Getting the best from outsourcing
Nobody wants to rip you off...
Getting the best from your outsourced professional services.
A couple of interesting conversations took place this week about the use of external marketing (and in particular digital agencies) have prompted this week’s article.
'You're all out to rip me off" - a great way to start a business relationship
In one conversation, a company MD instructed a digital marketing agency to improve Google rankings and do more paid search (Google Adwords) work. I was asked if I could offer any advanced Google analytics and Pay Per Click techniques (which I can’t) to ensure the agency people were kept on their toes.
In another, a startup business owner told me that nearly all marketing people he’d ever met were out to rip him off. I’d say rip him apart would be closer to the truth - but that’s a totally different story.
So if you are thinking of outsourcing, here are a few thoughts.
1. Don’t start the relationship with the assumption that we’re out to rip you off.
Consultants and agency people are human too. And the way to get the best from your agency is to remember that this is a two-way human relationship. Agencies want to get fantastic results for their clients,. We know we are disposable - which means that If we don’t perform well, we get the sack and we starve. When a client comes to you with an attitude that you are crook that’s out to screw them over, the net result is a miserable experience for everyone. Many agencies will resign the contract if the relationship is not working.
If you fancy a laugh over your lunchtime sarnie, there’s a website that was set up by agency people called ‘Clients from Hell’ where agency professionals share their war stories of nightmare clients. (I’ve added a few stories to it myself over the years).
2. Don’t micromanage - let people do the job you are paying them to do
Wanting to know more about a topic just to outfox your agency people is a fruitless waste of energy. The very reason people outsource is to bring in experts in a particular field that can do the things you can’t do. That’s the whole point. I don’t spend hours swotting up on tax laws just to show my accountant that ‘you can’t pull the wool over my eyes’, it would be ridiculous. So assume the expert you have hired knows what they are doing and let them do their job. If it turns out they are rubbish you sack them and get someone else. When clients micromanage you are heading into a downward spiral because the more time that is spent justifying every action, the less time your expert has to actually do the job they are paid to do, and the relationship is doomed.
3. Be clear about what you want your agency or consultant to do for you
The clearer you can be about what you want, the better the results will be. That requires honesty and a degree of trust. Sometimes you want your consultant, or whoever, to tell you what to do. And that’s fine. But there has to be an overarching goal that needs to be communicated before any service provider can make the right recommendations for you.
4. The client has to be an active participant in the process
While I’ve just said that it’s not a good idea to micromanage, you do need to be an active participant in the process. That means providing the information, feedback and approvals to get things done. When we’re left chasing and chasing, you get to the point where you lose the will to live. Feedback is an essential part of the process, and most agency professionals would prefer a client to say ‘no, sorry, that’s not right,’ so you can have a conversation on how to get it sorted. Someone who disappears into what seems like a ‘client witness protection programme’ and never gets back to you, is not helpful.
Your external services can take the load off your shoulders, but you still need to be available and involved.
5. You should expect results
Instead of focusing on whether or not you are being ripped off, tell your service providers what you want and then assume they will deliver it. Ask for regular updates and analytics, discuss the outcomes and results and make it a collaborative relationship. At the end of the day, if your professional service is not performing, you say goodbye.
6. Breaking up is not always hard to do
It’s ok to break up with your agency or service provider. Sometimes the relationship or ‘chemistry’ just isn’t right. Situations change, people change, or things don’t gel or get off the ground. There are a million and one reasons why things don’t always work out. That’s life. Most professionals accept this and take it in good part. We don’t go around slashing the tyres of ex-clients (well, there is the story about...). Most of us will try to stay on good terms because you never know what the future holds.
So that’s it. Hopefully, there’s some food for thought there.