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The Outsourcing Approach

The biggest subject in online marketing forums over the past few months has been on the matter of outsourcing. If you regularly browse around popular blogs, chances are you’ve already been overwhelmed by a massive wave of content, and you’ve also probably encountered enough heated reactions to see that this issue is quite the debate. Two sides seem to be emerging. Those arguing in the favour of outsourcing are shedding light on some interesting topics, while those arguing against it and deeming it “exploitative” are shedding light on the more negative aspects.

In this article, I intend to provide an objective account on the matter with an argument for the latter, and I do this by sharing the stories of people who have dealt with outsourcing first hand and who may have at times experienced the pleasant aspects, but in the end recommend not to go down the outsourcing route.

First I want to let you in on my own experience.

When I started working with my second marketing company in mid-2009, I came in right when sales were exploding. At that time, the company was experiencing an upsurge in clientele and profits, and the execs were looking for ways to branch out into SEO. This particular marketing company had a unique business model in which the end goal was to provide marketing on all platforms– video, web design, 3D animation and so on, with SEO being just a single service. I came into the company offering copywriting services.

The company hired sub-contractors who would work on creating their own network of clients, and the company would supply the financial means to do so. Also, this company had a good reputation and provided an extensive portfolio. When I came on board, I soon joined a web developer and an SEO specialist and the three of us started working on SEO.

We already had one client on board, and soon after this we acquired 4 more. Having minimal experience with search engine optimization, the web developer and I were sceptical, but were assured by the specialist that it was a sure bet who had the confidence to promise clients pretty hefty guarantees.

Our very first client was a luxury apartment rental on the outskirts of the city of Toronto. Within one month we generated over 5 leads for that business. This was enough to boost our confidence and see that SEO could actually work; but we had another 4 clients to worry about. Getting more clients was not the problem for us – we were working hard on sales. We needed to build confidence in delivering results to our existing customers.

We did everything ourselves. From creating short videos to linking, to placing ads on profitable blogs and websites. (If you have read previous posts on the components of SEO, you would have seen that search engine optimization takes a lot of work). Within 3 months we started realizing that there’s a lot of work on our hands, so we began to seek out different sources for getting help with the work. We looked for the best places to outsource from.

The first place that we looked was India.

We found a company that was guaranteeing keyword optimization. They’re unique guarantee was that if a customer’s website ranks on the first pages of search engines for those keywords – only then does the client pay. We decided to try them out for 3 keywords to begin with. As time went by, on the 3rd and fourth week we noticed that the website was not climbing up as fast as we were able to push it up with our own efforts. At the end the keywords did not get the ranking we were hoping for and trust me when I tell you that we went through a lot of trouble with this company in India who was demanding that we paid even without meeting the requirements.

This was my first hands-on experience with an outsourced company in India.

My second experience was with outsourced copywriting.

We decided to give it a try with a lady in India who was charging $15.00 per article. One of our clients was a high-end fashion store that was selling shoes for no less than $700. The owner of that store would make trips to Milan four times a year and to Vegas at least twice in order to get the latest collection of shoes from hot fashion designers like Gianmarco Lorenzi, Prada and Versace.

Our client was interested in starting a blog on the hottest fashion and gossip on royalty families and celebrities. Seeing as I didn’t have much expertise in this area, (that I was already busy enough with other projects) – we decided to give her a try. Here’s an expert from her article:

““I would like to adorn the necks of all the women of the world with pearls,” Kokichi Mikimoto is said once. Who knows back in 1893 when he open his first store in Tokyo’s famous Ginza shopping district, that the passion self evident in this males simple mission statement would propel his patented, perfectly round and strikingly lustrous pearls for a fame?”

Is it worth $15.00? Probably yes. Can you publish this article under a reputable blog? Probably no.

Like I mentioned in the beginning of this article, my intention is not to bad-mouth outsourcing from my two personal experiences which all in all, don’t account for much. Instead, I’ve been reading up on the subject for the past few weeks and long enough that I felt impelled to write on outsourcing from the perspective of why it is not what it may seem to be, and that it’s not as effective as you might think if you’re considering using outsourcing for your own business.

