Outsourced vs in-house marketing: Which is best for your business?
Follow us on social media
It’s a question most businesses will ask at some point, should we recruit a marketing team in-house or should we outsource our marketing activities to an agency or freelancer?
There are benefits associated with both in-house and external marketing functions. Some companies are keen to keep everything in-house and will outsource very little, whereas others may not have a marketing department at all and rely solely on external expertise to drive their marketing strategy forward. Many businesses may also combine the two, using external support to support their existing marketing function.
There are many factors that should be considered when deciding the best route forward for your company. These can include:
Industry type - are the services and products that you need to market highly technical and require a specific level of understanding which would be difficult to achieve through external sources?
Budgets - are you looking to use your marketing budget for specific marketing channels that require a lot of resource and technical marketing knowledge, such as paid advertising or graphic design?
Marketing strategy - do you want to run just a one-off campaign, or are you looking to expand your whole marketing function?
So what’s the best route for your business?
In this blog we review the pros and cons of hiring in-house versus outsourcing, to help you decide where and how you should be spending your marketing budget.
The main advantage of hiring in-house is that the marketing employees will be fully aligned with the company’s vision, mission, values and objectives. They’ll develop an in-depth knowledge of the business that is will ensure delivery of the brand message to the right audience through the most appropriate channels. An in-house staff will communicate with most other areas of the business, will obtain valuable insights from their colleagues and customers, and be able to see first-hand the impact of their marketing activities on the company’s growth.
However, it is often difficult to find an in-house marketer that is adept in all forms of marketing, from traditional to digital marketing channels, and even if they do have the skillset, time and resource is often a limitation.
Outsourcing affords access to specialist skills in a particular area of marketing. Being able to pick and choose the type of skills you require for a specific campaign comes as a major benefit and can actually reduce overall costs.
Imagine, for example, your company wants to move into the digital advertising space but the current Marketing Manager doesn’t have the expertise, or even the time, to set up, test and optimise campaigns to maximise any possible return on investment. Would you recruit a PPC (pay-per-click) Specialist just to trial out whether this channel will even be successful for your business? Outsourcing specialist areas like this ensures the appropriate resource is committed to maximise the return on your budget and to really generate results.
However, agencies may struggle to get the depth of knowledge of the business required to effectively roll out successful campaigns if not briefed effectively.
In a situation where specialist skills are required it can often be effective to combine in-house resource with external expertise.
Productivity & Adaptability
An advantage of an in-house marketing team is easy communication and the ability to respond to new campaigns and projects quickly and ensure they are rolled out efficiently. Less of a brief will be required and communication of objectives and progress will be easier. This will of course depend on the size of the marketing team and the workload put upon them. Often smaller businesses with one or two marketing employees will be overloaded with work and productivity and completion of specific projects and campaigns can fall behind.
When it comes to outsourcing, adaptability and productivity will depend on the agency. A good agency will establish objectives and key milestones from the beginning, will communicate progress of all projects regularly, and will be transparent on their workload and commitments. However, if the agency has several clients to juggle this might not always be the case.
To effectively coordinate projects, both the agency and company should each have a dedicated representative responsible for communication of projects.
The average salary of a Marketing Manager in the UK is around £34,000, but can range between £24,000 to £55,000 and depends on the size of the business. An average Marketing Executive will earn around £25,000. Bear in mind that this doesn’t take into consideration hidden costs to employers such as such as recruitment, equipment, training, holiday and office utilities. Therefore, when deciding whether to hire in-house, these FTE costs should reflect clear role objectives.
Cost is something which is often misinterpreted when it comes to outsourcing work to agencies, and it can actually be cheaper in the long run.
The cost of working with an external agency or freelancer can become costly when the original brief is not properly communicated or thought through. Most often they will be working on an hourly rate. If a business hasn’t communicated changes to the plans, or if they expect additional communication and to-ing and fro-ing throughout the process, this will rapidly accrue additional costs to the original proposal.
It is important that the agency or freelancer has established the full brief from the client and that they are transparent about their rates and what is and isn’t included in their original proposal.
Access to tools
There are many tools available to marketers, and many of the free tools are widely adopted by marketing teams. Using the tools effectively can come down to the resource and skillset available within the marketing team. Issues often arise when the business wants to start gaining more insight and streamlining the way the marketing team works, in which case upskilling and extra budget is often required.
A benefit of working with agencies and other external support is that they often have access to the right tools. They will usually have all the marketing tools and an in-house team may not have budgeted for. Furthermore, they will have the skills to be able to interpret and report actionable insights on the data derived from the tools.
Marketers are naturally creative people, that’s what sees them pursue the career they are in, however it is easy for creative minds to get bored.
Having worked as part of an in-house marketing team for the majority of my career I have first-hand experience of how creativity can stagnate. Working as part of a larger team is often a way to ensure creativity circulates, but if smaller teams become under resourced, creativity can quickly get side lined.
This is one benefit of using an agency; they will not only have a fresh pair of eyes to identify new opportunities that may have been missed, but also working with many varied clients sparks fresh and new creative approaches.
Deciding the best option for your business will depend on your corporate strategy and what you intend to achieve from your marketing activities. An in-house marketing team will be fully aligned with your company’s visions, mission and goals, communication will be streamlined allowing for better adaptability and quicker decision making. An agency or external marketing support removes the risks and costs associated with hiring and brings the expertise, skills and resource that may be lacking within your current team. Keep in mind that it doesn’t have to be one or the other, supplementing your in-house marketing with external expertise is a popular and risk free opportunity to roll-out your marketing plan!
At SWW our team has worked predominantly as part of in-house marketing teams for business ranges in size from SMEs to large FTSE companies. We think of ourselves as a bit different from other agencies. We form partnerships with our clients and are often seen to be part of their team rather than an external agency. We work with clients that have no marketing team at all, supporting their entire marketing function as if we were working in-house, but also work with clients who just need extra support for their current marketing team but do not have the capacity or budget to hire another FTE.
Chat to us to see how we can support your marketing plans for 2020 or have a look at some of the work we’ve done with our clients, from fully managing their marketing and business development function to support with one-off campaigns and launches.