Category: Thoughts

The (Super) Powers of the Gig Economy

Today’s post comes courtesy of Melissa Garretson, &Marketing copywriter and long-time member of the gig economy. Curious how &Marketing’s team of experts can help your business? Let’s talk.

I miss going into an office sometimes. I miss putting on a slick suit and a pair of power heels to click-clack my way into a well-lit bastion of commerce. I miss stopping to chat with Mike in accounting, waving to Carol in payroll, and taking a break to dash into the lounge for a cup of coffee and a distractible ear. There’s a satisfying sense of camaraderie in a well-run office, mostly because you spend more time with the folks there than with the people to whom you are legally and preferentially bound. The physical office is also a great place to see and be seen as one attempts ascension of the corporate ladder. So yes, I do miss the office sometimes.

These days, my commute is a lot better. My corner office was once a guest bedroom and although there’s no Mike or Carol, my cats like to make special appearances on conference calls. The gig economy is gaining momentum as more and more successful and capable experts discover the joys of working in their workout clothes, and more and more companies see the benefits of hiring these pajama-clad professionals. Of course, this new economy is more than those working out of homes. You can find freelancers and contract employees filling nearly every role in every industry. Today’s worker bees are no longer anticipating a lifetime of working in one office, for one company. Instead, they’re expecting a diverse and varied career where they can hone their skills, choose their employers, and rise or fall on the waves of a meritocratic, assignment-based system.

Independent contractors may not be faster than a speeding bullet, but the gig economy does have a few impressive superpowers:

Cost Efficiency

Not only do companies save on overhead and HR benefits, they can immediately adjust personnel as needs ebb and flow. There are bound to be times an in-house employee is overwhelmed, underutilized, or just plain lazy. As a freelancer, I am my own boss and my boss knows all my tricks. If I waste time I end my day with nothing to deliver and nothing earned. It really is about efficiency—according to Inc., typical employees are only productive for 2 hours and 53 minutes of every 8 hour work day. When you hire by gig, you’re paying for only those 2 hours and 53 minutes. I can watch cat videos on my own time.

Caveat emptor, however. A quick online query displays an incredibly wide range of fees for every service. Some freelancers are inexpensive due to inexperience—they could be great if given the opportunity. Most bargain contractors however, are just… not good. Companies hiring solely by price typically end up engaging a second professional to clean up the first’s work. The safest, most time-efficient bet is to work with a respected firm the first time and utilize the vetted and screened professionals in their employ.

Access to Experts

Imagine a world where writers write, graphic designers design, coders code, and widget makers make widgets. That certainly isn’t your typical workplace. Most in-house employees are jacks-of-all-trades, whether they want to be or not. Businesses can’t afford to staff true experts in every area of their company, it would be incredibly cost-prohibitive. There are, however, many true experts looking for a gig here and there. Outsourced firms are a business’s best friend when it comes to matchmaking talent and project. “Things change on a week-to-week basis,” asserts &Marketing Managing Director Rajat Kapur. “We’ve nurtured a contractor bench of more than three dozen experts who can come in relatively quickly, understand a client’s challenges, and provide really good quality work. This flexibility makes a huge difference to our clients and to our bottom line.” If a client needs a copywriter, great—there’s an award-winning one available for up to ten hours next week. And when, in the following week, they no longer need the copywriter but are looking for a PR person, the roster is searched and the perfect person is found. Best of all, these experts often have experience with hundreds of companies in dozens of industries, giving them perspective and insights the average industry-leader can’t fathom.

Reduced Risk

Of course, sometimes the exact right person isn’t exactly right after all. It happens (I even had my doubts about Mike in accounting, but that’s neither here nor there). Companies realizing they’ve made a bad hire are in quite a pickle: do you forfeit all the time spent hiring and training someone, prepare yourself for the exit interviews, and jump the HR hoops that must be jumped, or just deal with an ineffective employee? Hiring a freelancer is the lowest risk option. If you’re unhappy with the work, all you have to do is not hire that freelancer again. That’s it. Of course, freelancers understand this and have a vested interest in producing work that will get them hired again and again—our pay is directly correlated to our client’s satisfaction.

