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Chris Zona, Manager of Global Brand Management for Volvo’s Mack Truck Division, sat down with us to discuss in-house versus outsourcing for marketing and, of course, branding. (Please check out chriszona.com for great personal web design and content ideas).

Remember brand is your promise. Everything from logo and packaging to how associates treat customers conveys your company brand.

Zona says that fear of appearing weak or losing control is why many companies don’t outsource some marketing functions that could generate sales. However, he’s quick to add that before you can assess in-house versus outsourcing, you must know your customer.

Your brand’s future depends on how well you know your customer.

“Not through your eyes, but the customer’s eyes,” Zona insists. “You’ve got to shop it and talk it like a customer. Get close to them. Find out how they think.”

Brand and product loyalty today is fickle because there’s some place else to go for about everything. You often get one shot at delivering what the customer expects. If you fail, they go elsewhere.

Even in the rapidly changing Digital Age, relationships are still vital to brand success.

Maintaining brand loyalty involves changing to keep up with competitors and customer demands. “Oldsmobile, Hummer, and Block Buster didn’t want to change, and now those brands are irrelevant,” notes Zona.

He points to everyone’s favorite example for how to get it right – Apple. They have continually disrupted the music industry over the last decade with no signs of stopping. When Spotify and Pandora undercut ITunes, Apple introduced Apple Music. Who would have guessed that the music industry would have agreed to sell music at one unlimited monthly price under $12?

How does the rise of content marketing impact in-house versus outsourcing?

Content marketing is to the business promotion industry what the slow food movement is to the food industry. Developing you or your company as an authentic authority on a topic is invaluable. Articles, papers, and a wide range of postings allow you to remind people of who you are and what you do without interrupting in traditional advertising ways.

“Because everything is so accessible, people see through overly buttoned up PR guy writing,” says Zona. “Marketing today is more push than pull. The old way was to throw a lot out there to distract people. Now we create great stories that make people seek us out.”

Three starter questions to ask yourself when considering outsource or in-house:

  1. Who do we have inside the organization with writing, project management, and marketing skills? If the answer is no one, you need outsourced help. Every company needs some form of a marketing plan and associated effort.
  2. How much are we spending now on marketing, advertising, and public relations, and do we know the ROI? If the answer is nothing or no one knows, you need an internal discussion about business growth goals.
  3. What is the value of a new client or sale, and what are you spending now to generate them? Your time does have value. From this point, you can create a simple formula to determine a marketing budget.

Putting someone on staff in charge of managing marketing is valuable, if you have someone available. The digital nature of marketing makes it tough for one person to manage all components. From a cost-benefit perspective, having an internal person coordinate marketing efforts by watching budgets, tracking outcomes, overseeing the writing, and ensuring the brand is being represented well is smart.

Some aspects of implementation will need to be outsourced. For most small companies, it does not make sense to hire a full-time marketing team until returns can reasonably be expected to support the position(s). Also, don’t expect to find a single individual with the full array of skills to manage and deploy a marketing program.

Ramping up your marketing may feel risky, but as Zona notes, “You can’t steal second with a foot on first.”

We are here to help, seriously. As small business owners, we know how hard it is to justify investments outside the urgent matters. Strategy is the fun part for us. Call 336-596-7514.