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Outsource or In-House Digital Marketing: The Great Debate

I once attended a social media panel for the mining industry. Mining is a highly-regulated industry where every press release is scrutinized by the BC Securities Commission to ensure what’s written meets standards for disclosure. Given such rigorous oversight, the panelists said, even their tweets must be composed very carefully to avoid violation of standards. That was definitely a situation where it’s best to implement the social media part of their marketing strategy in-house rather than to outsource. 

For smaller B2B companies, the decision is not so clear-cut. Should digital marketing be handled in-house, by an outside digital marketing agency, or some hybrid model? It’s common practice these days for businesses to outsource web hosting and development, accounting, or even customer service. Why not digital marketing?
Benefits of In-House Digital Marketing

  • Domain knowledge: an in-house team knows your product, services, company, and customers better than any outside organizatio
  • Responsiveness: an outside agency only knows as much as you tell them. Your internal team can respond to changes in business or market conditions faster, with an understanding of how all areas of the business are affected.
  • Integration: The most effective marketing program leverages a mix of digital and offline channels. Getting your message out via social media, forums, blogs, print, and advertising requires ongoing, close coordination. This can be hard to outsource.
  • Business intelligence: related to domain knowledge. An in-house team with access to internal business information has better context when it comes to interpreting analytics data.

Benefits of Outsourced Digital Marketing

  • Cost: Only pay for the resources you need. Salaries often represent the biggest percentage of a marketing budget. Tap into specialized expertise and save on recruiting, training, salaries and benefits to full-time staff – not to mention the cost of tools and setting up systems.
  • ROI and metrics: Setting up the metrics and analytics to improve campaign performance is integral to an agency’s methodology – part of their job is to prove value to the client. In-house teams tend to lack depth when it comes to data-driven marketing and analytics.
  • Focus: Sticking to your core competencies is a must for business success. Let experts in digital marketing deploy their core competencies on your behalf.
  • Access to skills: You get experienced talent and a range of skills that would be impossible to hire in-house. A digital marketing agency has experts on board whose job it is to stay on top of the latest in trends and technologies.
  • Timeliness: An agency dedicates resources and time to meeting your deadlines. An in-house team can get derailed when other priorities and distractions pop up, putting campaign schedules at risk.

As you can see, there are pros and cons to each approach. Every marketing organization has different comfort levels when it comes to outsourced marketing. It always seems to end up as a balancing act between budget, skills, and time. We see the hybrid model most often, when a client tries to fill gaps by doing some of the work in-house and outsourcing on a project basis. Here are some of the most common reasons clients come to us for help:

  • A need to deploy quickly: this can be a business that’s launching or one that’s bringing a new product to market. At this stage, it’s faster and easier to work with an agency’s ready-made team than to staff and train an in-house team. A digital consulting agency will do the legwork of finding the right channels for reaching a target audience, and conducting keyword research to understand how to optimize web content and PPC campaigns.
  • Lack of bandwidth and skills for a specific campaign: the marketing team is already 100% utilized and can’t dedicate the resources to run a campaign, such as a pay-per-click campaign. A digital consulting agency is able to monitor, analyse, and manage results on an ongoing basis to achieve ROI. From creative brief to final execution, an agency gives the marketing manager full visibility into the project, but without the project management headaches.
  • Want to build in-house skills: the marketing team likes what an agency is doing for them and want to bring those skills in-house. Learning on the job is a great way to motivate employees and upgrade a team’s skills. After taking the P.A.C.E. digital marketing workshop, we recommend that marketing staff get practical experience by participating in the client’s next digital campaign. We take the time to explain what we do along the way, because nothing teaches more effectively than seeing how things work in a real-world scenario.

Smartt’s clients range from start-ups such as Connect-the-Doc to established industry leaders such as Sierra Wireless. If your marketing plans are slowing down because you lack the skills or bandwidth, contact us to find out what we can provide, or attend one of our Digital Marketing Training Workshops and learn about the latest, best digital marketing practices.