Insourced or outsourced marketing: what's right for me?

Posted by Abby Mitchinson on 18/09/18 10:09

We get asked this question a lot when we’re talking with clients and new prospects.

Businesses are either new and considering how to get the most bang for their buck or they’re established and want control but are concerned about escalating marketing costs. Either way, choosing between insourced and outsourced marketing is a tough decision for any business owner or marketing team.

What should you keep in and what goes out the door? It’s a hard question to answer. We’ll confess we’re slightly biased on this one, but the reality is as with most things there isn’t a one-size-fits-all model. To decide what’s right for you, you need to consider what your internal skill set is like as well as other factors such as culture before making any big decisions.

If you have a business full of individuals with a very specific industry skill but with no marketing or sales experience, then outsourcing could make the most sense. However, if you or other people in your company have strong sales experience or a leaning towards digital marketing services, then you might consider getting them involved with your new marketing division.

And by the way, not having a marketing provision isn’t an option anymore!

digital marketing services

Surely I can just hire someone to do ALL of my marketing?

Nope, sadly not. The digital sphere these days doesn’t allow for you to have any missing pieces of the jigsaw. Basically, you need to be able to demonstrate knowledge across multiple disciplines - and if you can’t, you need to hire people who can. Most marketers are good at delivering one or two areas of digital marketing, but you won’t find someone who can do everything perfectly themselves (unfortunately for us business owners!).

All marketing departments, no matter the size, have always had a lot on their plates - and this has only increased since the digital revolution. Traditional marketing strategies and processes simply aren’t reaching the target audience anymore as a stand alone strategy - and as a result it is becoming increasingly difficult to stand out in a sea of other brands striving for the exact same thing.

Digital marketing services can help with that. However, digital market strategies have a lot more complicated cogs in place that all need to work together to produce a successful campaign. PPC, SEO, social media, content creation, content strategy, website design – these are just some of the things that need to be created, managed, seamlessly tied together and analysed effectively as part of your digital marketing strategy to ensure good lead generation and ultimately ROI.

“How does that impact my marketing set up?”, you might be thinking. Well, when it comes to in-sourcing versus outsourcing, here are some key things to consider:

Digital agencies can bring a diverse skill set

Digital marketing is a lot more technically complicated than traditional marketing, and you simply may not have the capacity to take on all the skilled employees needed for even the digital marketing basics. And whilst you could hire the professionals needed to make your strategy successful, it would significantly increase the number of permanent staff in your company and ultimately your overheads too.

Just the bare bones of a digital marketing strategy will need some of the following inputs:

  • Marketing Strategist
  • Marketing Technologist
  • Content Marketer
  • Content Creators
  • Social Media Marketer
  • Graphic Designer
  • Frontend Developer
  • Search Marketer
  • PPC Marketer
  • Project Manager

That’s a lot of people to have on the payroll - and that’s not even all of them! This post from HubSpot outlines the advantages of outsourcing with regards to actual marketing tasks.

So, we’re looking at around nine disciplines required (at least!) to deliver good digital marketing for your business. Let’s say a couple of these skills sit together quite nicely like social media and content creation or SEO and PPC, so you may be able to find people who are genuinely good at a few of these things who are able to deliver them weekly without external support. If you want to deliver all the work internally though, realistically you'll need a team of at least two to four people with a mix of skills to start your department off for a small to mid-sized business.

Alternatively, you can hire just one person who simply understands all of the disciplines and how they work and can manage processes well. You will then need to give that person a budget to help them get the different skill sets delivered and help you join these elements together with your business strategy and goals. They can work as a project manager or marketing manager, helping your chosen agencies to connect with and understand your brand, ethos and history as well as keeping suppliers on task.

Many business owners expect their marketing managers to be able to deliver all of the work in addition to the project management - and whilst this is might be possible for small organic startups, any business with high aspirations will need to put more into their marketing efforts. Mike Skeehan from Salted Stone, a US-based inbound marketing agency nails this in a simple explanation. We couldn’t say it any better, so we didn’t:

“Imagine a construction business that builds homes. In that business, one person designs the homes. One person does the wood framing. One person runs electrical wiring. One person runs plumbing. One person hangs drywall. One person does flooring. One person paints and does finishing work. And a foreman makes sure that all of these interdependent team members are working in unison and with efficiency. (There are actually several more skill sets required, but let's use this as a working example). Now imagine that you're the owner of that home building business. You need to build a house. Which of these two scenarios would you prefer?”

digital marketing

Your marketing is the same! The example is simple, but it makes a powerful point about the expertise required for a full digital marketing programme that’s going to work. After all, no one wants perfect electrics with a leaking roof...

Are you committed to marketing as a function? Do you have time to invest?

Even though we are living in the age of lightning fast decisions, instant gratification and general lack of concentration (all of which have impacted our marketing strategies), developing and implementing a successful digital marketing strategy is anything but quick. It’s actually an incredibly time-consuming process that requires you to create and promote original content that appeals to your target audience. And it doesn’t end there - you also need to constantly monitor and maintain it as well to keep it at its optimum levels, which eats away at a lot of your time.

One of the biggest advantages of outsourcing is that it frees up time for you and your company to focus on what you really enjoy and what you are truly great at. For example, you could be amazing at thinking of awesome new digital strategy ideas and concepts, but you then get stuck as you have to spend huge amounts of time implementing them. Outsourcing allows you to concentrate on your strengths, whilst someone else takes the huge workload of putting these ideas into practice off your shoulders. Don't think you can outsource and run though. You'll need to manage your agency and give them the time they need to progress projects - and if you don't have the time to do so, you'll need someone to coordinate the effort.

If you want to control your marketing more closely and have the cash to hire a good manager, then insourcing might be for you. However, don’t forget that it can be very hard for a marketing manager to know everything about marketing - despite many business owners often expecting exactly that. So remember to consider that marketing managers will need to be given support for their own development and you will need to invest in training to ensure your manager and team stay up to date with the latest marketing technology and techniques to get good results. If you don't have the time to commit to your new marketing manager or co-coordinator then purely outsourcing to a full service agency might be a better fit for your organisation.

An important thing to consider during your planning is calculating the true cost of your internal employees, rather than just their top line salaries. This cost calculator can help you to quickly calculate the true cost of an employee to the business (warning: this may make some business owners uncomfortable!).

The most successful SMEs we see are those with in-house marketers who act as expert project managers, supplier managers and brand connectors to their well-sourced agencies. This combination keeps your overheads down and employs realistic expectations on your management team as well as getting cutting edge delivery from an industry full of talented agencies covering all disciplines. The trick is getting your head around paying in-house and still using agencies, contractors and other suppliers to deliver the gaps and add firepower to your team.

So, if you’re looking at embarking on your digital marketing journey or reviewing the way you operate your existing marketing programme, you’ll need to start off by finding out more about the latest techniques out there. Download our guide to inbound marketing to find out more...

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Topics: Digital Marketing

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