good long-term partner will respond graciously to mistakes and – crucially – take immediate steps to correct them.
The number one sign that you've chosen a good provider, however, is one that Adams discovered very close to home. She cites Personiv's own approach to B2B relationships as one that she looks for in the providers she outsources to, admitting that she's unlikely to settle for a relationship that doesn't prioritize the one she sees in her own company, whether that's in the quality of the offering, the nature of the one-on-one service they provide or the way they respond to her concerns.
"It's that emotional buy-in," Adams explains. "That eagerness to see your brand succeed that shows they're as invested in your success as you are."