I may occasionally miss my office, but the pros of freelancing far outweigh the cons. I’ve worked with everyone from software and jewelry designers to packaging and Hadoop engineers. I’ve stretched my skills and broadened my horizons and never missed an elementary school event. Best of all, I know I’ve crafted quality content for people I genuinely respect. Nice work if you can get it.

I wonder if Mike and Carol need a gig?

Win-Win Pricing: How Top-Tier Marketing Firms Define Success

In the final post of our three-part blog series on successfully outsourcing your marketing function, you’ll learn why the best marketing firms align their fees with their client’s success.

Nearly every business has received a long, confusing invoice from their outsourced marketing firm full of fancy acronyms like X hours for CPC, Y billed for CPL, and Z costs of CPM. These well-meaning invoices often leave clients puzzled and wondering about the bottom line. How can they know what work was actually done, or how well it advanced their ultimate goal? Unsettlingly, many marketing providers charge simply on activity, not for actual results. What’s a smart company to do? More and more small to medium business are seeking firms that offer flexible pricing models to take their clients to new heights.

Results Driven

The paradigm of overcharging clients with outlandish margins and unnecessary expenses is out; a more modern pricing structure aligns a marketing firm’s fees with their client’s specific success criteria. With this model, clients are not charged based on the number of hours that went into SEO activity but are instead charged based on how that activity affected their unique goals. For example, if the SEO activity led to X new customers, then it would make sense for your marketing partner to charge based on X new successes. As described by Bizibl Marketing, “A growing number of agencies are using performance and value-based pricing models as a differentiator… These present an element of risk and reward, (for both the agency and the client), but in an age when entrepreneurism is celebrated, these are becoming more commonplace.”

Defining Success

What exactly is success? Every business defines it differently. Here are a few criteria clients choose to analyze marketing initiatives:

  • Success = Qualified lead generation

Did the strategy result in the desired number of qualified leads?

  • Success = Topline sales growth

How much did sales increase directly following the initiative?

  • Success = Achieving established milestones

Did we meet our set goals? How close are we?

Low-Level Commitment

While typical marketing agencies demand risky year-long contracts, firms offering shorter term agreements help determine a client’s ultimate problems and solutions. During this ‘dating period,’ expert teams will employ various strategies until the client’s outlined success criteria is achieved, pivoting tactics as they go. Once the team can confirm that their unique services are a good match, the client can decide to move forward and ‘marry’ their agency—or not!

Transparency & Trust

As in any strong business relationship, communication and building trust are key. This win-win model works best when clients are flexible on approaches and consistently respond in a timely manner. In addition, they must be utterly transparent with their results—otherwise marketers can’t know how successful they’ve been. The best outsourced marketing experience is a partnership, with both sides contributing unique skills and expertise to work better together.

Here at &Marketing, our performance-based pricing model ensures that all activity is focused squarely on moving our client’s business forward. Your success is, quite literally, our success.  And without binding contracts, our seasoned marketers may determine that you don’t need marketing help at all and will happily direct you to another professional in our network. Our 6-month pilot programs are hard on strategy and easy on your budget. After all, your marketing firm works for you. Shouldn’t it work for your goals? Talk to us about what success means to you.  

Read part one of this blog series here: https://www.and-marketing.com/transparency-flexibility-the-secret-drivers-of-successful-marketing-outsourcing/

Read part two of this blog series here: https://www.and-marketing.com/strategy-execution-how-great-marketers-plan-for-success/

Strategy + Execution: How Great Marketers Plan for Success

Part two of our three-part blog series on successfully outsourcing your marketing function focuses on how best-in-class marketers strategize and execute to deliver consistent results.

