What should you expect from a B2B SaaS agency? How much should you spend on a fully outsourced marketing function? How do you hold an agency...
BSMS 36 - When and how to use an agency (or agencies), or outsource your full marketing function
Today, in addition to a special product announcement, Mike and Stijn discuss best practices for when and how to best outsource some or all of your marketing function.
Do you go for a piecemeal solution, with multiple agencies for specific problems?
This can be a great choice, especially when you only have one or two jobs to be done. But, we’ve seen many startups suffer from agency fatigue, and struggle to manage and onboard a quickly growing team of agencies.
Do you instead outsource your entire marketing function? This can be great for accountability to large growth targets, and ease of use, but if you’re not sure what direction your business is going in, and haven’t reached PMF, it can be a waste of precious time and money.
Inside, Mike and Stijn discuss more about the philosophy of hiring an agency or outsourced marketing team, and how to approach it.
Some of the questions they address are: How do you hire someone to do a job you don’t fully understand? How do you hold them accountable, and reach your growth targets in a cost and time effective way?
They also emphasize the importance of strategic patience and tactical impatience, the idea that it’s essential to wait on strategic long term goals, but focus on short term tactics.
Hello, welcome to episode 36 of B2B SaaS Marketing Snacks. Today, Stijn and I talk about the trade offs of outsourcing certain marketing functions and how you can think about managing the results and holding the vendors accountable when it comes to things like milestones versus outcomes like revenue, and how you can feel maybe a little bit more comfortable with outsourcing things that you have not personally done before in your past and managing a vendor towards certain results in those scenarios.
One thing, before we get started, I wanted to do a quick call out for a program that we are releasing on T2D3. It's designed for founders, CEOs and marketing leaders of B2B SaaS companies who want to learn to build, execute, and manage their complete go-to market. It's the exact same education that all the in-house associate CMOs at Kalungi get before they lead marketing functions for our own clients. And that includes myself. And speaking from experience, it's really unlike anything that's out there right now. It's hyper focused on the B2B SaaS industry and it really takes a holistic view of go-to market, and not necessarily just marketing, but also with consideration for things like your product and sales and customer success. And it really is a way to think about marketing at an executive level and get buy-in from your leadership team on making some really big bets.
It covers everything from budgeting and building your team, to balancing strategy and execution, to creating your growth priorities, managing your team through OKRs, understanding where your company is in the market in relation to others, and the right approaches based on where you sit. Things like positioning and messaging, segmenting your market, building your TAM, SAM, SOM. The right channels to go after certain markets. Channel marketing, SEO and content, account based marketing, growth management, demand gen, pricing. All those things are encapsulated in there. And if you're a marketing leader who wants to level up their skills to an executive level, or if you're a founder or CEO who is responsible for the go-to market of your own company and is doing a lot of this work on your own, this is the program for you.
I can't speak highly enough about it because I've also experienced it and it's been… My personal journey through marketing is the content within this program. So for now, it's at a heavily discounted rate for early access, as a way to kind of say thank you for the people who are supporting us early on and being an early adopter. At some point later in the year, likely in quarter three, it will become formalized into a certificate program and the price will jump significantly. So I would recommend getting in onto the wait list right now and seeing if you can get in and help us kind of like beta test the content as we roll it out and give us feedback and help us kind of build the complete course.
And, yeah. All right. Cool. That's it. And you can check it out at T2D3.pro/masterclass. Or if you just go to the homepage, you can navigate to it in the header nav. Thank you again for choosing to spend your time with us. Really appreciate it as always. And let's get into it.
You asked me at some point, Mike, what's the difference between outsourcing your marketing team, your marketing function, your growth, to a third party. Or hiring one, or maybe multiple marketing agencies for specific things, like a PR agency or a digital agency or a designer. And I think there's a couple ... And both are by the way, good options. I think most smaller software companies that are growing fast, that have recently gotten funding or are getting profitable, they need some external help, right? You have this need for speed. You have a need for different types of skills as your company grows up. And sometimes you only need those skills for a shorter timeframe. You only need to design a logo once, right? So getting a fantastic designer to help you create the company, identity is not something that you need to do all the time. So you don't need to hire that person on your payroll.
But that would be an example where hiring an individual or a small agency that does nothing else than doing fantastic logos, that might be a great fit for you, especially if you have a lot of the other things in the marketing function covered. So there are a lot of reasons why companies build up almost sometimes a stable of marketing agencies, someone who helps them with their website, a PR agency, maybe someone who's helping them launch a product, event management. There's another one where there's a lot of real specialty consultants, agencies, professionals that can do that. And then there's the other alternative that we've also developed ourselves with Kalungi because there was this specific need for smaller companies that said, well, we just don't have the manpower, the experience, the time to manage multiple agencies and do the same briefing multiple ... Like when you hire a PR agency, they want to sit through a day or two days of asking you all kinds of questions and interviewing your CEO and interview the founders, et cetera.
And now you hire a digital agency that wants to do fantastic content marketing for you. They want to do the same thing. They want to interview your whole executive team. And now you hire an ABM agency to build account based marketing. Guess what their first question is going to be? Can we do a workshop for a full day? Can we interview your sales team, your leaders, et cetera. And I sometimes describe this as agency fatigue, where especially when you're a small startup, you just don't have the bandwidth or time to go, not only manage all those different agencies, but onboard them, hold them accountable, et cetera. So either option can work, but they have pros and cons. I think when you hire an agency like Kalungi where you get everything under one roof, the biggest benefit is that you have one throat to choke, right?
