The Risks of Outsourcing Marketing for Your Family Business

To outsource your branding or keep that work internal is always the million-dollar question with any business. 

Your business’ brand is your most important asset. It is both the tangible and intangible connection between your business and your customers. So, entrusting the representation of your brand to a third-party partner is a very big decision that should not be taken lightly. 

As family business owners, we have all struggled with valid concerns about outsourcing our marketing efforts to a third-party partner. 

Some of the top fears or concerns we hear from family business owners include:  

Lack of Understanding

How can an outside company truly understand my brand and my customers well enough to properly represent my unique brand? 

There is a big difference between general and branded marketing services. Many marketing firms underestimate the importance of brand research to drive the creation of custom marketing strategies. Generic marketing can hurt your brand if they aren’t using the right kind of messaging and brand positioning to represent your unique brand.  


Should I invest in a marketing company or can I hire individual vendors? 

Businesses have a variety of options when it comes to outsourcing their marketing. There is typically a larger investment associated with hiring a full-service marketing company but that investment includes perks like project management, consultation, cohesive branding, etc, that you won’t get with hiring multiple specialized vendors. 

Long-Term Commitment

How can I sign a 12-month contract before even working with a company? 

Success for a company’s marketing strategy is not a guarantee because there are many variables to achieving customer conversions. If your marketing contract has no early “out” clause, the risk may outweigh the reward. 

Loss of Control

Will outsourcing our marketing result in a loss of control over our brand message and image? 

If the right approval processes aren’t established between your team and the marketing company, your brand positioning and messaging could be negatively affected. 

Culture Fit

How do I know my team will work well with a marketing partner? 

Although a marketing company may have all the right skill sets and experience, it may not be the right fit for your brand, team, and culture. 

The alternative to outsourcing your marketing efforts is to build an internal marketing department. The struggle with that is that the investment is often cost-prohibitive for most small to medium-sized family businesses. To hire enough talent to provide your advertising, content writing, design, website maintenance, branding materials, etc, your business is looking at an annual investment of at least $300,000 or more. And that number does not include the capital investment of hardware, software, professional development, ad buy placement, printing fees, and so on. 

So if creating your own marketing department is unattainable for your business and hiring an outside marketing partner is your next step, here are some best practices to consider as you research and consider your options. 

What Should I Expect From a Marketing Partner?

Expectation #1: 

My Marketing partner should understand my brand.

This is a completely valid expectation of your marketing company. When you are researching marketing partners, be sure their services include a qualitative discovery session with your company to include customer-facing team members and a digital survey to gain additional insights from your customers. 

If their services do not include research, then I guarantee they will miss the mark on representing your brand accurately and will likely cost you more money in wasted marketing spend. You should 100% expect research as part of your services from your marketing partner.

Expectation #2: 

Investing in a marketing company isn’t always the most expensive option.

Investing in a marketing company can be expensive if the services they provide are more robust than the services you need. There is a time and a place for hiring specialized vendors to execute specific projects, and if that is all you need, then a marketing partner will be the more expensive option. 

But if your company has long-term marketing goals that require integrated marketing solutions, consistent analytics reviews, and expertise in a variety of marketing disciplines, then investing in a marketing company will be the most cost-effective way to go. 

Although marketing “solopreneurs” may be less expensive than a marketing company with a full staff of experts, the extra work your team will need to do to manage all the individual efforts is not worth the savings. 

When utilizing multiple vendors to achieve one marketing goal, you will need to have a qualified team member on staff to create the marketing strategy and then manage each vendor to task and review their work, ensure each piece is being executed correctly, and monitor the analytics of each vendor to know where to update your upcoming strategies. 

You should expect project management as part of your services from a marketing partner, who will monitor and report on analytics and manage their full team to keep the campaigns running on time and within budget. 

Expectation #3: 

My marketing partner needs adequate time to build campaign efficacy.

It is a leap of faith for a family business to sign a 12-month contract with a company they have never worked with before. There are a lot of unknowns with working together and to be locked into a long-term agreement can be a legitimate concern.

Building new marketing campaigns takes time and narrowing in on the right targeting, messaging, ad buy budget, and so on, is done through continued refining based on the analytics. 

It is reasonable to expect 4-6 months of building and testing before your business will see a strong ROI on your marketing. You should expect a 6-month no-cancellation commitment in your contract, but after the 6 months, there should be an option to cancel if you aren’t seeing the results you expected. 

Expectation #4: 

My marketing company will work collaboratively with my team.

Collaboration is a vital part of producing quality marketing campaigns and ROI for any business. Whether you have an internal marketing department or utilizing an outsourced marketing company, having a clear process and points of contact for content review and approvals will be key in meeting campaign deadlines and producing accurate information. You should expect to have one point of contact with your marketing company who will work directly with your direct contact to gain approvals on the marketing campaigns and future strategies. 

Expectation #5: 

My marketing partner understands and respects our company culture.

A business culture is the shared values, attitudes, behaviors, and standards that make up a work environment. Because a marketing partner will work as an extension of your team, they must understand your company culture and have a healthy respect for the business’s values and attitudes. You should expect your marketing partner to take the time to learn about your culture and apply its tone to the marketing strategies they develop. 

Mitigate the Risks of Marketing

While the decision to outsource marketing efforts may come with challenges and uncertainties, it also presents an opportunity for family-owned businesses to unlock their full potential and achieve sustainable growth. By identifying your fears and concerns with outsourcing and learning ways to mitigate the risks, your family business can embrace the benefits of outsourcing with confidence and drive business success for generations to come.