Is Marketing A Make Or Buy Decision?

Here at The Channel Company we have talked for years about how the strategic service provider community needs to do more work around marketing.

The business of selling technology solutions and services is evolving so rapidly that SSPs have to invest in understanding what they want their company brand to convey in the market.

The competition is always changing, and SSPs need to decide how they go to market and what types of customers they are after. We have produced a lot of data around all of this, much of which indicates SSPs need to build a larger book of business to generate cash flow and profit suitable to sustaining a solid business.

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More customers mean more marketing, and that proposes a legitimate question: Are you better off buying your marketing from experts that do nothing else or assembling an in-house team?

While there is certainly no hard-and-fast rule here, what likely makes sense is to have a bit of both. Having a group of marketing generalists that can do a lot, including managing outside marketing services specialists, allows companies to perhaps get the best of both worlds.

New marketing techniques, especially in the digital world, are changing rapidly and keeping abreast of what works and how best to deploy it takes specialization, experimentation and the type of volume most SSPs don't have.

In many cases, SSPs can get more out of their marketing spend by finding and working with companies that have expertise in areas they don't. This can hold true for traditional marketing as well when an outside team with vast experience in areas such as lead generation, lead nurturing, etc. has built capabilities over time by understanding what not to do and what type of results should be expected.

Just as every SSP customer is making a decision whether to buy or build out the technology solution itself, if you don't see marketing as a core competency you are likely better off buying versus building.

To do so, however, an SSP has to have enough marketing savvy internally to be able to find and manage outside contractors.

The world is rapidly becoming a service economy. There are some who predict the future business world will be based around many more entrepreneurs who will bill themselves out for a period of time and then move on to other customers — effectively being their own business but not considered freelance suppliers.

The fastest-growing part of The Channel Company surrounds our marketing services business. For us, marketing has always been a core competency and as such we are not distracted by it. But I also realize that were it not a core competency, we might do better to outsource it just as we have our IT.

IT has never been a core competency here. It's not what we sell, and we don't even touch end users of technology. So why would it make sense to have a large IT department and a team of engineers? Instead, we have a very capable CIO who has a very small team of developers and who manages the outsourcing of all of our IT.

This allows me and the rest of the management team to concentrate on our core capabilities and leave our information technology needs to our SSP supplier, feeling comfortable they are being managed by an IT expert.

The same formula can work for marketing. With marketing techniques changing as rapidly as they are, I'm betting it's going to be a formula more SSPs use moving forward.

BACKTALK: Make something happen. Robert Faletra is CEO of The Channel Company. You can contact him via email at rfaletra@thechannelcompany.com.

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