You can actually derive real accountability for the outcomes of the full marketing function, especially when you outsource both the work, the design, the writing, the web development, and the leadership of that work. The marketing VP, the CMO, whatever you call your marketing team leader. But if those both are basically the same organization, then you can now hold that party accountable for results. And it does allow that entity, that outsourced vendor, to optimize resources based on what they think will work best to drive growth for you. And if PR is not the right strategy in a given month, then they can make sure that the time, and the resources are spent in other areas, like for example, building an ABM messaging framework. So I think that's kind of the trade off. It is then leading to, how do you manage both types of engagement?
If you hire agencies to do a specific job, you typically get to milestone based agreements. Like, Hey, we do these five things in this timeframe, right? And if you know exactly what you want, that works really well. If for example, you're going to launch a product and you want to have a specific launch party, a launch event, and you want to have a certain amount of press releases go out, and you want to have interviews with a certain amount of influencers, then hiring an agency that manages both the PR function and the events probably works really well because you know exactly what the outcomes will be. You can tie milestones to that and hold them accountable.
But it's of course not the same as holding someone accountable for revenue contribution or pipeline growth. And that is something you can do when you outsource your full marketing function to a company that does all the different aspects of marketing execution. So there's a couple of other things, but those would be, I think, the biggest differences, Mike, when you have to make the choice, do I hire a PR firm and maybe an event marketing firm and a content writer to help me with some blogs, or do I just outsource my marketing completely?
And how do you get over the classic issue of not, I guess it's a rule maybe, of not outsourcing what you don't understand.
And how does that come into play when you outsource everything?
It's hard. Yeah. I use this a lot in the world of consulting. When you do IT consulting, or marketing consulting in our case. The moment you give your work to someone else to do, you need to know how to assess whether someone is doing a good job. And it is really hard to do that unless you've done the job yourself, right? So I think in the case of managing a PR agency, managing an event agency, it is a little harder to do that unless you've actually done that work. If you've done that job.
If you outsource your complete marketing function, or even better, your growth, it is a little easier for you as CEO to sort of say, “Hey, this is what good ROI looks like for me. I expect this type of a return. So many new customers, so many new sales conversations. I want a great website that is not only live, but it has a certain level of performance. It gets a certain amount of visitors. It gets a certain amount of exposure.” And I think when you're leading a young startup and you haven't done marketing yourself, or you haven't done sales yourself, holding an agency accountable at that higher level, like what amount of growth are you actually contributing, is a little easier than knowing if someone is managing an event well for you or doing a good job in managing PR, because both are subject to that same rule. It's hard to outsource something that you don't master, or even then know what you should have to pay for that. But I think outsourcing your full marketing function has that benefit of it being very outcome focused.
On the other hand, it's a huge commitment. If you don't know exactly what market you're ... If you haven't reached product market fit, then outsourcing your full marketing might not be a great idea. Then it might be better to do more piecemeal investments in experts who can help you achieve certain things, like get a certain amount of people to use your product. And that's the only thing you're doing. You're not investing in PR, you're not investing in a big website or branding project, you're just trying to get five or 10 people to use your product in some kind of a beta. That might be a much more safe investment with a specialist who helps you do that before you actually outsource your full marketing with the risk of spending money that you only can spend once. Focused on a niche that maybe not is not the right niche, right?
Yeah, no, that's a great point. And that was something that I was going to bring up, which is this idea that if you're outsourcing the entire function, it can be helpful because there's full control and an ability to make some strategic bets that you might not otherwise make if you're working with an agency that works specifically on one kind of focus area. But it is, it's a longer term commitment and you have to be kind of ready for that. I don't know, ready to jump off the cliff a little bit, so to speak, and understand that the decisions that are made are both in support of strategic, long term goals and short term tactics as well. I keep thinking back to when we saw Andy Jassy at GeekWire and he was saying, "Be patient with the strategy and be impatient with the tactics".
And I think that's one benefit of when you outsource the whole function, you have a team that's focused on both of those things. Because if you're goaling on new revenue, new users, pipeline, those kinds of things, then in order to hit those, you have to do both. You can't just focus on short term. If you're driving MQLs, it's great, but at a certain point that's going to become an issue. So an outsourced marketing team is going to be focused on both the strategic ramp and the short term. How do we get quick wins right now?
Yeah, that's a good, the strategic patience and the ...
Tactical impatience is a good frame, right? If you are hiring an agency to run your full marketing and sales, you better know that you're in the right market, that you can actually sustain this for a while. You don't want to do that for two, three months and then stop it and start all over again. That really is a long term bet. And if you're still really doing all kinds of experimentation and testing, then taking smaller bites with smaller efforts and maybe in an agency to test something smaller, is a much better way of learning and then correcting as needed.
That's the other thing that I think when you hire, when you outsource any type of marketing or sales, just don't fall into the start stop pitfall. If you go through the effort, which takes multiple weeks typically, to onboard an agency, onboard an external resource, to then get impatient with the results and stop it three weeks later, four weeks later, now you've not only wasted a lot of time, you've probably wasted a lot of money too.
Yep. That's a good point.
So yeah, make those choices and be really thoughtful, and you're going to stick with it for at least a couple months.