Should Businesses Hire an In-House Marketer or Outsource to an Agency?
Take a look at any big business, and you’ll notice that many of their day-to-day operations are handled internally; they’ll have dedicated teams managing HR, administration, sales, marketing, development, accounts, and so on and so on. But as we know, smaller businesses don’t often have this same luxury.
Whether it’s not having the right skills on board, or not being able to find the time to really put the effort in, many small businesses are being left facing a very big dilemma: do they work to create an in-house team, or do they outsource the necessary tasks to a ready-made, raring-to-go professional agency?
In House vs. Outsourced Marketing
The question of whether or not to outsource a specific task or specific area of business operations is one that pops up in practically every business at one point of another. In fact, research shows that outsourcing is actually pretty common, especially in areas such as production and strategic function.
It is reported that around 70% of businesses choose to outsource their strategic functions, and around half choose to outsource their production tasks. However, only one third of companies outsource their marketing tasks. What does this mean? Is outsourcing marketing tasks a good or bad business move?
What is Marketing?
Before we really begin to try and answer this question, it’s important to take a moment and consider what marketing really is, and what it means in terms of today’s businesses. There is a notable trend for using the term ‘marketing’ in the same way it was used back in the 1960’s when it meant just one thing: media. That’s not true today. In fact, ‘marketing’ doesn’t really have a specific meaning any more.
Instead, marketing has become an umbrella term, incorporating the many different aspects of digital marketing, with social media management, email marketing, and content marketing being considered the ‘Big 3’. If we look at in house vs. outsourced marketing distinctly in relation to these 3 areas, it becomes easier to see the pros and cons of each method, and can help businesses to make a decision.
Pros and Cons of Outsourced Marketing
Outsourced marketing as a whole certainly has its place. It removes the need for businesses to pour resources into recruiting the right people, it eradicates the need for niche training, and it means that small businesses don’t need to provide physical space or tools in order to run a successful campaign.
There are also downsides, such as the costs of outsourcing, and the efforts required to find the right agency for the job at hand. However, when we look at the ‘Big 3’ separately, we can see even more pros and cons, and we’re able to gain a better understanding of how these methods can apply to businesses.
- Content Marketing
There is much more to content marketing than simply writing. A lot happens ‘behind the scenes’: creating an effective link-building strategy, forming relationships with bloggers and influencers, conducting SEO research, and so on. Outsourcing content marketing saves time. It delegates the time consuming aspects to an agency, and can be beneficial in terms of creating content that works; content that is optimized yet readable, published in the right places, and well promoted to extend its reach.
Yet a major part of great content is personality, and this is where things get tricky. No one knows your industry, your business, or your products quite like you do. When it comes to adding that personal touch, can an agency really fill the shoes of the business itself, especially if operating in a highly niche sector?
- Social Media Management
Social media is similar. It’s not just about drafting posts and publishing them; it’s about publishing them at the best times for each platform’s particular audience, it’s about ensuring quick responses to questions, and it’s about making sure that posts link to landing pages that are going to boost conversion rates. Social media management requires expert skill that many small businesses may not have on board. Therefore, there can be many benefits to outsourcing this area of marketing to the digital experts.
However, when we add social media networks into the mix, we’re faced with the challenges of multi-channel marketing. One of these challenges is ensuring brand consistency across all channels: social media, brand website, business publications etc. Is consistency possible if one area is outsourced?
- Email Marketing
Email marketing is arguably one of the trickiest areas for small businesses to navigate. As an older style of digital marketing whose place in modern campaigns is often called into question, it has been necessary to adapt processes to make email a more relevant and more effective way to reach audiences. From subject lines to design, much thought and research is required in order to maximize open rates and click through rates, with even the smallest of errors holding the potential to hinder overall success.
Once again, however, there is a problem of personality and brand consistency. In all forms of communication, a business must be able to deliver a relevant and consistent message. There is a significant risk of business-audience disconnect if communications appear to be fragmented.
Is There Another Solution to Great Marketing?
As we can see, there are clear advantages and disadvantages to in house marketing, and to outsourced marketing, too. But who says these are our only options? There are actually a few more solutions to great marketing that can sometimes be overlooked by small businesses. You may wish to consider:
- Utilizing In House Tools
There’s a common misconception: that ‘in house marketing’ means doing everything yourself. That’s not true. While the term may mean that marketing is overseen internally, it doesn’t mean that the business must do it all itself. Marketing tools bridge the gap between in house and outsourced marketing, especially in cases where time is a primary obstacle standing in the way of success. Marketing automation tools can take over some of the more predictable, time consuming of research tasks.
- A Combined Approach
There is no law that says you must only use in-house marketing or outsourced marketing. Sometimes, a combined approach may be a more effective option; creating content in house to ensure personality and brand consistency, for example, but working with an agency for SEO purposes. Research shows that the combined approach is remarkably common, with 38% using this technique for social media management, 49% for content marketing, and 46% for digital marketing tasks as a whole.
Is It Better to Outsource Marketing?
There is no right or wrong answer here, and what works for one business may not work for another. However, we can see that there are some situations where outsourced marketing can be the more attractive option. When a small business lacks the necessary skill yet needs to ramp up their marketing efforts quickly, calling in the experts will often be a more efficient and effective choice overall.
Ideally, outsourcing your marketing efforts shouldn’t necessarily be viewed as a permanent solution. Either should in house marketing, for that matter. As a company continues to grow and develop, business needs will change, so it’s important to be flexible in your approach. Sometimes, you may need to outsource, other times you may have the capacity to handle things in house. Use the options available to you when you need them. That’s the best way to ensure you get the most value from your campaigns.