Outsourcing solar advertising can be a tremendously difficult decision. After all, you're handing off your firm's primary sales-generating function to a complete stranger. For many solar marketers, it just feels weird. And while outsourced solar industry advertising certainly isn't for everybody, we'd like to present three scenarios in which firms can justify the arrangement, both from a cost and skills-based perspective.Scenario 1: Your advertising isn't attuned to inbound marketing. Your solar advertising will be built on an inbound marketing approach that develops buyer personas and creates ads attuned to their needs. After all, you can't target an ad — online or otherwise — if you're not sure who you're marketing to. The rise of social media, mobile computing, and analytical reporting has made this process more precise and metrics-driven than ever before, and your solar firm could benefit from the experience of an inbound agency.
Scenario 2: Your in-house design and advertising team needs help. Perhaps your design team is short-staffed, overworked, or simply can't keep up with new developments in the world of graphic design, online marketing, social selling, and so on. Take social media advertising, for example. Changes to Facebook and Twitter's advertising platforms come fast and furious. Most advertising teams have other things to worry about, whereas third party agencies monitor these changes for a living and can provide an injection of much-needed expertise.
Scenario 3: You can save money by outsourcing. Of course, firms also outsource advertising roles because they've crunched the numbers and decided it will be cheaper to pay an agency on a per-project or hourly basis than paying an in-house salaried employee. Or they've decided that in-house employees could be better utilized by engaging in more valuable marketing or customer-facing work. Ask agencies about their rates and calculate some rough "back-of-the-envelope" cost analysis.
In short, these three reasons synthesize the two primary considerations for an outsourced relationship: a need for skills versus potential cost savings. But be wary. Savvy agencies will tell you that they can provide a whole host of skills — at additional cost, of course — when in reality, you may only need to outsource a handful. Also be vigilant about agencies who promise too-good-to-be true cost savings projections. Ask for examples of successful ad campaigns and their budgets to gauge if their work is a good fit for your firm.
In addition, solar advertising, moreso than other forms of advertising, requires an agency with extensive experience in the complicated world of solar selling. The agency should have a proven track record in explaining complex technologies in a simplified manner. At the same time, don't do business with an agency who works with other solar providers who may, in fact, be your competitors.
If and when you decide to work with an agency, make sure you have a plan in place to make the most of the relationship. To that end, we encourage you to check out our post on how to get the most out of your solar marketing agency.
What do you think? Has your firm outsourced some solar industry advertising tasks to an inbound agency? What tasks do you keep in house? How do you measure the agency's effectiveness?