Ross founded Copylab in 2005 and is now leading the team in the UK and leading the company’s charge into new markets.More articles from Ross Hunter
The 15th of September 2008 was a momentous day.
It was my 35th birthday. I first met our now editor in chief, the venerable Justin Crozier. And it was my first day working as a freelance writer with Justin’s team at Martin Currie. As it turned out, it was also the day Lehman Brothers went bust.
Stock markets collapsed, and assets under management fell. So CMOs had to slash their budgets and headcount.
However, they also knew they had to reassure their fearful customers. In other words, the imperative to spend less AND communicate more created a conflict of competing priorities. And that accelerated the outsourcing trend.
It’s different this time. It’s not like 2008–2009. No one’s predicting the collapse of the financial system (apart from ‘crypto fundamentalists’ – and that’s a whole other story). But today’s economic environment is unlike anything experienced by today’s community of investors – bar the septuagenarians who began their careers in the dark days of the 1970s.
Yet today’s CMOs should still flick through the 2009 playbook; their budgets and headcounts are likely to come under similar pressure.
With that in mind, is outsourcing still the best strategy for an uncertain environment? Let’s consider the three main scenarios facing CMOs.
If markets fall really hard and your company’s profits come under serious pressure, the CFO is running the show. So more aggressive cost-cutting is the focus. A tactic here is to optimise efficiency. If you publish 30 fund commentaries, employ a writer for just five days to write those reports. Matching your resources to your marketing plan makes your budget far more efficient.
Lazy thinking suggests that outsourcing costs more than permanent employees. But that’s certainly not the case with fund commentary, where writers’ workloads vary between the start and end of the month. Match your resources to your requirements to be more efficient.
Marketers usually forget to consider the hidden costs of employment, which can often be double employees’ base salaries. Our analysis, as described in our commentary white paper, shows that a simple ‘day rate’ model saves money for clients paying base salaries of £80,000.
In reality, the threshold is probably lower, but we’re confident about this higher figure.
Maybe you want to retain some – or all – of your existing team, and investors need to hear more from you. In this scenario, it’s time to invest in more writing to increase the frequency, clarity and strength of your message. The marginal cost of extra communication (say, a £2,000 campaign) in relation to the cost of retaining even one £100k client is a no-brainer.
This is a more uncommon approach. But it’s one in which outsourcing that extra work could be the right approach, particularly where you might only want to create enough additional content for, say, half your headcount.
This is the Goldilocks scenario, in which the senior executives want to have their cake and eat it. In this case, a more flexible staffing model is critical.
Even in this scenario, CMOs need to flex their tactics and spending as priorities change. Having too many fixed resources means you can’t adapt quickly enough. A flexible model with some in-house and some outsourced writers means you can scale up and down when required.
That flexibility should also extend to the types of writers. If you feel the need to employ someone, you need a generalist. But be prepared to pay a higher price for that experience; these writers are as rare as three-legged unicorns.
If, however, you don’t feel the need to build an empire (leave that to us!), then you can use multiple outsourced writers for different assignments.
That’s important if you have a diverse product range: you need a different skillset for a white paper on municipal bonds than for a brand-led social media campaign or a monthly programme of 300 edited fund commentaries.
Underlying this message is a human question: what about the people that work in-house? Well, despite the explosion in content being produced by the Copylab team, only once have redundancies resulted from outsourcing to us. And on other occasions when that was mooted, we’ve hired the writers. That makes me happy as a business owner who cares about people – not just those employed by Copylab but also at our clients’ companies.
And for me, that’s why outsourcing remains an evergreen strategy for our clients with fund-commentary requirements.