The Outsourcing of Marketing and Design — 8 Must-Know Tips for Success

At HDG, a number of our clients are on retainer agreements for marketing and design
services, paying monthly for a set of hours.  While you may think this is a decision about
talent, headcount, and budget, it is actually much more than that—it is about allowing your
organization to focus on what you do best.

When considering the outsourcing of marketing and design work, where you use an outside vendor for services that would have traditionally been done in-house, understanding the
benefits and challenges upfront, and knowing the tips for success can really help smooth
the way. Here are our thoughts on this…


  • Access to a team of qualified, capable people that can hit the ground running
  • Access to talent without the expense of adding people to your payroll:
    creative minds; technical skills and know-how; and seasoned professionals
  • An outside perspective to your business—fresh ideas and views on tactics,
    strategies, and processes
  • Easy to budget and plan for
  • Less paperwork (than billing on a project-by-project basis)
  • Manpower when and as you need it
  • Accountability and results—clearly defined deliverables, expectations, and outcomes


  • Working as one. Define priorities, set clear deliverables, keep communications open, and make sure everyone is on board.
  • Account management. Work out who is responsible for what upfront.
  • Employees feeling threatened by an outside firm. Point out the positives
    and keep all team members in the loop.
  • Organizational readiness. Brilliant marketing ideas are only brilliant if the
    organization has the resources to put them into action and the desire to do so. Communicating your capabilities upfront is really important.
  • Patience. Allow the new team enough time to gain momentum.
    Rome was not built in a day!


  1. From the beginning, put in place best practices for team communications and project management
    • Regular meetings to keep things moving, with an agreed upon agenda and time limit
    • An upfront understanding of how to manage correspondence (who should be copied
      on messages and when)
    • A person, with influence, coordinating on behalf of each organization. For us, it’s usually Carl or Doodie.
    • Establish priorities, set deliverables and due dates, and assign roles
  2. Invest in relationships. At HDG, we make the time to introduce ourselves to key staff and executives, and to understand the client culture and workplace practices. All key to getting the job done well!
  3. Make sure there is an alignment of goals and budget. Our clients share key documents with us like their strategic plans and marketing plans and budgets, so that we are working towards the same end-goal. We agree upon priorities and deliverables, and are held accountable for the work to be done.
  4. Act in good faith. Kick off the relationship with a financial agreement that is fair to both parties.
  5. Discuss and agree upon an arrangement in advance for managing the financial aspects of the relationship. For example, in a monthly retainer agreement there may be more or less time used up than anticipated in any one month. Most professional services firms can manage mild fluctuations, but poor planning can leave projects without the manpower to get the work done or too many folks sitting on the bench. How would you handle this situation?
  6. Create opportunities for the creative team to put forward new ideas for consideration.
  7. Aim for continuity. As much as possible, if we feel that a designer is the right fit for a client, we try to keep them paired.  We introduce new designers to projects when different skills are needed or more manpower is required.
  8. Provide continuous feedback—it’s really important for nurturing the relationship, and employee growth and motivation. Find a way to make it happen!

Interested in learning more? We would welcome the opportunity to talk to you about possibilities that may exist to work together. Please feel free to call Carl or Doodie for more information at 609-924-1106.