How to know when you should outsource marketing Part 1

When is outsourced marketing a good idea? When should you do it in-house? Here’s my experience…

Evolve your approach to outsourced marketing

I’ve managed outsourced marketing for hundreds of businesses – and operated as the outsourced group Chief Marketing Officer for many of them. So, I have got a pretty good handle on what works and what doesn’t.

Let me give you a really short summary of what I’ve learned should be outsourced – and when. The answer’s not complicated, but it does need to evolve as your business evolves.

Today, I’ll be talking about marketing approaches for companies achieving anywhere up to $20 million in annual revenue – and how to transition from one to another as you grow.

When you’re in scrappy start-up mode

Until you’re earning about a million dollars’ worth of recurring revenue – with some sort of predictability – you’re in what I call scrappy start-up mode.

What should you outsource at that point? The answer is: nothing. Keep every cent in-house. Find just one tactic, and master that.

When you’re a scrappy start-up you should:

  • Keep it simple
  • Keep it in-house
  • Keep it to one tactic

Once you’ve got that one tactic – maybe it’s AdWords or SEO – working well enough that it’s looking after itself, then and only then should you add a second tactic. When that second tactic, again, is kind of looking after itself, then add a third.

This is key, particularly if your core skill is not marketing – but also, frankly, even if it is.

When revenue exceeds $1 million

Once you’ve reached $1 million or $2 million of revenue, you’ve proven there’s a market for your product and that you’re a worthy product for that market.

This is what we like to call ‘product-market fit’. Marc Andreessen from Andreessen Horowitz first coined the term, and I think it works well.

When you’ve gotten to this point, you need more and better capability. You need to be wider and deeper in your marketing.

That’s when you should outsource your marketing to a single multi-service agency. You’re still too small to have multiple agencies. You won’t know how to select them, you won’t be able to manage them, and the time it will take will kill you.

You want a single marketing partner that can take on the lot. This agency might be one person who looks after you and three other companies, or a larger company who looks after multiple clients and has a little bit more depth.

Essentially, you want a single marketing partner that can take on all of your tactics – those you’ve got going now and the others that you’ll add.

When revenue exceeds $10 million

While these revenue figures aren’t hard laws, they are good guidelines. So, once you’ve gotten your revenue to about $10 million, it’s time to reassess your needs and possibly add one or two specialist partners who can go deeper on one or two of the tactics you’re using.

If you want to make this transition smoothly, do it with your outsourced partner – not in spite of them.

For example, if you’re using a tactic that they are just not quite deep enough on, work with them to find somebody who is.

You may ultimately take on the new specialist under your current partner, or separately. But what you don’t want to do is sour the relationship with the partner who’s doing most of your work, and has done a good job for you as you’ve grown.

Let’s sum up

  • Scrappy start-up – do it all yourself
  • $1m plus – outsource to a single multi-skilled partner
  • $10m plus – add 1-2 narrow specialised partners

Businesses don’t stay the same, customers don’t stay the same, revenues don’t stay the same – so neither should your marketing.

Aligning your needs to your situation and making sure everyone involved is onboard is integral to marketing success.

And that’s the job of Funnel Plan – to help you build those answers together and then communicate those answers to all of those partners so they understand the greater vision.

If you have a Funnel Plan already, you know what I’m talking about. If you don’t, go to and grab yourself a Funnel Plan.

I hope you got lots of value out of today’s Funnel Vision Blog. We’ll have a new blog up next month in the same place. Until then, may your funnel be full and always flowing.

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Our thanks, this week to:

  • Bella Newton for blog production
  • Hugh Macfarlane for scripting and presenting this week’s show