Extracting the Digit: why Digital Outsourcing is the way forward

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The First Outsourcing Era

There was a time, not so very long ago, that companies were largely self-reliant and they built up large swathes of departments to handle every conceivable requirement, no matter how specialist it might be.

In the early 1990s, following a short sharp depression, we saw all firms examining their cost base, and this accelerated the rise of outsourcing as a business model. New multi-service companies grew up and begin to take over more and more functions that were deemed to be ‘non-core’. The easy wins included cleaning, catering, security, transport: and in many cases, computing.

In these pre-internet days, this meant the handling of one’s in-house network, usually a server and more or less dumb terminals. Telecoms might also be outsourced, but these were often treated separately.

Social Media Management

The Emergence of Digital Outsourcing

 As we emerge from a deeper, darker recession, firms are under even more pressure to be lean and to avoid any unnecessary (and expensive) full-time hiring. Outsourcing and the use of freelancers and interns are commonplace.

But there is one new requirement for any firm today – and that is to correctly handle social media and the wider digital administration needs of a modern-day operation. These range from building and hosting a mobile-friendly website; through optimising online pay-per-click advertising; to creating and developing a positive presence on social networks.

What are your options for carrying out these vital tasks?

  1. Do it all in-house
  2. Pass it on to your advertising agency
  3. Hire a specialist digital agency

Social Media Management

  1. In House

This is of course a valid option if you have someone with the right skills. But such people are in demand, are expensive to hire, and hard to keep for long. Many are reluctant to work for unfashionable B2B businesses. And in my experience, they will not be able or willing to roll up their sleeves and carry out all the basic coding and data entry functions – they will expect to hire outside agencies to do these tasks.

But if you are a sizeable business and can afford a digital specialist, make sure he or she has a senior position like a Chief Digital Officer, at or very near Board level with the ear of the CEO. Then they can make things happen across different functions of the business, and make informed decisions on what degree of outsourcing is needed.

  1. Advertising Agency

It is tempting to believe that a full-service agency, or a media agency, has all the digital resources at its fingertips. The truth is that they practice outsourcing themselves, to a large degree. They cannot afford to keep it all in-house: clients’ requirements are too variable and many still do not recognise the importance of digital.

A survey carried out by Econsultancy in the summer of 2012 on 132 senior UK agency respondents found that 57% of agencies bought in digital services of some kind. Technical services were the most used: of those buying in, 97% wanted help with Flash design and build, and 64% with building mobile apps. Microsoft.NET programming was much in demand, too, and fetching high daily rates. It goes without saying that the Agency must earn a living, so all these services are marked up to the clients.

  1. Digital Specialists

Just as media buying houses have been taking apart the rationale for full-service agencies for decades, now there is a new breed of dedicated digital specialists who are convincing clients to place their whole online administration and management with them. We at Hannon Digital in London are a prime example of a digital marketing and communications agency.

Digital Transformation

We maintain an in-house team covering all the technical and creative functions: and dedicated to your needs. A manager is assigned to your account, because a critical success factor is that he or she empathises with your business style and ethic – and learns what to say about you, how to present you online, and how to employ all the latest techniques.

The range of functions can be very wide – some might be:

  • Responsive website design
  • SEO
  • Regular blogging and distribution
  • Tweeting (often multiple times daily)
  • LinkedIn training and optimisation
  • White paper creation
  • Video production
  • GoogleAds and others
  • Analytics
  • Managing your social media calendar
  • Monitoring responses, likes, engagement: feeding you with leads

The Best Use of your Time

If you are a senior manager, it is highly unlikely that you have a lot of time on your hands and can turn those hands to good effect in creating and managing rich digital content. Anyone with some financial training will be aware of the concept of opportunity cost – the assessment of what you could be making for your business if you were carrying out your main function, and were not engaged in another particular activity that is perhaps not your forte and where the value you add is lower. Compare the two in terms of value added per hour, and the wasted value is your opportunity cost.

(Related Article: Social Media Management: Outsourcing vs In-House)

So the best use of your time is likely to be to set up a relationship with a digital agency such as ours, with agreed, measurable goals: transparent reporting: and a genuinely collaborative team approach.