Every business is built on a value proposition. If you manage a 5 star restaurant, your goal is to deliver an exceptional dining experience. If you operate an e-commerce store, you might pride yourself on your ability to deliver products at a low-cost, a unique product selection, an exceptional level of customer service, or perhaps all of the above. It’s your business’ ability to deliver within specific core competencies that keeps customers and clients coming back, and your balance sheet in the black.
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Yet as managers and entrepreneurs, we often find ourselves and our employees caught up in lower level tasks. This can take away from time spent on the higher level functions that actually generate revenue and deliver value to customers. If you’re an entrepreneur or a manager looking to increase profits and grow you business, when should you start considering business process outsourcing (BPO)? More importantly, when should you outsource online marketing and social media?
First, identify non-core, non-revenue-generating activities. When it comes to outsourcing an aspect of your business, the first activities you should look at are the lower-level functions that don’t fit your core-competencies. These are the processes and functions that don’t directly generate revenue. Some common examples include:
- Accounting & bookkeeping
- IT support
- Inbound customer relations
- Outbound sales
- Various administrative tasks
- Web design/development
While these business functions are certainly necessary to the success of your business, they’re not core revenue generating activities. Most of these functions can also be performed at a lower cost and/or more effectively by BPO providers. If you’re interesting in maximizing your company’s output, it’s almost never too early to start considering BPO. BPO can not only lower costs and increase profits, it can free up your management resources to focus on higher level strategic functions – whether that’s more time spent on improving your product/services, exploring new markets, or business development.
For smaller businesses especially, the additional operating and management resources consumed by in-house accounting or tier-1 customer support may be better served by outside providers. All of these functions are served by a thriving BPO industry where specialized, capable providers offer their services – both locally and offshore.
Outsourcing online marketing and social media functions. BPO is not simply about cost-cutting by reducing operating costs – it’s about increasing a business’ value by freeing up valuable resources for higher level strategic functions. Because marketing often serves an important role in a company’s strategic growth, it can be a difficult area to outsource.
Most small businesses achieve their initial success through the marketing savvy, hustle, and entrepreneurial instincts of the owner. In our current day and age, many small businesses succeed or fail on the strength of their online marketing efforts, which are often initiated by the entrepreneur. As the company grows, it can be difficult for the entrepreneur to relinquish control of a business’ marketing efforts, but there is certainly plenty of room for implementing BPO to increase the ROI of your marketing campaign.
Outsourcing certain aspects of your online marketing work can free you up to focus on business development, exploring new marketing channels, developing new strategies, and any other function that is critical to the success and future of your business. When it comes to online marketing efforts, some of your core areas of focus may include:
- Ad campaigns (creation, optimization, management)
- SEO & Inbound Marketing
- Conversion optimization (web & mobile)
- Social Media
- Blogger & PR Outreach
While any of these aspects of your business can be outsourced by skilled, capable providers – ad campaign management, SEO, conversion optimization & outreach are most ripe for outsourcing. When it comes to social media and inbound marketing however, there may be additional obstacles to outsourcing.
For most small to mid-sized businesses, a great deal of the value they provide through these channels is their specialized expertise and transparency. Would the 37signals blog be as popular if the founders didn’t regularly contribute? Can an accounting firm that regularly gives tax tips via social media outsource this function to a social media firm? Probably not.
There are certain aspects of your online marketing and social media functions that may be best served by outside specialists. As your business grows, marketing functions such as split testing ad campaigns or link-building are functions that you should strongly consider outsourcing. But at the same time, the accessibility and transparency required in certain aspects of online marketing requires may benefit from the genuine contribution of you and your staff.
How to use BPO to lower costs and increase productivity. If you’re interested in taking advantage of BPO to lower costs and increase productivity, here are the questions you need to start asking yourself about your business processes:
- Does this function fit into my business’ core competency?
- Does this activity directly generate revenue?
- Can a third party provider provide this service at a lower cost? Would there be a sacrifice in the quality of the work, and if so, is it worth the cost savings?
- Could this function be better served by an outside provider’s specialized expertise?
At the end of the day, deciding whether or not to outsource an aspect of your business depends largely on your business’s expectations and goals. While outsourcing inbound customer relations might save your company money, perhaps retaining this function in-house is advisable if your company prides itself on an exceptional level of customer care. While outsourcing social media and blogging functions may free up your employees’ time to focus on your core business, it may be a mistake if your brand’s online presence depends on a high level of authenticity and transparency.
Take the time to closely examine your business processes by asking the questions above, and you’ll be able to plan and implement a BPO strategy that generates the most value for you, your company, and your customers.
Article written by Dora Novak, a freelance writer on various business related topics, currently working together with Capita Customer Management, a leading company in sales outsourcing.