What You Need to Know About 'Marketing as a Service' (MaaS)


People have a lot of dug-in preconceptions about marketing.

For some, their vision of the field will always be stuck in the 1950s; say “marketing” to them, and they immediately conjure up images straight out of the Mad Men playbook - men and women in suits chomping down on cigars and pitching ads for Campbell’s Soup over three-martini lunches.

For others, a modern marketing department or agency looks instead like a high tech computer lab straight out of CSI or a Tom Clancy movie – everyone in white coats, peering unblinkingly into computer screens as dense lines of code and analytics results flash by.

While both of these fantasies get some things right (we definitely do all still wear killer suits at the Geek office), they’re both antiquated in their own way.

It’s time for a more modern view of marketing, one that acknowledges the role it actually plays in the success of local businesses here in Chicago and around the country.

That modern approach? Let’s call it “Marketing as a Service,” or MaaS.

Before we go any further, we should acknowledge that we were inspired to use this phrase by Carol Broadbent and Tom Hogan, who wrote a great piece on “Marketing as a Service” over at VentureBeat. It’s well worth reading their article in its entirety, as we’re going to be referencing it a few times ahead.

What Is Marketing as a Service (MaaS)?

“Marketing as a Service” describes what we do for our clients here at Geek, but what exactly does it mean?

To put it most broadly, MaaS can be thought of as the outsourcing of your business’s marketing to a third party (or parties). This isn’t an end-all, be-all solution for all brands, but instead another model for, or approach to, marketing – and it’s important to realize that it doesn’t mean just handing over the keys to the car and stepping away from your marketing efforts forever!

More specifically, by treating marketing as a service, your brand will be focusing on distinguishing between what you can accomplish in-house, and what should be passed off to an outside service provider, such as Geek Chicago.

Why Does Marketing as a Service Work?

Why? The reality is that marketing today is a complex and multifaceted enterprise, and trying to tackle all of its strategic elements alone has tripped up plenty of businesses.

Indeed, as Broadbent and Hogan note, a CB Insights study reveals that 90% of startups fail, and, among those that do, six of the top ten reasons cited for startup failure “can be tied directly to a company’s marketing function.”

Part of the reason that brands get tripped up is that they attempt to accomplish too much with their marketing efforts, all at once – even as a brand is refining its product and its goals, it is also dealing with the many elements of corporate marketing (such as content creation and web design), as well as all of the analysis and information technology that goes into testing and refining lead generation and acquisition systems.

Instead of attempting to accomplish all of this alone, Marketing as a Service redefines the process: Rather than focusing on “what marketing” needs to get done, brands who adopt this philosophy emphasize “who does [the marketing], and when.”

In so doing, brands that adopt a Marketing as a Service approach recognize that the process of marketing needs to occur in stages.

What Are the Elements of Marketing as a Service?

With this in mind, here at Geek, we believe that marketing is most necessary when a product or service has just begun to come to market. This is where too many startups and small businesses fall into the weeds – they attempt to integrate marketing in at the development phase, when, in reality, their only goal should be on developing the absolute greatest product possible.

If it helps, think of the role of the marketer in a MaaS strategy like a general contractor in real estate. By the time you’ve brought them on to do repairs or updates, you’ve already bought the house – or maybe even lived in it for years – with help from a real estate agent, an attorney, a mortgage lender, and an inspector or appraiser. The contractor can only come in to add value and make your property shine when there’s already a solid foundation in place – one that can be reinforced and built upon with their unique skillset.

Where we come in is at the point where a brand is ready to transition from development to sales – when they “come to market,” in other words.

At this point – and only this point – the brand then needs to make a decision about what elements of its strategy are core (and should be kept in-house), and which are able to be outsourced.

These decisions can come from a variety of factors, and will be unique to the brand making them; a brand’s budget, time constraints, end goals, and the skill level of its personnel will all play a part in reaching the decision about what should be core, and what should be turned over to outside professionals.

Sometimes, brands recognize that a particular marketing function is important, but know that they don’t have the time or resources to tackle it in-house – digital newsletter creation, social media marketing, and image generation often fall into this category.

