December 15, 2015

How to Persuade Leadership to Outsource Marketing Services

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Marketing has an intrinsic link to outsourcing. Ever since the industry grew from a novelty to a full-blown profession, businesses have relied on the expertise of agencies outside the company’s walls to strategize and execute various pieces of marketing, media, and advertising.

In days past, these partnerships were mostly comprised of creative agencies, but the dawning of the information era has seen a reorganization of business priorities. Now, many of these outsourced relationships have a technical lean.

ALSO READ: How to Choose an Outsource Lead Generation Provider in 7 Steps

For example, marketing automation implementations, business intelligence and analytics, and lead generation are all commonly outsourced.

If you’re reading this article, chances are high you already understand the benefits of enlisting an agency to handle some marketing services (reduced fixed costs, accounting for a lack of in-house talent, turbocharging growth, etc.).

The question is: how do you convince your boss — or even your boss’s boss — to buy-in?

In this context, the art of persuading is equal parts sales, storytelling, and analysis. To convince your superiors, you must successfully wield all three techniques because your audience hears numerous pitches just like yours every week, and they dismiss nearly all of them outright.

If you want to beat the odds and successfully engender favor for your outsourcing idea, then you must first create a narrative that involves a marketing leader, patiently meter out analysis of the problem, and finally sell your solution.

The following instructions will use lead generation as the outsourced marketing service to avoid generalities and provide a more detailed example.

Create a Narrative Around the Problem

Marketing professionals often dream of working for someone who will empower them to take risks. Too often, it seems that innovative ideas are rejected.

But that’s not because managers around the world all belong to a cabal that collectively snuffs out innovation; it’s because there’s a misconception about how leaders sign-up for creative ideas. And it centers on storytelling.

In The Storytelling Animal, Jonathan Gottschall uses science to explain how stories permeate every aspect of human life.

Gottschall’s salient point is that humans constantly need to make themselves the protagonists of stories. Make you and your boss the protagonists of the outsourcing marketing services narrative, and you’ll stand a much better chance of achieving your goal.  

Make you and your boss the protagonists of the outsourcing marketing services narrative

This technique is distinct from telling an anecdote at a pitch meeting. Even if you launch into a heartfelt story about how you know the marketing team could deliver more MQLs to sales if they only had higher volume, you’re still catching the audience by surprise. You’re still cold calling.

Instead, you need to instill a sense of ownership over the project with the chief marketing officer (or other business leader). Do this by asking for permission to investigate a weakness you see in your lead generation strategy, like a lack of volume from which to convert MQLs. With permission in hand, proceed to gather data on the problem as well as possible solutions.

If your problem is compelling enough, you’ve involved your CMO in the narrative of solving this business problem, with the two of you as the main protagonists.

After you receive permission to perform your investigation, keep your boss updated on what you find. Use data to make your case — in the context of lead generation, look at conversion rate from MQL to SQL and revenue generated off those deals.

Even though you already know what the solution should be, don’t pitch it when you give greater detail about the problem. Let the story build. Then, after you’ve gathered enough data — and constructed enough of a narrative — to conclude that you need to increase lead volume to hit your quarterly goals, it’s time to suggest outsourcing lead generation.

Like any good story, the protagonists will have overcome the conflict, and your boss should be onboard (again, assuming you’ve made the business case with data). Instead of just telling your CMO a story, you’ve now involved them in a narrative that puts them at the forefront of the conflict resolution, which is a much more convincing technique than a powerpoint slide.

Tailor Your Pitch to Each Stakeholder

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So, you’ve convinced your CMO, and you now have a valuable ally as well as a shared narrative to lean on.

Now you (or the CMO) have to convince the CFO and CEO to fund the project. This is where the selling aspect of persuasion is most important. The key to swaying their opinion is to consider the respective needs and objections of each stakeholder.

Marketo’s Definitive Guide to Marketing Automation expertly outlines how to make the business case for marketing automation to each executive stakeholder. Even though outsourced lead generation is a different sell than marketing automation, the insight into the psyche of each executive is still excellent and applicable.

The Chief Executive Officer

Major Concerns:

  • Grow revenue and hit revenue goals
  • Innovate and out-execute the competition
  • Manage risk

How to overcome these concerns:

Position outsourced lead generation as a revenue opportunity rather than a cost. Bring up the investigating you did under the auspices of the CMO to illustrate that an increase in lead volume would create more opportunities for the sales team. If it absolutely comes down to price, articulate that outsourcing lead gen is a variable cost which can be controlled more easily than the fixed cost of building an in-house team.

The Chief Financial Officer

Major Concerns:

  • Planning for the future
  • Managing risk
  • Enabling profit growth

How to overcome these concerns:

CFOs will require some forecasts, which is where you need to lean most heavily on your early analysis. Again, position outsourcing as a way to propel the lead generation program forward quickly without incurring the expenses of hiring several employees to do the work an agency could take care of in less time, for less money, and with better results.

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Marketing services will always be outsourced because the speed at which the industry moves necessitates expert guidance at certain times. It’s both logical and economical to pay a group of dedicated professionals to skillfully perform work that your company needs but cannot handle in-house.

Navigating the waters of group purchasing can be difficult. But if you wrap your proposal in a strong enough narrative, gather the appropriate data to back it up, and sell it to each individual executive, then you can get the funding you need to make the idea a reality.