Even the best products and services in the world fail without good marketing. This is something that every organization knows in theory, but it doesn’t always play out in practice. After all, most businesses are not marketing experts, they are experts at their products and services—which is just how it should be. While some develop in-house capabilities, a growing list of companies rely on outsourced marketing providers to turn their success up a notch. Even (especially) when outsourced, marketing experts need to understand a brand from every angle and build strategic execution plans around the brand’s personality. They must also have the confidence and experience to delve into the day-to-day operations to actually DO the work in partnership with the client teams—without requiring constant hand-holding from their client or simply telling the client what to do. Instead, smart companies seek qualified marketing professionals who can both develop and execute an effective marketing plan.

Here’s how top-notch teams structure strategy and execution to ensure success:

Step One: Understand the Brand

The core values of any company are built around the vision, creativity, and ethics of its founders. Marketing strategy is most effective when it springs from the company’s unique vision and strengths—as well as an awareness of its weaknesses. Best-in-class marketing firms learn about the brand’s story by asking questions. Where do they want to be in 3-5 years? What superhero abilities contribute to the brand’s personality? By identifying core components of the brand with both customers and employees, marketing firms adapt strategies to amplify the message across all relevant channels.

Step Two: Less Pain=More Gain

The best marketing firms do a thorough assessment of both the market’s and their client’s pain points. Once armed with this knowledge, they can fully focus their strategies on alleviating them. What push/pull factors are end customers experiencing? What is the company hoping to increase and decrease? What do they really want—or want to avoid? High-performing marketing teams excel at understanding and addressing pain points as well as end goals, and develop a strategy accordingly. The strategy culminates with the answering of three core questions:

  • What is relevant about your brand or product to that key decision maker’s needs?
  • Are you a believable provider of products and services?
  • What makes you unique?  What can your brand claim that nobody else can?

Step Three: Outline, Assign, and Align

Execution plans bind together all parts of a strategy. Top tier Marketing partners excel by structuring execution plans that align the teams and clearly outline and assign recommended action steps. While the execution plan requires weekly or bimonthly status updates, top marketing teams outperform their peers by reporting data on initiatives and identifying pros and cons that lead to future campaign recommendations.

Step Four: Never Stop Learning

Every project is a learning experience. Great marketers constantly ask themselves what tweaks can be made, what worked well, and what didn’t—and why. They are always testing new strategies derived from the results of previous campaigns and changing market dynamics, and using that data to formulate yet another strategy. Results may suggest that a different social media channel should be used, or that pay-per-click campaigns are incorrectly positioned relative to the target market. In any case, marketing firms are most valuable when they use existing data to recommend changes to the current marketing strategy.

Most marketing firms have great ideas; the best marketing firms must also successfully see them through. Here at &Marketing, we apply these principles in a systematic way designed to keep your company informed as much—or as little—as you need. Our clients rest assured that their initiatives are being executed with considered, timely precision. Talk to us today about strategy: it’s us & you together.

Read part one of this blog series here: https://www.and-marketing.com/transparency-flexibility-the-secret-drivers-of-successful-marketing-outsourcing/

Read part three of this blog series here: https://www.and-marketing.com/win-win-pricing-how-top-tier-marketing-firms-define-success/

Transparency + Flexibility: The Secret Drivers of Successful Marketing Outsourcing

In part one of our three-part blog series on successfully outsourcing your marketing function, you’ll learn why transparency and flexibility are the foundational characteristics of great marketing firms.

Company leaders devote so much time and energy to day-to-day operations, R&D, and accounting that marketing initiatives frequently fall by the wayside. Instead of spending time on generating new opportunities and focusing on the brand’s image, paperwork often takes priority. Hiring a marketing firm is a great solution. It’s not foolproof, however—while outsourcing allows businesses to do what they do best and leave the marketing to the professionals, many firms don’t provide transparency about what exactly they are working on. Others often demand high retainers regardless of the ebb and flow of their work. Clients want to know what they’re paying for; whether it be campaign performance analytics or how website traffic has increased after implementing an SEO strategy. Working with a transparent and flexible marketing firm saves time and money, allows you to keep up with rapidly changing buyers and technology, and provides access to a wide variety of industry experts at every stage of your company’s growth.