Even more commonly, a local business recognizes that it needs a corporate marketing element in place, but lacks the specialized skills necessary to implement it – web design and development, multimedia content creation, and analysis (analytics) are often candidates here.

With this in mind,  Geek Chicago offers the specialized services that we feel most commonly need to be outsourced, for the sake of a brand’s success, including:

Of course, as we mentioned earlier, it’s important to realize that by no means is this a one-way street! Much of the messaging that will constitute the core of MaaS efforts still needs to come from the brand, and the goals of the marketing will necessarily be driven by the goals of the business.

It all comes down to what your brand is trying to accomplish; by handing over certain complex or time-intensive processes to us or a similar MaaS brand, you are simply optimizing the process by which those goals can be completed.

While we can help you shape it, at the end of the day, it is your strategy – we’re using our unique skillsets, access to service providers, and technological toolkit to help you put it into practice and sustain its effects for as long as possible.

What Are the Advantages of Marketing as a Service?

We feel that opting for the division of labor that MaaS encourages ultimately leads to:

Stronger Positioning Online…
With professional guidance, all of your marketing strategies and channels will be able to work at peak efficiency. Whereas a business owner going it alone on, say, written content creation may not understand the many complicated and ever-changing principles behind SEO, our team does, helping to ensure that your SEO efforts capture as much organic traffic – and as many leads – as possible.

The same goes for image creation, social media, and every other inbound marketing strategy – each of which can lead to enormous benefits if handled properly, but also alienate or turn off potential customers if mismanaged.  

… For Less Cost…
Hiring a full-time marketing staff can massively eat away at your budget, reducing your ability to actually do what you do best – whether that’s repair houses, manufacture toys, or serve up the best brunch in town.

We keep our costs and overhead low, and pass the savings on to our clients; with a MaaS-oriented team, you’ll get the best results for the lowest possible burn rate.

… And With Greater Flexibility
Hiring a full-time marketing team – or just trying to tackle the many elements of modern marketing as an individual – can be enormously time-consuming, restricting your ability to handle other projects day-to-day.

With a third party team in place, you have greater flexibility: You can be as hands-on or –off as your schedule and interest allows, and, if you’re ever unhappy with your results, renegotiating terms or acquiring a new contractor is often much simpler (and cleaner) than having to hire, fire, or re-train full-time staff members.

So that’s the gist of Marketing as a Service! It’s a little bit Mad Men, a little bit sci-fi, and it’s already proven to be a powerful force for our clients across Chicagoland. Ready to see what our unique approach to marketing can do for you? Drop us a line today to get the conversation started!

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Jason Finn

Founder & Chief Geek

Jason has nearly 20 years of consulting experience, predominantly in the technology space. Most recently he was the COO and Director of Technology for Rich Casto & Company, a national training and consulting organization in the real estate industry.
As a consultant for IBM, PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, and Envision Consulting Group (now IMS Health), Jason has served clients of all sizes, including Big Pharma, Fortune 500, and Global 1000 companies:

  • Allstate Insurance Company
  • AOL (America Online)
  • Astellas Pharmaceuticals
  • Eli Lilly and Company
  • Ford Motor Credit
  • Wockhardt USA (formerly Morton Grove Pharmaceuticals)
  • Norwich Union
  • PNC Bank
  • Reynolds and Reynolds

Sarunas Budrikas

Creative Director

Sarunas is a web design and development expert with hundreds of successful projects in his portfolio. He is passionate about delivering extraordinary user experiences for every client and consistently goes above and beyond everyone’s expectations. As an SEO expert and strategist, he can optimize your website, or app, to get the most out of it, day in and day out. Sarunas holds a degree in Electrical Engineering from Kaunas Technology University, in Lithuania. Sarunas now lives in Chicago, and calls it home.

Alexandra Olsavsky

Client Experience Specialist

Alex specializes in content generation and social media promotion for Geek | Chicago clients, helping to solidify their presence in the online community. This includes blog writing, graphic design, co-ordination and design of weekly newsletters, and active engagement on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn. Outside of Geek, Alex is a classically-trained soprano who professionally performs around the city of Chicago (most recently with the Chicago Baroque Band, and with the Rolling Stones for their "50 and Counting" tour).