One of the hottest outsourcing workshops that exist out there right now is called “Outsource Force – $2.00 Per Hour Formula” By Spencer Jones. If you go to his site, you will see that it is now “sold out”. There has been a massive outpour of objection and outrage regarding this video and what Spencer Jones is trying to teach those who are looking to outsource for their business. After all, what could be more exploitative than finding cheap labour at $2.00 hour on work that would in U.S. or Canada would cost at least 10x more for someone with little or no experience?

Internet marketing is essentially a revolutionary way of doing business- reaching the four corners of the earth, providing economic opportunity where there has been none, and attempting to move closer to bridging the gaps of economic disparity. After all, isn’t that what many of us want to see? It’s no doubt that Jones’ Outsource Force is raising eyebrows by offering outsourcing solutions for as little as $2.00/hr.

I invite you to read another source for “outsourcing gone wrong” as told by Ephraim Schwartz here.

It’s true that there will always be two sides to any coin for any subject, but I would like to take this opportunity to list the reasons why outsourcing may not provide the benefits you are looking for in your business.

1. Communication

As my above example on copywriting demonstrates, writing in the English language, or whatever language your website or blog is written in requires someone with a strong understanding of that language. After all, grammar is the basic component of all good copy. To take it a step further, writing comes from the point of experience. If you’re writing on a subject you’ve never been exposed to, you will never write as well as someone who has. (That’s why I decided not to write copy for the client who was selling high-end clothing. I’ve never worn $900 dollar shoes before).

2. Culture

This point is tied in with the last. What we are exposed to are the things we understand better than anyone else if they haven’t experienced what we have. Writing about the Amazon jungles could only be written by someone who has travelled and explored that region. Even if you spend hours upon hours doing research on the Amazon, you will never be able to understand it quite as well as someone who has experienced it first and has felt deep within.

3. Deadlines

Many people have lost trust in website developers. There are many companies out there that promise to deliver a project in time only to disregard the agreed upon deadline. It often happens that web design companies disappear altogether. A trusted source is one with happy customers. When you consider doing business with a company, don’t you often want to hear about previous work and what clients have to say about the service they’ve received? If it’s not up to par, chances are you won’t want to work with this company again and you have all the right to lose trust in this provider. Working with someone from another part of the world often turns into a disaster story when deadlines aren’t met and projects aren’t completed.

4. Local Economic Health

Takings jobs away from your region and country could result in disastrous effects on your country’s economy. Employing locally means internal economic prosperity. Outsourcing to different regions of the world takes away from local business growth.

5. Honest Advice

In order to get the sale, many companies in different regions of the world are willing to promise you the ends of the world for your business. Look at the example that I stated in the beginning of the article about the SEO company in India that was confident in getting our keywords to the first pages of search engines but never delivered. The quality of work may not be there if you’re not dealing with a company from the States of Canada, and who does not have the same standards as us Westerners. Let’s be honest – our quality of products and services is at times incomparable to others in different regions. If you’re looking for a special design for your website, you are never guaranteed to get the same level of professionalism as someone who would do it here. The standards are simply lower. What ends up happening is that you spend money on something that costs less, but in the end are left unsatisfied by a company that doesn’t meet your expectations. The level of expertise is lower in regions like India and the Philippines, and while they may promise you an arm and a leg, you may lose what you’ve invested in to begin with. It’s often cited that the technical level of those in different parts of the world is 3 years behind. Consider this when outsourcing.

If you are choosing to outsource for your business, at the very least you owe it to yourself to get in touch with contacts of people who know enough about the subject from first-hand experience, and from those that are satisfied with particular overseas companies after getting great service.

Also consider that you don’t necessarily have to employ someone in the States or in Canada who’s necessarily going to be expensive; you can look for students who are looking to work on their portfolios or interns that you can train and in the future keep. (There are serious down-sides to this as well because everyone should be paid for the work they do, but if you come to a good compromise you may find a good solution to your outsourcing needs).

Keep on the lookout for various outsourcing stories and case studies as they emerge on the web. This is a very serious subject that is being looked into with quite the magnifying glass and telescope. There are many things to consider, and as someone who has had a few experiences herself. and also as someone who has read many sources of information on the matter, I encourage you to delve deeper into the subject before implementing a strategy for yourself and your business.

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