Outsourced Marketing Managers—A New Option for Small Business
by Chad Rueffert


Most small businesses don’t have a CPA on staff.  Nor do they have an attorney, or an architect or a full-time janitor.  All of these positions, while necessary, are much easier to outsource than to maintain on the regular payroll.  These days, many small businesses outsource all the way down to the receptionist, allowing themselves to work completely independently while still maintaining all the benefits of a larger, fully-staffed organization.


Why is it, then, that these small businesses handle all of their marketing internally?  Is marketing simpler or less important than bookkeeping?  Is writing and implementing a strategic business and marketing plan any less difficult or necessary than preparing solid articles of incorporation?  Successful business people know that the answer is “No.”  The problem is, unlike accounting and legal, there are very few true sources for complete marketing management.


Advertising agencies traditionally focus on creative ideas, media buying, graphic design, copywriting and the like - those are the areas where agencies can make money.  But who does a small business owner call when she needs help determining whether it’s more affordable to custom print individual color presentation materials in house or to create a standard presentation and have multiple copies professionally preprinted?  Those are the types of problems a marketing manager might research and resolve, but an advertising agency has no interest in discussing.


But there is a (not-so) new breed of outsourced marketing professionals available to small businesses that are as different from a Madison Avenue advertising agency as Colorado Springs is from New York City.


Advertising agencies that attempt to focus on the small business niche often find customers more demanding and the requests for assistance more varied than the work they do for larger customers. 


Mid to large sized companies maintain a staffed marketing department, just as they maintain an accounting and legal department.  Their function is not to create advertising campaigns.  Often they turn to advertising agencies for that.  Instead, their function is to provide an overall approach to managing the internal and external image of the company as well as providing strategies and tactics for increasing sales both with and without the use of a sales staff.  Marketing managers have dozens of daily responsibilities that help ensure the success of their company.  A small business owner without a marketing manager usually handles these tasks herself, or assigns them to a sales person or office manager trained for other responsibilities. 


The good news is that where there’s a need, you’ll often find an entrepreneur, and that has led to some of these agencies attempting to satisfy the customer demand by providing a true outsourced marketing department.  Small business owners have had access to outsourced legal and accounting services for decades.  Now they have access to outsourced marketing management as well.


This new brand of outsourced marketing companies goes both deeper and wider than a traditional advertising agency or public relations company.  Instead of hiring copywriters and artists, these new companies are hiring marketing managers with  “Jack-of-all-Trades” experience that can be applied throughout the client’s sales and marketing efforts.  This allows them to provide consulting and solutions for traditional advertising and public relations as well as for non-advertising items such as strategic planning, budgeting, print buying, tradeshow planning, special events, personal networking strategies, proposal writing, sales training, software buying, photography, marketing research, employee relations, direct marketing, and the thousands of other non-advertising jobs handled by marketing departments in larger companies.


Perhaps the better term is a “single-source” outsourced marketing department.  There have always been graphic design firms and advertising agencies and public relations companies and specialty product printers and sales trainers, etc.  But take tradeshow planning as an example.  To pull off a truly successful tradeshow you may have to combine booth design, graphic design, literature printing, give-away purchases, staff training, follow-up sales strategies, pre-show advertising and direct mail, etc. Not to mention the basics of determining which shows to attend and how the shows fit into your overall marketing and business strategy and budget.  These are the tasks a good marketing manager or department can and does handle for larger companies, and innovative companies are now trying to provide those services for small businesses from a single source provider.  Basically, these companies are offering one person to call and rely on for help in any area of marketing without the overhead of hiring a full-time marketing professional.


Outsourced marketing managers are a solid concept in an underserved market that includes any company large enough to need marketing assistance but still too small to support the salary of a full-time employee.  It’s an idea whose time has come, and I have no doubt you’ll be seeing it, hearing about it, and maybe even using it in the years to come!