In 2003 my partners and I had to face the reality that the cost of programmers was going up while production output levels were staying stagnant or going down.
In spite of the tech bubble bursting in 2000/2001 and the world having to accept that a website was no guarantee of untold riches, tech salaries continued to rise. The stock market did little to suppress the enthusiasm of those who were in the tech trenches, at least if they were in the marketing end of tech! This created the kind of demand for tech talent that finding the best talent was still more valuable than it was the year before.
That is when I had my first real experience with outsourcing.
In an effort to keep our prices competitive, we started turning to outsourcing the scripts and development requirements we had. On the phone and by email, it appeared the savings to our company were substantial. So we started handing over our documents along with our bank drafts and our real education began!
We were so excited by the numbers that even as our losses in time, money and self confidence grew, we continued to believe it was a viable options for a small company like us.
We tried Russia, got ripped off. We tried Poland, got burned. We worked with the Philippines, China, and Brazil and of course India. Burned, ripped off, and lied to, cheated, failed delivery, muss-communication, frustration and financial loss. Those savings cost us a LOT more than if we had just hired internally based on calculating hourly wages.
BUT, when I would stop being mad and think about it, it wasn't the hourly thing that was the issue. By 2005 I had earned my "seat of the pants" degree in small company/project outsourcing, I was able to see the pros and cons much better. So good in fact that I made a long term commitment to an Indian firm that resulted in my moving to India in 2007 and starting my own outsourcing service. I've been here ever since and even though I've had my share of government corruption, employee theft, dealing with the language barrier and the privilege of paying taxes in two countries, I really don't regret a minute of my decision.
I've learned how to provide value to my clients and believe it or not, that often means turning them down.
Outsourcing isn't always the answer to every problem. It can be challenging overcoming the time difference, the communication issues with understanding a foreign accent, the cultural differences and the hassles involved with international banking. Also there can be security issues if you need to allow access to your site or to business data.
The key is to listen carefully to the prospective client and make sure you understand the pain point you are trying to relieve. Social Media Outsourcing can give your small business the kind of competitive edge that empowers it to dominate a market segment. It can reduce or even eliminate two key factors (Recruitment and Training) that can have been the death of many a small business.
Often to enter into a new market or launch a new product or service, your biggest hurdle and usually one of the most expensive, is in finding the right person to lead the project and then the training of the required personnel. Add to that the expense of taxes, insurance and certain perks required to stay competitive such as extended vacation time, sick leave, paid holidays, travel, clothing or other allowances and when added to the costs quickly and dramatically increases the average hourly rate. It isn't even about the costs either. Often it is just an impossible proposition if you don't have the available resources. Outsourcing can easily eliminate ALL those pain points.
BUT none of that is going to help if you chose the wrong company to solve the right problem.
Now we have a new wrinkle on the online marketing horn. Social Media Marketing! This is a fast paced environment that is broad, vast, complicated and confusing. It is time consuming and there are no courses to take, books to read or even really strong examples to follow. This situation coupled with the market being driven by incessant media promoting the environment as the holy grail of marketing creates a perfect opportunity for outsourcing solutions to be popping up like hot rocks in the toothless grin of a third grader !
BUT there are risks beyond the outsourced fare. The thing that makes social media riskier than software or SEO is that by self definition it is about you, your message, your brand and your image. One wrong statement in front of the wrong people and we could have a PR faux pas that could be impossible or at least expensive to overcome. This puts all of us between a rock and a wet spot.
We know we need it! We see our placements being taken away by companies with less content and fewer links BUT social media stickers all over their sites. We read it every day in the papers, on blogs and on TV. It is getting so that there is just no denying the power of social media as an influence on search engines as well as a solid marketing strategy. So, we know we have to accept it at some point and at that point, our choice is do it ourselves or let someone do it for us.
With social media marketing, there is no question the best option is to handle it in a way where you have total control. BUT, where do we get the time to learn the ins and outs of success with social? Who is going to do the hiring of competent resources in such a new field? What do we even ask to determine who is competent. Once we find them, what is the going salary? What deliverables do we hold them accountable for? WHO IS GOING TO TRAIN THEM?
All of that doesn't neccessarily mean you need to outsource IF YOU HAVE A SOLID PLATFORM TO ADDRESS SOME OF THOSE PAIN POINTS!
Blikini is such a platform. It helps by making it easy to post your comments and updates to your network using a variety of social destinations with one click. It helps by providing a robust blogging system that is the foundation of a community building strategy. It helps by providing statistics on who is reading and interacting with your messages and best of all, it helps by promoting your message to other likeminded people!
It encourages your community membership to comment and interact with your blog posts by helping to promote them BUT at the same time, the comments they make promote YOUR message to their network! Every time they comment on what YOU say, the program automatically posts to their Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, etc. accounts and notifies THEIR friends and followers that they have just made a statement about you. It also builds a link back to your post so their network can easily find it and interact as well.
This cuts down on the skill sets needed to recruit suitable talent as you know longer need to train them on social media, you only need to train them on what to say to who when about you and your company. This reduces the cost and time involved in launching a social media marketing campaign dramatically! It eliminates several of the most common reasons for outsourcing ANYTHING but when it comes to who you trust with your image; maybe a social media management tool is more what you need than a total outsourced solution.
Other social media management tools and software
Hoot Suite http://www.hootsuite.com
Social Volt http://www.socialvolt.com/
Bob Massa, CEO Techndu Internet Services, Pvt Ltd
Proud Parent of Blikini - the Social Media SEO Management Machine
Social Media SEO, Marketing, Metrics and Management