Save Time & Money

In a typical mid-sized company, an internal marketing team is headed by a marketing leader (Chief Marketing Officer, VP of Marketing, etc) and supported by a handful of full and part-time employees. According to Payscale.com, the median salary for SMB marketing leaders is $160,000 per year. When you start to factor in the total cost of employing the rest of the team, an internal marketing team can run a company over half a million dollars per year. Keep in mind, this is not including the other expenditures required for success, such as CRM, marketing automation software, and sales expenses. Many firms who cannot afford this hefty price tag neglect marketing initiatives, and in turn miss out on the potential to access new customers who may be excellent targets for their products and services.

Internal teams do have one big advantage: oversight. Leadership always knows the stage of each campaign and how initiatives align with their KPI, plus they can continually update strategy and execution. Many marketing consultants collect their retainers and seem to disappear, leaving businesses to hope their campaigns are being executed and analyzed well. The best, however, keep businesses constantly informed on where they are in a campaign, how well—or poorly—initiatives are going, and what adjustments are being made.

A lean, modular team can also grow, and change along with a business. It’s not uncommon to use an outside firm to manage one aspect of marketing, then later need a full-service marketing provider—or vice versa… Many marketers are either too specialized to be full service or too big picture to provide single services. Working with a chameleon firm that can add or remove staff and services as needed is a more financially responsible way to continue being competitive.

Keep Pace with Changing Technology

Things change quickly in the world of technology. In 1982 the PC was created by IBM, eleven years later electronic mail made its debut, and in 2007 Salesforce changed the way sales prospects were tracked by introducing a cloud-based CRM platform. As mentioned above, executive teams are busy making sure that everything internally is running smoothly; how could they possibly be tasked with staying up to date with the changing features of CRM and marketing automation software? The latest Social Media trends? Which SEO keywords net the highest volume of searches? A flexible firm will have teams dedicated to the constant evaluation of the most cutting-edge tools and trends, in everything from email marketing to analytics tracking to social media automation.

Access Industry Experts

Polished industry experts often spend the latter years of their career as consultants, charging hundreds of dollars per hour just to tell you what’s wrong with your business without actually doing anything.

As a firm focused on both strategy and execution, &Marketing is anchored by a team of senior advisors and a partnership with Apprenace that expands capabilities far beyond the competition. As &Marketing’s senior advisors, Rahul Kapur, Joe Welsh, Prateek Lal, and Chris Hoyt bring decades of combined experience in digital marketing, strategy, business development, creative marketing, business law, and organizational development. The team is also bolstered by a network of 25+ industry experts (entrepreneurs, freelancers, and other members of the ‘gig’ economy). The expertise of these industry leaders is complemented by a partnership with Apprenace. & has the unique advantage of utilizing Apprenace interns to expand technical capabilities such as UI/UX design and backend development, as well as sales facilities like cold calling & email marketing. Since interns are continuously monitored by Apprenace’s leadership team, the work is always being done correctly and with the fresh perspective that can only be brought to the table by young professional interns. As buyers and decision makers are changing, a youthful standpoint in our corner is paramount.

The Perfect Partnership

The ideal marketing firm acts as a business partner. SMBs deserve better than a marketing firm that’s set in their ways, uncommunicative, and unable to take on a variety of different tasks. Luckily, &Marketing’s nimble team structure, dynamic leadership, and affordability make us a great option, no matter what your team’s sales and marketing initiatives may be. You’re great at running your business, there’s no doubt about that. Our experience & impact prove that we’re great at marketing. Let’s be great in unison. Talk to us about growth: it’s us & you together.


Read part two in our series to learn more about how great outsourced marketing firms provide both strategic support and help execute marketing plans on a day-to-day basis. Visit the blog here: https://www.and-marketing.com/strategy-execution-how-great-marketers-plan-for-success/

Read part three in our series to learn how great marketers stay vested in their client’s success through win-win scenarios. Visit the blog here: https://www.and-marketing.com/win-win-pricing-how-top-tier-marketing-firms-define-success/